SGET embedded standardisation gets underway

Paul Boughton

A pan-European group to standardise various embedded board specifications is gaining momentum. Nick Flaherty reports.
After launching in February, 23 companies immediately signed up for the SGET Standardization Group for Embedded Technologies and since then, about half a dozen more companies have joined the group, all of them are from Taiwan, China and India. The SGET Board has also been talking to numerous interested companies who have signalled a clear intention of joining in the near future.
“There’s been a lot of activity behind the scenes at the SGET over the last few months,” said chairman Engelbert Hörmannsdorfer. “At the beginning, there was a lot of groundwork to do,” he said. “Before the workgroups – we call them "Standard Development Teams" (SDTs) – were able to start doing their jobs, extensive guidelines had to be drafted. Now the first standardization proposals have been tabled.”
The first working group covers the ULP-COM ARM module concept, covering the specification and branding of the module standard, development of a design guide, API implementation and expandable functionality to account for new market needs. Kontron expects the first specification to be agreed in the next few months, and recently announced a module based on the i.MX6 processor from Freescale Semiconductor. These ULP-COM modules support i.MX 6 chips with up to four ARM Cortex A9 processors in very low power fanless designs. [Page Break]
The Qseven development from congatec has led to the formation of SDT2.0 workgroup. This has adopted the current Qseven Revision 2.0 with a design guide. It is also working on a new revision to integrate new interfaces and a "feature connector", for instance for camera interfaces.

Congatec recently launched a Qseven Starter Kit to give embedded a complete package to rapidly prototype embedded systems for ARM designs. The kit is based around a new conga-QMX6 Qseven module, based on the Freescale i.MX6 ARM Cortex A9 processor. The module has a 3D-capable high-end HD graphics interface with extremely low power consumption. The integrated graphics core is designed for multimedia applications featuring a video processing unit (VPU), 2D and 3D graphics (GPU2D/3D), four shaders with up to 200 MT/s (million triangles/second) plus dual stream with 1080p/720p. The available graphics interfaces include HDMI v1.4 and 18/24 bit dual channel LVDS with a resolution of up to 1920x1200 (WUXGA).[Page Break]

The starter kit also includes the flexible Qseven evaluation carrier board with five USB ports, a Gigabit Ethernet port, HDMI, 18/24 bit LVDS, and a PCI Express socket. For the connection of mass storage devices 1x SATA and SD card are integrated on the baseboard. The Qseven module itself provides a microSD socket and as an optional extra, eight gigabytes of soldered solid state drive (eMMC) for robust applications and comes with a microSD card with a boot loader with pre-installed Ubuntu Linux so that the system can be started immediately. Android or Windows Embedded Compact 7 will be available in the near future says the company.
“There are plenty more ideas for future standards,” said Hörmannsdorfer. “The discussions with many companies have raised some interesting points, and a number of suggestions focus on embedded software. For instance, the chipmakers are very interested in defining software interfaces (APIs) for new chips. Since these APIs are often developed by independent software vendors (ISVs), a subsequent standardisation is in the interest of both sides. Thanks to such cooperation it is possible to implement more ideas in the APIs than if a chip manufacturer develops them alone.”
“Since so many SGET founding members are major hardware vendors, there’s a misconception that we are a hardware or module association,” he said. “But we are open to all embedded technologies – therefore we are particularly pleased by the fact that the next standard proposals may be more software-related.

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Fig. 1. The Kontron ULP COM i.MX6 module