XMOS has added Modbus and CANopen xSOFTip blocks to the embedded industrial communications capabilities supported by its xCORE family of multicore microcontrollers.
CANopen and Modbus are well established as the leading industrial communications protocols. The addition of these new soft peripherals allows designers to integrate these commonly-required protocols in xCORE-based embedded designs alongside a wide range of other industrial communications standards with timing-predictable, jitter-free control code.
This unique flexibility of configuration allows embedded designers to build systems with the exact combination of interfaces and control capabilities needed for their applications.
UK startup Xsilon is looking to open up its machine-to-machine (M2M) technology to the industry for connecting the Internet of Things in the home.
The Bath-based company has set up a Special Interest Group (SIG) to license its Hanadu communication protocol on an accessible FRAND basis, says CEO Russell Haggar. The SIG will work to complete the Hanadu specification, support it on its path to standardization, develop propositions for particular applications and markets, and support a widespread adoption of Hanadu technology. Haggar says he expects 5 to 10 members within the first year
The SIG will take over the development of the Hanadu specification from Xsilon, allowing offerings from multiple vendors to create a broad platform within the home in the same way as the Bluetooth, Zigbee and OpenET SIGs.
“Having worked hard to create the Hanadu concept and to develop its technology base, we are now moving on to the next level as we open out the platform to our partners,” said Haggar. “We’ve had nothing but positive responses to Hanadu from all our partners and customers throughout its gestation, and now they are working with us to build real momentum in the market for Hanadu products.”
ST to close its former Inmos design centre Bristol site
Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL) is part of a new £1.2m project which aims to ensure future robotic systems can be trusted by humans.
The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is funding the three-and-a-half-year project, which will explore how robots interact with humans in a safe and trustworthy manner.
Robots are increasingly being developed to serve as active ‘helpers’ in situations where humans require assistance, such as personal care robots which help patients during recovery.
Although there has been some research carried out on safety of robotic assistants during interaction with humans, it is still crucial to understand not only whether the robot makes safe moves, but whether it knowingly or deliberately makes unsafe moves.
If human-robot teamwork is to become viable and productive, the humans involved must be fully confident in the robot’s behaviour.
Experts from BRL, a collaborative partnership between UWE Bristol and the University of Bristol, will work with industry partners and colleagues at the Universities of Liverpool and Hertfordshire on the “Trustworthy Robotic Assistants” (TRA) project.
Bristol University’s Dr Kerstin Eder, the principal investigator for the TRA project at the BRL and Leader of the Verification & Validation for Safety in Robots research theme at the same institute, said: “Safety assurance of robots is an urgent research challenge that must be addressed before many products that already exist in labs can be unlocked for mass production. This requires collaboration of verification experts with roboticists and those who specialize in human-robot interaction, so that a human-centric, holistic approach to safety assurance can be developed.”
‘BERT’, one of the robotic platforms being used on the project, was developed as part of a research project on Cooperative Human Robot Interactive Systems, at BRL. BERT has been used to examine manufacturing scenarios in which BERT collaborated with human colleagues to complete manufacturing tasks, including dynamic component handovers and product manufacture. BERT is based at BRL’s custom robot test and evaluation facility, at UWE Bristol.
Professor Tony Pipe, Professor of Robotics and Autonomous Systems at UWE Bristol, said: “Working on this new research project with colleagues across the UK will enable us to tackle the crucial issue of developing robotic systems which can work safely with humans. This is a vital step in developing robots for a whole range of functions for the future, where they will be useful to humans.”
The project involves teams from the University of Liverpool’s Centre for Autonomous Systems Technology (led by Professor Michael Fisher and Dr Clare Dixon), the University of Hertfordshire’s Adaptive Systems Research Group (led by Professor Kerstin Dautenhahn), the BRL, as well as industrial partners, including the British Automation and Robot Association (BARA) and RU Robots Limited.
Professor Michael Fisher, principal investigator at Liverpool and Director of the University’s Centre for Autonomous Systems Technology, said: “The assessment of robotic trustworthiness has many facets, from the safety analysis of robot behaviours, through physical reliability of interactions, to human perceptions of such safe operation.”
Liverpool’s researchers are internationally recognised for their research on logic, formal analysis, and the foundations of autonomy and, both within the multidisciplinary Centre for Autonomous Systems Technology and within the “Trustworthy Robotic Assistants” project, their role is to provide a rigorous formal basis for developing reliable, safe and trustworthy autonomous systems.
NATIONAL CENTRE FOR POWER ELECTRONICS OPENS
The investment in the new Centre, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), will be spread as a series of grants, each of which involves multiple universities. These consist of a central coordinating Hub – led by Professor Mark Johnson at the University of Nottingham, and involving the universities of Manchester, Newcastle, Greenwich, Bristol, Warwick, Nottingham and Imperial College London – and a series of four technical programmes:
Devices: Led by Professor Phil Mawby at the University of Warwick and involving the universities of Bristol, Cambridge, and Newcastle.
Components: Led by Professor Philip Mellor at the University of Bristol and involving the universities of Greenwich, Nottingham, Manchester, Warwick and Imperial College London.
Convertors: Led by Professor Andrew Forsyth at the University of Manchester and involving the universities of Strathclyde, Nottingham, Bristol and Imperial College London.
Drives: Led by Professor Barrie Mecrow at the University of Newcastle and involving the universities of Manchester, Nottingham, Sheffield and Bristol.
Welcoming the opening of the Centre, Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts, said: “We have a leading power electronics industry in the UK, but we need to keep investing in research to ensure it remains globally competitive. This National Centre will bring together our excellent universities and businesses to ensure industry has access to the latest science and technology, as well as helping to maintain a supply of skilled people.
EPSRC’s Chief Executive, Professor David Delpy said: “This £18 million investment in a six-year research initiative is part of EPSRC’s response to the Government’s 2011 BIS Strategy for Power Electronics in the UK. We will invest an initial tranche of £12 million with a further £6 million being released subject to a future review of progress. Power Electronics was also a priority area in our recent call for new Centres for Doctoral Training. ”
The opening of the new Centre comes two months after the launch of the PowerelectronicsUK Forum which is a network backed by industry, academia and the government that aims to boost the number of people within the Power Electronics industry.
Steve Burgin, Chairman of PowerelectronicsUK and UK President of Alstom said: “The new EPSRC Centre for Power Electronics will be key to the future success of UK Power Electronics. It will help to keep UK industry and academia at the forefront of next generation Power Electronics technologies.”
The June newsletter from the High Tech Sector group of the West of England Local Economic Partnership is out now!
See the latest high tech news from the Bristol & Bath region:
- Startup launches to simplify simulation in the cloud
- $1m raised for cloud management software
- Microelectronics iNet get two year extension
- Hydrogen power enters the call centre
- £12m home health programme starts
- Multicore conference set for June 12th
- Region’s university rankings unveiled
You can sign up for the newsletter and download it here
The University of Bristol is leading a new £12m project to look at the use of sensors for healthcare in the home.
The SPHERE (Sensor Platform for HEalthcare in a Residential Environment) project will work in partnership with Bristol City Council, IBM, Toshiba and Knowle West Media Centre (KWMC) as well as the Universities of Southampton and Reading
The collaboration will develop home sensor systems to monitor the health and wellbeing of people living at home.
The high-tech future of healthcare: a digital health assistant in your home The UK’s healthcare system faces unprecedented challenges. Britain is the most obese nation in Europe and the country’s ageing population is especially at risk from isolation, depression, strokes and fractures caused by falls in the home. A pioneering new collaboration aims to address these issues by developing a 24/7 digital home health assistant.
“SPHERE aims to have a profound impact on the health and wellbeing of people with a wide range of different health challenges,” said Professor Ian Craddock, Director of the collaboration and who will be leading the interdisciplinary team. “Families, carers, health and social services professionals involved in all stages of care will benefit from the system. SPHERE will address real world challenges by developing a practical technology to monitor people’s health in the home environment, targeting health concerns such as; obesity, depression, stroke, falls, cardiovascular and musculoskeletal diseases. ”
“Although healthcare budgets and changing demographics are creating serious challenges, the latest technological advances can help society keep pace with this environment,” said Rodric Yates, Program Director in IBM’s Chief Technology Office. “We were pleased to be invited by the University of Bristol to join this important project and will contribute by drawing upon some of the best examples from around the world in healthcare sensing, medical data collection and analysis, and the delivery of healthcare systems. Improving patient care in a cost-effective way and helping people stay independent, for longer, is an objective we share with the University and the city.”
David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science, said: “New British technologies are transforming healthcare and saving lives. In future, our smart phones will tell us when we are ill, controlling the spread of infectious diseases. As healthcare challenges become more complex, our world-class scientists are of finding the next generation solutions.”
Cllr Barbara Janke, Cabinet Member for Connected Cities and Wellbeing said: “This is excellent news and further establishes Bristol’s reputation as a leader in smart technologies. This award means that we’ve now attracted £26 million over the last year in funding for high tech development.”
The collaboration’s vision is not to develop fundamentally-new sensor technologies for individual health conditions, but rather to impact all these healthcare needs simultaneously through data-fusion and pattern-recognition from a common platform of non-medical/environmental sensors at home. The system will be general-purpose, low-cost and accessible. Sensors will be entirely passive, requiring no action by the user and suitable for all patients, including the most vulnerable.
An example of SPHERE’s home sensor system could be to detect an overnight stroke or mini-stroke on waking, by detecting small changes in behaviour, expression and gait. It could also monitor a patient’s compliance with their prescribed drugs.
Importantly, SPHERE will work hand-in-hand with the local community through Bristol City Council and its partners at KWMC. Leading clinicians in heart surgery, orthopaedics, stroke and Parkinson’s disease, and recognised authorities on depression and obesity will also be involved with the project, along with the Elizabeth Blackwell Institute for Health Research, Bristol Health Partners and Bristol’s NIHR-funded Biomedical Research Units.
Professor Jeremy Tavaré, Deputy Director of the collaboration, comments: “The involvement of patients, carers, nurses and clinicians from the outset of this project will be key in ensuring acceptability of these exciting new technologies.” Once practical, user-friendly technologies have been developed further, they will be piloted in a large number of homes over extended periods of time. The University of Southampton has UK-leading expertise and lab facilities for studying movement in stroke and Parkinson’s disease rehabilitation, and also conducts research into falls and impaired balance.
Professional William Harwin in the School of Systems Engineering at the University of Reading, adds: “The production of ubiquitous and unobtrusive ‘passive sensors’ is a key constituent part of this project. These sensors could be embedded in clothing or jewellery, or more ambitiously implanted, possibly in association with remedial surgery. “Information from these sensors will monitor and track the signature movements of people in their homes and trigger a response in accordance with health needs. This will enable health care experts to respond as appropriate.”
The money awarded to the University of Bristol by the EPSRC is part of a wider package of £32 investment in three new healthcare IRCs. The other two projects are: Early-warning sensing systems for infectious diseases – next generation smartphone test and tracking systems for serious infections including new strains of influenza, MRSA and HIV – led by UCL (University College London) with Newcastle University, Imperial College London, and The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
Multiplexed ‘Touch and Tell’ Optical Molecular Sensing and Imaging – a fibre-optic device to detect potentially fatal lung conditions in intensive care patients, and to continuously monitor the blood in critically ill adults and babies without the need for blood sampling. This is led by the University of Edinburgh with Heriot-Watt University and the University of Bath.
The fund will start in January and is part of the new EC Horizon 2020 programme which also starts in 2014 and replaces FP7 and CIP. Crucially, a part of this support is aimed at entrepreneurs, start-ups and SMEs because these are seen as providing the engine for the economic recovery as, being nimble and fast, they can bring these new innovative technologies to market quickly.
However the details of how the fund will be dispersed have not yet been fully decided or how SMEs can apply. If this can be an open process that is easy to access it would be a dramatic shift in the opportunities for startups and SMEs, but the challenge is in the detail of the implementation
“The EC recognises that these small to medium sized companies are the champions of tomorrow and we want to help them grow and be successful,” said Pierre Marro, Policy Officer at the European Commission. “Currently, EC programmes and projects required several companies from a minimum of three different countries to co-operate. The new EC Horizon 2020 is being finalised at the moment. This is being designed to add a completely new package with simplified procedures and without these constraints of co-operations to specifically provide new technologies holders with help in starting and running companies right through to finance help. Lack of finance has been a stumbling block in the past due to the economic crisis, so a key new service in Horizon 2020 will be dedicated to providing access to finance with new instruments dedicated to SMEs and access to risk financing that will really help companies grow quickly and create new jobs and economic wealth.”
Tuesday 14th May 16:00 pm to 19:00 pm
Offices of Osborne Clarke, Central Bristol (Close to Temple Meads)
This event is aimed at the region’s Science and Technology businesses, sponsored by the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and Osborne Clarke LLP. All sizes of business are welcome to attend. Come and find out about funding opportunities for our region’s science and technology businesses. This workshop features speakers from the West of England LEP, Enterprise Europe Network/UKTI and Science City Bristol. They will provide you with information on a number of local and national funding opportunities including:
- Regional Growth Fund 3 Applications
- EU funding opportunities
- UKTI Business support
- South West Innovation Vouchers
Light refreshments will be available courtesy of our hosts at Osborne Clarke. For more information and to book a free place, go to:http://www.sciencecitybristol.
The April issue of the LEP High Tech sector group newsletter is out now:
Cisco moves into the region with $130m buy
New advisors for funding schemes in the region
New world leading centres for medical testing and energy harvesting
Bristol firm in £8m robotics project for nuclear industry
Consultancy helps lead £5m combat systems research
XMOS and Gnodal take on global players
For all this and more, register for email updates and download it from the newsletter page
Ubiquisys is a leading provider of intelligent 3G and LTE (Long-Term Evolution) small-cell (or femtocell) technologies that provides seamless connectivity across mobile networks for service providers and this marks one of the largest European exits in recent months. It follows Mindspeed’s acquisition of picoChip in Bath, NVIDIA’s acquisition of Icera Semiconductor in Bristol and General Dynamics’ acquisition of IP Wireless in Chippenham, all in the wireless sector.
“The acquisition doesn’t just provide Cisco with Ubiquisys’ small cell knowhow; it also gives Cisco experience in working with a broader set of mobile operators,” said Daryl Schoolar, principal analyst at market analyst Ovum. “Ubiquisys provides Cisco much greater market credibility when it comes to 3G and LTE small cells. Cisco will also benefit by having greater control over Ubiquisys’ product development cycle, freeing Cisco from having to rely on the development cycle of third-party partners like IP access.
“Cisco is no stranger to small cells, but that has been primarily through its carrier Wi-Fi efforts,” said Schoolar. “In the licensed spectrum small cell space Cisco has basically been reliant on its femtocell relationship with AT&T. Outside of its work with AT&T, Cisco’s licensed small cell experience has been hard to find. Ubiquisys on the other hand has over 50 customers (vendors and operators) that include Softbank (Japan), SFR (France), and Network Norway. Ubiquisys’ small cell experience greatly bolsters Cisco’s small cell position.
The acquisition of Ubiquisys complements Cisco’s mobility strategy along with the recent acquisitions of BroadHop and Intucell, reinforcing in-house research and development, such as service provider Wi-Fi and licensed radio. These technologies will tie together the mobility architecture that leverages the intelligence of the network from the wireless edge of the network into the wired core.
As carriers around the world increase cellular data capacity to serve the rapidly growing population of smartphone and tablet users, adding small cells is one of the most cost-effective ways to multiply data capacity and make better use of scarce spectrum assets. Ubiquisys’ indoor small cells expertise and its focus on intelligent software for licensed 3G and LTE spectrum, coupled with Cisco’s mobility portfolio and its Wi-Fi expertise, will enable a comprehensive small cell solution to service providers that supports the transition to next generation radio access networks.
The acquisition of Ubiquisys further reinforces Cisco’s commitment to service providers and strengthens Cisco’s mobility capabilities to continue to extend the intelligent mobile network.
Ubiquisys’ product portfolio and team will be integrated into its Small Cell Technology Group led by Partho Mishra.
An innovative new centre for biomedical testing aims to provide leading edge research and skills to firms in the region working in medicine, pharmaceuticals and genetics.
The Centre for Alternative Testing and In-Vitro Monitoring (CATIM) is a consortium, led by the Institute of Bio-Sensing Technology, UWE Bristol with the other partners, the University of Bristol, Gooch and Housego, the European Collection of Cell Cultures, the NHS and the Humane Society International, bringing their complementary strengths to the project.
CATIM is cross faculty initiative led by Professors Richard Luxton and Janice Kiely which will specialise in the creation of new technologies that will detect and monitor changes in cell systems, critical for the development and evaluation of many new products, from chemicals to medical implants.
Backed by £896,000 from from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the centre at UWE Bristol’s Frenchay campus aims to give access to advanced technology and expertise in the field of cell monitoring and alternative testing. One particular area of activity is the development of technology to reduce and replace animal testing.
Dr Bret Dash has been appointed as Centre Director. He is a bioscience professional with 16 years of experience working with multi-disciplined project teams in publicly funded global corporations and venture capital funded start-ups in the US and Europe. He has helped to develop and commercialise leading-edge technologies for the drug discovery, genomics, and clinical research markets based on high content cellular analysis, capillary electrophoresis with laser-induced fluorescence, and laser capture micro dissection, respectively.
“When I started out as a Biochemistry student many of the techniques used at the time involved the use of lab animals. As a consequence I focused on learning cell biological techniques during my PhD because I was interested in alternative forms of biochemical research,” said Dash. “In-vitro testing using 2-D or 3-D cell cultures enables researchers to create experimental test systems that do not require the use of living organisms. In-vitro work is all about looking for methods that will provide viable alternatives to animal testing and it is a growing industry.”
“Over the coming years I will be working with our key partners at generating research projects and attracting world class academics to build a major centre for this growing research area. It’s very exciting to be here at the beginning and there is enormous potential for collaborations that can make a positive difference in testing methods used across a range of industries.”
Businesses from many sectors – from biomedical and agri-food to advanced engineering – may benefit from access to the Centre’s sophisticated resources and technical support; for example, with designing a test programme, developing skills in testing, or new product development.
A £1.5 million project aims to create a focus for innovation and creative industries in the Bristol and bath region.
The Engine Shed, which was built by Brunel and previously housed the Empire and Commonwealth Museum at the entrance to Bristol Temple Meads station, will host Bristol’s business incubator and inward investment team as well as 20 companies.
The University’s Vice Chancellor Professor Eric Thomas and Bristol Mayor George Ferguson signed the agreement today [11 March] at a symbolic ceremony to signify the start of a new chapter for the Grade I listed building, which is set to become a focal point for Bristol’s drive to generate inward investment and encourage a new generation of high growth businesses. A planning application has yet to be agreed though.
The building will be managed by Bristol SETsquared – the University’s double award-winning business incubator – who will take the majority of the space to provide premium serviced offices for its early-stage technology businesses.
Around 20 companies will move in here with a further 40 businesses using the business centre’s resources and facilities including hot desks, breakout spaces and meeting rooms. In total, there will be space for 120 people.
It will also provide the headquarters for the newly launched Invest in Bristol and Bath, accommodating representatives from the four West of England Unitary Authority areas, and act as a ‘shopfront’ for potential investors in the region. It will also become the local base for UK Trade & Investment.
Core to the Engine Shed will be a business lounge and co-working and collaboration spaces for academics, entrepreneurs, innovators, investors and business leaders.
“Bristol is repeatedly recognised as having significantly high potential for economic growth and the intellectual capital provided by world-renowned research and the activities of some of the country’s highest performing students go a long way to supporting this,” said Professor Eric Thomas, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bristol.
Nick Sturge, Director of the Bristol SETsquared Centre which is currently based at University Gate East in Clifton, hopes the move to the Engine Shed will allow it to support even more businesses and in turn create a predicted 750 jobs over the next five years.
“It’s great to be heading up the Engine Shed facility and bringing together so many groups, from companies and entrepreneurs to academics and students,” he said. “Everyone involved has a huge sense of excitement for what can be achieved in this great building. The additional space will literally allow Bristol SETsquared to grow and we hope it will become an active hub of world-class innovation and enterprise activity – located within what is arguably one of the UK’s most connected transport hubs.”
A planning application has been submitted for the Engine Shed, which is likely to be dealt with in the next few months. It was built in 1841 as the original shed for the turning of engines when they came through the Passenger Shed on the London to Bristol line.
Colin Skellett, Chairman of the West of England LEP, said: “After months of planning, it is exciting to see the birth of the Engine Shed project. City marketing must be joined up. By bringing together all our investment specialists we are creating a formidable resource to attract new jobs.
“Entrepreneurial, high growth businesses are the lifeblood of our economic growth. What better place to inspire them than Brunel’s Engine Shed. Set on the direct line to London and onto Europe, this will be an exciting focus for innovation.”
The Engine Shed will form part of the new Bristol and Bath and Bristol Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone, which will span 173 acres of land around Bristol Temple Meads train station and includes plans for a long-awaited indoor arena, new public spaces and a vibrant business, commercial and shopping district. Temple Meads station will also be completely refurbished.
It’s anticipated that the new Enterprise Zone will create 17,000 new jobs and bring 400 new companies to the city over the next two decades.
George Ferguson said: “What better springboard for our plans for the Enterprise Zone than the launch of this important project. It is very good to see this serious, solid progress on the ground. Now we need to get out and tell Europe and the rest of the world that Bristol’s open for business.”
Other key partners in the Engine Shed project are Network Rail and the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), both of whom are key delivery partners for Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone.
With funding from the HCA, the city council bought the freehold for Brunel’s Old Station in March 2012, from the Empire and Commonwealth Museum.
Network Rail is currently working on the masterplan for the redevelopment of Temple Meads station, which includes bringing back into use part of the Old Station and Engine Shed. They have modified their plans to enable the Engine Shed development to go ahead.
Patrick Hallgate, Network Rail Western Route Managing Director, said: “We’re delighted that Brunel’s iconic Old Station is being transformed for 21st century use. As well as meeting our needs for a redeveloped station, it’s great that the Engine Shed is going to be turned into a high-tech business hub and home for the new Invest in Bristol and Bath service.”
The first models of a new electronic musical instrument – the AlphaSphere ‘elite’ – will be dispatched to locations all across the world this week after a year long development.
The Bristol based developer nu desine has been taking pre-orders since April 2012 based on interest which was generated by a production prototype being demonstrated at a trade fair in March 2012.
As pre-orders started coming in, the team of young engineers refined the prototype into a premium instrument which retails at £1,000 through the website – alphasphere.com.
Though one third of the AlphaSphere elites will stay in the UK, the rest are shipping to the USA, Europe and Japan. The rapidly growing company have now initiated full production of the first several hundred units, in order to fulfill a second round of orders.
Despite the imminent shipping, development has only just concluded. “We were overwhelmed by pre-orders pretty much as soon as we announced the device, and had to move quickly in order to satisfy them” said nu desine’s founder Adam Place “just a single prototype was enough to sell the concept to the world, so it’s going to be really interesting to find out what happens when there are a few more out there.”
Amongst the first elite musicians is Mercury award winning composer Talvin Singh, who described the AlphaSphere as “an incredible universe of an instrument which gives you the feeling to tailor-make tones, aesthetically and sonically, as well as allowing you the capacity to invest in more indigenous and rebellious scale systems.” Talvin who this year is releasing his first new solo album since the acclaimed ‘OK’, first met the team behind the AlphaSphere in late 2012 at their site at Bristol’s harbourside as part of a user testing program.
Production run has taken place entirely in Bristol, though components have been sourced from across the world. The company is now transferring the production process to a facility in Hartlepool, which has a higher capacity than their Bristol HQ.
nu desine are located within the Pervasive Media Studio and also members of The Bristol SETsquared Centre – a good example of the creative and technology sector in Bristol creating exciting new products. ”The Alphasphere has been an exciting project to work with over the last couple of years and we are delighted to see this shipping globally. Most of the companies we work with are
‘born global’ and this confirms it,” said Nick Sturge, Centre Director of The Bristol SETsquared Centre.
XMOS Semiconductor in Bristol is launching a new chip that dramatically reduces the cost of processing for industrial designs.
The xCORE XS1-L4-64 integrates four 32bit processor cores at a price under $3 that is comparable with competing single-core devices but gives ten times the processing power. The devices are used in a wide range of applications, from Sennheiser sound equipment to the latest industrial robots.
“The xCORE L4 offers 400MIPS performance at the price point of other manufacturers’ 40 or 50MIPS products,” said Ali Dixon, Director of Product Marketing and co-founder of XMOS. “Embedded designers working on high-volume applications can now add more features, including those that require real-time determinism, with software that is functionally safe. We believe it’s a real game-changer.”
Priced at just $2.95 in 100‑unit quantities through global distributors, the L4 provides an entry-level platform for designers considering multicore technology for the first time. It is pin-compatible with other members of the xCORE family, opening up the opportunity to cost reduce existing designs.
The new device is aimed at accurate stepper motor control, industrial networking and motion control. With 64bit precision DSP capability, it is also particularly well suited for signal conditioning tasks and applications such as control that combine cost-sensitivity with high performance demands. The xCORE L4 will also help drive the growing trend towards distributed intelligence in embedded design, by allowing developers to locate low-cost processing and communications closer to system nodes such as sensors and actuators.
“The L4 breaks new ground by combining low unit cost, real-time deterministic execution, multicore performance, on-chip DSP and the industry’s fastest response times,” said Nigel Toon, President and CEO, XMOS. “At 400 MIPS it offers a price/performance ratio unbeaten in the world of C-programmable embedded devices. Just as importantly, we provide the design tools engineers need to harness this performance – making the move to multicore technology an instinctive and natural experience.”
The XS1-L4-64 comes in a 48-pin package that is pin-compatible with the existing devices with 64Kbytes of SRAM, the 6-core L6-64 and the 8-core L8-64. This allows designers to take a platform-based approach that permits early implementation of emerging technologies and standards, future-proofing and the addition of new features as requirements evolve. The device continues the XMOS strategy of offering a range of devices at a variety of price points; the xCORE family now includes more than 50 product variants.
Like the rest of the xCORE family, the L4 is supported with the free-to-download xTIMEcomposer development suite that includes compilers, debuggers and unique timing analysis and instrumentation capabilities. The supporting xSOFTip library of soft peripherals and processing blocks provides peripherals such as high speed USB, Ethernet, CAN and LIN via software.
Samples of the XS1-L4-64 are available today, with volume production expected in Q2 2013.
A specialist microscope developed and built in Gloustershire is being used in new research that addresses one of the major hindrances to the wider exploitation of graphene: the difficulty in growing large defect-free films.
The Renishaw inVia Raman microscope is being used by an international team—led by Oxford University scientists Professor Nicole Grobert and Adrian Murdock— in collaboration with Renishaw and researchers from the Forschungszentrum Juelich in Germany and University of Ioannina in Greece to examine film thickness, strain and defects in graphene films.
Graphene is a single layer of carbon atoms and was the first two dimensional material to be discovered. It has very interesting electronic and mechanical properties; it is one of the most conductive materials known to science and has a breaking strength 100 times greater than steel.
Typically, when graphene is grown using chemical vapour deposition (CVD), the individual graphene flakes merge with a variety of different orientations, creating defects. In this work, titled ‘Controlling the Orientation, Edge Geometry and Thickness of Chemical Vapour Deposition Graphene’, and published in the journal ACS Nano, it was found that the orientation of the underlying copper substrate could be used to guide the graphene flakes so they are aligned, and these defects are prevented.
“The inVia Raman spectrometer is a very powerful tool for investigating the properties of graphene. This work gives a much better understanding of CVD graphene growth, which will be important for manufacturing graphene on an industrial scale,” said Dr Tim Batten, Raman applications specialist at Renishaw.
In 2006 Professor Andrea Ferrari (University of Cambridge), used a Renishaw Raman spectrometer to conduct the first Raman characterisation of graphene. He used samples from its discoverers, Nobel Prize winners Professor Andre Geim and Professor Kostya Novoselov (University of Manchester). Since then, researchers worldwide have used data from Renishaw Raman systems in hundreds of scientific papers on graphene, greatly assisting in the understanding and development of this amazing material.
Nemesis project to explore energy harvesting
The University of Bath has received £2.27m to create a new world-leading centre for energy harvesting and generation.
The Centre aims to create new piezoelectric and ferroelectric energy harvesting systems capable of converting mechanical vibrations into electrical energy, thermal fluctuations into electrical energy, sunlight into chemical and electrical energy, and vibrations into chemical energy.
Having a focus centre on energy harvesting can boost developments in clean tech, power systems and chip design, all of which are strong in the region.
“Setting up a world-leading research centre here in the UK will put us at the forefront of this increasingly important field of work,” said head of the new centre, Professor Chris Bowen. ” The new Centre brings together experts in from different disciplines, including materials, physics, chemistry and electrical engineering, offering an ideal environment in which to develop new and innovative solutions to generating and harvesting energy.”
One work stream in the Centre will look at novel materials that are capable of harvesting the vibrations of machines or vehicles and converting the energy into electricity. This electricity can then be used to power devices within a vehicle or machine, including damage sensors or consumer electronics.
Another stream aims to develop new methods for water splitting – separating water into hydrogen and oxygen. The process of splitting water to create clean-burning hydrogen fuel has long been the Holy Grail for clean energy advocates.
“As we continually strive to create safer and more efficient machines and vehicles, the need to power sensors that can safely sit in potentially very hot and hostile environments near the engine, where batteries would be unsafe or impractical, has increased,” said Bowen. “Clean energies are also a high priority for modern society, and through our research we aim to create nano-structured ferroelectric and piezoelectric materials that can be used to split water, creating clean, environmentally-friendly hydrogen fuel.”
“This is an increasingly important area of research and Professor Bowen’s unique expertise in piezoelectric and ferroelectric material, along with the University of Bath’s track-record of high impact materials research, has been recognised by the ERC in their decision to fund this Centre,” said Professor Jane Millar, Pro Vice Chancellor for Research.
The Centre will fund visiting researchers at the University, and interaction with other leading academics working in ferroelectrics and energy harvesting such as Prof. John Wang of NUS, Singapore and Prof. Vitaly Topolov of Rostov State University.
A smaller version of the Raspberry Pi computer built in South Wales is driving the cost to under $25 for portable and low cost media centres.
element14 has announced the launch of the new credit card sized Raspberry Pi Model A board in Europe, selling at under $25. It uses the same 700MHz ARM1176 Broadcom BCM2835 processor (Boradcom has a design centre in Bristol) but only 256MB of RAM is included as standard, there is no Ethernet connection and only one USB port, but it does use considerably less energy for battery-powered applications.
The larger Model B sold over 500,000 units and demand for the Model A board is anticipated to be from those making industrial control modules, from robotics, automation, and significantly, to use the Pi as a very cheap media centre.
In recent weeks element14 has launched two exclusive accessories to support the development of new applications and uses: The Gertboard, a flexible experimenter board that connects the Raspberry Pi out to the physical world, and PiFace, which allows the user to sense and control the real world. Both are available to buy to supplement activity on the Raspberry Pi and can be used with the Model A and Model B boards.
“The Model A board is the next item in the Raspberry Pi range to be manufactured exclusively in Wales by Sony in partnership with element14,” said Claire Doyle, Global Head of Raspberry Pi at element14. “Being a part of the Raspberry Pi revolution is something we are very proud of as computer science and programming skills are key to ensure future generations of design engineers.”
The Model A board costs $25 (£15.95) plus tax and shipping, and is available today through Farnell element14 in Europe and CPC in the UK and Ireland. Further countries will be added in the coming weeks.
A new publication is now covering the high tech activities in the wider Bristol and Bath region from the Future Smart City to the latest chip developments.
HighTech News comes from the High Tech Sector group of the West of England Local Economic Partnership (LEP). The group supports the wide range of activities in microelectronics and embedded software and systems and feeds back into the LEP that determines the wider strategies for growth and development in the region. The West of England is the only LEP to have a group specifically focussed on technology, demonstrating the strength and skills in the region.
The six page February issue covers new funding for Future City developments, as well as a proposed £24m growth fund for innovation in the region. New technology centres are being set up by power company TDK-Lambda and subsea technology from GE. Bristol silicon chip maker XMOS is now supplying the widest range of multicore microcontrollers in the industry, while the Universities of Bath and Exeter are collaborating in a joint graphene research centre.
High Tech News is published by SW Innovation News.
While Bristol lost out to Glasgow for the Future City demonstrator project, the TSB judges rated the city’s bid very highly, so much so that they have awarded a £3m ‘runners-up’ prize.
“While there is some disappointment that we did not gain the main prize, Bristol is now the only city in the UK to have won funding from Government to be both a Super Connected City and a Future City.” said Mayor George Ferguson. “Bringing these awards together gives us a pot of nearly £15m with which we can move really quickly to lever-in additional funding and support from business to help deliver our plans.”
“We are fast becoming the UK’s creative capital, a city of experimentation and a city that offers a warm welcome,” he said. “Our achievement in beating more than 30 other cities to win government funding for Future Cities is testament to our ambitions and our strong partnership approach with both the city’s universities, businesses and partners such as Watershed and Knowle West Media Centre.”
A round up of the tech news from the Bristol and Bath region is in February edition of the the new LEP High Tech newsletter