Following through on plans revealed in June, semiconductor manufacturer Renesas Electronics Corp. (Santa Clara, Calif.) unveiled the first elements of its Synergy embedded development platform during a keynote speech that Ali Sebt, president & CEO of Renesas Electronics America, gave at the Renesas Developer's Conference in this week in Anaheim, Calif.
Aimed at streamlining embedded development efforts for IoT, industrial, medical, and a host of other markets, Synergy helps automate the implementation of “table stakes” capabilities, such as graphical interfaces, network connectivity, and device configuration, and frees developers to concentrate on innovation in their core application competence.
Because of the Internet of Things (IoT), the number of embedded devices that will need to be created in the next five years is set to explode, Sebt told the DevCon audience. “We need to scale up our design efforts rapidly. The challenge today is that most businesses use a pipeline model for development,” Sebt said. “We need to adopt a platform model.”
Ali Sebt, president of Renesas Electronics Americas, revealed the core elements of Synergy at the Renesas Developer's Conference. (Image: Rich Quinnell/EE Times)
Sebt pointed to smartphones as a model for seeing the advantages of a platform. “Smartphones have been successful because they have rich resources and an army of developers. These are not necessarily very technical developers, but they have a good business sense about how to provide a service.” The platform is what allows such developers to create value without needing to know a lot of detail about the device hardware, he noted.
Embedded systems developers need the same kind of platform resource so that they can move forward in designing products and services without needing expertise in new must-have capabilities, such as connectivity, graphical displays, and touch sensors, that don't add unique value to the design, he added.
Renesas announced its Synergy platform in June, providing insight into its goals and structures. What the company announced at DevCon were the first products and resources to become available. Five core elements are becoming available in the Synergy platform: software, microcontrollers, tools and kits, design solutions, and a gallery of third-party offerings.
Five core offerings
Perhaps surprisingly for a semiconductor company, software forms the heart of the Synergy platform. The Synergy Software Package (SSP) contains an RTOS, stacks, libraries, and utilities along with a framework and drivers, all optimized for the Synergy MCU architectures. In fact, Sebt pointed out, the software needs dictated many elements of the MCU designs rather than the other way around. The result is a software package that enables developers to program at an API level without having to get into the details of network software, file handling, graphics display, security, and the like.
The SSP's development occurred under strict software quality assurance requirements and MISRA guidelines and provides the kind of traceability required for functional safety development. Renesas will maintain the SSP as a regularly updated commercial software product over project lifetimes. Further, Sebt added, Renesas has taken responsibility for being the first point of contact for software support, even third-party products. Renesas also provides datasheets describing the software's specifications, and warrants the software to operate within those specifications. Version 1.0 of the SSP is available in public beta now and the full release version will be available in December.
A unique wrinkle in the Synergy software package is its “one click” software licensing, according to Renesas IoT business unit marketing director Mark Rootz. Rather than offering developers access to tools and libraries that will require individual licensing agreements (and the company time and effort involved in arranging them and securing purchase approval) the full contents of the SSP are available to developers from the start, Rootz told EE Times even with the purchase of a single device. The license to use the SSP is included in the price of Synergy processors, Rootz said. “It's a platform sale, not just a device.”
Microcontrollers are the second core element for Synergy. Renesas announced four processor series, each offering a range of package sizes, memory densities, and peripheral resources. The S1 series targets ultra low power designs, the S3 series targets high efficiency, S5's offer high integration, and the S7 series offers highest performance. Some S3 and S7 devices are available now, with an S1 device coming in late 2015 and additional devices in all the series scheduled for early 2016.