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NI’s new Zynq-in-a-box SOM targets embedded development with dual-core ARM Cortex-A9

Xilinx Employee
Xilinx Employee
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NI (National Instruments) has just introduced yet another in its growing line of design and development products based on the Xilinx Zynq All Programmable SoC. This new offering is the NI sbRIO-9651 SOM (system on module) which consist of a fairly small pcb encased in a block of milled, black-anodized aluminum; 512Mbytes of DRAM; 512Mbytes of nonvolatile memory; the NI Linux RTOS; a debugged and ready-to-run BSP (board support package); and a complete set of middleware. NI says that this package significantly reduces development time, development risk, and time to market for a range of embedded system designs. Here’s a quote from the NI press release:


““We have evaluated several SOMs and embedded SBCs, and there is no comparison to the software integration offered by NI,” said Sebastien Boria, R&D mechatronics technology leader at Airbus. “We estimate that our development costs with the NI SOM are a tenth of the costs of alternative approaches because of the productivity gains of NI’s approach to system design, in particular to NI Linux Real-Time and LabVIEW FPGA.”


A 10x improvement in development costs is pretty hard to ignore.


Here’s a photo/illustration of the NI sbRIO-9651 SOM:


NI sbRIO-9651 SOM.jpg


Based on the size of the SOM’s industrial-grade Zynq-7020 SoC, which measures less than 20mm on a side, the NI sbRIO-9651 SOM has a smaller footprint than a credit card. In fact, the module measures 2x3 inches. The milled aluminum package helps give the SOM its operating temperature range of -40 ˚C to 85 ˚C.


The above image also shows just how few components you need to create a very capable embedded system using the Zynq SoC. That’s because the Zynq SoC implements a large number of useful standard peripheral devices—including the Gigabit Ethernet, USB 2.0, RS232, and SDHC memory card interface included in NI’s sbRIO-9651 SOM—as embedded IP blocks. Any more specialized peripherals or I/O ports you may need to complete your embedded design can be fashioned from the Zynq SoC’s programmable logic and the SOM’s 160 programmable I/O pins.


That’s where NI’s LabVIEW with its FPGA extensions enters the picture. You can use LabVIEW’s 1000-function library of graphical programming elements to develop embedded software and to implement hardware and you can start quickly because the Linux RTOS, BSP, and middleware are all in place out of the box. As NI’s sbRIO-9651 flyer states, LabVIEW and the Zynq-based SOM provide “an alternative to hardware description languages (HDLs) that simplifies the task of interfacing to I/O and communicating data.” The NI LabVIEW development environment offers yet another way to develop hardware designs using a graphical approach rather than using Verilog or VHDL.


Which leaves only one question. Did NI really go back 50 years in time and convince the Robert Kinoshita to use one of these new SOMs to control the “Lost in Space” B9 robot? Take a good look the side of the B9 robot in this photo.



Lost in Space Robot B9.png



Sure looks like a SOM to me and Will Robinson was always fiddling with it trying to improve the robot’s programming. Coincidence? You decide.


This is probably a good time to mention NI Week, which starts up in Austin, Texas on August 4. I expect to see this new Zynq-based SOM while attending. If you enjoy world-beating BBQ and hot weather along with your hot technology, register for NI Week here.



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