It's unlikely you've heard of this company, but if you're designing very low power, ultra-small form-factor, or battery powered products, it might pay for you to learn more InHand Electronics (Rockville, Maryland).
Basically, InHand crafts small and low-power OEM platforms that can be used as the basis for handheld and wireless end products. Its designs have already found a home not only in scads of low-cost commercial systems, but also in military applications.
InHand's off-the-shelf platforms can pack data storage and data acquisition plug-ins, too, as well as features such as GPS navigation and Bluetooth wireless connectivity.
Most of the company's existing platforms are built around Intel StrongARM RISC microprocessors. However, the latest InHand wares use the spanking new Xscale RISC chips. Regardless of processor, InHand's board-level systems can run Windows CE or Linux operating systems.
Xscale On Your Fingertip
The company is now debuting its Fingertip3 board-level platform based on the Xscale PXA255 microprocessor. A glance at the block diagram reveals the Fingertip3's rich hardware feature set.
Click for larger block diagram
About the size of a credit card, the Fingertip3 supports an ultra-low-power architecture, and includes enhancements to measure and adjust the CPU's core operating voltage---on-the-fly.
"The product's low-voltage memory is designed to increase battery life and provide both hardware and software developers with tight control of performance and dissipation," avows InHand CEO Andrew Girson. "Coupled with our BatterySmart system software suite, Fingertip3 drops power to new lows."
Girson underscores how InHand's BatterySmart software leverages XScale's dynamic performance monitoring capabilities. He points to features such as a realtime dynamic clock-scaling algorithm, reduced-power peripheral software drivers, and measurement and analysis tools.
Thanks to BatterySmart3 and low-voltage memory, Fingertip3's idle-mode dissipation is claimed to be 50% lower than previous StrongARM-based Fingertip reference platforms.
Even at this low dissipation, the Fingertip3's Intel XScale micro delivers up to 400-MHz of processing horsepower in InHand's 2.5-V design. With that, the little Fingertip3 can be configured to operate with nothing more than dual lithium-ion (Li-ON) cells.
However, InHand also supports this product for use with NiCD, NiMH, and lithium polymer batteries, or any battery type that conforms to the system's power requirements.
InHand also supports these chemistries with "smart chargers" that pack voltage and temperature control.
Flash And RAM Galore
On the memory side, the diminutive Fingertip3 board packs between 16-Mbytes and 32-Mbytes of Intel Strata Flash, with a bootloader, and on-board JTAG-compatible programming hooks.
The board also houses between 32-Mbytes and 64-Mbytes of SDRAM, operating at 100-MHz with a low-power self-refresh scheme.
You also get three serial ports (one RS-232, one RS-232/CMOS, and one CMOS), as well as USB Slave operation.
Peripheral interfaces include a synchronous serial interface (SSP or SPI), an I2C port, a network synchronous serial port (NSSP), and lots of I/O pins. The latter include a dozen general-purpose pins that are all interrupt capable.
It's Multi-Media Ready
But wait! There's more! You also get audio. The multi-media-ready little Fingertip3 includes a 20-bit stereo CODEC that supports direct connection to a microphone and loudspeaker. It's also AC97 compliant.
On the visual side, the Fingertip3 offers support for 1/8 VGA, quarter VGA, half VGA, and full VGA-resolution LCDs, with a touchscreen interface and a backlight. Wow. All of this in a product measuring just 2.4 x 3.44 inches (60-mm x 86-mm), with a Z-height of only 416 mils (10.4-mm).
In addition, Fingertip3 now includes a Secure Digital flash memory soscket, in addition to a CompactFlash flash card slot.
The Fingertip3 Development Platform comes with hardware, software, and technical support. Tools include 3-D solid models and drawings, software design kits (SDKs), and prototype packaging.
Fingertip3 development platforms will be available with InHand's BatterySmart3 software for Microsoft's Windows CE.NET and open-source Linux.
Development platform pricing is less than $3000, and the company says that boards are available now for volume purchase. The complete Fingertip3 reference platform is also available for licensing.
Want to learn more? Contact Girson at InHand Electronics, Inc., 30 West Gude Dr., Suite 100, Rockville, Maryland 20850. Phone: (240) 558-2014. Fax: (240) 558-2019. For more information, check out InHand's Web site.