Archive for January, 2009

Jan 30 2009

Xilinx Automotive Vertex3 – CES09

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At CES this year, there was a major showing of mobile electronics, both OEM and aftermarket.  The current housing crisis has helped fuel the demands for this sector in the area of infotainment systems and communication.  With the restrictions being placed on credit/loans and the instability of the houseing market, Mobile platforms (cars, RV, etc) are taking on a role of the primary fixed asset.

Xilinx is targetting this sector with a new development board and IP for their automotive grade Vertex 3 products.  The new development system is essentially a demo board with I/Os and a rectangular touch screen that is the same size as the development board.  The touch screen is provided to display both development and debug capabilitiy for the design, but also help with the application GUI development.  This is the same setup that is used for the commercial grade (i.e. non-auto Virtex 3) products.     .

IP available for this application is interesting – a number of memory interfaces, embedded CPUs, specialy I/O and the like as would be expected.  On the data interchance area, there has been requests to support Firewire (IEEE 1394) as an input source over the USB 3.0 format.  As the products are targeted for long use cycles, I expect the USB3 interface IP to be added to the kit shortly to allow the future direction and needs.

Since the new development kit supports a display, both virtual guage builders for drivers displays, heads up displays and device/sensor control.  The environment is very straight forward and supports a number of automotive targeted “macro” tasks to minimize design time.  Since the development tools also support ehe standard Virtex3 products, simultaneous development of both OEM (automotive grade) and aftermarket (standard commercial grade) designs can occur.

The product support multiple processors cores, memory interface and display interfaces.  One of the key new features is the packaging of the system RAM with the FPGA die yeilding a higher reliability and smaller footprint.  These development systems and products are currently available and are targeted at drivers display, vehicle comfort (temp, heated seats, etc), navigation control, and in-car entertainment/networking control.

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Jan 30 2009

CES2009 System Applications

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There were several standout products at the 2009 CES exhibits including the Gibson Dark Fire guitar, the Jones Audio PA-M300 amplifier and display products from Westinghouse.

Gibson in late 2007 introduced their first generation auto-tuning guitar the “robot guitar”.  This was a standard Les Paul guitar that had an analog closed loop system to auto-tune the strings in a short period of time (sub 30sec) to either pre-programmed or custom configurations.  This year they introduced a significantly improved, high speed analog closed loop tuning system (sub 2 sec) for a similar Les Paul guitar that supports a digital recording interface to Macs and Windows.  The new system improved the feedback loop performance by using low power higher bandwidth amplifiers, faster settling PZTs and servos for the tuning knobs and different pickups.  The new system is an overall improved performance system, at approx the same price point, while supporting a better power cycle and and electronics recording interface.  This new technology, is dramatically improved in playback and performance capability over “digital” sampling and modeling guitars.  The Dark Fire plays with the same robustness and tone as a standard Les Paul guitar without the auto-tune feature.  This solution has been implemented as an advanced “continuous time analog” application bucking the trend to go “sampled data and DSP” application.

The Jones Audio amplifier is part of the niche world of high performance audio.  Unlike the majority of products in this space, this is not a vacuum tube amplifier, it instead using solid state power devices to drive the 300W+ on the outputs.  What made the product standout, was the system level design and analysis that yields an over -120db noise floor.  This comes from both electrical and magnetic isolation of the power supply path from the signal drive circuitry.  The design was validated initially with design software to achieve the standard performance.  The increased performance was found using traditional engineering bench and application testing to improve performance as the modeling information available for the board and semiconductor design was not sufficiently details to support this level of performance.  The audio performance difference between typical 90db SNR and the 120db+ SNR is easily and truly audible when listening to most music styles.  As anyone who works with power supply and amplifier design is aware, the 100db+ SNR world is a rare and unique space especcialy in high power applications.

Westinghouse has been a long time name in the US electronics market.  They introduced some 19″-32″ LCD flat panel TVs for the standard 720 and 1080 consumer markets.  The two interesting products were targeted at the commerical / industrial markets.  In the effort to support the high resolution/high definition marketplace, they demonstrated a 4K flat panel display.  This product was primarily targeted to the 4K & 2K editing marketplace for content creation and for very high performance commercial video applications.  It was one of only two 4K displays that were operating and shown at the show (the other being Sony’s).  The product was an interesting system application as a large number of the components were shared with the standard lower ASP consumer model displays and utilized a similar user interface.  The other unique product was their software for digital signage.   As a hardware provider, this peoduct was historically bundled with the displays to support advertising insertion, display scaling and other effects on a windows platform driving the display along with the video feed.  As the market has progressed, they have modified the product to be display manufacturer independent and hardware independent so these advanced video imaging features can be performed on standard PCs with anyone’s 720 or 1080 displays.  This was one of the few instances where a hardware company became aware of market drivers for thier GUI and application base and chose to provide a solution (be it software or software & hardware) to the client base rather than stick with thier traditional hardware only model.

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