Architecting for the embedded industrial computing world


There is a vast computing world all around us that envelopes our lives yet goes unnoticed by almost all.  These are not the massive, cutting-edge web servers that we interact with daily, not the flashy mobile phones and tablets; these are the silent workhorses of everyday life – essential, critical, and unheralded.  These are the machines that labor in our factories, they control our elevators and automatic doors, they watch us in security cameras and help fly our planes – our lives would not be the same without them.  This unseen world of computing is known to us as the embedded industrial computing world and has incredible influence on our lives, yet we hardly notice these processors that work tirelessly, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, for 10, 15 and even 20 years without stopping.  They slave away in inhumane working conditions, even by machine standards, operating at temperatures over 100 degrees C with not even a fan for cooling. They persevere through high doses of radiation and the severe cold of the outer atmosphere and space all the while maintaining perfect operation. And through it all they must not, cannot, ever make a mistake as lives may be at stake. 

 

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One way to ensure reliability is to start with a processor that has been used in many different systems and for enough time to build confidence that all critical issues have been uncovered.  For this reason, industrial system developers have been moving away from older, legacy architectures and towards ARM®-based architectures that inherently have more testing due to the large and diverse ARM universe. The ARM universe is well known here at TI, where we have developed a broad portfolio of diverse ARM-based devices and have just announced the availability of one of the most powerful, if not the most powerful, embedded processor families in the world, the AM5K2Exx processor family. 

 

The central processing core in the AM5K2Ex processors is the ARM Cortex®-A15 with more DMIPS/MHz than any other embedded industrial. This family includes a version with TI’s C66x DSP (the 66AK2E05 device) for even more computing capability for the most demanding of applications. These processing cores are empowered by a high-speed intra-chip fabric, TI proprietary memory architecture, and many high speed SERDES I/O lanes, yielding the uncompromising performance necessary for applications such as industrial and aerospace.  And this is just the beginning; TI’s portfolio of ARM Cortex®-A15 processors will ultimately span a wide range of processing performance, yielding the industry’s broadest portfolio of embedded industrial ARM devices.  Future generations of TI processors will be based on ARM’s more recently launched Cortex®-A53 and Cortex®-A57 cores which provide 64bit computing performance. Current embedded systems,  however, are well suited to 32bit solutions as most embedded systems do not need the large memory space enabled by 64bit cores, and this is a market that rewards the efficient, tried and true solution over the newer yet less proven solution.

 

 

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Firefighters respond to an emergency call from a 911 operator that was alerted through an automated heat sensor on the fifth floor of an occupied building.  Traffic lights are modified to provide swift and safe access to the building while people are directed out stairwells through automated emergency lighting systems.  Upon arrival first responders communicate through failsafe radios and coordinators direct personnel to the most critical areas guided by networked camera systems inside the building. The situation is stabilized and no one is injured although numerous compute systems are destroyed due to intense heat in some areas. This entire symphony of seamless action and coordination is managed by TI ARM processors, purpose-built for exactly these types of scenarios.  But who really notices?  We do. We are the engineers that create these processors. We are TI, we are embedded