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Hitachi lets designers tweak controllers via the Web

Posted: 03 Jan 2002 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:hitachi? hitachi semiconductor america? remote engineering? microcontroller? developonline?

Hitachi Semiconductor America Inc. is trying to move remote engineering to the next level by letting customers tinker with microcontroller hardware and software tools via a Web browser.

Working with DevelopOnline, Hitachi has set up several remote development stations for its H8 microcontroller family. For a fee, engineers can access these remote engineering laboratories from a PC at any time. Hitachi launched the service with its H8/3664 microcontroller device and plans to expand the program during the next several months to include other members of the H8 line and the company's SuperH devices.

At the same time, Hitachi is extending the H8 family to include the 20MHz 3687, which is 25 percent faster than the 3664; and the 3672, which includes less on-chip memory and slimmed-down peripherals so that it can fit in a 10-by-10mm package.

Hitachi has been interested in launching its own remote development platform for several years and at one point had begun developing the software internally. The company eventually dropped the project, largely because at the time it was relocating its U.S. headquarters from Brisbane, California, to San Jose. Hitachi later decided to work with DevelopOnline, which already had the infrastructure in place.

Hitachi said its HiLink remote development platform is intended to offer what a user would experience if all microcontroller tools and software came out of a box. No special software needs to be loaded; the only prerequisite is a Web browser. Power and reset buttons and LEDs are part of the graphical user interface. Debugging tools also come pre-loaded. Further, the user works with real hardware, though remotely.

"What you see is identical to what you would see on the desktop," said Hank Pawlowicz, product marketing manager for Hitachi. "This is not simulation. This is real hardware."

Response delays vary with the speed of the connection, but Pawlowicz said that shouldn't be a problem. In one demonstration, the development site was accessed remotely and routed through a Webcast service, and the lag time amounted to no more than a second, he said.

So far, Hitachi has set up seven boards at DevelopOnline's site in Tempe: Six have on-chip debug emulators and one has a real-time emulator.

Users can lease time by scheduling it prior to usage or logging on immediately if a system is available. Leasing time via HiLink is intended to cost less than buying a hardware and software development kit, which could run $8,000 to $10,000, the company said.

Hitachi stands to benefit from the reduced costs, but a bigger benefit is that it will entice users to work with new hardware much sooner than in the past. "By putting it online, you have instant access. Plus we can measure how often it is being used," Pawlowicz said.

Anthony Cataldo

EE Times

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