Turnkey, low cost i.MX RT solution speeds time to market. Cloud-based voice assistants, led by Amazon’s Alexa, have become common in many homes, embedded in smart speakers like Amazon’s Echo products. Soon, the newly emerging trend to build voice assistants directly into smart devices such as light switches, ceiling fans, appliances, smoke detectors, and thermostats, will make voice control ubiquitous throughout the home. Voice assistants conveniently and unobtrusively located throughout the home enable a family’s entire network of connected smart devices to be controlled by voice commands from any room. For example, “Alexa, turn off all the lights,” or even more powerful routines can be created such as, “Alexa, good morning,” which can turn on music, start the coffee pot, adjust the thermostat settings, and more.
Today, a few smart home device and appliance makers are introducing versions of their products with built-in voice assistants. Until now, the technology required to embed cloud voice assistants has required a powerful multicore microprocessor unit (MPU), similar to the application processor in smart phones, with large Flash and SDRAM memories, and complex power management. Such implementations have not been a fit for cost sensitive consumer devices, which has impeded the proliferation of smart home devices with built-in voice.
At Embedded World this week, NXP Semiconductors announced the first MCU based implementation of an Alexa client, based on a new member of NXP’s popular i.MX RT crossover processor family of devices. This new solution enables device makers to build Alexa into products using a low cost, low power microcontroller unit (MCU), a device that is typically already required in any connected smart home product, meaning that OEMs can now add voice to their products at very low incremental cost (not much more than the cost of the microphones). Running on Amazon FreeRTOS, NXP’s new MCU-based AVS solution leverages the power of AWS IoT Core to minimize the processing resources needed to build Alexa into a product. Compared to previous implementations running Linux with large memory footprints, requiring more than 50 MB RAM and several Giga-Bytes of Flash, NXP’s MCU solution needs less than 1 MB of on-chip RAM and fewer than 16 MB of Flash, significantly reducing cost and size.
The i.MX RT106A (“ten-sixty-a”), has a 600 MHz Arm™ Cortex-M7™ processor, 1 MB of on chip SRAM, an LCD display, camera interface, advanced security and flexible communication, combined with a complete turnkey AVS software solution and a production ready hardware design, to enable OEMs to quickly and easily add Alexa to their product designs.
With this solution, device makers realize further benefits of shorter time to market, lower development and lifetime costs. It brings together the Alexa Voice Service, AWS IoT Core, and Amazon FreeRTOS to provide complete and best-in-class security, deployment, and device monitoring.
NXP’s i.MX RT MCU-based AVS solution is available as a complete kit for evaluation, development and prototyping. The hardware consists of two small, 30 mm x 40 mm (1.2” x 1.6”) boards. The MCU system on module (SoM) carries the i.MX RT106A processor, 32 MB of HyperFlash memory, a Wi-Fi/Bluetooth module and an optional NXP A71CH secure element. The audio board has three MEMS microphones and connects to a speaker driven by NXP’s TFA9894D smart audio amplifier. The hardware ships with software that includes everything necessary for a developer to, out-of-the-box, connect to the Alexa Voice Service and immediately start prototyping. This one-stop-shop software package includes far-field voice processing (echo cancellation, noise suppression, beam forming, barge-in), an Alexa wake word inference engine, an AVS client application, API and all necessary drivers.
Samples of the i.MX RT106A processor and the SLN-ALEXA-IOT solution kit are available to qualified early access customers now.
Renesas Electronics Corporation (TSE:6723), a premier supplier of advanced semiconductor solutions, today unveiled an innovative energy-harvesting embedded controller that can eliminate the need to use or replace batteries in IoT devices. Developed based on Renesas' breakthrough SOTB™ (silicon-on-thin-buried-oxide) process technology, the new embedded controller achieves extreme reduction in both active and standby current consumption, a combination that was not previously possible to achieve in conventional microcontrollers (MCUs). These extreme low current levels of the SOTB-based embedded controller enables system manufacturers to take a step further and completely eliminate the need for batteries in some of their products through harvesting ambient energy sources such as light, vibration, and flow. The use of extreme low-power and energy harvesting gives rise to a new market of maintenance-free connected IoT sensing devices with endpoint intelligence for applications in industrial, business, residential, agricultural, healthcare, and public infrastructure, as well as health and fitness apparel, shoes, wearables, smart watches, and drones. Renesas has already begun supplying the new embedded controller to beta customer.
Renesas’ first commercial product using SOTB technology, the R7F0E embedded controller, is a 32-bit, Arm® Cortex®-based embedded controller capable of operating up to 64 MHz for rapid local processing of sensor data and execution of complex analysis and control functions. Consuming just 20 μA/MHz active current, and only 150 nA deep standby current, approximately one-tenth that of conventional low-power MCUs, these industry-leading characteristics make the R7F0E perfectly suited for extreme low-power and energy harvesting.
The Geniatech Developer Board 8 is a Snapdragon 820e based development board designed for commercial and industrial applications. The product features a Qualcomm Snapdradon 820e, 4gb lpddr4 ram, 64GB UFS 2.0,
1x 96boards 40 pin, 1x 96boards 60 pin, full sized HDMI and SD 3.0. The product can run Linux Debian, Linux OpenEmbedded and Android. The Developer Board 8 sells for $350.
At Embedded World 2019, Toradex shows off its brand new Linux Platform called Torizon, for the first time. Torizon is an open source project based on the Yocto Project, it comes free with Toradex System on Modules (SoMs) including NXP i.MX 6, 7 and 8 SoCs. Torizon is ideal for developers who like to take advantage of the extensive Linux ecosystem, but don’t like to spend time on low-level Linux development. Torizon is built for the requirements of modern industrial embedded/IoT applications in mind. It uses Docker for software containerization, features an Automotive Grade Remote Update Client, supports real-time and has built-in security features. In the video, Samuel, CEO of Toradex, shows the integration with Visual Studio and highlights how it simplifies life for those moving from the Windows and Windows Embedded Compact ecosystem. In the second demo, you can see Debian running in Docker Containers. The last demo shows off the safe and secure over-the-air (OTA) updates and a possible backend to manage a fleet of devices. The update client is Uptane-compatible.
If you’d like to know more about Torizon, you can join Toradex’s Webinar:
If you’d like to learn more about the AI Wall at the end, see my previous video here.
Qt’s (https://qt.io) partnership with Toradex (https://toradex.com) makes the deployment of Qt extremely easy, allowing deployment to a device from day one. The integration is realized with the Toradex Easy Installer (https://www.toradex.com/tools-libraries/toradex-easy-installer). KDAB (https://www.kdab.com/) shows that a Qt Touch UI can run smoothly even on hardware without a GPU, in this case a Toradex Colibri System on Module featuring a NXP i.MX 6ULL. Qt is a very popular C++ Framework for embedded devices, talking about the history of Qt and Qtopia an old application platform for phones and handhelds such as the Archos PMA430 which I filmed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qoBHeXnAVhY Qt 3D Studio is shown on a Toradex SoM with the high end NXP i.MX8 QuadMax. In the booth walk with Santtu, you can see demos such as Qt on microcontrollers and get some insight into the new developer experience. In the KDAB area, you will see KUEAS a tool which simplifies the workflow for 3D content and GammaRay for debugging. KDAB is a partner of Qt and Toradex and can help with application development.
Collabora is at Embedded World 2019, showing their infrastructure for end-to-end, embedded software production, their work on software platforms with reproducible continuous builds, automate testing on hardware to increase productivity and quality control in embedded Linux. They demonstrate Debian-based platform creation with debos and testing on a Virtual Machine - for early identification of issues and regressions, Hardware automated testing of application development through video playing on a Rockchip platform (Chromebook Plus) with VPU decoding and GPU rendering using the Panfrost Open Source driver, Graphics stack development with automated testing, to show how Graphics enablement can be integrated on a Continous Integration pipeline. They also demonstrate two NEW Open Source GPU drivers, etnaviv for Vivante GPU running on an RDU2 Inflight Multimedia Entertainment Device (based on the i.MX6 series SOCs), provided by Zodiac Inflight Innovations, and Panfrost for ARM Mali Midgard & Bifrost GPU, running on a ROCK Pi 4 SBC, provided by Radxa.
Foundries.io demonstrates OpenThread on Zephyr with Blockchain data publishing controlling Smart Lights and Candy Dispenser – Foundries.io showcases their Zephyr microPlatform (ZmP) using OpenThread and 802.15.4. Providing an OpenThread gateway which acts as a smart speaker enabling users to issue voice commands like “Hey Google, turn it on” to turn on a light, or “Hey Google, start it” to dispense candy. The connected lights will be running ZmP with OpenThread, and the candy dispenser will using 6lowpan over BLE.
The Zephyr Project joins some 1,000 exhibitors at Embedded World in Nurnberg, Germany, with Zephyr Project members including Antmicro, Foundries.io, Intel, Nordic Semiconductor, NXP and SiFive, with offer interactive IoT demos powered by the Zephyr RTOS, which supports multiple hardware architectures and is built with safety and security in mind.
The Antmicro and Renode demo showcases how the open source Renode simulation framework that can be used to test multi-node Zephyr setups, including ARM and RISC-V based platforms. Using human-readable scripts and configuration, Renode allows you to easily create complex CI installations, enabling better testability of real products. You will see how to test production-ready code without the hassle of connecting multiple pieces of hardware together against corner-case conditions unachievable in testing rigs.
NXP i.MX 6SoloX (UDOO Neo) with RPMsg Protocol, a Multicore demo with Linux running on A9, Zephyr running on M4 – This demonstration shows how to leverage asymmetric co-processors of modern SoCs on the example of i.MX6SoloX and Udoo Neo board. The embedded Cortex-M4 core is running Zephyr RTOS which implements various low speed serial peripherals (UART, SPI, I2C) in software using GPIO. Cortex-M4 communicates with the embedded Cortex-A9 core running Linux Kernel using the RPMsg protocol. On the Linux side a kernel module is used to present implemented serial peripherals to the user space as regular serial, SPI or I2C interface (e.g. /dev/ttySx). The benefits of such approach consist in the possibility of extending existing set of peripherals without any additional hardware cost and the possibility to place selected peripheral at virtually any available GPIO pin. Thanks to exporting the interfaces to the user space, it can be accessed for example by a Python script.
Intel S1000 Speech Kit showcases basic Alexa functionality
Nordic Semiconductor Gaming Mouse, Zephyr on an nRF52-based low-latency, high report rate gaming mouse prototype
Zephyr on the Nordic nRF91 Development Kit, including a BLE to LTE gateway
SiFive Demo, Zephyr Running on a SiFive HiFive1 Development Board
Zephyr running as a guest on ACRN Hypervisor
Nuvoton Technology Corporation presents three major themes of reference applications incorporating newly launched microcontrollers with ARM Cortex-M0/ M4/ M23, and ARM9 cores. The three themes are: Industrial Control, IoT Security, and Smart Home Appliances. Industrial Control includes factory remote data collecting, environment monitoring, smart number recognition, and interactive Human Machine Interface (HMI) Solution. IoT Security includes USB FIDO key for identity security and fingerprint secure IoT door lock. Smart Home Appliances include intelligent power outlet. Industrial Control – incorporating NuMicro NUC980, N9H20, M480, NDA102 microcontrollers Nuvoton Industrial Control reference applications include: Remote Terminal Unit, Smart Number Recognition, Interactive HMI Solution, and DALI-2 Digital Lighting Control. Industrial Remote Terminal Unit adopts ARM9 based NuMicro NUC980 series microcontroller. The NUC980 series operates up to 300 MHz and has internal crypto accelerators as well as Ethernet. It could be used for factory monitoring and automation control with Wi-Fi/ 4G LTE/ NB-IoT modules. Smart Number Recognition adopts Arm Cortex-M4 based NuMicro M480 series microcontroller. This demo captures water, electricity, and gas meter numbers, using machine learning neural network algorithms to identify. The information can be transmitted to the cloud through Wi-Fi or NB-IoT to realize the auto meter reader function after the identification. Based on the experience with clients, the demand for interactive HMI is increasing. Therefore, Nuvoton released N9H20/30, M480 series microcontrollers, and free emWin graphics software tool. Nuvoton provides HMI solution to help clients save development time and complete interactive graphics interface with high quality and efficiency. DALI-2 Digital Lighting Control adopts Arm® Cortex-M0 based NuMicro NDA102 series microcontroller. The solution is based on Digital Addressable Lighting Interface (DALI) technology. This solution includes certified DALI-2 library built by Nuvoton. IoT Security – incorporating PSA Certified Level 1 Arm Cortex-M23 Based NuMicro M2351 microcontroller Nuvoton IoT Security includes: Arm Pelion Secure IoT Device Management supported by M2351, USB FIDO Key for Identity Security, and Fingerprint Secure IoT Door Lock. The NuMicro M2351 series is one of the first Arm Cortex-M23 based MCUs that has been Platform Security Architecture (PSA) Certified Level 1. The Platform Security Architecture keeps the system secure from booting to operating, also keeping data and codes secure. The Pelion IoT Platform is a flexible, secure, and efficient foundation spanning connectivity, device, and data management. It accelerates the time to value of your IoT deployments by helping you easily connect trusted IoT devices on global networks, invisibly administer them, and extract real-time data from them to drive competitive advantages. The Fast Identification Online (FIDO) Identity supported USB Flash memory drive with dual security features of the NuMicro M2351 microcontroller and SunASIC fingerprint sensor module, compliant with the Universal 2nd Factor (U2F) protocol. It could be applied to identity identification applications and more.
The Nordic Semiconductor nRF9160 is a compact, highly-integrated Low power System-in-Package with integrated LTE-M/NB-IoT modem and GPS for cellular IoT (cIoT) designs, featuring ARMv8-M Arm Cortex-M33 application processor solely for applications, a full LTE modem, RF Front End (RFFE) and power management system. Nordic Semiconductor claims that the nRF9160 is the most compact, complete and energy-efficient cellular IoT solution on the market. The integrated modem supports both LTE-M and NB-IoT and can operate globally removing any need for regional variants. All power saving features including eDRX and PSM are supported as is with IPv4/IPv6 support up to transport and security (TCP/TLS) level. The modem firmware is upgradable via secure, encrypted Firmware Over The Air (FOTA) updates. The Arm Cortex-M33 application processor is supported by 1MB of flash and 256kB RAM making advanced application development possible in a single device solution. A GPS receiver is integrated into the radio offering various modes of operation to suit a wide selection of applications that employ location-tracking functionality. A broad selection of general interfaces and peripherals and are included on nRF9160 including 12-bit ADC, RTC, SPI, I²C, I²S, UARTE, PDM and PWM. Security is best-in-class with Arm TrustZone technology for isolation and protection of normal and secure zones for firmware and elements of hardware including memory and peripherals. Arm TrustZone helps build solid and secure ioT applications that feature secure boot, trusted firmware updates and root of trust implementations without performance compromise. Arm CryptoCell enhances security still further by offering cryptographic and security resources to help to protect your IoT applications from various attack threats. CryptoCell is designed for high performance cryptography solutions optimized for energy-constrained devices. The nRF9160 supports both SIM and eSIM for connection and authentication with mobile network operators. The nRF9160 hardware and development kits are now in production and is suitable for full end-to-end sensor to cloud development.