12/03/2012

Self-baking NAND flash memory promises to last longer — way longer

Don't get too excited, as no one is talking commercial availability just yet. But a memory manufacturer has developed a way to make NAND flash last more than 1000 times longer than it does today.

Let's rewind a minute. Each memory "cell" in conventional NAND flash has a limited number of program/erase (PE) cycles. Even a read operation weakens the charge that maintains the data bits. As a result, the NAND cells in your notebook, smartphone, thumb drive, or tablet can often handle only a few thousand PE cycles before they start losing bits. And who wants to lose bits?

Enter Macronix. Using a technique that briefly heats individual cells to 800C (yes, hotter than your kitchen stove), their innovative new NAND flash technology can handle 100 million PE cycles.

I must admit, my first reaction was "so what?". People go through mobile devices like potato chips, so do they really need flash memory that keeps running year after year? But then I thought, what if you're embedding flash in a car that might be on the road for 15 years? Or in an industrial control system that might be deployed once and never replaced? (The QNX OS can be found in industrial systems that have run for 15 or 20 years without a hardware upgrade, so this isn't an academic question.)

There's another reason why this is welcome news. As process size shrinks, so does the usable life of NAND flash. The new technology from Macronix may enable our future devices to offer much more memory, without the downside of a short lifespan.

I'm not an expert on flash memory, so please comment if you have further insight as to how this new technology could benefit future devices.

For more on this development, see the articles on Ars Technica and ExtremeTech.

11/27/2012

New video: Your next car, imagined

It blows my mind, but some people still see connectivity in the car as the enemy. They think that, the more connected the car, the more distracting and dangerous it will be. But you know what? Responding to their concerns is easy. I simply ask them what if.

For instance, what if connectivity helped you drive with greater situational awareness? What if it helped you sidestep traffic jams and axle-busting pot holes? What if it helped you detect a stop sign hidden behind a tree? And what if it helped you become more connected to the people important to you, as well as to the road and the cars around you?

When we talk connectivity at QNX, that’s the kind of connectivity we envision. It isn’t just about Bluetooth or Wi-Fi or LTE — that’s only the plumbing. Rather, it’s about keeping you in tune and in sync with your car, your environment, your business, your friends. Your life.



This post originally appeared on the QNX auto blog.

11/22/2012

Meet the folks behind the QNX concept car (and other cool stuff)

An example of the concept
team's work
Imagine if you went to a Rolling Stones concert and the entire band played behind a curtain. That would be totally weird, right? Well, we realized that much the same scenario was playing out with the QNX concept team. Their work, including the QNX concept car, has appeared in A-list venues like CES and Mobile World Congress, yet the team itself has remained largely behind the curtain. And that’s too bad, since the team members embody the qualities I like best about QNX. Innovation, for example.

So, in the spirit of setting things right, we decided to pull back that curtain and make some introductions. And where better to start than with Mark Rigley, the team’s director.

If I were to describe Mark in one word, I’d choose chutzpah. Or gumption. Or moxie. He is the antithesis of wait-and-see. To spot him in a room, just look for the guy who says, “Let’s do it!” when everyone else is still stuck in “maybe,” “might work,” or “I need to get back to you on that.” And when you think about it, that attitude fits the bill perfectly. Because when your job is to take something like a Porsche 911 (an example of automotive perfection, if ever there was one) and make it even cooler, you’d better have a measure of confidence in yourself — and in your team.

Indeed, if anything shines out from this interview, it is the awe and respect that Mark holds for his team members. (Okay, I’ll admit it. Something else shines brightly: Mark’s enthusiasm for the next QNX technology concept car. Did I mention the team is working on one?)



This post originally appeared on the QNX auto blog.

11/14/2012

Taking a long, hard look at the ozone hole

For more than 20 years, a Harvard research team has been taking QNX technology to stratospheric heights

The NASA ER-2 high-altitude
aircraft
Hey, do you remember when everyone was in a knot over the ozone hole? You know, the one over Antarctica? The one the size of Antarctica? Based on all the press it has received lately (read: not much), it is yesterday's problem. I, for one, haven’t worried about it — or even thought about it — for a good 10 years.

But here’s the thing. The ozone hole didn’t go away. And it’s not going away soon. Yes, evidence suggests that the hole will heal, but the process promises to take decades — by 2050, if we’re lucky. (Strictly speaking, the hole heals every Austral Spring, but only temporarily; it always returns the next Austral Winter. And it isn’t exactly a hole, since the ozone doesn’t disappear completely from the upper stratosphere. It does disappear from the lower stratosphere, however.)

Did I mention only one hole? Sorry to mislead you. There are, in fact, substantial ozone losses over the Arctic as well, with the loss during the winter of 2011 achieving ozone hole status.

Ozone depletion is serious stuff. It may contribute to an enormous list of problems, from crop failures to eye cataracts to skin cancer. So it’s important to do the hard science and measure its progress, along with any factors that can affect it. Otherwise, how do you argue for a cogent policy on controlling substances and industrial practices to prevent ozone depletion? And do you know whether the policies and practices you put in place are doing any good?

Problem is, measuring and analyzing ozone depletion is a long-term project that takes patience and commitment. Fortunately, the Anderson Research Group from Harvard University seems to have those qualities in spades.

Making the upgrade
The group has been operating continuously since 1979. (For context, that was the year that Philips demonstrated the first Compact Disc. Remember those?) For the first few years, the group used a balloon to carry their instruments high into the atmosphere, but with the discovery of the Antarctic ozone hole in the mid-80s, they graduated to a NASA ER-2 high-altitude aircraft, which flies as high as 21 kilometers. (If the ER-2, depicted above, looks to you like a modded U-2, you’re right.)

The team’s first QNX-based instrument,
which measured OH in the lower
stratosphere, was deployed in an ER-2.
Lots of things have changed since 1979, but for the past two decades, one thing hasn’t: the group’s use of QNX technology. It all started in 1990, when the group decided to replace their homegrown OS kernel with the QNX RTOS v2. They then upgraded to the QNX RTOS v4 in 1992, which is also when they deployed their first QNX-based system, an instrument that measured OH (hydroxyl radical) in the lower stratosphere. More recently, they migrated to the latest generation of the QNX technology, the QNX Neutrino RTOS, aka v6.

Alphanumeric soup
To measure phenomena in the stratosphere, the team created a data acquisition architecture that takes advantage of core QNX strengths, including multitasking, message passing, realtime performance, and transparent distributed networking. Flexibility is a key characteristic of this architecture, since it must support a variety of instruments that measure an alphanumeric soup of airborne radicals and reactive intermediates. These include BrO, ClO, ClONO2, ClOOCl, NO2, OH, HO2, O3, CH4, N2O, CO, and CO2, as well as water vapor, water isotopes, and total water. (Why measure water? Because its presence in the stratosphere can contribute to ozone depletion. And because the increased frequency of heavy storms, such as Hurricane Sandy, may inject more water into the stratosphere.)

Here is the full configuration of the data acquisition architecture, which includes control and acquisition programs running on a flight computer as well as display and interactive commands running on a ground support computer:



According to Norton Allen, a software engineer for the Anderson group, “From the start, we needed an OS platform that would scale with our growing requirements, and that would satisfy our demands for high reliability — sending a plane into the lower stratosphere is a costly proposition, so there’s no room for software failures. At the same time, we needed a standards-based platform that would let us write portable applications. The QNX OS has been able to deliver on all counts."

“We needed an OS platform that would scale
with our growing requirements, and that would
satisfy our demands for high reliability.”

Global scale
I’ve barely touched on the many research activities of the Anderson Research Group. To quote their website, the group “addresses global scale issues at the intersection of climate and energy using a combination of experimental and theoretical approaches drawn from the disciplines of chemistry, physics and applied mathematics.”

So if you’ve got a minute, visit the site. Who knows, you may learn something — I did.

11/06/2012

New webinar: PLCs made easy

PLC reference platform
from Freescale, QNX,
ISaGRAF, and KPA
Okay, I'll admit it, creating anything of value is never that easy. The details always get in the way. But every once in a while, a tool comes by that can make your job easier. Not to mention faster.

That's the idea behind the new Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) reference platform from Freescale, QNX Software Systems, ISaGRAF, and KPA. By pre-integrating EtherCAT software, PLC firmware, and a realtime OS on a dual-core processor, the platform allows design engineers to spend less less time on underlying plumbing — which means they can get to the application stage sooner. And who can argue with sooner?

If you'd like to know more about this new platform, check out the upcoming webinar hosted by Chris Ault, a product manager at QNX, and John Ralston, a system architect at Freescale. Here are the coordinates:

    PLC Made Easy: A Day in the Life of Developing a Pre-Integrated EtherCAT Programmable Logic Controller
    Tuesday, December 4; 11:00 am to 12:00 noon EDT

11/05/2012

My connected car word cloud is (still) getting around

Has it been 3 years already? I can't believe it. In any case, this story begins in 2009, when I generated a word cloud to promote the LTE Connected Car, a concept vehicle created by Alcatel-Lucent, QNX Software Systems, Atlantic Records, Toyota Motor Sales, and the ng Connect alliance.

Here's what the word cloud looked like:


Click to magnify.

I created the word cloud just for fun, but thought the result was pretty cool — and it seems I wasn't alone. Someone from BMW, for instance, used the word cloud in a conference presentation back in 2010.

Fast forward to last week, when I discovered that Google has a reverse image lookup function. (Yes, I know, I'm probably one of the last people on the planet to make this discovery.) And so, once again for fun, I decided to see if any images I've published have made their way onto other websites. I thought that the word cloud would be a good candidate, and I was right.

For instance, the word cloud has appeared on these sites (text blurred to respect copyright):

Computer World Brazil:


Social Media Council Europe:


inTELEMATICS today:


UIEvolution blog:


WinfWiki wiki:


There are a few other sites, but frankly, I don't understand what some of them are about. Still, it's cool to know I've created something that fills a need, however miniscule. Mind you, it would be even cooler if everyone who used the image acknowledged where they got it. Just saying.

And speaking of presidents...
This is a near-total non-sequitur, but in honor of the upcoming U.S. election, here are word clouds for every presidential inaugural address, starting with George Washington's address in 1789. (And no, the cloud doesn't contain the words "cherry," "tree," or "lie".)

11/01/2012

QNX versus Linux: Which is best for IEC 62304 medical devices?

A few weeks ago, I invited you to a webinar on this very topic. If you missed the webinar, no worries: the archived version is now available for download. And speaking of downloads, you can now read the accompanying whitepaper, written by my inimitable colleague Chris Hobbs.

If you're wondering whether the paper is for you, here's the official summary:

This paper is for anyone who must select an OS for a safety-critical medical system. It provides information to help with estimates of the real cost of choosing a Linux or QNX OS. It lists requirements identified by standards such as IEC 62304, ISO 14971 and IEC 61508, and offers comparative estimates of the effort required to meet these requirements. These estimates are for initial certification and pre-approval, subsequent re-certifications following OS upgrades, and ongoing costs.

While you're at it, check out these other whitepapers for medical-device developers:


Come to think of it, there's no reason to stop with these, when you can peruse the entire library of medical whitepapers on the QNX website.

10/26/2012

What has the QNX auto team been up to?

Well, let's see...

10/18/2012

In-car infotainment and the art of doing more with less

No, not that kind of squeezing.
Granted, the title for this blog post doesn't have the pizazz of, say, "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance." (Are you old enough to even remember that book?) But it does capture the gist of a webinar that my colleague Andy Gryc will deliver next week.

His title for the webinar is "Squeezing high-end technologies into low-end infotainment systems." Admittedly, it's more direct than mine. Which is fitting, given that Andy has direct experience designing in-car systems. OnStar, for example.

But I digress. I'm sure you'd like to know what Andy plans to cover, so here's the overview:

    Squeezing high-end technologies into low-end infotainment systems
    Today's infotainment systems have it all – full multimedia, mobile device integration, POI-enabled navigation, speech recognition, high-resolution graphics, and cloud connectivity. The only problem is all of these features come with a big price tag.
    Join Andy Gryc, automotive marketing manager, for this webinar, where he answers the question: Is it possible to build an infotainment system that meets today's customer demands with yesterday's price tag?
    A 50-minute session (plus Q&A), this webinar covers a number of techniques to help slim down your next infotainment's BOM cost; it also suggests ways to target the luxury segment as well as the more cost-conscious, high-volume one with the same basic technology.
    Date: Tuesday October 23, 2012
    Time: 12:00 pm ET
    Duration: 1 hour, including Q&A
    Who should attend: Automotive software engineers and managers

This post also appeared on the QNX Auto Blog.

10/17/2012

QNX at SAE Convergence: Cool screens and a mobile theme

Let's start with the theme. And no, I don't mean the kind of theme you download onto your smartphone. I'm referring instead to the main theme of a press release that QNX issued yesterday at SAE Convergence.

First, some context. If you're an automaker, you have little choice: you have to offer infotainment systems that can keep pace with the crazy fast advances in mobile devices. You also need to keep your systems fresh with apps, features, and content that consumers will expect long after they've bought your car. And to do that, you'll need to tap into the skills and products of the mobile app community. Otherwise, that ultra-cool infotainment system you ship today will rapidly transform itself into the 8-track of tomorrow. Goodbye, brand image.

The QNX CAR 2 application platform, with its solid grounding in HTML5, is designed to help infotainment-system designers conquer these (admittedly difficult) challenges. HTML5, after all, has become the lingua franca of the mobile apps market and offers an ideal bridge between the mobile and automotive worlds.

One thing was missing, though — a toolkit that would make it easy for mobile app developers to target the QNX CAR 2 platform. Yesterday, at SAE Convergence, QNX announced a new HTML5 SDK designed to do just that.

An SDK for (auto)mobile developers
The HTML5 SDK for the QNX CAR 2 platform is an extension of the open source BlackBerry WebWorks framework, specially optimized for automotive environments. It allows developers to write, test, and package feature-rich automotive apps based on HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript, and other open standards. It also provides the missing glue between high-level apps and the car, through specialized APIs that provide access to automotive devices and hardware.

Runtime emulator for quicker testing and debugging
This is where the first of the screens comes in. To speed development, the HTML5 SDK provides an emulator that lets developers quickly see how their apps would look and function in a car. Developers can use the emulator to perform JavaScript debugging, HTML DOM inspection, automated testing, and screen-resolution emulation, all from the convenience of a web browser. They can even make changes to their apps and view the results without having to recompile. The simulator is based on the open source BlackBerry Ripple emulator, used by thousands of mobile developers.

For instance, in this screen capture, the emulator is being used to test the virtual mechanic provided by the QNX CAR 2 platform:


Click to magnify

Here's another example, where the emulator is being used to test an audio control application. If you were running this emulator session, you could manipulate the app's onscreen controls to adjust volume, bass, treble, fade, and balance; you could also observe the changes to the underlying data values in the right-hand panel. And you could work the other way: by changing the controls on the right, you could observe changes to the app.


Click to magnify.

QNX also plans to create a virtual marketplace that will allow developers to make their QNX CAR 2 applications available to automakers. The marketplace will provide common ground for app developers and automakers to work together, and will allow automakers to preview the applications that best fit their brands and satisfy their customers. The marketplace is expected to go live when the HTML5 SDK is released.

By the way, my colleague Kerry Johnson provides an interesting back story to the SDK, including the kinds of APIs it provides. You can read his post here. You can also find more images of the emulator on the QNX Flickr page.

3D navigation from Elektrobit
Now for the other screens. Besides announcing the SDK, QNX has brought its QNX reference vehicle, a modded Jeep Wrangler, to the SAE show floor. As always, the Jeep is running the QNX CAR 2 platform. But this time, the Jeep also includes a cool 3D navigation app from automotive software vendor Elektrobit. Here are two examples of the Elektrobit app:





That's it for now. But before you go, be sure to follow @QNX_Auto on Twitter, where we are covering the latest developments, both QNX and non-QNX, from SAE Convergence.

10/04/2012

Now on YouTube: The incredible 1.44M QNX floppy demo!

You have got to watch this. But before you click Play, keep this in mind: The 1.44M QNX floppy demo dates from the late 1990s and its web browser was built for the 1999 Web, not the 2012 Web. So, as you'd expect, the browser in this demo displays some error messages when it's pointed at modern websites.

Other than that, prepared to be amazed. Everything you see here — OS, windowing system, web browser, TCP/IP stack, file manager, games, etc. — fit on a single, self-booting 1.44M floppy. No CD, no hard drive. And as you'll see, the demo could even download and launch new features (including a graphics driver), all on the fly. Cool, that.



Did you know? The ISO image for the 1.44M floppy demo was downloaded more than 1,000,000 times, making it the first truly successful marketing campaign for QNX Software Systems. The purpose of the demo was simple: to show developers how much performance and functionality QNX could squeeze into a resource-constrained device.

A big shout-out to ToastyTech for posting the video!

Want to see a pic of an even older QNX demo disk? Click here.

9/23/2012

Which OS for IEC 62304 medical systems?

The question, to some degree, is rhetorical. I work for an OS company, that company has developed a 62304-compliant OS for medical device manufacturers... you see where this is going.

But don't go yet. This week, my colleague Chris Ault will present a webinar on this very topic, and the content he'll cover should prove useful to anyone choosing an OS for a medical device — or, for that matter, any device that must operate reliably and safely.

In case you're wondering, the Linux question will definitely come up. Linux does lots of things very well, but does it belong in a safety-critical device? Knowing Chris, he'll offer a suitably unambiguous answer — and some solid reasoning to back it up.

Okay, enough from me. To learn more about the webinar, which will be held this
Thursday, September 27, at 2 pm eastern, visit the QNX website.

9/20/2012

So where is QNX going in automotive?

Head unit from the QNX
reference vehicle
Want a short and sweet intro on what QNX is doing in the automotive industry? Then be sure to check out "A Look At The Near Future Of In-Car Technology," published this week in The Washington Post and in Motor Authority. (Same article in both cases, though Motor Authority has more pictures :-)

The article is based on an interview with my friend and colleague Andy Gryc, who is also my go-to person whenever I'm trying to understand anything about in-car infotainment. It covers the bases, from how QNX technology helps automakers project their brand identities to how it will enable a new generation of apps in the car.

Enough of my blather. Check out the article and let me know what you think.

A version of this post also appeared in the QNX auto blog.

9/19/2012

How to keep track of QNX board support packages, without really trying

If you're an embedded developer using the QNX Neutrino OS, it pays to keep up to date on QNX support for the latest evaluation and reference boards. Doing so is easy: just subscribe to the QNX Source newsletter, which provides a monthly update on any new or updated board support packages (BSPs).

The newsletter also provides links to the latest webinars, whitepapers, videos, and press releases — you'll find it the easiest way to stay on top of all things QNX, without really trying.

For instance, here's a sneak peek of the BSP section in the upcoming issue:

BSP Update
Freescale i.MX6Q Nitrogen6x
Freescale i.MX6Q Sabre Board for Smart Devices
Freescale i.MX53 Quickstart
TI AM335x EVM
TI AM335 Beaglebone
TI AM335x starter kit
TI OMAP 3730 Beagleboard-xM

Wireless Drivers
Wireless drivers for LS Research Tiwi Modules are now available for the following reference boards:
TI AM335x starter kit
TI OMAP 3730 Beagleboard-xM

Subscribing to the newsletter is super easy. So what you are waiting for?

9/17/2012

A (much) closer look at the QNX CAR 2 application platform

Have previous QNX CAR videos left you hungry for more? Then have I got a video for you. It covers all the bases, from the platform’s HTML5 framework to app-download features, multimedia, streaming radio, device connectivity, and my personal favorite, the virtual mechanic.

But before you hit the Play button, put on some extra popcorn. You're going to need it, as this puppy clocks in at almost 22 minutes.



9/13/2012

What has the QNX auto team been up to?

Well, let's see...


9/12/2012

Green shift: QNX sponsors EcoCar 2 competition

This just in: QNX has officially announced that it is a bronze sponsor of the "EcoCar 2: Plugging in to the Future" competition. Established by GM and the U.S. Department of Energy, the competition challenges universities across North America to reduce the environmental impact of a Chevrolet Malibu without compromising performance, safety, or consumer acceptability.

QNX Software Systems will provide teams with access to the QNX CAR 2 application platform, which serves as the foundation for the infotainment systems and digital instrument clusters being developed for the vehicle. This is the same QNX CAR platform featured in the QNX reference vehicle.

For more information on the competition and on QNX's involvement, check out this post on the QNX auto blog.
 

9/11/2012

Qt Creator 2.6 introduces QNX support

This just in: The Qt developer blog has announced a new release of Qt Creator, the integrated development environment for creating applications and user interfaces based on the Qt application framework. (If you're unfamiliar with Qt, check out these previous posts.)

The new release, version 2.6, is now in beta and introduces two key features: support for the QNX OS and a concept called kits.

According to Eike Ziller of the Qt developer blog, a kit is a user-defined combination of compiler, debugger, Qt version, and target device. As a developer, you can freely choose each kit setting independent of all other settings. For instance, you can mix and match compilers and Qt versions. Qt Creator will warn you if it thinks you're choosing a dumb combination, but otherwise gives you free rein over the configuration.

Kits are new to 2.6 and they replace a concept called targets. Targets served a similar function, but were "hardwired". If you deviated from the default setting of a target, you had to manually change all build and run configurations. But now, with targets, the IDE makes these changes for you.

Qt Creator 2.6 supports both QNX and Android, but doesn't support Symbian. According to Ziller, Symbian support had to be dropped because of a lack of maintainers.

Here's a screen capture of the Kit Preferences dialog:



For details on Qt Creator 2.6, visit the Qt developer blog.
 

9/04/2012

Video: QNX-powered system fires protons to kill cancer

Proton therapy system, Indiana University Health Proton Therapy Center
The QNX-powered proton therapy 
system, or PTS
It zaps cancer cells to kingdom come. Better yet, it wipes them out while leaving healthy cells alone. It's called proton therapy, and it's one of the deadliest weapons in the arsenal against cancer.

Conventional radiotherapy may be potent, but it has a drawback. It can sometimes damage healthy tissue, and this damage can lead to secondary cancers later in life — a problem among children, who may live for many years after treatment and who are more likely to suffer from this side-effect.

There is, then, a real need to avoid radiating healthy tissue while maximizing the damage to the diseased tissue. And that's where proton therapy comes in.

Surgical strikes
Protons are relatively heavy, charged particles. They do minimal damage as they pass through tissue, but inflict significant damage where they stop. The challenge is to control the proton beams so that they stop exactly where you want them — the tumor.

Enter the QNX-powered proton therapy system (PTS) at the Indiana University Health Proton Therapy Center. Using the PTS, a radiotherapist can limit damage mostly to where the tumor is located. The radiotherapist can even "mold" the proton beam into the same shape as the tumor. This accuracy makes proton therapy especially useful for treating tumors located near vital organs. It can also reduce long-term effects sometimes associated with conventional forms of radiotherapy. And it serves as an alternative for patients who have already received other forms of treatment and have incurred damage to healthy tissue as a result — proton therapy can minimize the possibility that more healthy tissue is affected.

Delivering the right dose
The PTS uses the QNX OS in its dose delivery system (DDS) — think of it as the business end of the PTS. The DDS controls devices on the system’s nozzle (the beam transport and detection hardware closest to the patient) and measures dose-related values. The DDS also implements an energy-stacking scheme to obtain uniform depth-dose distributions.

The QNX OS allows the DDS to achieve very fast response times. For instance, if beam delivery must stop for any reason, the OS helps ensure that it stops immediately — and in this application, immediately is the only viable option.



I'm feeling appreciative
Before I let you go, a word of thanks to the folks at the proton therapy center. A year ago, I approached them out of nowhere with a proposal to do a video. Their response was overwhelmingly positive. They willingly gave of their time to discuss the proposal, explain what they do, and, of course, work with us on the video itself. While I'm at it, I'd also like to thank my friend and colleague Nancy Young for her fantastic work on this and all the other QNX videos she has produced in the last couple of years. (Speaking of which, have you subscribed to the QNX YouTube channel yet?)


8/27/2012

How do you feel about growing food for your gas tank?

The first time I heard about corn-based ethanol, I was gobsmacked. Growing food so you can feed your SUV? It sounded wrong to me, and still does. Maybe I'm being super naïve, but shouldn't we solve the problem of feeding the world's hungry before pumping corn into V8s?

If that's not enough, the practice has contributed to a significant increase in food prices — a problem that hurts the poor (read: hungry) far more than it does the rich or financially comfortable.

Of course, there are arguments for using corn-based ethanol, but they aren't water-tight. In fact, some argue that using corn-based ethanol may increase, rather than decrease, the carbon footprint of your gas tank.

But let me stop right there. My friend Andy Gryc tackles this topic in further detail on the QNX auto blog. Hop over there and check out what he has to say.
 

8/14/2012

Freescale, QNX, ISaGRAF, and KPA unveil new "PLC in a box"

The new dual-core
PLC reference platform
Do you know what a PLC is? If you don't, I won't take offense if you stop reading. But before you go, take a minute to learn about PLCs on Wikipedia. They're the special ops of the computing world: tough and reliable, with a talent for accomplishing their goals in a fast, low-profile manner. When they do their job right, you don't even know they are there.

Now where was I? Oh yes: Early this morning, Freescale announced a new PLC reference platform based on the dual-core QorIQ P1025 processor. The reference platform pre-integrates EtherCAT software from KPA, PLC firmware from ISaGRAF, and the QNX Neutrino RTOS from QNX Software Systems to reduce the time and cost of developing PLCs, PACs, DCSs, RTUs, CNCs, and other industrial products.

Here's the platform at a glance:



Highlights include:
  • ISaGRAF PLC firmware — Supports IEC 61499 and IEC 61131-3 PLC programming languages, with compliance confirmed by TÜV Rheinland.
  • KPA EtherCAT master stack — Implemented in C for high performance, with scalable EtherCAT features such as cable redundancy, hot connect, and multiple master.
  • QNX Neutrino RTOS — Comes with a proven track record in PLCs, wind turbines, train-control systems, nuclear plants, process automation systems, and other realtime environments.
  • Freescale TWR-P1025 platform for QorIQ P1025 processor — Enables rapid prototyping and tool re-use through reconfigurable hardware.

CPU Headroom
PLCs must typically exhibit fast, predictable response times. To that end, the reference platform delivers millisecond response times for the EtherCAT master stack while using <1% of one core in the platform's dual-core processor. Translation: lots of spare CPU cyles for the control application.

Functional safety
For systems where functional safety is paramount, ISaGRAF offers an IEC 61508-compliant version of its PLC firmware. Combine that with the IEC 61508 SIL3-certified QNX Neutrino RTOS Safe Kernel, and you've got an ideal foundation for building safety-certified PLC applications.

Availability
The complete kit, including hardware, software and evaluation tools, is now available for purchase. For more information, visit the QNX website and Freescale website.
 

8/01/2012

Why do I work at QNX?
Reason #4: I hate being bored

I get to avoid this.
How about you?
I’ll admit it, I get bored easily. And when I get bored, I become a real pain in the, ahem, derrière. So I learned long ago to embrace the difficult. To pursue the challenging. To avoid the routine.

Which is why you find me at QNX. Because there is nothing routine about our technology or the markets we serve.

Let’s rewind a bit. At one time, an embedded OS company like QNX could provide its customers with an OS kernel, a file system, a compiler, some device drivers, and they were off to the races. But no longer. Now, most QNX customers need an incredibly comprehensive and well-integrated software stack. Moreover, that stack keeps evolving in response to very dynamic market requirements. A year ago, for example, relatively few customers wanted support for HTML5. Today, it is a front-and-center requirement.

All this creates a challenge on the technical side, since customers want us to provide this goodness while still delivering the high levels of quality and performance they’ve come to expect of QNX. So, if you’re a software developer who likes a challenge, this is the place to be.

But it’s also a challenge on the marketing side, where I sit. Because what you knew yesterday doesn’t apply today. And what applies in one market segment doesn’t apply in another. So I’ve found that I need to have an open mind, and to keep it that way. And to learn constantly.

Nice thing is, I don’t get bored.

Previous post: We enable cool
 

7/23/2012

Why do I work at QNX?
Reason #3: We enable cool

My previous post focused on pride. Not the selfish kind (see hubris), but rather, the pride in contributing to a company that helps create things that matter, be they systems that deliver electricity to your home, the Internet to your home, or, in the case of emergency, an ambulance to your home.

But enough with the serious stuff. Let’s focus on some seriously cool stuff instead. I also like being part of QNX because we help people create things…

like this (Audi A8 MMI system):



and this (Solar Impulse solar-powered plane):



and this (JamMan guitar pedals; jump to 1:25):



and this (Asimov Lunar rover):



and, of course, this (I never leave home without one):




For more examples of cool (and important) QNX-powered stuff, check out this overview on the QNX website.

Stay tuned for next post: “I hate being bored”
Previous post: "We help make a difference"

 

7/18/2012

Why do I work at QNX?
Reason #2: We help make a difference

A few years ago, a colleague of mine was manning a tradeshow booth that showcased a QNX-based medical device. A gentleman stopped by the booth, looked at the device, turned to my colleague, and said, “If it weren’t for that machine, my son would be dead today.”

That story made me realize I’m part of something important. And indeed, QNX-based systems have been helping save lives since the 1980s. You’ll find QNX technology in angiography systems, blood diagnostic systems, robotic surgery systems, 9-1-1 dispatch systems, and many other applications dedicated to helping people live longer or healthier. You’ll also find QNX in systems where safety is an absolute must. Examples include nuclear plants, railway locomotives, wind turbines, space shuttles, and laser eye surgery machines.

Mind you, it’s not all life and death. QNX technology also powers things that quietly make your life easier and more convenient. These include HVAC systems that keep you cool, navigation systems that get you home, Internet routers (and tablets!) that keep you connected, and food inspection systems that ensure your jelly donut actually has jelly inside.

I don't know about you, but any OS that contributes to the worldwide betterment of donuts has got my vote, hands down.

Stay tuned for next post: “The cool stuff”
Previous post: "Awesome team members"
 

7/16/2012

Why do I work at QNX?
Reason #1: Awesome team members

As a child, I was taught the seven virtues: charity, chastity, diligence, humility, kindness, patience, and temperance. Yeah, I know, they sound pretty old-fashioned. But you know what really bothers me? That the list omitted gratitude. What’s up with that?

Seriously, without gratitude, you can’t have the rest. If you’re not thankful for what you have, you’re not going to be kind, charitable, or patient. You’ll just be a pain.

Of course, in some situations, it’s hard to be thankful. But sometimes, it’s easy. And in the case of the people I’m privileged to work with, it’s super easy. They’re smart, they’re funny, they’re supportive, they lend a hand at a moment’s notice, and they bring gobs of passion to what they do. And I can’t count how many times they’ve made me look good.

My only challenge is defining who, exactly, is in my team. The more I think of it, the bigger the circle I have to draw. Because it doesn’t just include my immediate colleagues in marketing. It also includes all the people in engineering, product management, sales, legal, and other departments at QNX and RIM who, over the years, have me helped excel. And who make me feel good about walking in the front door.

So am I grateful? Damn right.

Stay tuned for next post: “We make a difference”
 

7/15/2012

7 reasons why I work at QNX

I must admit, I sometimes feel like the odd man out. Friends complain about their jobs, about their bosses, about how they can’t wait to retire. I almost start wondering why I don’t feel that way, too.

Is it because I have a better work attitude? Perhaps, but I’m not convinced. These same friends work hard and excel at what they do. Which makes me realize that I’m not superior, just luckier.

And why do I feel lucky about my work life? I thought you’d never ask.

Over the coming days and weeks, I’m going explore why I think QNX isn’t just a cool place to work, but a meaningful one.

And by the way, I'm not tied to the number. I might come up with 7 reasons, or I might come up with more. Stay tuned.
 

7/11/2012

New service pack brings new features, higher performance to QNX Neutrino OS 6.5

If you use the QNX Neutrino OS 6.5 for your embedded projects, you owe it to yourself to check out the brand new service pack released by QNX Software Systems.

Service Pack 1 offers a number of enhancements, including:

  • Optimized memory management for higher performance (improvements are particularly noticeable with the newer ARM Cortex-A8 and A9 processors)
  •  
  • Updated networking stack (io-pkt) for better stability and higher performance
  •  
  • Updates to security protocols, including ALTQ support for packet filtering and IKEv2 for setting up security associations
  •  
  • Improvements to file systems for greater robustness and efficiency
  •  
  • Updates to the USB stack, including better stack performance and stability, as well as support for the new USB classes CDC-ECM, CDC-ACM, and CDC-NCM
  •  
  • 36-bit paddr support for the Freescale u-boot bootloader found in newer processors such as the P4080

To download Service Pack 1, or to learn more about it, visit the downloads section of the QNX website.
 

6/19/2012

On Q hits milestone: 100,000+ visits

So, I was looking at my Sitemeter account earlier today (you know, the thingie that measures traffic to this blog), and here's what I saw:



My first thought upon seeing this stat? Cool! My second thought? I need to thank everyone who made it possible.

As a QNXer, I'm fortunate to have lots of cool technology to talk about. I'm even more fortunate to have readers who are willing to listen, comment, and, yes, disagree with me. Because the real fun starts when the convo warms up.

All of which to say, thank you — for visiting, for subscribing, for reading, for watching, for commenting, for responding, and, above all, for making this an enjoyable ride. And while I'm at it, a big bear hug for all the colleagues who have supported this blog with their expertise and encouragement. You guys are the best.

And now, a request...
Tell you what, let's make this occasion a little more interactive. Do you have a favorite On Q post? If so, leave a comment — I'd love to hear about it.

Meanwhile, here are 5 of the all-time most popular posts on this blog:

POSTSCRIPT
In case you're wondering, 100,000 isn't my daily visit count — it's the total count. The actual number is higher, as I started to measure traffic about six months after my first post. For those of you who prefer page views as a metric, the total is 173,000+.
 

6/14/2012

Chinese manufacturer chooses QNX for IOT home appliance control systems

A view of the Dalian factory
QNX Software Systems has announced that Dalian Eastern Display, a Chinese manufacturer of applications and controls for LCD panels and modules, is using QNX technology to create control systems for Internet of Things (IOT) home appliances.

The control systems will allow intelligent washing machines, intelligent refrigerators, high-end air conditioners, and other home appliances to connect wirelessly to the Internet.

Dalian Eastern Display also plans to use QNX in systems for medical devices and construction machinery.

“The QNX Neutrino RTOS has proven well-suited to developing IOT intelligent home appliance nodes and terminals… we look forward to working closely with QNX Software Systems as we develop other competitive products,” said Duan Yunsheng, general manager, Dalian Eastern Display.

According to the press release, the QNX Neutrino RTOS helps Dalian to achieve stable performance and fast startup times, and to reduce the time and effort of developing graphical user interfaces.

In 2010, the Chinese government puts its weight behind the IOT market by incorporating it into the country’s 12th five-year plan.
 

6/13/2012

QNX, SIAT CAS to establish software center of excellence in China

The SIAT CAS campus
This just in: QNX has announced that it will collaborate with the Shenzhen Institutes of Advanced Technology, a branch of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (SIAT CAS), to establish a center of excellence for embedded software. The goal is to enable software designs for mass transit systems, power networks, telecom systems, and other infrastructure projects that have rigorous demands for reliability and safety.

SIAT CAS is a research and educational organization responsible for evaluating technologies used in infrastructure projects. It has already evaluated QNX technology for various projects and, under the expanded collaboration, will employ additional QNX products for research and education.

“Safety and security in critical infrastructures are key requirements in China. QNX software technology is known for its reliability and is a preferred choice for mission- and safety-critical systems,” said Professor T. John Koo, the founding director of the Center for Embedded Software Systems at SIAT CAS and a QNX user since 1996.

For its part, QNX Software Systems will train SIAT CAS researchers and engineers on QNX technology on an ongoing basis. Both organizations will assign project managers to work together on joint project activities.

SIAT CAS has a mandate to enhance the indigenous innovation capabilities of the manufacturing and services industries in the area of Guangdong, Hong Kong, and greater China. For more information on the organization, visit the SIAT CAS website. And for more information this announcement, read the QNX press release.

On a related note, QNX is currently holding its second annual China Technology Innovation Conference in Beijing and Shanghai. You can read about the conference here.
 

6/11/2012

New video: WIRED Autopia meets up with QNX reference vehicle

This just in: Doug Newcomb of WIRED Autopia (and, of course, of the Doug Newcomb blog) has posted a short video of the new QNX reference vehicle, taken last week at Telematics Detroit.

Highlights include the vehicle's re-skinnable user interface and voice-controlled Facebook integration. Roll the tape...



As indicated in the video, the reference vehicle is based on the QNX CAR application platform. For info on the platform, visit QNX CAR web page.
 

QNX reference vehicle: A peek behind the scenes

Got three minutes? Because I'd like you to watch a short video.

Last week, on the QNX auto blog, I introduced the new QNX reference vehicle, a specially modified Jeep Wrangler. Today, I'd like you to see what went into the making of the Jeep.

A project like this takes a multi-disciplinary team. You need people with skills in industrial design, user-interface design, HTML5, OpenGL graphics, wireless networking, device drivers... the list goes on. Being a strong team player doesn't hurt, either. Nor, for that matter, does being handy with a screwdriver.

But don't take my word for it; check out the vid and see for yourself:



A word before I go: A couple of weeks ago, some colleagues and I stopped by to take some photos of the Jeep. The team members on deck were incredibly helpful, and I'd like to thank them for all their support. And as for the team as a whole, kudos for a job well done!
 

6/06/2012

QNX unveils new reference vehicle with Facebook integration and re-skinnable dash

Your ride is about to get personal.

Early this morning, QNX took the wraps off its new reference vehicle, a specially modified Jeep Wrangler — think of it as a software reference design on wheels.

The Jeep offers an example of how developers can use the QNX CAR 2 platform to build digital instrument clusters and infotainment systems, using standard technologies like OpenGL ES and HTML5. In particular, it shows how the platform can help in-car systems become both personalizeable and social-media savvy.

For instance, the Jeep includes:
  • a re-skinnable digital instrument cluster
  • a re-skinnable infotainment system
  • Facebook integration, controlled by voice commands
  • integration with a variety of popular smartphones
  • an HTML5 framework
  • one-touch pairing with Bluetooth smartphones using NFC
  • high-definition hands-free audio
  • tablet-based rear-seat entertainment
  • a virtual mechanic
  • text-to-speech and natural speech recognition

    The list goes on. For a quick pictorial guide to the Jeep, check out my post on the QNX auto blog. And for more details, read the press releases QNX issued this morning on the Jeep's personalization and Facebook features.

    Speaking of Facebook, you can find even more photos of the Jeep on the QNX Facebook page, where you can also see status updates posted by the Jeep itself. (BTW, my marketing colleagues tell me to tell you to "like" the page. So be a dear and hit the Like button... pretty please?)


    A view of the Jeep's head unit. See more photos on the QNX auto blog.
     
  • 5/31/2012

    Name that car! QNX leaks photos (sort of) of new reference vehicle

    Next week, QNX will take the wraps off a new "reference vehicle" outfitted with the QNX CAR 2 application platform. It seems, though, that some of my QNX colleagues are off to a head start. A few days ago, they began to leak cryptic images of the new vehicle and threw out a challenge: Can anyone guess the brand name and model?

    To add honey to the pot, they're now offering $25 Starbucks gift certificates to the first 25 people who guess correctly. Which adds up to, um, several free lattes.

    Are you game? If so, follow the @QNX_Auto on Twitter and tweet your guess.

    Oh, almost forgot: I guess it would help if you saw some of the pictures published so far:







    Legal sidebar: Only current residents of the US and Canada are eligible. Also, assume the usual disclaimers that QNX employees and their relatives aren't eligible. And you know what that means... no free lattes for yours truly. :-(

    5/30/2012

    New M2M webinar: When embedded meets mobile

    If you live and work in the embedded world, you can't help but notice that M2M has become the industry's new watchword. And if you're like me, you can't help but smile, since embedded devices that either talk with each other or with back-end systems have, in fact, been around for decades. (QNX, for one, was helping developers create peer-to-peer networks of embedded systems as far back as the 1980s.)

    Still, the world has changed. The proliferation of mobile networks, along with the ready availability of wireless modules that allow embedded devices to connect to those networks, has created many new opportunities for remote diagnostics, predictive maintenance, location monitoring, and so on.

    But don't take it from me, a reigning non-expert on M2M. :-)  Instead, check out tomorrow's M2M webinar, presented by two people who have spent a lot of time thinking about M2M and what it means for next-generation embedded systems: Bob Monkman of QNX and Iain Davidson of Freescale.

    Here's an overview the webinar, along with a registration link. Note that you have a choice of two sessions: one at 11:00 am EST, the other at 2:00 pm EST.

    Embedded Meets Mobility: M2M Considerations & Concepts
    For decades, multitudes of embedded machines have been specialized islands of vertical fixed-function intelligence with unique attributes. As the need and opportunity evolves to connect and coordinate between these embedded machines and the people that need to interact with them, many factors must be considered. Machine to Machine (M2M) offers new efficiencies in operational management of networked devices, the addition of new services and new business models for stakeholders within the value chain. Freescale and QNX will present an overview of revenue opportunities for M2M and the essentials of developing secure, reliable and scalable M2M networks, managed device endpoints, coupled with management concepts for devices in cloud computing.

    Thursday, May 31, 2012
    11:00 am EST and 2:00 pm EST
    Register here
     

    5/23/2012

    What has the QNX auto team been up to?

    Well, let's see...

     

    5/09/2012

    QNX provides OS for new IEC 61508 certified robotics middleware

    This just in: Systems Engineering Consultants (SEC), a leading realtime technology company in Japan, has developed new robotics middleware that runs on the QNX Neutrino RTOS Safe Kernel. Like the Safe Kernel, SEC’s middleware is certified to the IEC 61508 standard at Safety Integrity Level 3, or SIL3. (If you’re new to IEC 61508, this certification provides independent validation that a product offers a very high level of reliability when used in safety-critical systems.)

    SEC designed the middleware, dubbed RTMSafety, to help manufacturers create safety-related systems for robots, including factory automation robots and personal-care robots used in medical and elderly care settings. RTMSafety allows robotics elements, such as actuators and sensors, to be treated as modular, reusable components.

    According to Shintaro Sakurai, an executive director in the engineering division of SEC, “SEC has been working with industry groups and robotics societies to promote component standardization, which we believe will eliminate cost issues that have prevented commercialization of robotics. After much R&D effort, we are getting ready to move into the business phase to offer our customers an IEC 61508 certified middleware platform to run on the QNX Neutrino RTOS Safe Kernel.”

    Suggested reading
    To learn more about RTMSafety, read the press release.

    To learn more about the design of safety-critical systems, read these whitepapers:
    Using an IEC 61508-Certified RTOS Kernel for Safety-Critical Systems
    Building Functional Safety into Complex Software Systems, Part I
    Building Functional Safety into Complex Software Systems, Part II

    And to learn more about QNX Software Systems' certified operating systems, visit the QNX Neutrino product page.
     

    5/08/2012

    New webinar: Using formal methods to develop medical device software

    Do formal tools have what
    it takes to design medical
    device software?
    I'm lucky. Every day, I get to work with extremely smart and articulate people. And two of the smartest are my colleagues Chris Hobbs and Yi Zheng. It seems that, every time I talk to either of them, I learn something new. Good, that.

    This Thursday, Chris and Yi will deliver a webinar on using formal methods to develop safety-critical software. Specifically, they will discuss the experience of using Rodin, a European formal design tool, to design software for a simple medical device. They plan to cover what worked, what didn’t, how much work was involved, and most intriguingly, what surprises were uncovered.

    Formal methods, which use mathematically based techniques to specify, develop, and verify software, have often failed to meet expectations when applied to the development of commercial products. But that is starting to change, thanks to a new generation of tools. The potential benefits of these tools are many, including reduced implementation and test times, not to mention the ability to “prove” that your design is correct — something that can come in handy during the device approval process.

    Interested? Here are the webinar coordinates:

    Lessons learned: using formal methods to develop medical device software
    Thursday, May 10, 2012, 2:00 - 3:00 pm EST
    Registration: http://www.qnx.com/news/web_seminars/medical_device_software.html

    POSTSCRIPT: If you didn't catch the live version of the webinar, no worries. You can always download the archived version, which should appear about 48 hours after the live broadcast. Same link as above.
     

    QNX and its customers nab finalist spots in 2012 Telematics Update awards

    Every year, the world's top automakers and automotive suppliers vie for a chance to win a Telematics Update award. In 2011, for example, Audi, BMW, Hyundai, OnStar, and Toyota took top honors in categories such as best infotainment solution, best safety technology, and best cloud-based application.

    The categories were varied, but these winners share one thing in common: they all use the QNX platform.

    As with 2011, so for 2012. If you look at this year's shortlist, you'll see that several QNX customers and technology partners are again in the running. The finalists include GM, whose MyLink system is up for best global infotainment solution, and OnStar, whose FMV system is up for best aftermarket solution.

    This pattern is nothing new. Back in 2009, for example, more than 50% of the Telematics Update award winners either worked with QNX as a technology partner or used the QNX platform in their in-car systems.

    And did I mention? QNX itself is up for a Telematics Update award this year! The QNX CAR 2 application platform, which drove home with a Best of CES Award in January, is a finalist in the industry newcomer category.


    Two of the QNX-powered systems shortlisted for this year's Telematics Update awards:   
    GM MyLink and OnStar FMV

    It's hard to know what pleases me more: that QNX has been singled out for an award, or that QNX has once again helped its customers make the shortlist. Either way, I'm stoked.

    The winners will be unveiled June 5, just prior to the Telematics Detroit show. In the meantime, my congratulations to all the finalists.

    This post also appeared on the QNX auto blog.
       

    5/06/2012

    QNX releases 62304 compliant OS for medical device manufacturers

    Building a medical device that meets strict regulatory requirements is a long and sometimes painful process. To help ease the pain (and more importantly, speed up pre-market qualification activities), QNX has released the new QNX Neutrino RTOS for medical devices, which complies with the IEC 62304 standard for medical device software life cycle processes.

    If you develop software for medical devices, check out the product overview for the new OS. Then head over to the whitepaper section of the QNX website. You'll find several papers of interest, including:

     

    5/02/2012

    Phonedog connects with QNX concept car at BlackBerry World 2012

    If you aren't at BlackBerry World this week, you're missing out. For starters, you won't get to see what, in my biased opinion, is the world's coolest car: the QNX-powered and very connected Porsche 911.

    But not all is lost. You can still watch this video from Sydney Myers of PhoneDog.com, who caught with up with Mike Shane of QNX for a tour of the car's features — from instant smartphone pairing and off-board navigation to handsfree calling with HD stereo. Check it out:



    My favorite part? When the text overlay on the video shouts out "The audio quality was REALLY good." Got that right.

    And did I mention? Mike is one of the super-talented people who built the concept car. He's a keeper.

    This post also appeared on the QNX auto blog.
     

    5/01/2012

    Video: BlackBerry 10 Sneak Peek from BlackBerry World Keynote

    In case you didn't catch the live broadcast of the BlackBerry World keynote this morning, here's a tiny bit of what you missed. It's a quick video showing some of the cool features coming to the BlackBerry 10 platform. Check it out:



    In case you're wondering, the phone in the video is a prototype device designed to help developers create apps for BlackBerry 10; it's not a commercial product. To learn more about the device, click here.
     

    RIM, QNX encourage young developers in China to create apps for BlackBerry devices

    This just in: Research In Motion (RIM) and QNX Software Systems have announced a new initiative to encourage university students in China to develop more apps and services for the BlackBerry® platform. The initiative aims to nurture the spirit of innovation among young Chinese developers and to help them gain know-how in taking an idea from concept to market.

    As part of the initiative, RIM and QNX will provide BlackBerry devices, software development tools, and technical support. They will also launch a competition to provide student developers with further incentive to turn their creative ideas into apps and services. To read the full press release, click here.

    4/30/2012

    What has the QNX auto team been up to?

    Well, let's see...