DSP, Micros & Memory


MCU supports realtime 'smart' control panels

11 June 2008 DSP, Micros & Memory

Atmel’s new AT91SAM9RL64 is an ARM9-based interactive GUI microcontroller with high throughput, and peripherals and OS support optimised to implement ‘smart’ control panel applications that can provide access to content including user manuals, video clips and audio, as well as offering a robust interface to system control functions.

The SAM9RL64 can be used as the main processor in a system or as the co-processor dedicated to the user interface. A USB High Speed link provides the bandwidth to transfer streaming video between the host- and the SAM9RL64 co-processor.

The buttons, dials, switches and joysticks typically used to control electronic products are rapidly being replaced by touch screens with icons that beat or zoom when selected or fly over the screen as the user navigates through the available content. Increasingly, systems are voice activated, being able to both talk and listen to the user. Interactive video content is replacing static lists and instructions.

While 8- and 16-bit microcontrollers are employed for user interfaces in cost sensitive consumer applications, they are simply not capable of dealing with the amount of processing and data movement required to manage a state-of-the-art interactive graphical user interface. The SAM9RL64 is a single-chip panel solution with 200-plus MIPS, a 6-layer bus matrix and DMA on all on-chip peripherals, to support the high data rates associated with screen refresh, image processing, user interaction and the creation of the dynamics guaranteeing a good user experience. On-chip peripherals include LCD and touch screen controllers, USB High Speed device, 24 DMA channels, an MCI/SDIO interface, five UARTs, SPI, dual SSC, AC'97, six timers, four PWMs with high-drive I/Os, dual TWI and a battery backup RTC with associated registers.

In addition to the 4 KBytes each of data and instruction cache, the SAM9RL64 supports deterministic processing with an additional 64 KBytes of SRAM, arranged in four 16 KB blocks, that can be configured as data or instruction tightly coupled memory (TCM) that bypasses the cache to provide single cycle access at the maximum 200 MIPS clock frequency. The TCM may also be configured as local memory for on-chip peripherals connected to the multilayer bus. At system boot, the SRAM is connected to the multilayer bus, allowing the DMA controller to copy the realtime critical code from non-volatile storage, such as NAND or DataFlash. After the code has been shadowed in the SRAM, the memory blocks can be reconfigured as TCM.

Atmel provides the GNU gcc C compiler and GNU gdb debugger free of charge. Commercial licences for realtime operating systems from several vendors are currently being ported for a complete embedded application prototyping. Atmel provides a software package with register descriptions and device drivers for all peripherals and project examples that ease the use of the microcontroller. An evaluation board is available for benchmarking and a quick start to development.



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