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Airline Safety Gets Short Shrift at CES

By George Leopold

Conspicuously absent from a CES presentation on the future of aviation technology was the burning question of airline safety in the aftermath of two deadly Boeing 737 Max crashes.

Conspicuously absent also during a keynote address by Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian was any reference to Boeing. Bastian didn’t have to mention the embattled aircraft manufacturer since his fleet includes no 737 Max aircraft grounded in the aftermath of the second 737 Max crash in March 2019 that killed 157 passengers and crew.

Instead, Bastian touted the range, gadgets and other comforts of Delta’s new fleet of the Airbus 330-900neo aircraft, the very plane that prompted Boeing to rush the production and rollout of its flawed 737 Max.

Delta is also the North American launch partner for the Airbus 220, a narrow-body passenger jet designed to feel like a wide-body jet—which presumably means you won’t bang your head on the overhead bins when boarding a redesigned version of a regional jet.

Delta, a forward-looking carrier with a good on-time record, picked the right horse in the race to deliver longer range aircraft that burn less aviation fuel, among an airline’s biggest costs. Delta is listed among the Airbus’ top customers for the A330neo.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian

While there were passing references to delivering passengers “quickly and safely” to their destination—the Delta CEO certainly did not intend to downplay aviation safety—the focus on flying as another customer experience is a bit strained. Not surprising, we suppose, during a consumer electronics show.

Sure, free in-flight Wi-Fi, biometric screening, “parallel reality” display screens, pet care “pods” and the rest of Delta’s “applied innovation” are nice upgrades. So too is the fact that the airline has mostly resisted the economic imperative of cramming as many passengers as possible into its planes.

But the anxious flying public is equally interested in safety and reliability in the aftermath of the 737 Max crashes as they are in on-time arrivals and immersive flight experiences.

Bastian could have devoted at least a few sentences to the subject of airline safety in his roughly 90-minute keynote.

A few readers contend we are bashing Boeing, piling on when a great engineering company is fighting to save its once-sterling reputation. But we are unwilling to compromise on safety.

So, too, should Boeing.

AMD Targets Top End Content and Gaming With New Mobile and Desktop Processors

By Nitin Dahad

LAS VEGAS — AMD’s CEO, Lisa Su, was ebullient at CES 2020 as she announced what she said was the world’s highest-performance desktop processor and ultrathin laptop processors. The latest mobile processor family, the AMD Ryzen 4000 series, features 59% higher performance than its previous generation, and its desktop processor, the AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X, is the first using 64 cores.

The new AMD Ryzen 4000 Series is the first x86 eight-core ultrathin laptop mobile processor family, built on the Zen 2 core architecture with 7-nm process technology and optimized high-performance Radeon graphics in a system-on-chip (SoC) design. As the third generation of AMD Ryzen mobile processors, it provides significant performance improvements, design enhancements, and power efficiency for ultrathin and gaming laptops. AMD also announced the AMD Athlon 3000 Series mobile processor family powered by its Zen architecture, enabling modern computing experiences with real performance for a wider range of laptop users.

Consumers will be able to purchase the first AMD Ryzen 4000 Series- and Athlon 3000 Series-powered laptops from Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, and others starting in Q1 2020, with more systems expected to launch throughout 2020 with global OEM partners.

For high-end desktops, AMD also announced the 64-core, 128-thread AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X, which will be available globally from Feb. 7, 2020. Purpose-built to enable extreme performance for 3D, visual effects, and video professionals, the 3990X delivers up to 51% fast

AMD Ryzen

er rendering performance than the AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3970X processor.

Su emphasized that gamers and creators helped AMD push the envelope for more performance in both laptops and desktops, as they always want more out of their system. In that respect, she said that 2020 was going to be an even bigger year in terms of being able to deliver the best to gamers and creators. “We are introducing the best laptop processor ever built. This is disruptive performance, since we wanted to be above the historical curve in terms of performance improvement.”

She added that the new Ryzen 4000 series was twice as power-efficient compared to their previous generation as a result of the gains from the 7-nm process as well as design and architecture work.

Featuring up to eight cores and 16 threads, the AMD Ryzen 4000 U-Series mobile processors provide “incredible” responsiveness and portability, delivering disruptive performance for ultrathin laptops with a configurable 15-W thermal design power (TDP). Additionally, AMD said th

at with more than 90 million laptop gamers and creators, the AMD Ryzen 4000 H-Series mobile processors will set the new standard for gaming and content creation with innovative, thin, and light laptops with a configurable 45-W TDP.

The new AMD Ryzen 7 4800U offers up to 4% greater single-thread performance and up to 90% faster multi-threaded performance than the competition, plus up to 18% faster graphics performance (benchmarked against an Intel Ice Lake processor). The H version, AMD Ryzen 7 480

0H, provides up to 5% greater single-threaded and up to 46% greater multi-threaded performance than the competition, plus up to 25% faster 4K video encoding using Adobe Premier than the competition (again compared against an Intel Ice Lake processor).

Offloading the processor for even better performance
In addition, AMD detailed its SmartShift technology, which allows users to harness Ryzen 4000 mobile processors, Radeon graphics, and its latest AMD Radeon software Adrenalin 2020 edition, to advance computing experiences by efficiently optimizing performance as needed and taking gaming experiences to “new levels.” It does so by dynamically shifting power between the Ryzen processor and Radeon graphics, which it claims can seamlessly deliver up to 10% greater gaming performance and up to 12% more content-creation performance.

AMD Threadripper

64-core desktop processor
AMD also launched the AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X, its first 64-core desktop processor. Creators will be able to buy the processor from participating global retailers and system integrators, with on-shelf availability expected Feb. 7, 2020.

It features an “unprecedented” amount of single-socket compute performance in a desktop platform, which AMD said will make processor the definitive solution for digital content creation professionals working with 3D animation, raytraced VFX, and 8K video codecs. It can deliver up to 51% greater performance than the Ryzen Threadripper 3970X in 3D ray tracing with the MAXON Cinema4D Renderer and a historic Cinebench R20.06 score of 25,399 points for a single processor.

Toyota Touts AI-Driven Dream City

By David Benjamin

LAS VEGAS — In announcing plans by Toyota Motor Corporation to build a new city in Japan, fueled entirely by renewable resources and operated by an intricate web of artificial intelligence (AI), company chairman Akio Toyoda told a first-day media audience at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), “You must be thinking, ‘Has this guy has lost his mind?’

“Are we looking at a Japanese version of Willy Wonka?”

Standing small against a towering screen that showed artist’s renderings of a futuristic city of 2,000 people, nestled in the shadow of Mount Fuji, Toyoda might have indeed resembled Willy Wonka, cloistered from the world in his shuttered chocolate factory. But what the Toyota chief did not say was that, in the movie, Willy Wonka was always a step ahead of everyone else.

By leapfrogging Toyota’s focus on AI into smart-city concepts, Toyoda was tacitly confirming the widespread consensus that AI in vehicles — the dream of a fully autonomous family sedan in the immediate future — is stuck in neutral.

Indeed, almost completely absent from Toyoda’s presentation was any mention of automobiles. Toyota concept cars and the Toyota Research Institute — the company’s pride and joy at CES in previous years — were off the agenda.

And the Woven City is going to be th-i-s big. (Image: EE Times)

Mounting safety concerns and technology issues have led to an industry-wide retreat from full autonomy. Instead, carmakers and their technology allies are touting refinements in advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) and the development of safety standards that might make autonomous vehicles (AVs) acceptable to a dubious public afraid of seeing their kids run over by Robbie the Robot.

Meanwhile, suggested chairman Toyoda on Monday, why not build George Jetson’s condo?

Toyoda introduced Bjarke Ingels, founder of the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), a Copenhagen-based architectural enterprise chosen to partner with Toyota in the creation of a future urban model called a “Woven City” by Toyoda and Ingels. Ingels explained that three forms of mobility would interweave in this city.

Ingels said that the Woven City would have some traditional streets, where pedestrians, bicyclists, cars, and other vehicles share space. But the dominant avenues would be an urban promenade, wide and exclusive to pedestrians, and a “linear park” designed for walking, strolling, picnicking, and — Ingels suggested — a greater level of social interaction than is common in most cities today.

Taking over from Bjarke, Toyoda sketched a vision of high-rise “blocks” surrounded by greenery, each roofed with photovoltaic tiles to convert sunlight to energy. Underground, said Toyoda, there will be a hydrogen power plant to provide additional energy. Toyota, without getting much traction on the idea, has been a leader in promoting hydrogen as a fuel source.

Each unit in the Woven City’s residences, of course, would feature lots of robotics, “with people, buildings, and vehicles all connected. “The key indoor technology would be sensor-based AI that intuits the household’s needs before any human notices, stocking the fridge, adjusting the heat, collecting the trash, monitoring the baby, housebreaking the puppy, and polishing the doorknobs.”

And every unit, he added, “will have a spectacular view of Mount Fuji.”

The streets, said Toyoda, will be filled with automated Toyota vehicles delivering goods; shuttling babies, nannies, and senior citizens; sweeping the streets; and facilitating more human contact — which, said Toyoda, must be the objective of AI in its practical applications.

However, anyone who hears about Akio Toyoda’s “personal field of dreams” and starts hoarding real estate in Kanagawa and Yamanashi prefectures near Mount Fuji will be jumping the gun. All these Woven City plans, cautioned Toyoda, will be worked out first in virtual reality.

He said Toyota is inviting like-minded companies and individuals “and anyone inspired to improve the way we live in the future” to help test the possibilities of the Woven City “in both the virtual and physical worlds.”

The Toyota chairman bowed out without providing a timetable for his dream.

Arduino Portenta for IoT Development

By Maurizio Di Paolo Emilio

At the cost of $99.99 for its elite version, the new Arduino Portenta H7 was announced at CES. The new board is the first solution in a series for industrial IoT. At its heart is the STMicroelectronics STM32H747 microcontroller, with a dual-core Cortex-M7 and Cortex-M4 on the chip, operating at 480 MHz and 240 MHz, respectively, and a temperature range of –40°C to 85°C.

Laurent Hanus, ecosystem marketing manager at STMicroelectronics, said that Arduino Portenta H7 reflects the exceptional performance of the STM32H747, also offering the usability of the new platform for cloud applications.

Arduino Uno arrived in 2005. The technology par excellence in Italy has become one of the pillars of the maker movement. Many things have changed in recent years. The collapse of hardware prices and the arrival of boards that run MicroPython and JavaScript have changed the ecosystem of open hardware in a profound way. The form factor inherited from Arduino Uno is still around and will surely remain in the minds of developers, but the newer Arduino boards use the more modern MKR form factor.

The Arduino MKR family was born for engineers and makers to offer an extremely fast time to market for the industrial market. What sets the MKR boards apart from the others in the Arduino family is, in addition to the family form factor of 67.64 × 25 mm, the integrated connectivity and potential for any project involving the internet of things.

The fundamental step toward change began with the Maker Faire in Rome, where it was done with the Arduino Pro Development Environment, a definite step ahead of the Arduino IDE. Despite this, the Arduino team also made available in Altium Designer a series of symbols to reduce the time between prototyping and production.

Today, with the new Portenta H7 module, we are preparing for a new maker market. The module is able to run Arduino code natively and can support running Arduino code on the open-source IoT Arm Mbed OS to provide enterprise-grade features while maintaining the familiar Arduino development environment. In addition, it can run Python and JavaScript code, making it more accessible to a wider range of developers.

Portenta H7 has low-power cores capable of processing video from a camera and displaying it on the USB-C connector with DisplayPort. It also has the ability, through the M4 cortex, to perform system tasks such as sensor acquisition and power management. In its complete configuration, Portenta H7 features 32 Mbytes of SDRAM in addition to 1 MB of processor, 128 MBytes of flash in addition to 2 MB of processor, and Ethernet, high-speed USB, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 5.0 (Figure 1).

The wireless module can manage the protocols simultaneously. The Wi-Fi interface can be used as an access point, and Bluetooth supports Bluetooth Classic and BLE. The MKR form factor ensures scalability for a wide range of applications by merely updating the Portenta board to the one suitable for your needs.

Figure 1: Arduino Portenta [Source: Arduino]
Figure 1: Arduino Portenta (Source: Arduino)

“Portenta H7 is the perfect match for crossover applications where considerable computing power is required, but power constraints are very tight,” said Fabio Violante, CEO of Arduino. “Applications include machine learning/AI, motor control, IoT gateways, edge computing, human-machine interfaces, and more.”

The module is directly compatible with most Arduino libraries and can run TensorFlow Lite, JavaScript, MicroPython, Mbed OS, and, of course, Arduino. This means that the solution is able to perform real-time tasks without the need to run real-time operating systems. Cortex M7 has more computational power than most Linux-based processors but consumes even less than some other microcontrollers. At the same time, the M4 core can be used to reduce power consumption further and perform additional tasks without the complexity of multitasking.

“The scalability of the board allows, for high-volume applications, custom-tailoring the cost/feature balance, providing a solution to every need,” said Fabio. “Last but not least, all these features are going to be available through the renowned Arduino simplicity.”

The new Portenta family has been designed to offer scalable processing with complex technologies while maintaining a small footprint. The high number of pins allows reducing the size of the final application while offering good robustness and signal integrity.

Piezo Haptic Feedback to Enhance Drivers’ Safety

By Anne-Françoise Pelé

From turning the steering wheel to pressing down the accelerator pedal, the driving experience is very tactile. Haptic technologies simulate the sense of touch by triggering forces, vibrations or motions to the drivers, and are increasingly used by the automotive industry as a way to confer a safer, more informed and more intuitive user experience. 

Boréas’ BOS1211

Boréas Technologies Inc. (Bromont, Canada) is rolling out what it claims is the first low-power high-voltage piezoelectric driver IC to enable high-definition haptic feedback in automotive human machine interfaces. The BOS1211 IC has been developed using Boréas’ patented CapDrive technology, a scalable high-voltage piezoelectric driver architecture that takes advantage of the piezoelectric material. This approach compares with the more traditional haptic actuators: eccentric rotating mass (ERM) motor and linear resonant actuator (LRA). 

“When you try to generate high voltage in consumer or in car applications, if you don’t have good electronics, you will basically burn all your energy to increase that voltage, and that will make the overall system inefficient even though the actuator itself is efficient,” Simon Chaput, Boréas’ founder and CEO, told EE Times. “We solved that problem, and created a driver that takes the low voltage and generates the required high voltage.” The BOS1211 has been designed to support TDK’s family of 120V PowerHap piezoelectric actuators. 

Preventing driver’s distraction
More than 52.8 million automotive touch panels will be on the market by 2020, according to IHS Markit Center Stack Display Production Forecast, and that number is increasing by 4.6 percent annually. Safety is one of the key drivers for adoption.

In a car, said Chaput, touchscreens are more efficient than the voice control to do quick tasks. The main issue with touchscreens, however, “is the time to look at it is too long because we wait for confirmation”. Haptics enables the user to touch the screen like a traditional button interface, which means “you can slide your finger across the screen, feel different textures until you reach the button, then press on the button area and feel the mechanical click that tells you that the button has been pressed, the command has been registered and whatever action you have ordered will take place in the next few seconds.” The whole idea is to keep the driver’s eyes on the road and hands on the wheel as much as possible.

Haptic feedback in vehicles is becoming a lot more popular as the user experience continues to evolve inside of the vehicle,” commented Kyle Davis, Technical Research and Data Analyst for IHS Markit. “Haptic feedback is not just limited to a user experience though, as it can help keep the driver’s eyes on the road and reduce driver distraction.” 

Within the automotive cabin, haptic technologies can be used to trigger different warnings to the driver without adding stress to the visual and auditory loads. Touchscreen is one application, steering wheel is another, said Chaput. “You can think of the control buttons on the steering wheels, but also if you drive off your lane, the wheel will vibrate and tell you that you need to recover control of your car.” Speeding warnings can also be triggered in the pedal to alert the driver that he or she is exceeding the speed limit. Same thing with the seat and belt where actuators could be used to help improve the driver’s awareness of his or her surroundings. 

Haptics technologies differ from audio and visual technologies. They are time sensitive and require continuous bidirectional data sharing. “It is important that the haptic feedback arrives at the right time,” said Chaput. “If you are delayed by more than 10 or 20 milliseconds, it is going to feel wrong from a human perspective.” With its latest BOS1211 IC, Boréas claims it has a good time resolution for touch sensing. “We use the piezo actuators as both the actuator and the sensor. Our chip has both the sensing and driving capability and can take the decision by itself.” As soon as a pressure is sensed, the haptic feedback is automatically sent. There is no delay, and the haptic feedback arrives at the right time, said Chaput. 

Removing mechanical buttons. Really?
At last year’s CES, Boréas demonstrated a buttonless smartphone, replacing the mechanical volume and power buttons with two piezo actuators next to the frame. While customers tend to prefer buttonless smartphones and tablets, expectations may be different within the car cabin. “I think a common misconception is that haptic feedback will replace buttons and knobs inside the vehicle,” commented IHS Kyle Davis. According to IHS Markit User Experience Consumer Survey, “most new vehicle buyers are looking for a mix between a touchscreen and buttons, not one or the other.” 

Enabling new human-machine interfaces in cars
In May 2019, Boréas and TDK announced their collaboration to accelerate the adoption of piezo haptic solutions in applications such as automotive displays and controls, wearables, smartphones and tablets. At the time, Boréas’ first product, the BOS1901 power-efficient piezo driver IC, was seen as a good fit for TDK’s PowerHap actuators with an operating voltage of up to 60V. Partners also planned to develop the first low-power piezo driver IC for the larger members of the PowerHap family with maximum drive voltages of 120V. That’s the BOS1211. 

“We realized that together we had the best driver and the best actuator for haptics, but what our customers want is more a solution,” said Chaput. “We can move faster than if we were working on our own. In the long term, we can do roadmap alignment, meaning that we can make sure that the drivers we are designing and the piezo actuators TDK is developing are aligned together.” 

Simon Chaput, Boréas’ CEO and founder

Asked about the main differences between the BOS1091 and the BOS1211 ICs, Chaput said Boréas has improved the sensing interface to be more precise and autonomous. “On the BOS1901, the sensing is done by our chip but it requires some software while on the BOS1211 most of the sensing is handled by the chip itself,” which makes it more autonomous. Also, the BOS1901 was created for smart watches and phones, whereas the BOS1211 is made for large displays in cars. It meets the AEC-Q standard and is qualified for automotive applications. 

Both the BOS1901 and BOS1211 ICs have been developed using Boréas’ patented CapDrive technology. Explaining what’s unique about it, Chaput first cited high force haptic feedback, thus the ability to move large screens and deform stiff materials. A second benefit is the fact that piezo actuators can be made in customizable form factors. “Typically, for LRA actuators, when you increase the size, it increases the dimension, and you end up with a big rectangular block.” Piezo actuators, he continued, “can be manufactured so that they fit well within the module, providing a better integration in the car.” 

Boréas also claims the BOS1211 is the industry’s smallest haptic driver (4 x 4 mm QFN) for this level of haptic feedback strength and consumes “one tenth of the energy required by our competitors.” This low power solution, Chaput noted, enables car manufacturers to design haptics the way they want it to be without the risk of using too much power. 

Educating, sampling, scaling

On the electronics side, Chaput said Boréas is at a point where “we have a good solution that makes it viable on the market.” The next step consists in “working with our customers, because most customers have expertise into actuating ERM and LRA, and the piezo actuator is quite different.” Of course, Boréas keeps a close eye on the competition to see what’s coming down the line and support the markets where, as a startup, there are the most promising outcomes. Texture-based haptics “is something we will look into in the future,” said Chaput. “We would need to find the right partner.” 

Again, today’s priority “has to do with teaching our customers so that they can do the same kind of actuating they are doing with LRA today with piezo tomorrow.” 

The BOS1211 is now sampling to key customers, “we now have multiple projects with multiple large OEMs”. To accelerate design to production with the TDK 120V PowerHap actuators, Boréas said it will offer a plug-and-play development kit for piezo haptic feedback in February 2020. Chaput said the company expects to launch production of the BOS1211 chip in 2021 and start volume production in the years 2022-2024. 

Asked whose foundry is producing the BOS1901 and will produce the BOS1211, Chaput just said Boréas has “a very good partner.” 

Looking ahead
Chaput is confident haptics will likely touch most aspects of our lives, especially in the consumer and automotive spaces. “If you take one day, you use your hands quite often to provide good information on your surroundings.” But what happens when you shift to smartphones? “Most of that information has been digitized, and you can see it in full HD, 4K or even 8K.” You see, but not feel. “In the past twenty years, we have lost the touch feeling, because we are mostly interacting with glass that always feels the same. Haptics will bring back that touch information.”

Related content: Taking Touch Technology to the Next Level

CES Tech Trends: Prepare for the ‘Intelligence of Things’

By Barb Jorgensen

The Internet of Things (IoT) is already passé at CES 2020. There’s a new IoT in town — the Intelligence of Things—that will drive consumer and industrial innovation well into the next decade,  said Steve Koenig, vice president for the Consumer Technology Association.

This is the decade where smart homes, electric vehicles and telemedicine will hit their stride, Koenig said in his CES 2020 preview. “We’ve ticked the device-connectivity boxes,” he explained. The next 10 years will be about intelligent connectivity and devices that anticipate human needs, enable smart city infrastructure and contribute to global sustainability, he said.

Proof-of-concept already exists in agriculture where technology trims costs, labor and waste. Automated harvesters free up manpower. Drones identify dry spots in fields and automated systems water only those areas. Data from harvesters — such as daily yield– can be used by farmers to capitalize on the futures market.

Artificial intelligence and 5G are the underpinnings of the new IoT, Koenig said. 5G capabilities are so far beyond 4G that  enterprises—rather than consumers—will drive its growth. The new IoT can be divided into two categories: massive IoT and critical IoT. Massive IoT connects a lot of endpoints but carries very little data. Critical IoT connects fewer endpoints with lots of data. Applications for the latter include remote surgery, industrial robotics and commercial virtual reality, said Koenig.

“5G will overlay every commercial and industrial sector,” he added.

5G networks will be built parallel to 4G to prepare for a gradual transition. This means devices, networks and base stations that are yet to be designed, built and field tested. Most devices will be 5G-enabled by 2023, according to CTA, but a complete transition will still take a while.

In the meantime, established companies and start-ups are developing products and services that will capitalize on connected intelligence. Trends to watch at CES 2020 include:

AI and everything. Artificial intelligence is being “consumerized.” Machine learning has been around awhile and is well understood in the industrial sector, but devices with embedded AI are already on the market – ovens that can identify and correctly cook food; doorbells with facial recognition and speakers with advanced voice recognition. “AI is permeating every facet of commerce and culture and is focused on enhancing the user experience,” said Koenig.

Intelligence of Things
Source: Anova Smart Oven, courtesy of CES 2020

AR/VR/XR untethered.  AR devices are now wireless and provide near room-scale experiences. For the science fiction fan, Star Trek’s Holodeck is – literally – closer to reality than ever before. Other AR devices have been scaled down to sunglass sizes. “The real use case” said Koenig, “is in the commercial space and B2B.” VR is training doctors on virtual cadavers. XR, a cornerstone of gaming, is catching on in the $1 billion e-sports market.

Transportation. “This is the decade for electronic vehicles,” said Koenig. There are advancements in battery technology and electric motors; charging stations are more plentiful and easier to use. Sensors and processors proliferate in EVs. “Now we are hearing a narrative about commercial EV deployment — which means fleets — and fleets mean partnerships,” he added. “Nobody can do this on their own.”

EVs are also solving the “last mile” problem in cities that are densely populated and highly congested. Electric scooters have become a popular solution to the last-mile challenge, Koenig said.

Digital health. “This becomes a lifestyle this year,” Koenig predicted. Consumer electronics are bringing the ecosystem together.

AI and 5G are moving digital health from symptom-based telemedicine to data-based telemedicine. Applications include remote bedside consultations or second opinions, and AI-assisted diagnostics. “Hospitals are going to become data centers that will need security and encryption,” Koenig added.

Robotics.  Jetson’s-style robotic maids haven’t taken over households yet. Turns out such “social robots” haven’t caught on while “task-based” robots have. “Task-based robots do one thing really well, such as vacuuming, or on automated assembly lines.” If you add mobility to a robot, you add cost, Koenig said.  There are few use-cases for mobile, social robots.

Stationary social robots currently teach languages, monitor health or dispense medication. “There are still humanoid robots in the mix, but people are wondering ‘what am I really going to use these for?’” Koenig concluded. He suggested mobile “droids” that can guide humans to their destination on a planet-sized star ship are much more practical.


CES Unveiled: Gadget Fest with a Moment of Zen

By EE Times Editorial Team

LAS VEGAS – CES Unveiled is a tech fest where startups and established companies pitch and showcase their brightest new ideas and shiniest products, with a strange emphasis on self-improvement.

You name it, Unveiled has everything from ultra-stable drones, “bidirectional” EV chargers to smart road systems that let every car know road conditions and a wrist-band that tells you which foods suit your unique DNA.

The products and prototypes unveiled are an eclectic mix. They often surprise us by offering solutions for problems we didn’t know we had.

In the following pages, we share more than a dozen new technologies/applications spotted at the event on Sunday. To see our full slide show, please click here.

Thin Enough and Fast Enough for the City

4D Gravity Comes to Drones
DNA-Based Shopping
Valerann smart roads system
Zen Health with Gardens and Orbs
Plugging EVs into the Grid
Why Is SiFive at CES?
Vital signs monitoring using face detection
Commuter smart safety helmet now has Alexa built in
How well are you brushing your teeth?
Vanity, Thy (Latest) Name is Opté-Skin
Remotely Charged from Milwaukee
Reachy the Legless Robot
Wearables for dogs: find out your dog’s feelings
Non-invasive sensors to monitor aging parents
Thin Enough and Fast Enough for the City
Pokit goes Pro
Smile, you’re on Unveiled Camera
Cool, huh?

Siemens-Arm Lets Car OEMs Envision 2025 Auto Architecture

By Junko Yoshida

LAS VEGAS — Bolstered by its new partnership with Arm, Siemens is ready to ask car OEMs some tough questions at the Consumer Electronics Show. Namely: 1) Do you already know what the architecture of your 2025 automotive platform looks like? 2) If so, have you verified your whole vehicle?

In an interview with EE Times, David Fritz, global technology manager, Autonomous and ADAS at Siemens, explained that if carmakers are still dithering with issues like which CPU, GPU, or MPU they should use in next-generation cars, “they’ve already missed the boat.”

Fritz described recent automotive history as making “a series of incremental changes to advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS).” While carmakers might feel compelled to add hot new features that pop up in the market, too many have resorted to “one Band-Aid solution after another” for new models, he said, arguing that they’ve been doing so without really thinking about the architecture of 2025 vehicles. That’s one reason, he said, why car OEMs have failed to chart a single migration path from ADAS to autonomous vehicles (AVs).

Car OEMs See No Easy ADAS-to-AV Path

Envision your vehicle platform of 2025
Siemens’s new partnership with Arm seeks to alter the ad hoc — and often siloed — design choices that automakers have been making for vehicle development.

What do carmakers want in their auto architecture of 2025? (Source: Siemens)

The partnership will combine pre-built and pre-verified Arm IPs with Siemens’s PAVE360 — billed as an all-encompassing validation and simulation system designed for autonomous vehicle hardware and software development. The goal is to enable automakers and suppliers to “envision their next-generation automotive platform,” said Fritz.

He explained that Siemens’s PAVE360 extends “digital twin simulation beyond processors to include automotive hardware and software subsystems, full vehicle models, fusion of sensor data, traffic flows, and even the safety of autonomous vehicles.”

If a carmaker chooses a certain processor for specific applications in, say, a 2020 vehicle, what could happen is that the new chip might not fit the enclosure size required in a 2025 car platform. Similarly, it might not meet the heat dissipation threshold demanded in the 2025 architecture. “You make one decision now, which turns out to make a bang-bang-bang domino effect in the rest of the whole 2025 car model,” said Fritz.

Put more bluntly, Fritz said that a carmaker’s bad decision six years ago could end up killing the entire new model for 2025.

It’s important for carmakers and Tier Ones to be able to “simulate and verify subsystem and system-on-chip designs and to understand how they perform within a vehicle design from the silicon level up, long before the vehicle is built,” he explained.

Siemens’s Fritz last year told EE Times, “I have actually seen a block diagram of an AV SoC internally designed by every major car OEM.” He stressed, “Tesla isn’t alone. Every carmaker wants to control its own destiny.” If so, with how many of those major car OEMs is Siemens already working today — to simulate and verify their whole car architecture of 2025?

Fritz said, “We’ve been working with a few,” without naming names. When asked to describe a 2025 vehicle architecture, he said, “While they all come from different directions, surprisingly, they appear to come to a similar platform.”

Why PAVE360?
The power of PAVE360 lies in its ability to simulate certain functions, SoCs, subsystems, or software in the context of an entire vehicle. Phil Magney, founder and principal advisor of VSI Labs, last year told EE Times that PAVE360 is “pretty unique.” He explained that the foundation of Siemens’s PAVE360 is a concept called the “digital twin.” Noting that a digital twin is a duplicate (simulated) version of the real world, Magney said, “For developers of vehicles or components, this literally means they can fully simulate their targets at any scale, whether it is a chip, software competent, ECU, or complete vehicle.”

In short, as Fritz claimed, the advantage of PAVE360’s methodology is its ability to correlate simulation with the physical platform.

Fritz pointed out a huge difference between simulating an SoC on a PC, for example, and simulating it in the context of a whole vehicle. “The two [approaches and their results] are so far away.”

What’s in it for Arm?
The advantage for Siemens working with Arm is clear. Given the ubiquity of Arm cores in a host of automotive chips, Siemens’s deepened relationship with Arm only adds fuel to PAVE360’s broader appeal.

But what’s in it for Arm?

First, associating Arm core designs with PAVE360 enhances the credibility of Arm as a provider of IP cores for the automotive market.

Mark Fitzgerald, associate director, Automotive Practice at Strategy Analytics, added, “Arm gains the ability for easier, faster design of custom chips for ADAS and autonomous applications.” He said that “automakers are moving to custom silicon (i.e., Tesla’s Full Self-Driving chips) rather than relying on off-the-shelf solutions, with some OEMs working on in-house solutions.” He noted, “The teaming up allows chip designers to use Arm architecture and IP along with Siemens’s PAVE360 to create custom ADAS and autonomous driving SoCs in a virtual environment.”

PAVE360 and Arm automotive IP: digital twin from concept to end of life (Source: Siemens)

Asked about how long Siemens has been working with Arm, Siemens’s Fritz told us “almost a year.” But the relationship between the two companies got a lot closer, as they have been engaged in more detailed, weekly engineering calls since last summer, when the legal arrangement between Siemens and Arm got sorted out. Under the agreement, Siemens today has access to all of Arm’s wide-ranging IP cores. Siemens is now in a position to discuss with Arm specific processing core designs such as Arm’s split lock logic or big.LITTLE architecture when placed against certain applications in the real world.

So what sort of changes might the industry expect from Arm in its future cores or processor architecture for the automotive market?

Strategy Analytics’ Fitzgerald told EE Times, “The likely trend would be to produce a single, very powerful chip for an ADAS or autonomous driving domain controller rather than distributed computing that is used today. OEMs will choose the best mix of centralized versus distributed computing based on application.”

What about other processor IP guys?
To be clear, Arm isn’t the only processor core IP supplier. Mobileye, now an Intel company, has been using MIPS cores for years. Ceva and Imagination might be also seeking to get designed into chips for digital cockpits or automotive perception chips, for example.

Asked if Siemens is planning to work with other IP suppliers, Fritz said, “The beauty of our system is that they can plug their cores in the cloud” tied to PAVE360 in order to evaluate their cores in the context of a whole vehicle.

Fitzgerald noted, “The biggest risk in missing out on the collaboration that PAVE360 offers is between OEMs, semi vendors, software providers, and Tier One suppliers.”

He said, “Chip vendors can gain by working with Arm IP and PAVE360 tools to quickly validate and verify chip design more efficiently and cost-effectively.” However, he cautioned, “Chip vendors can also be threatened if an OEM or even a large-tier supplier decides to use Arm IP and the PAVE360 tools to design chip solutions — taking the chip vendors out of the design/validation loop.”

Competitors to Siemens
Other vendors are also offering similar verification tools, according to Fitzgerald.

Cadence, for example, provides design tools across all the PCB, system-in-package (SiP), and SoC fabrics, which makes it possible to do coherent and integrated ECU design and analysis.

ANSYS, on the other hand, enables customers to do “multi-physics simulations to simultaneously solve power, thermal, variability, timing, electromagnetics, and reliability challenges across the spectrum of chip, package, and system to promote first-time silicon and system success.”

Last fall, Synopsys launched native automotive solutions “optimized for efficient design of autonomous driving and ADAS SoCs.”

Vector, meanwhile, claims to offer “comprehensive solutions” for developing ADAS systems in the form of software and hardware tools and embedded components. These include measuring instruments to acquire sensor data, checking and optimizing ECU functions, software components, and algorithm design.

Siemens’s Fritz, however, made it clear that, overall, nobody does the job as comprehensively as PAVE360.

NXP Launching Auto Network Processor

By Junko Yoshida

LAS VEGAS — NXP Semiconductors is coming to the Consumer Electronics Show to launch a new “Automotive Network Processor.”

NXP’s S32G is “a single-chip version” of two processors — an automotive microprocessor and an enterprise network processor — combined, said Ray Cornyn, vice president and general manager, Vehicle Dynamics Products. The S32G functions as a gateway processor for connected vehicles, as it offers enterprise-level networking capabilities. It also enables the latest data-intensive ADAS applications while providing vehicles with secure communication capabilities, he explained.

What NXP S32G entails (Source: NXP Semiconductors)

A closer look inside the S32G reveals a car OEM wish list for next-generation vehicles in 2021 and beyond.

Among the wishes are: over-the-air software updates — à la Tesla — to make vehicles “software upgradeable,” a shift to new domain-based vehicle architectures (i.e., consolidation of ECUs), beefed-up security features (including intrusion detection/monitoring), the vehicle’s ability to analyze data on the edge without constantly depending on the cloud, and upgraded safety to ASIL D.

In “connected vehicles,” car OEMs are looking for new business opportunities, including subscription models and usage-based insurance.

“It is a worldwide trend among car OEMs to bring all these new business opportunities and capabilities to next-generation vehicles,” said Brian Carlson, director, product line management for vehicle network processors at NXP.

If a software-upgradeable car is the automotive industry’s objective, the S32G seems designed to bring car OEMs a step closer.

Phil Magney, Founder and Principal at VSI Labs, observed that S32G “is designed to serve as the gateway to centralized domain processing, which is the supporting architecture of the software-defined car. Furthermore, new vehicle architectures must support tremendous volumes of data through multiple interfaces.”

He noted, “Up until this point, networking has been a bit of an afterthought. But in reality, it is quite critical since there is so much data moving around the vehicle. The S32G can handle all the plumbing and associated security, timing, and safety requirements.” He added that there are many network controllers designed by major chip suppliers and Tier Ones. But among existing network processors, “I have not seen anything that aggregates everything into one chip like the S32G.”

The new processor is already sampling, and car OEMs are currently testing S32G, said Carlson. To demonstrate the appeal of S32G among key automotive players, NXP, in its press release, shared a quote from Bernhard Augustin, Audi’s director of ECU Development Autonomous Driving: “We found the unique combination of networking, performance, and safety features of the S32G processor to be ideal for use in our next-generation ADAS domain controller.”

S32 family of processors
S32G is part of NXP’s S32 family of processors based on a unified architecture of high-performance MCUs, MPUs, application-specific acceleration, and interfaces.

The S32 family, designed to be scalable, allows developers to create software in a uniform environment across application platforms.

The goal is to let developers reuse their expensive R&D work, shortening time to market as the automotive industry copes with rapid changes in vehicle architectures over the next several years.

NXP noted that the platform maintains “automotive quality, reliability, and ASIL D performance across multiple application spaces throughout vehicles.”

Vehicle network processor
First and foremost, S32G provides an unprecedented level of networking and processing capabilities.

Shown in the block diagram below, the S32G processor incorporates lock-step Arm Cortex M7 microcontroller cores and an industry-first ability to lock-step clusters of Arm Cortex-A53 application cores.

As the amount of data collected and transported inside a vehicle grows exponentially, the processor’s ability to accelerate automotive networks and Ethernet packets becomes increasingly critical, Carlson explained.

It’s one thing to tout a networking processor’s ability to handle large data. But it’s a whole different story if the chip can actually accelerate data processing. Without acceleration, the vehicle network can easily bog down, said Carlson, making it impossible for the new vehicle to offer critical services with the deterministic network performance demanded by car OEMs.

S32G processors are designed to offload transport layers so that its communication engine can achieve low latency, he noted. S32G features “network acceleration blocks” designed for automotive and Ethernet networks.

Included in S32G network features are 20× CAN/CAN FD Interfaces, 4× Gigabit Ethernet Interfaces, and a PCI Express Gen 3 Interface.

As a comparison, Magney noted that Tesla “supports six CAN channels, four Ethernet channels, and eight serial lines for the cameras.” Calling Tesla “a proxy for future vehicle architectures,” Magney said, “Not surprisingly, NXP supplies Ethernet and CAN controllers to Tesla.”

Other key features integrated inside the S32G are security and safety.

The S32G, like all other S32 platform processors, embed high-performance hardware security acceleration, along with public key infrastructure (PKI) support for trusted key management, enabled by its Hardware Security Engine (HSE). The firewalled HSE is the root of trust supporting secure boot, providing system security services, and protecting against side-channel attacks.

As for safety, S32G processors offer full ASIL D capabilities, including lock-step Arm Cortex M7 microcontroller cores and an industry-first ability to lock-step clusters of Arm Cortex-A53 application cores, allowing new levels of safety performance with high-level operating systems and larger memory support.

Versatility of S32G
NXP’s Carlson made the point that the beauty of S32G lies in its versatility. The S32G can be used in many different places inside a vehicle — ranging from a gate processor to a domain controller and ADAS safety processors.

Where in a vehicle S32G can be used (Source: NXP)

VSI Labs’ Magney observed, “The S32G appears complementary to many of the AV or ADAS domain controllers because it consolidates a handful of chips into one.” He added, “Otherwise, the functionality of the S32G would be scattered with multiple transceivers and controllers to handle all the data traffic. The S32G also contains all the critical timing elements, memory, security, and network accelerators necessary to support all the data being passed around inside the vehicle.”

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