Arrow Electronics has developed an embedded web server for compact and efficient network communication. The embedded networking demonstrator iXperience M4 is based on Infineon’s new 32-bit XMC4000 microcontroller family that uses the ARM Cortex M4 processor. Embedded software solutions from Sevenstax and Thesycon are also used.
The iXperience M4 has a transparent housing with the dimensions 5x5x3 cm, which has a USB and an Ethernet interface. The power supply is via the USB interface, the network communication can be via either interface. If it is via the USB, it is supplied via the standard-compliant CDC/ECM implementation from Thesycon. Furthermore, the iXperience M4 has a Wi-Fi module and enables simultaneous communication via all network interfaces. Even without an operating system and with only limited storage resources, it is a fully functional web server with a large number of optional network protocols. Sevenstax provides the TCP/IP protocol stack required for this, a JSON-capable web server and all plug-and-play mechanisms such as ZeroConf, Auto-IP, name services and messaging.
On the basis of this software infrastructure, the iXperience M4 possesses a number of dynamic and visually attractive web applications, which utilise further hardware functionalities on the board. Entries can be made by means of a 3-axis acceleration sensor, while visual feedback is generated via RGB LEDs, which illuminate the transparent housing from inside. The use of the respectively most efficient components and software technologies results in a very favourable bill of materials, which can, moreover, be further optimised in specific applications. The iXperience M4 concept is therefore highly suitable as a basis for compact and low-cost communication devices.
The iXperience M4 team was supported by the semiconductor manufacturers Redpine Signals (Wi-Fi module), Micrel (DC-DC converter and Ethernet PHY), IQD Frequency Products Ltd. (silicon oscillators), TE Connectivity (USB connector) and Micron (Quad SPI Flash), who also brought their components and know-how to the project. As a result, the iXperience M4 hardware makes possible a multitude of further functions, which can be implemented step-by-step via a series of planned firmware updates. Additionally, by means of a board edge connector the iXperience M4 can be upgraded to create a fully functional development system, which will be used in a series of workshops for various technology segments (motor control, industrial automation, networking).
So that all possibilities offered by the network protocols from the iXperience M4 demonstrator can also be used in applications with simpler microcontrollers or low quantities without the acquisition of an embedded software licence, Arrow also offers the VIPAR Internet chip. This has fixed firmware and is configured via an external flash memory (SPI Flash or SD card). It makes possible a customer-specific web application and the use of diverse application interfaces (UART, GPIO, I2C, SPI, PWM, analogue). The VIPAR functionality can also be demonstrated on the iXperience-M4 hardware.