Convergence of FPGAs and microcontrollers offers design opportunities and advantages, but the complexity of integration can make adoption difficult for engineers, particularly for those who are new to FPGAs. EBV has found a solution to address this challenge by simplifying the process and ultimately opening it up to a wider engineering base. Altera SoCs incorporate ARM technology, bringing powerful solutions for applications that need fast data processing. Besides the typical FPGA solutions, the SoC is proving of great interest for applications that use FPGAs and microcontrollers on two separate chips.
Harald Friedrich, Vertical Segment Director EMEA for FPGAs at EBV, explains what EBV offers: “The first thing is our own evaluation board based on this SoC family. Named SoCrates, the circular board is only 10 cm in diameter and was designed to provide our customers with easy access to this new technology.”
EBV has designed a board with the specific need of customers in mind. “We want to show how easy it is to produce such a design”, Friedrich explains, “We have experienced the same in the past: when customers try a design with a complex development board, there are many features not needed in their design. They find it difficult to rebuild the project, and often end up with more complex layouts and more expensive components than they really need”.
The main part of the SoCrates board is the SoC. It also offers drivers for Gigabit Ethernet, USB and CAN and a lot of general-purpose I/Os, plus a TFT interface and a camera input. You can run a Linux operating system on this board and build an embedded controller for graphical user interfaces. Another application is to encode the pictures from the camera input and build a video-over-IP reference design on it.
While EBV supports Altera’s design flow, it provides some software solutions as well. As the Linux OS demands a driver for every component, EBV will offer its own board support package for all the hardware components on the SoCrates board. Beyond that, the distributor can rely on a network of software partners that can offer continuous support. As a result of its experience in distribution, EBV has developed experience with software partners who will participate for the AlteraSoCs as well.
EBV is going to show SoCrates in a series of hands-on workshops throughout Europe to explain the hardware and software design flow, and that it can be used not only as a combination of FPGA and controller, but also as a controller with a flexible set of peripherals that offers plenty of opportunities.