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MPU improves video in embedded industrial apps

Posted: 14 Jan 2010 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:microprocessor? video decoder? embedded application?


Atmel Corp. rolls the SAM9M10 ARM926EJ-based embedded microprocessor integrating a video decoder and 2D acceleration (scaling, rotating, color space conversion, picture in picture) to provide high-quality video performance in industrial embedded applications. It is specifically targeted at media-rich display and control panels in home and commercial buildings, point-of-sale terminals, entertainment systems, Internet appliances and medical devices.

This new product includes a 400MHz ARM926-based microprocessor that integrates twin parallel External Bus Interfaces to support DDR2 at 133MHz. It also integrates high-speed 480Mbit/s USB Host and Device Ports with on-chip transceivers, Ethernet MAC, two interfaces for MMC 4.3 and SDIO/SD Card 2, as well as an LCD controller with resistive touch screen support, and CMOS camera and audio interfaces. The SAM9M10 decodes video streams up to D1 (720 x 576 pixels) or WVGA (800 x 480) at 30fps. It is pin-to-pin compatible with the recently released SAM9G45, and extends Atmel's ARM9 offering at the top. An evaluation kit is available with free Linux distribution and Microsoft Windows Embedded CE board support packages.

Whether it's an alarm control panel showing a sequence taken from a surveillance camera or a connected tablet playing content from the Internet, GUIs must support high-quality video playback. However, video decoding raises multiple issues in system design, the central one being the processing power required to handle the task. To solve the problems that a software solution causes, the SAM9M10 embeds a high-performance hardware video decoder. The module plays resolutions up to D1 (720x576) or WVGA (800x480) at 30fps and supports multiple formats, H264, H263, MPEG4, MPEG2, VC1, and JPEG. The LCD display benefits from accelerations, including image scaling and image rotation, color space conversion (YUV to RGB) for the rendering of compressed formats, and a picture-in-picture capability. Overall, the SAM9M10 provides a high-quality visual experience for the user while preserving the full processing power of the central processing unit for the application.

Most ARM9-based MPUs were originally developed for the mobile phone market with a 1.8V supply voltage. In order to be used in industrial applications, which typically run at 3.3V, they require expensive external power management ICs and level shifters. The SAM9M10 offers integrated power management, slew rate control I/Os with programmable 1.8V or 3.3V voltage levels, in a 0.8mm ball pitch package to simplify industrial control design and reduce cost.

There are serious concerns in the industrial market segment about the use of DRAM memories. SDRAM is a legacy memory option, and the market has already moved beyond DDR. As a result of cost and technology considerations, DDR2 is becoming the memory-of-choice for the industrial embedded market. Atmel is at the forefront with the SAM9M10 as its second ARM9-based embedded microprocessor with DDR2 support.

The 12-layer system bus matrix is linked to the Memory Management Unit of the processor core, as well as eight central DMA channels, six high-speed DMAs, each dedicated to the video decoder, LCD controller, USB host and device, Ethernet MAC, and image sensor Interface, 21 Peripheral DMA (PDC) channels, dual EBI and small blocks of on chip distributed SRAM to ensure uninterrupted internal and external data flows with minimum processor overhead. The high data speedway architecture enables the SAM9M10 to perform 100Mbit/s data transfers, video decoding and user interface rendering in parallel with computationally intensive data processing.

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