Taking advantage of ARM's architecture in embedded design

August 18, 2014

Bernard Cole-August 18, 2014

Chronicled in this week's Tech Focus newsletter are the some of the many ways embedded developers are taking advantage of the various flavors of the ARM architecture in their designs. Of the many articles and papers on its use in automobiles, medicine and health, industrial automation, motor control, and wireless sensor networks, my Editor's Top Picks are:

An RTOS-based architecture for Industrial WSN stacks with multiprocessor support
A Cortex A8 autonomous vehicle navigator using RT-Linux
An Android-based automotive middleware architecture
Multi-fingered robot hand for industrial robotics application

Giving the ARM architecture even more of a boost is the growing enthusiasm for the Internet of Things. This is forcing embedded developers to go back and look at their designs for wireless sensor, machine to machine, and home networks to determine if their current 8/16 -bit implementations can still meet the challenge or if it will be necessary to go to a more powerful 32-bit architecture. Some design articles and papers on Embedded.com that may help you in making decisions about such designs include:

Porting designs to the 32-Bit world without adding cost
Mark Ainsworth and Ranith Mundoor of Cypress Semiconductor provide guidelines on porting applications from an 8- or 16-bit CPU to a 32-bit CPU.

Basics of porting C-code to and between ARM CPUs: From 8/16-Bit MCUs to Cortex-M0
Joseph Yiu, author of "The definitive guide to the ARM Cortex-M0," takes you through means by which to port your code base from an 8/16-bit MCU to the ARM Cortex-M0.

POSIX IPC on Cortex-M architectures
How to implement the system components required to send and receive POSIX-style signals—a form of IPC--between concurrently running tasks on the Cortex-M architecture and then specifically with the Cortex-M3 (CM3).

Taking advantage of the Cortex-M3’s pre-emptive context switches
How programmers can make best use of the Arm Cortex-M3 (CM3) processor’s hardware used for pre-emptive context switching as well as how to develop systems software routines that enable multi-tasking programs.

Despite the enthusiasm of many in the ARM community, such as Liam Power and Shane Robinson, authors of "The ARM Cortex-M3 and the convergence of the MCU market," making the decision about whether or not to shift away from your 8/16-bit MCU to the ARM architecture will not be easy, especially as the dividing line between the two becomes even fuzzier.

According to the authors of an all-encompassing analysis published recently titled "Low Power or High Performance: A Tradeoff Whose Time Has Come? " while 32-bit processors such as the ARM are not yet ready for applications with tight power requirements, they are poised for adoption everywhere else. The results of their analysis show that Cortex-M3-based platforms can offer significantly better performance and power profiles for next-generation WSN applications, with a reasonable increase in power draw for traditional sense-store-and-sleep applications typical of many Internet of Things applications.

The best place to get the up-to-date technical information you need to make this important decision is at the upcoming 2014 ARM Technical Conference coming up in about six weeks in Santa Clara, Ca., October 1-4. The conference is organized into 11 technical tracks covering such things as hardware and software debugging, power efficiency, safety and security, software optimization, and systems design. The sessions have been further segmented into a number of areas of interest: wearables and sensors, mobiles, Internet of things and machine-to-machine designs, networking and infrastructure, and traditional embedded apps in household appliances, building automation, industrial and motor control.

These technical sessions, real-world case studies, and hands-on demonstrations are complemented by the companion Expo, where you will be able to get up-to-date information on design tools and building blocks from the more than 75 companies that will be exhibiting. Not only will you have a chance to get hands-on familiarity with the newest and best, many of these companies will be offering on-site seminars and hands-on classes of their own.

For even more in depth training be sure to sign up the for the three days of training related to the ARM Accredited Engineer Program as well as the Software Developer's Workshop where a team of experts will help you develop an IoT application from the hardware that connects to the real world to a network-connected Android application that monitors or controls real-life hardware. Activities include discussions on the use of ARM-based devices in IoT, and hands-on workshops using real devices and developer boards, which are provided to attendees free of charge. Participants will select the Embedded Track or the Android Track, but the final session will combine both tracks in a mini “Code Jam,” allowing attendees to work with a team to experience building the whole application from start to finish.

I plan to be at ARM TechCon, so if you have an idea for an article or blog for Embedded.com and you see me there, let's talk and we can work together to make it happen. If you have some ideas about topic areas relating to the ARM architecture you would like to see on Embedded.com, I’ll be interested in hearing about them.

Embedded.com Site Editor Bernard Cole is also editor of the twice-a-week Embedded.com newsletters as well as a partner in the TechRite Associates editorial services consultancy. He welcomes your feedback. Send an email to bccole@acm.org, or call 928-525-9087.

See more articles and column like this one on Embedded.com. Sign up for subscriptions and newsletters. Copyright © 2014 UBM--All rights reserved.

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