Computer/Embedded Technology


Embedded interfaces exploit FPGA flexibility

16 March 2011 Computer/Embedded Technology

Kontron recently introduced two interface innovations consisting of FPGA-programmable I/Os and a uniform middleware for I/O access to hardware resources and I/Os.

Both innovations aim to alleviate and accelerate the application-specific implementation of embedded computer boards.

The company announced the MICROSPACE MSMST PCIe/104 single board computer (SBC) and a COM Express starter kit which offers a baseboard with an FPGA allowing for flexible I/O configurations. In addition, Kontron announced that all future standard form factors will be equipped with the unified Kontron EAPI (Kontron Embedded Application Programming Interface). With this new cross-platform middleware, Kontron has standardised and unified the access and control of hardware resources for all its new embedded computing platforms.

MICROSPACE MSMST
MICROSPACE MSMST

The MICROSPACE MSMST SBC is based on the latest Intel Atom processor E6x5C series comprising an Intel Atom processor and an Altera Arria II FPGA coupled via PCI Express on a multichip module. The board offers a high level of flexibility for application-specific or proprietary I/O or algorithms while being space-saving. Customer-specific I/Os are carried out via the High-Speed Mezzanine Card (HSMC) interface. Configuration bitstreams, which have been validated, are available for industrial I/Os like CAN-Bus, serial interfaces (SPI Master/UART) and PCI-Express, I²C and GPIO. Further industrial FPGA configurations are being developed. OEMs only need the corresponding configuration bitstream and HSMC in order to execute the interfaces. For even more dedicated I/Os, Kontron can also create, validate and verify FPGA-IPs as a software service.

COM Express FPGA starter kit
COM Express FPGA starter kit

The system’s flexibility makes it an interesting alternative for dedicated RISC platforms, since customers get the flexibility of an FPGA with x86 performance on an integrated multichip module. Customers with a high level of individual requirements are at the same time presented with the options to realise these differentiations on multifunctional COTS platforms just via the software, in order to ensure the use of this IP in the long term.

The COM Express FPGA starter kit’s FPGA baseboard with Altera Cyclone IV GX FPGA offers two HSMC slots and is more flexible for I/O execution. Furthermore, the board can integrate COM Express Type 1, Type 10 and Type 2 compatible computer-on-modules. The individual configuration is carried out in minutes from the COTS components for processor and peripheral connections. If the basic parameters for the hardware have been validated, the development of the software app and the right customer-specific baseboard can be carried out parallel to one another.

Target platforms for x86 and FPGA-based I/Os are dedicated full-custom designs with individual baseboards with scalable computer-on-modules. For both platforms, Kontron offers development and manufacturing services including revision management and industry-specific certifications such as ITAR or ISO 13485 for medical equipment. Target markets for FPGA-based I/Os on x86 processor platforms are practically unlimited, as FPGAs can cover nearly all the available I/Os.



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