FPGA category

Redefining Signal Processing with Air-T

Artificial intelligence (AI) is an area of computer science that works towards creating machines that could make decisions, react, and interact just like a human would. To be considered AI a computer must be capable of recognizing speech, learn, plan, and solve problems. To do all this a computer must have a way to perceive the world and even interact with it (move). This type of technology has been used for personal assistants such as Siri and Alexa, for customer prediction (Netflix and Pandora), for autonomous vehicles, gaming etc. However, one application that has not been exploited is for signal processing.

Deepwave Digital decided to be pioneers in using AI for signals. The company created the AIR-T (Artificial Intelligence Radio Transceiver) which is a high-power SBC that uses NVIDIA Jetson TX2 for signal processing and deep learning applications.

Nowadays we deal with an increasing number of signals, because of Wi-Fi and cellular communications, and the technology is still human dependent to select the correct frequencies. Because of this, the need for an AI to do the work for us has become increasingly high, and as it turns out the AI can do the work better than us.

The AIR-T board also includes Xilinx Artix 7 FPGA and an Analog Devices 9371 MIMO transceiver with two RX channels of 100 MHz and a couple of TX channels of 250 MHz for connectivity, the device includes Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, HDMI, GPIO/UART, USB 2.0 and 3.0 etc. It uses Ubuntu 16.04, and it can be programmed using Python or C++.

All these characteristics make the device adaptable to many applications which will allow users to create and shape different projects. This project gives users the ability to adapt to software defined radio. Deepwave said:

This versatile system can function as a highly parallel SDR, data recorder, or inference engine for deep learning algorithms. The embedded GPU allows for SDR applications to process bandwidths greater than 200 MHz in real-time.

The device is not yet on sale, and Deepwave is expected to launch a crowdfunding to commercialize the product in the future, so there is still no information about price or sellers.

The idea is to redefine how signal processing is done using machine learning.

[source]

PicoEVB, PCIe FPGA Design in a Compact and Affordable Device

FPGA (Field-programmable gate arrays) devices have gained popularity in the past few years, mainly because of their ability to “become” any digital circuit given that there are enough logic blocks. These devices have endless applications and are sometimes faster which is why they are also used for hardware acceleration. Joining the FPGA industry is the PicoEVB, a small, cheap, open source board designed for PCIe prototyping.

PicoEVB is designed around Xilinx Artix XC7A50T, and measures 22 x 30 x 3.8 mm (about the size of a quarter). Also, it´s schematics will be published making the device open software and hardware. The files will be uploaded on its GitHub repository (there are some sample projects too). It was made to fit in laptop´s M.2 slot, and it can be used as an integrated part of your computer. It does not need any cables since its powered by your computer, and it can be programmed using Xilings Vivado IDE.

Nowadays, PCIe dev boards could cost around $1000, but PicoEVB will cost $219 making it a great competitor in PCIe design. The product can be bought through PicoEVB website, Amazon, Crowd supply and Ebay.

The device has 3 LEDs, 4 digital channels, or 1 analog and 2 digital, or 2 analog channels. Additionally, PicoEVB supports Windows and Linux. The only problem that a user might find is not having an M.2 slot which can be solved with an adapter to mPCIe slot.

Everything needed to program and debug the FPGA is on board, and taking into consideration the low price, it is a great alternative for designing PCIe on a low budget without reducing functionality. It´s the most compact and affordable FPGA development kit currently in the market.

[source]

Arduino Snō Module

Getting started with FPGA? Try the Arduino IDE Compatible Snō Module

Field-programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) are the next generation of programmable logic devices. Although they are fantastic devices for circuit programming, finding your way around them might not be so easy. Designing with FPGAs comes with considerable difficulty, due to its elusive nature and intricacies that attend its learning.

An FPGA is a device that allows you to program real-time circuits instead of emulating them. This device has the ability to be programmed for a specific function by the end user instead of its manufacturer.

Arduino Snō Module
Snō Module

The Snō FPGA module by Alorium Technology has been built to give an easier programming experience by integrating a compatible ATMega328 controller, the same microcontroller that powers the popular Arduino Uno board, making the FPGA module work with the Arduino IDE.

The Arduino Snō Module board is powered by low-end Intel MAX 10 FPGA Chip, an FPGA chip with 1,000 logic array blocks. The board measures at 0.7 x 1.7 inches. The Snō is programmable with Arduino embedded 8-bit AVR instruction set. Also, the Snō has an intriguing workflow for programming the FPGA – Through the Arduino IDE, you can use the pre-programmed or downloadable XBs (Xcelerator Blocks) that can configure the FPGA for functions like servo control and NeoPixel operation.

A handful of people acquire FGPAs for simple pre-defined functions that could easily be handled by a micro-controller. And this explains why the Snō FPGA module also comes with a feature that allows you to program completely custom circuits to handle whatever task you want. Their OPENXLR8 workflow gives you the ability to program and upload new XBs for your own functions.

The first step in setting up your computer to program and connect with the Snō is to install the standard Arduino IDE software. The Arduino is compatible with Windows, MacOS, and Linux. On a final note, the Arduino Snō is generally configurable, boast a higher performance and is fast.

The Sno board is available for purchase at competitive $49 price tag. You can buy it online from either Mouser Electronics or Arrow. More information can be found on the product page here.

BeagleWire is an Open Source FPGA Board With BeagleBone Compatibility

Beaglebone boards are low power open source single board computers created to teach open source hardware and software to makers. However, BeagleWire is a development platform designed for use with Beaglebone board. BeagleWire is a Beaglebone compatible shield based on the Lattice iCE40HX FPGA and is also an open source FPGA development board, a rare feature for FPGA boards. The BeagleWire’s hardware, software, and FPGA toolchain are completely open source.

 

At the heart of BeagleWire is the Lattice Semiconductor Lattice iCE40Hx FPGA which affords individuals the opportunity to make changes and reprogram. BeagleWire does not require external tools (JTAG), and the whole software stack is Open Source. BeagleWire can be easily expanded by adding external modules such as, modules for high-speed data acquisition, software-defined radio, or advanced control applications. Using common connectors like Pmod and Grove makes it possible to connect various interesting external modules which are widely available in stores. This makes prototyping new imaginative digital designs easier.

Lattice iCEv40Hx is from the Lattice iCE40 family. The latter is simply a family of FPGAs which have a regular structure, and are created to support cheap, high volume system and consumer applications. iCE40 is an energy saving device that enables work with small batteries.

BeagleWire has special features and advantages which are FPGA: Lattice iCE40HX4K – TQFP 144 Package, GPMC port access from the BeagleBone, SPI programming port from the BeagleBone, does not require external tools (JTAG), minimalistic architecture and very regular structure, has an energy saving device which allows it to work with small batteries, it is cheap and easy to use for application development, fully open-source toolchain and many more.

BeagleWire software support is still developing. Some of the useful examples and ready to use answers can be found there. For communication between FPGA and ARM, GPMC can be used. Programming is done by SPI interface. BeagleWire uses second BeagleBone SPI port. SPI frequency should be between 1Mhz and 25Mhz. Also, BeagleWire software repository contains a simple SDRAM controller written in Verilog which supports communication between SDRAM and iCE40.

The following are the specifications of BeagleWire:

  • FPGA: Lattice iCE40HX4K – TQFP 144 Package
  • Memory:
    • 32 MB SDRAM
    • 4 MB SPI Flash for FPGA self-configuration
  • Clock: 100 MHz onboard external clock
  • Extensibility:
    • 4 x Pmod connector
    • 4 x Grove connector
    • GPIO
  • User Interfaces:
    • 4 x LED
    • 2 x push button(with hardware noise debouncing)
    • 2 x DIP switch
  • Compatibility: access via GPMC port and SPI
    • BeagleBone Black
    • BeagleBone Black Wireless
    • element14 BeagleBone Black Industrial
  • Operating Voltage: 3.3 V
  • Input Voltage: 5 V from BeagleBone
  • Fully Open Source:
  • Dimensions: 90 mm x 68 mm x 18 mm
  • Weight: 42.5 g

The BeagleWire puts up a strong comparison with similar FPGA-like boards.

Comparison

Communication between BeagleWire and BeagleBone Black is over the GPMC port. This is a simple and efficient solution. The GPMC port has 16 lines width, and its maximum clock frequency is 100 Mhz. BeagleWire is going to be compatible with BeagleBone Black, BeagleBone Black Wireless, SeeedStudio BeagleBone Green, SeeedStudio BeagleBone Green Wireless, SanCloud BeagleBone Enhanced, and element14 BeagleBone Black Industrial.

BeagleWire is available for pre-order now and is expected to ship by May 31, 2018. BeagleWire goes for $85 for pre-order, and the BeagleWire Deluxe Kit is also available for pre-order for $160 all on CrowdSupply

TS-4100 – A i.MX6 UL (UltraLite) Bases Hybrid SBC With FPGA And Programmable ZPU Core

Technologic Systems has begun testing its first i.MX6 UL (UltraLite) based board, which is also its first computer-on-module that can work as a single board computer. The footprint of 75 x 55mm TS-4100 module features a microSD slot, onboard eMMC, a micro-USB OTG port with power support, and optional WiFi and Bluetooth. This board offers long-term support and a temperature operating range of -40 to 85°C, and ships with schematics and open source Linux images (Ubuntu 16.04 and Debian Jesse).

Technologic System's Hybrid SBC TS-4100 (front)
Technologic System’s Hybrid SBC TS-4100 (front)

This board contains a low-power (4k LUT) MachX02 FPGA from Lattice Semiconductor. Technologic has improved the FPGA with an open source, programmable ZPU soft core that provides support for offloading CPU tasks as well as harder real-time on I/O interactions. The 32-bit, stack-based ZPU architecture offers a full GCC tool suite. In this implementation, it’s imbued with 8K of BlockRAM, which can be accessed by the i.MX6 UL, and has full access to all FPGA I/O.

The low-power i.MX6 UL and its power management IC are utilized to provide an efficient 300mW typical power usage. The module is equipped with 512MB to 1GB DDR3. The specification list concludes only 4GB MLC eMMC or 2GB of “robust” SLC eMMC as options, but the block diagram suggests you can load up to 64GB eMMC.

The TS-4100 is equipped with a pair of 10/100 Ethernet controllers plus LCD and I2S interfaces for media connectivity. There are also several serial and USB interfaces along with the micro-USB OTG port. Other interfaces are listed as an accelerometer, gyro, SPI, I2C, and PWM and 2 separate CAN buses.

Key specifications for the TS-4100:

  • 512MB to 1GB DDR3 RAM
  • 4GB MLC eMMC or 2GB SLC eMMC (possibly up to 64GB eMMC)
  • MicroSD slot
  • Wireless — 802.11 b/g/n with antenna; Bluetooth 4.0 BLE
  • 2x 10/100 Ethernet controllers
  • Parallel LCD
  • I2S audio
  • Micro-USB OTG port (with power support)
  • USB 2.0 OTG (with power support)
  • 2x RS232
  • RS232 for Linux console
  • SPI, I2C, 2x CAN buses
  • Optional FPGA/ZPU-linked 16-pin expansion header (5x DIO, 1x SPI, 1x I2C) for optional daughter cards
  • 46x DIO (linked to FPGA)
  • 8x PWM
  • Accelerometer/gyro
  • 5V input via USB or via baseboard
  • 0.3W typical consumption
  • Operating temperature — -40 to 85°C
  • Dimensions — 75 x 55mm
  • Operating systems — Linux 3.14.52 (Ubuntu 16.04 and Debian Jessie)

Tiny FPGA BX – A Tiny, Open Source FPGA development board for Makers

The TinyFPGA boards from Luke Valenty (TinyFPGA) are a series of low-cost, open-source FPGA development boards. These boards offer an inexpensive way to get an introduction to the world of FPGAs.

If you have ever considered working with an FPGA before, you will know how difficult they could be especially for those new to the game. TinyFPGA boards are an excellent way to kickstart development with them. They are breadboard friendly, and one can put up a simple circuit around them before adding things like sensors or actuators.

The TinyFPGA boards are currently made up of about three series – The TinyFPGA A1 that offers an X02-256 containing 256 logic cells; the A2 sports with an X02-1200 of about 1200 logic cells, and lastly the B2 boats an ICE40LP8K with 7680 logic cells. They are low cost in nature, costing about $12,00, $18,00 and $38.00 respectively. The latest upcoming release to the TinyFPGA board family is the TinyFPGA BX.

Like the other Tiny FPGA Boards, the Tiny FPGA BX boards is quite flexible and powerful. The BX boards are intended for the maker’s community. The BX module allows one to design and implement a digital logic circuit in a tiny form-factor, and it’s perfect for building with breadboards or custom PCBs.

The TinyFPGA BX shares close similarities with the TinyFPGA B2 and are both based on the Lattice ICE40LP8K FPGA Chip with about 7680 logic cells. The BX board will offer an incredible power to project development and allows to achieve things not usually expected on traditional microcontroller boards at a fraction of the cost.

According to Luke, the TinyFPGA BX prototype boards are currently being manufactured. The PCBs have been fabricated and are now waiting for assembly.

The BX measure at 0.7 by 1.4 inches and comes with a built-in USB interface, and preloaded with a USB Bootloader. It is expected to have 8Mbit of SPI Flash with only 5Mbit available for user applications.

The following are some of the available board specifications:

  • ICE40LP8K FPGA
    • 7,680 4-input look-up-tables
    • 128 KBit block RAM
    • Phase Locked Loop
    • 41 IO pins
  • Small, breadboard friendly form-factor
    • 0.7 by 1.4 inches
  • Built-in USB interface with open source USB bootloader
  • 8MBit of SPI Flash with 5MBit available for user applications
  • Integrated 3.3v and 1.2v regulators
    • 3.3v LDO regulator can supply up to 300ma of current to support external peripherals
  • Ultra-Low-Power 16MHz MEMs Oscillator
    • 1.3ma active power
    • 50ppm stability

These TinyFPGA boards offer an inexpensive way for hackers and makers to get an introduction to the world of FPGAs. And, with their small size, these boards can provide an easy way to add some programmable logic to a small project.

FPGA gives us the power to add real deal hardware functionality to our project, unlike with Microcontroller, where those features can only be added to a bit of software banging. The TinyFPGA Bx boards are still not fully launched yet, so now price point is currently available but is expected to share similar costing with the TinyFPGA B2 at $38.00.

More information about the project launch can be found on the crowdsupply page and also on the hackaday board page announcement. If you are interested in getting introduced to the world of FPGA, this guide from Luke is an excellent way to kickstart your adventure.

iWave releases first Xilinx Zynq 7000 based SOM Module

The Zynq 7000 family based on the All Programmable SoC architecture are processor-center platforms that offer software, hardware and I/O programmability in a single chip.

iWave Systems which has released several Altera based FPGA system on modules has just announced its SODIMM (Small Outline Dual In-Line Memory Module) form-factor Xilinx Zynq based module known as the iWave’s iW-RainboW-G28M. The iW-RainboW-G28M features the Xilinx Zynq 7000 series SOC with Dual Cortex A9 CPU @ 866MHz, 85K FPGA logic cells, and up to 125 FPGA IOs.

iWave iW-RainboW-G28M SOM

The iWave iW-RainboW-G28M is compatible with the Zynq Z-7007S, Z-7014S, Z-7010, and Z-7020 SoC. Equipped with an onboard 512 Mbytes of NAND Flash, 512Mbytes of DDR3 SDRAM, Gigabit Ethernet, USB 2.0 ports, an optional Micro SD slot, and an optional WIFI/Bluetooth module with a form-factor of 67.6 mm x 37 mm plug-in SODIMM style. It supports -40 to 85oC temperatures and powered through the SOM edge connector with a 3.3 DC Volt.

SOM Block Diagram

The following are the SOM specifications:

  • SoC –
    • Xilinx Zyng 7000 SoC
    • Single/Dual Cortex A9 @ up to 866MHz
    • Up to 85K logic cells
  • SoC Compatibility –
    • Compatible with Z-7007S, Z-7014S, Z-7010, and Z-7020
  • Memory –
    • 512 MB DDR3 and expandable to 1GB
    • 512 MB NAND Flash
    • An Optional QSPI Flash
    • Optional Micro SD Slot/eMMC (Optional)
  • Zynq PS & PL Interfaces –
    • Gigabit Ethernet x1 Port
    • USB 2.0 OTG x 1 Port
    • SD (4bit) x 1 Port
    • Debug UART
    • JTAG Port
    • 60 LVDS/120 SE FPGA IOs
  • SOM Features –
    • PMIC with RTC
    • Gigabit Ethernet Transceiver
    • USB 2.0 Transceiver
    • Optional Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Module
  • OS Support –
    • PetaLinux 4.9.0
  • Power Supply –
    • 3V DC
  • Temperature Support –
    • -400C to +850C
  • Dimension –
    • 6mm x 37mm

The iW-RainboW-G28M has applications in the areas of Industrial Automation, Machine Vision, Control & Measurement, Scientific Instruments and Medical Instruments. For pricing and availability, please contact iWave directly iW-RainboW-G28M SODIMM SOM.

The ezPixel is an Upcoming FPGA based WS2812B Controller Board

FPGAs are field programmable gate arrays which basically means they are reconfigurable hardware chips. FPGAs have found applications in different industries and engineering fields from the defence, telecommunications to automotive and several others but little application in the maker’s world. Mostly, as a result of being largely difficult and high cost as compared to the likes of Arduino, but the introduction of the ezPixel and other similar FPGA boards is making this a possibility.

Prototype modules.

The ezPixel board, by Thomas Burke of MakerLogic, is a small size FPGA based circuit board that can be used to drive up to 32 strings of WS2812Bs, for up to 9,216 LEDs in total, a very first of its kind. These WS2812B programmable color LEDs have been a phenomenon in the maker’s world, being used in various Led Lights and creating of various Light Artworks. These popular LEDs comes in strings that can be cut to any length, and only require a single wire serial data connection to control all the lights in the string individually, and multiple strings can be stacked together to create large two-dimensional displays.

ezPixel description.

Most WS2812B controller boards can be used to control up to hundreds of these LEDs, but not thousands of them. The ezPixel board is a perfect fit for applications that use thousands of these LEDs. The ezPixel board is powered by the Intel MAX FPGA, a single chip small form factor programmable logic device with full-featured FPGA capabilities, and it’s designed to interface with other Micro-controllers or any SPI/UART host device. The ezPixel board serves as bridge between microcontrollers and long WS2812B strings. A user sets the length of each string using simple commands that are sent via the SPI or USB/UART communication link.

The following below are the features of the ezPixel:

  • WS2812B Smart Pixel Controller.
  • Up to 32 Strings can be controlled independently.
  • Up to 9216 LEDs can be controlled.
  • Communication:
    • USB/UART Interface.
    • SPI Interface.
  • Read/Write Pixel Memory.
  • FPGA – Intel MAX10M08 FPGA.
  • Dimension:
    • 1” x 3” (25mm x 76mm).
  • SPI Flash.

The ezPixel can run as a standalone display controller as a result of its serial flash memory chip, and this board is slated for a crowdfunding campaign in early 2018.

MicroZed is a Powerful and Low-Cost ARM + FPGA Linux Development Board

MicroZed is a low-cost development board from Avnet, the makers of the $475 ZedBoard and the entry level MiniZed development boards. Its unique design allows it to be used as both a stand-alone evaluation board for basic SoC experimentation or combined with a carrier card as an embeddable system-on-module (SOM).

The MicroZed processing system is based on the Xilinx Zynq®-7000 All Programmable SoC. The Zynq®-7000 All Programmable SoC (AP SoC) family integrates the software programmability of an ARM®-based processor with the hardware programmability of an FPGA, enabling key analytics and hardware acceleration while integrating CPU, DSP, ASSP, and mixed-signal functionality on a single device. The processing system offers the ability to run standard operating systems like Linux, real-time operating systems, or a combination of the two. The programmable logic provides a unique capability to create custom interfaces or custom accelerators. Together, they provide a versatile, performance optimized solution.

ZedBoard™ is a low-cost development board for the Xilinx Zynq®-7000 All Programmable SoC. This board contains everything necessary to create a Linux, Android, Windows® or other OS/RTOS-based design all at a cost of $495. The MicroZed sells for $199 with close performance and functionality with the ZedBoard. MicroZed contains two I/O headers that provide connection to two I/O banks on the programmable logic (PL) side of the Zynq – 7000 AP SoC device. In stand-alone mode, these 100 PL I/O are inactive. When plugged into a carrier card, the I/O are accessible in a manner defined by the carrier card design. The MicroZed board targets application in the areas of general FPGA evaluation and prototyping, embedded SOM applications, embedded vision, test & measurement, motor control, software-defined radio, industrial network and industrial IoT.

The Zedboard is based on Zynq-7020 with 85K logic cells while the MicroZed is based on the lower Zynq-7010 with a 28K logic cell. The MicroZed has 1GB RAM instead of 512 MB on the ZedBoard and has lesser interfaces as compared to the ZedBoard.

The following below are the features of the MicroZed SoM:

SoC

  • XC7Z010 – 1CLG400C

Memory

  • 1 GB of DDR3 SDRAM
  • 128 Mb of QSPI Flash
  • Micro SD card interface

Communications

  • 10/100/1000 Ethernet
  • USB 2.0
  • USB-UART

User I/0 (via dual board-to-board connectors)

  • 7Z010 Version
    • 100 User I/0 (50 per connector)
    • Configurable as up to 48 LVDS pairs or 100 single-ended I/O

Misc

  • 2×6 Digilent Pmod compatible interface providing 8 PS MIO connections for user I/0
  • Xilinx PC4 JTAG configuration port
  • PS JTAG pins accessible via Pmod
  • 33Mhz oscillator
  • User LED and push switch

The MicroZed Evaluation can be purchased from the Avnet store here and comes with the following: MicroZed board, Micro USB cable, 4GB μSD card, Getting Started Card and a Xilinx Vivado WebPACK support and the Avnet’s MicroZed SOM comes bundled with the Wind River’s Pulsar™ Linux.

NanoEVB & PicoEVB – Xilinx Artix Developemtn kits

The Xilinx Artix dev kits that fit in your laptop. A convenient, affordable way to explore Xilinx PCIe IP. The project is already funded on crowdsupply.com

PicoEVB is an affordable, open source, development board which can be used to evaluate and prototype PCI Express designs using a Xilinx Artix 7 FPGA on Windows or Linux hosts. The boards are designed around the Artix 7 (XC7A50T).

NanoEVB & PicoEVB – Xilinx Artix Developemtn kits – [Link]