ORLANDO, Fla. Designing consumer electronics multimedia devices for the i.MX applications processor just got easier, according to Freescale Semiconductor Inc. (Austin, Texas), by virtue of a "hardware stack" development kit.
Just as a software stack layers application, network and operating system levels, the i.MX hardware stack divides the prototyping task into three levels: processor, debug and peripherals.
What's unique about the configuration of the i.MX product development kit (PDK) is its ability to remove the middle layer after debugging, so that prototypes can fit into a small form-factor similar to the final consumer-electronics device.
"We've redesigned the PDK so that all the debugging circuitry fits on a middle layer board with the processor board on the bottom and all its peripherals on a top-layer board which we call the personality module," said Ken Obuszewski, director of product management for Freescale's multimedia applications division.
"Now OEMs can remove the relatively large debug board from the middle of the stack after debugging, so the two smaller boards can be fit into a case closer to the size of the final product."
The i.MX processor is used in a wide variety of multimedia application, including consumer, automotive, industrial from handheld MP3 players by Creative Labs to automotive media managers such as Ford's Sync to the industrial virtualization platform from VirtualLogix.
Until now, developers had to either design their own hardware before displaying prototypes, or show prototypes in a form factor several times bigger than the final product's specification. Now all they have to do is remove the large middle-layer debug board to display small form-factor prototypes.
The i.MX bottom layer processor board holds an i.MX31 processor based on an ARM-1136 core, along with memory and power management chips. The middle debug board has debug ports including serial, Ethernet and JTAG (Joint Test Action Group) interfaces. And the top "personality" board holds peripherals such as displays, touch screens, accelerometers, WiFi and Bluetooth. All three meet the Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive (RoHS).
Developers choosing Windows Embedded CE operating system, rather than Linux, will benefit from Freescale's recent announcement on its joining the Windows Embedded Partner Program.