Single Board Rio Evaluation Essay

Ok. I'm cheating. I had wanted to do a quick hands-on article with the NI Embedded Software Evaluation Kit(Fig. 1). This is based on National Instruments (NI)Single Board RIO. NI did ship one out when it was first released and I did get a chance to work with it on and off since then including mating it up to a couple robot platforms. The Single Board RIO is the same platform used on National Instrument's robot kit I wrote about in Tools Turn Robot Projects Into Child’s Play. I am actually going to forego a long hands-on article this time because so much has been done already.

I don't think I could add much to NI's 5-minute Single Board RIO demo. I did have a discussion on NI Single Board RIO that is on Engineering TV website. Engineering TV is part of Penton Media as is Electronic Design.

The Single Board RIO is based on the same technology as the CompactRIO(Fig. 2). The big difference is the enclosure. CompactRIO has one. Single Board RIO goes inside the one you supply. I did a hands on review of CompactRIO entitled NI-RIO: Fast Prototyping. These boards can work with modules that have 15-pin VGA-style connectors but they are designed to connect the modules to the FPGA found in every system. The FPGA is a front end to the processor that is also part of the system. The kit has a PowerPC processor.

So here it is the eve of NI Week 2010 and I took the system out of the box again. I happen to have LabView running on a virtual machine. I tend to do this with test software in general since I can start out with a clean platform each time. The kit actually comes with a 90 day license for LabView but this will likely translate into a purchase of the latest incarnation of LabView. I don't have the latest LabView 2010 but will hopefully get it soon.

One thing I can add to the mix is that the FPGA support is significantly better than it was when I first tried out CompactRIO. What will surprise most non-LabView developers is how seamless the use of the FPGA is with LabView. The FPGA provides connectivity between the processor and modules. This approach is significant for a number of reason. First, it provides timing synchronization that is critical to test and measurement applications as well as process control applications. Second, the FPGA can contain logic that links two or more modules directly together instead of requiring processor intervention.

The newer production versions of sbRIO include the sbRIO-9601(Fig. 3). It as a 266 MHz processor, 256 Mbytes of flash, 128 Mbytes of DRAM and 1M gate FPGA. It also has a 10/100BASE-T Ethernet port and RS232 serial port. The sbRIO-9602/9602XT has a 400 MHz processor and a 2M gate FPGA.

Well, the kit goes back into the box until LabView 2010 rolls across my desk. Hopefully then I will have more time to it check out with the latest software. In the meantime, get your own NI Embedded Software Evaluation Kit if you want to try out Single Board RIO-based development. The documentation is excellent and it highlights the power of LabView. It also highlights the graphical nature of LabView (Fig. 4) including the hierarchical nature of the virtual instruments (Fig. 5). I did not provide many details here but I can definitely recommend it based on hands-on use of the dev kit.

TAGS: RoboticsEmbedded RevolutionNational Instruments

Single-Board RIO controllers include small, rugged single board computers (SBCs) and System on Modules (SOMs) based on the LabVIEW RIO architecture. Use Single-Board RIO controllers to develop and deploy products in a shorter time, while minimizing the expense of custom design.

1. Product at a Glance

 

 

Figure 1. Single-Board RIO controllers help minimize design time and risk

 

Single-Board RIO controllers are based on the LabVIEW RIO architecture, featuring a processor, reconfigurable FPGA, and I/O interface. Each device ships with a complete middleware stack including NI Linux Real-Time, I/O drivers, and support for multiple programming environments including LabVIEW. All controllers offer a similar software experience but provide different options for built-in features and customization capabilities to account for different project requirements. Select the product that provides the right form factor and customization capability to best meet your needs.

 

 

sbRIO-9651

sbRIO-9607

sbRIO-9627

sbRIO-9637

Processor

667 MHz Dual-Core ARM Cortex A9

RTOS

NI Linux Real-Time

FPGA

Artix-7 (Zynq-7020)

RAM

512MB DDR3

Flash

512MB NAND

Temperature

-40 to 85 C Local Ambient

Power

3.3 V

(Through Carrier Board)

9-30 V

9-30 V

9-30 V

ENET

Onboard (Total)

0 (2)

1 (2)

1 (2)

1 (1)

RS232

Onboard (Total)

0 (4)

1 (5)

2 (6)

2 (2)

RS485

Onboard (Total)

0 (2)

0 (2)

1 (3)

1 (1)

CAN

Onboard (Total)

0 (2)

1 (2)

1 (2)

1 (1)

USB

Onboard (Total)

0 (2)

1 (2)

1 (2)

1 (1)

SD

Onboard (Total)

0 (1)

0 (1)

1 (2)

1 (1)

Digital I/O

(Includes high-density connector)

160 SE

(Up to 72 Diff)

96 SE

100 SE

28 SE

Analog Input

-

-

16 ch

16-bit

16 ch

16-bit

Analog Output

-

-

4 ch

16-bit

4 ch

16-bit

High-Density Connector

Carrier Board

(160 DIO)

RMC

(96 DIO)

RMC

(96 DIO)

-

 

Table 1. Single-Board RIO controller specifications

 

 

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2. Maximize ROI, Decrease Risk, and Improve Time to Market

Single-Board RIO controllers offer you the flexibility of a custom solution to meet your project requirements with the productivity of an off-the-shelf product to help you improve development time, reduce project risk, and maintain a competitive advantage. Your team can focus on the unique features of your application rather than implement the low-level hardware and software components that add risk and cost to a project.

 

 

 

See how NI products improve productivity

 

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3. Develop with Products Designed, Tested, and Validated for Reliable Deployments

Requirements for reliability come in many shapes and are unique for each application. Reliability can mean anything from the uptime of a long-term deployment to the ability to operate in a specific environment. NI focuses on verification and validation to provide quality products that have been deployed in critical applications such as medical devices, harsh environments such as oil and gas fields, and long-term deployments such as smart grid applications. For example, as part of the validation process, Single-Board RIO controllers undergo simulation and component test for electrical, shock and vibration test for mechanical, and stress test for software.

 

 

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4. More Than a Board Support Package, a Complete and Validated Middleware Solution

Rather than a board support package (BSP) with limited deployment-ready software, Single-Board RIO controllers integrate a complete, validated BSP that includes the NI Linux Real-Time OS, device drivers, and support for multiple programming languages. The integrated software components provide out-of-the-box support for peripherals such as Ethernet or USB, interfaces to components like memory, and the communication interface between the processor and FPGA. Providing the validated hardware design and integrated software eliminates high-risk, low-reward tasks commonly managed by teams. This minimizes development time and risk, so teams can focus more on key features – such as integrating specific I/O or developing custom algorithms – and the high-level application.

 

 

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5. Real-Time Performance and an Open OS Integrated with NI Linux Real-Time

NI Linux Real-Time combines the performance and reliability of a real-time OS with the approachability and openness of Linux. Take advantage of the large community around Linux to augment your real-time application while maintaining deterministic operation. NI Linux Real-Time also gives you the flexibility to program the embedded processor using either LabVIEW Real-Time, C/C++, textual math, or a combination of these.

 

 

 

Learn more about NI Linux Real-Time

 

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6. Improve Performance With Intuitive FPGA Programming

With reconfigurable FPGA technology, you can perform high-speed signal processing, high-speed or deterministic control, inline signal processing, and custom timing and triggering. For control systems, you can also run advanced control algorithms directly in the FPGA fabric to minimize latency and maximize loop rates. The LabVIEW FPGA Module, which extends the LabVIEW graphical development platform, provides an alternative to HDL through a graphical programming approach that simplifies the task of interfacing to I/O and communicating data. This greatly improves embedded system design productivity and reduces the time to market.

 

 

Evaluate with hardware and step-by-step tutorials

 

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7. Save Time in Programming Using the LabVIEW Development Environment

LabVIEW provides a single programming language experience across all components of your project, so you can program the processor and FPGA using the same toolchain. The LabVIEW FPGA Module is required for programming the FPGA and provides an alternative to HDL through a graphical approach that simplifies the task of interfacing to I/O and communicating data. The LabVIEW Real-Time Module offers reliable, deterministic performance for your time-critical applications by managing the scheduling and prioritization of your tasks for you. All Single-Board RIO controllers support this single-software toolchain, which is scalable across all targets based on the LabVIEW RIO architecture, including CompactRIO.

 

 

Learn more about LabVIEW for embedded systems

 

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8. Reuse Your Code and Expertise With C/C++ Development and Integration

Single-Board RIO controllers provide a variety of software architectures to choose from, so you can reuse existing C/C++ or .m source code from past projects while taking advantage of LabVIEW features to save development time. If you program your real-time application using LabVIEW, you can integrate your existing C/C++ libraries directly into LabVIEW using a call library function. Alternatively, you can develop, debug, and deploy your C or C++ application to the processor with a number of compilers and toolchains, such as GCC and Eclipse and use an NI-provided C API to communicate with the FPGA.

 

Learn more about C/C++ options

 

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9. Add Additional I/O and Peripherals With the RIO Mezzanine Card Connector

The RIO Mezzanine Card Connector (RMC) connector is a high-density, high-throughput connector that features 96 single-ended DIO lines directly connected to the FPGA with the ability to add up to two C Series modules and additional peripherals. Develop a custom RMC to integrate your own specific analog I/O, digital I/O, communication capabilities, and signal conditioning by combining these components onto a mating printed circuit board (PCB). The SOM features a similar high-density, high-throughput connector with up to 160 single-ended DIO lines (72 differential pairs) and requires a custom carrier board.

 

 

Learn more about the RMC connector

 

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10.  Reduce Sustaining Efforts by Off-Loading Life Cycle Management

Your product life cycle doesn’t end after you develop and deploy your system. Throughout the product’s life, you have to constantly manage sustaining and maintaining the design as various components become EOL. This can take resources, time, and money. NI manages all of the sustaining and maintenance work for Single-Board RIO controllers throughout their life cycles, and you can extend this with a service contract, so you can focus more of your effort on new product development. Before a product becomes end of life, NI offers a replacement product that features the latest technology, giving you the ability to reuse the majority of your hardware and software investment to quickly update the system and have access to more performance and the latest features.

 

Explore product life cycle policies

 

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11. CompactRIO for Faster Prototyping

CompactRIO and the Single-Board RIO controllers are based on the LabVIEW reconfigurable I/O (RIO) architecture, which includes three components that you can program with a single software toolchain: (1) an embedded controller for communication and processing; (2) an FPGA for advanced control, digital communication protocols, timing, signal processing, and filtering; and (3) I/O for connectivity to any sensor or device. CompactRIO controllers provide the components of this architecture in a mechanical package and offer over 100 NI C Series I/O modules, so you can prototype your applications faster without having to develop custom hardware. After prototyping, reuse the same code to deploy with Single-Board RIO controllers.

 

Learn more about CompactRIO

 

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12. Innovate Faster with the NI Ecosystem

Build reliable, rugged solutions backed by certification and formal training; systems integration and services; and a thriving network of partners, products, and IP. Leverage the Electronic Design Specialty group of NI Alliance Partners with proven expertise around Single-Board RIO for consulting services, electronic hardware design, software development, and manufacturing services, or receive help from the community with the Hardware Developers Community for Single-Board RIO and System on Module.

 

 

 

Find an Electronic Design Specialty Alliance Partner to help you

Get help from a community

 

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13. Try it out today

Not sure if Single-Board RIO and LabVIEW are right for you? Get hands on experience using the LabVIEW RIO Evaluation Kit. The kit includes an extended evaluation of the LabVIEW FPGA and LabVIEW Real-Time modules; an NI RIO evaluation device; a daughterboard for easy I/O interfacing; a step-by-step tutorial; and numerous fully documented, ready-to-run examples of common embedded tasks implemented in LabVIEW.

 

 

 

Purchase the LabVIEW RIO Evaluation Kit

 

 

Request a follow up or quote for Single-Board RIO controllers

 

The registered trademark Linux® is used pursuant to a sublicense from LMI, the exclusive licensee of Linus Torvalds, owner of the mark on a worldwide basis.

 

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