Computer/Embedded Technology


Industrial multimedia power at your fingertips

10 September 2002 Computer/Embedded Technology

Nearly everyone has heard of or has used some form of multimedia application on their home or office desktop computer. The nature of the multimedia that springs to mind generally unites moving pictures with sound in an attempt to address more than one of the human senses. Project this concept and apply it to an industrial setting.

Imagine for example a world where welding robots are able to assist and teach their operators or inform of impending service or fault conditions. Think of the time and costs that can be saved as downtime reduces, intensive training programs are phased-out, and those literature packs that gather dust on the office shelf are replaced by more aesthetic objets d'art. In another, completely different scenario but still within the confines of industry, a new noun has appeared in the technological dictionary - 'infotainment'. As the name suggests this is a morphed merger between information and entertainment - and here we are again with multimedia.

Technological breakthrough

Inova's engineering department has developed a 3U CompactPCI multimedia board based on the powerful Radeon VE graphic controller with 16 MB or 32 MB RAM for the next-generation embedded industrial market. With its hardware MPEG-2 decoding ability, optional CAN controller, and rich feature set, the ICP-MMEDIA outputs high-resolution graphics on industrial standard 12", 15", or 18" flat-panels up to 2048 x 1536 pixels and is capable of transmitting sound over large distances without loss of signal quality or data. Galvanic isolation and the use of cost-effective cable with robust industry standard D-Sub connectors make the concept particularly reliable in extreme industrial applications.

The ICP-MMEDIA is equipped with GigaSTAR technology from Inova Semiconductors and is the only multimedia controller on the market able to address an almost unlimited number of displays without loss of signal at great distance from the controller and be extended via repeaters to achieve the ultimate in industrial multimedia. Whether producing an interactive training package or broadcasting formatted video streams, this multimedia solution is comfortable in any industrial environment.

Being a true professional multimedia solution, a fully implemented stereo sound system has been developed and integrated on-board. The transfer of digital audio streams is multiplexed with video data streams along the same copper cable that links the flat panel to the host controller.

CAN controller

An intelligent low-frequency feedback channel (CANopen) supplies the controller with information pertaining to, for example, the status of backlight, the temperature, or if a display is inoperable, etc. Hence, service and maintenance routines can be implemented with the least amount of effort. Typically, the digital display connects to the multimedia board through a Receiver/Repeater unit (BeamBooster) that converts the GigaSTAR graphical serial bit stream to the panel connector. The BeamBooster, suitably equipped with DC/DC controller for backlight control, etc, and CAN controller is able to communicate with the multimedia board along a cable pair integrated within the CAT5, CAT7 or Gore GigaSTAR cable itself - extra wiring is therefore not required.

Current implementations based on LVDS or PanelLink (DVI) seen in the market today are somewhat limited due to panel line length restrictions, noise interference and high emission levels. Many are even galvanically coupled to the system. The GigaSTAR solution differs greatly from these technologies as the data clock signal is not transmitted - but is recovered from the data itself. Skewing errors are therefore eliminated and enable an almost unlimited number of flat-panels to be cascaded in any one system through the use of repeaters and more cable. Apart from this obvious price advantage, the concept reduces the system component count making it more economical, more efficient, lighter and more reliable.

For more information contact Sean van der Walt, Systematic Designs, 012 667 5751, sales@systematic.co.za





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