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PSoC tool shoots for 'skill barrier'

Posted: 02 Oct 2006 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Cypress? PSoC Express? Programmable SoC? mixed-signal array? PSoC development tools?

Since its introduction three years ago, Cypress Semiconductor Corp.'s PSoC mixed-signal array device has enjoyed rapid customer acceptance. The company shipped its one millionth unit in June.

Now Cypress believes it can broaden the appeal of the part to a new set of developers through an upgrade to its free PSoC Express development tool.

PSoC Express 2.1 lets developers create embedded designs without writing code, making PSoCshort for programmable system-on-chipan option for developers who have never created embedded designs and may be intimidated about doing so, said Jon Pearson, PSoC development tools product manager. The tool moves beyond the "skill barrier," he said, because it focuses on system- rather than machine-level design, and requires no assembly or C programming expertise.

"The target audience for this is somebody who wants to bring more intelligence to smaller parts of their design, such as turning an analog temperature sensor into a digital temperature sensor and then placing it on a bus so that you can have them all over the place," Pearson said. "Devices will do that for you, but they do it on their terms. With PSoC Express, you can build it on terms that suit you. And as requirements change, you can go back to the tool and make modifications."

Building on the original development tool, which was released 18 months ago, PSoC Express 2.1 includes third-party development capabilities that let software developers write modules for specific functions. The upgrade offers more than 60 new device driversinputs, outputs and interfacesthat designers can select to implement functions within a PSoC device.

To emphasize the usability of PSoC Express 2.1, Pearson noted that Cypress had hired a microchip design consultant with limited embedded design experience to use PSoC Express, without any training, to create a design in less than four hours. The same design took the same designer 54hrs to create without using PSoC Express, Pearson said.

"The goal of almost any product when you introduce it is to show someone how to use it very quickly," Pearson said. "Sometimes that is accomplished through a demo kit. Within this tool, we are able to put it in their hands, and within a few minutes," developers are able to understand the tool and begin using it.

Another highly touted feature of the tool is design portability. In PSoC Express, designs are described in hardware-independent terms using the XML language, Cypress said, with all inputs, outputs, interfaces and logic defined above the hardware abstraction layer. That lets users change input, output and interface types at any time without affecting a design's behavioral logic, according to the company.

Visualization features
Cypress also stresses PSoC Express' support of seamless multiprocessing and design visualization, as well as what is described as the tool's "rich" content library. The visualization aspect of the tool entails a number of views, each providing a specific level of detail, including a behavioral view that is said to enable a wider range of design and review participation.

The design process using PSoC Express comprises four steps: selecting inputs, outputs and interfaces; defining output behavior; simulation; and, building a design to a target device. Much of the functionality of the tool is highly graphical in nature, including "drag and drop" components.

The tool, which incorporates a technical catalog of PSoC devices, can help designers choose the appropriate device by showing only those parts that would support a completed design.

The new version also features tighter integration with Cypress' PSoC Designer integrated development environment (IDE). Users can opt to complete designs exclusively at a high level, using only PSoC Express; combine high-level and low-level design by starting with PSoC Express and completing with PSoC Designer; or develop exclusively at the machine level using only the IDE. Other new features include user-definable pins and memory map, a state-machine creator, a multi-object move capability, and the ability to duplicate and rename circuits.

PSoC Express is available free at

- Dylan McGrath
EE Times

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