2021 was the 700th anniversary of Dante Alighieri’s death. His masterpiece, the Divina Commedia, is widely regarded as one of the greatest works of medieval poetry, and Dante himself is also known as the father of Italian language.
A famous triplet from that work has stayed with me since high school and reminds us to explore new horizons and improve our knowledge:
In other words, never look back, keep moving forward and take on new challenges
From literature to systems on chips (SOCs) to the grocery store
In fact, the last time I thought about that triplet, I was looking at future intelligent edge applications in industrial markets. One of many potential applications I reviewed, the Renesas evaluation kit, is a system that mimics a smart checkout at the grocery store to identify shopping items, add up the cost of each item and provide a total using object-recognition technology. Given this application, I could envision myself walking through the checkout area efficiently and quickly — a frictionless experience using pervasive technology. With these new Renesas microprocessors (MPUs), high-precision object-recognition technology can be deployed easily and cost effectively.
Renesas RZ/G2L and RZ/G2LC for intelligent edge applications
Renesas expanded the RZ/G2 Family product portfolio with the RZ/G2L and RZ/G2LC. According to Renesas, the newest entry-level, general-purpose MPUs include the Arm® Cortex®-A55 core. These new chipsets feature a 3D graphics engine, video codec (H.264), camera input interface, display output, USB 2.0, Gigabit Ethernet and GUI rendering, all of which are ideal features for human-machine interfaces (HMIs) and artificial intelligence (AI) edge applications used in industrial products.
In our checkout-line example, a camera input interface captures the shopping items, facilitating the embedded vision application. Images of shopping items are converted to bit streaming and processed by the MPU, which is supported by the 3D graphics engine and video codec. Thanks to the 3D graphics engine and video codec, it is much easier to compress and decompress data. The bits are processed and analyzed, and the data is returned and displayed on an external screen, all in real time.
The application of AI at the intelligent edge reduces latency and increases data security as data is created and processed locally, not sent to the cloud. Local data capture and processing does not require cloud connectivity (although it can still be used for AI training and storage). Data is quickly processed in near real time by reducing the latency to a few milliseconds (instead of seconds), and delays in network traffic are alleviated. This approach also improves privacy protection as secure data is processed locally in the system.
RZ/G2L and RZ/G2LC evaluation kit
According to the company, Renesas offers a complete system to help developers get started with new device evaluation. RZ evaluation boards include a SMARC board equipped with the target MPU and a carrier board. The same carrier board can be used either for the RZ/G2L or the RZ/G2LC. This feature enables evaluation of the MPU by simply switching SMARC boards. The Renesas evaluation boards are solutions to assess the performance and features of MPUs and to easily develop prototypes and proof of concepts.
Micron memory parts are mounted on the Renesas RZ/G2L and RZ/G2LC evaluation board kits
The RZ/G2L and RZ/G2LC evaluation kits come ready to use and include all the required interfaces and tools for development. These boards are used in developing entry-level HMI products for industrial products, as well as in improved AI processing for a wide range of applications including industrial HMI plus video, intercoms/doorbells, point-of-service terminals, home appliances and home security cameras.
Micron and Renesas
Renesas selected Micron memory and storage technologies for use in its development board because we understand the specialized needs of the industrial market, including high reliability, product longevity and ruggedized products. The development board comes equipped with three Micron products:
- 512Mb quad SPI NOR flash: Typically used for reliable storage of boot code, NOR flash is often an ideal memory choice for embedded systems due to fast random read performance and low pin count, the latter reducing development cost and the part’s physical footprint. It is useful in industrial applications that operate in harsh environments (such as on a drilling rig or other outdoor equipment exposed to large thermal excursions similar to automotive environments).
- 8Gb DDR4: An excellent memory choice across a wide variety of industrial environments, this is Micron’s mainstream DRAM solution with high performance and high density, providing high-speed data retrieval for edge devices.
- 64GB eMMC: A high-capacity and high-performance solution, this product stores data where it is created. This mass storage device fits well not only with systems requiring very limited cloud connectivity but also with other industrial applications including factory/building automation, point of sale, energy, transportation, aerospace and defense, video security and medical equipment. It combines a NAND flash memory device with a JEDEC-compliant controller in an industry-standard ball grid array (BGA) package. This single-package solution manages operations — such as wear leveling, bad block management and device mapping — internally, simplifying system development work.
In addition to industrial use cases, Micron NOR flash, DDR4 and eMMC solutions are also available in automotive-grade variants with extended temperature ranges.
Innovators like Renesas choose Micron because the company is the world leader in the industrial market,1 and Micron has a deep understanding of the requirements of industrial applications. Micron products strike a balance between performance and value for the diversity of industrial applications. We are also committed to product quality, reliability and longevity, as well as to ruggedization for use in extreme environments. These core commitments play an essential role when customers are selecting memory for industrial systems, helping ensure long-term reliability and keeping product lifecycle -management simple.
- Extensive quality testing to minimize variance helps ensure the consistent and high-quality memory for demanding industrial products required in embedded and mission-critical applications. Stringent production-level testing and accurate screening are consistently executed along with assembly and process monitoring.
- High reliability increases memory endurance to help meet and exceed longer product lifecycle requirements of dependability and performance stability. These results can be achieved by setting rigid design rules (for example, spec guard bands) and stringent testing processes (on failures in time [FIT] or mean time between failures [MTBF], endurance and others).
- Product longevity offers stability and longevity for embedded applications with extensive design-in or requalification requirements by optimizing process migrations in leading-edge fabs and minimizing end-of-life and part-change notice updates. Product longevity is also supported for eligible products via the Micron Product Longevity Program (PLP). PLP extends standard product lifecycle support by providing minimum 10-year form, fit and function compatibility from the date of introduction and extended 2-year conversion timelines in case of part-number change or discontinuance.
- Ruggedized products are designed to match stringent temperatures and shock specifications and criteria on corrosion, humidity, radiation and other impacts. These ruggedized products provide consistent performance across extreme environments that are typical of industrial applications.
Innovation in intelligent edge applications
New solutions enabled by the Renesas solution — like object detection at checkout — can’t come soon enough. Whenever I wait in line at the grocery store checkout, I think about the day when my shopping experience will be more efficient. I hope that will be soon — it's not too early for the store manager to adopt the smart checkout application powered by Renesas to speed up queues.
1Omdia Industrial Semiconductor Market Tracker – 4Q21 Analysis