Intelligent Development Platform Makes Power Management Easier COM-based Mobile Applications Mobilizes

Intelligent Development Platform Makes Power Management Easier COM-based Mobile Applications Mobilizes
Intelligent Development
Platform Makes
Power Management Easier
COM-based Mobile Applications Mobilizes
Computer-on-Module Applications
With continuing miniaturization ofprocessol' technology, high-tech applications
- whether ticket systems, diagnostic computers, 01' portable test devices are becoming increasingly mobile. They all need an efficient power supply if this mobility
is not to be hindered by power restrictions.
By AndreaMaye/; Product Marketing Manager,
The time·consuming development of such power supplies can considerably delay the market launch of new producls. However, lhis is
where vendors working in the e~bedded field can provide valuable
support. One such product is Kontron MARS, a reference kit tor a
smart battery system created by embedded computer specialist Kontron. MARS is an acronym that stands for "Mobile Application platform for Rechargeable Systems."
Last year, Intel's® Atom ™ platform - a compact and power efficient
chipset and processor - gave areal boost to the embedded Industry. Computing power was concentrated in a 13 x 14 mm 2 chip that is
particularly suitable for use in the embedded computer systems of
embedded mobile applications such as mobile ultrasound scanners,
game controllers, portable checkout or information systems.
The compact yet powenul processor consumes much less energy
than its x86 predecessors, but developers of new mobile applications
are regularly confronted with Ihe Ume-consuming task of equipping
their mobile ticket system or portable test device with a mobile power
supply. That means drafting specifications, sketching circuits, designing layouts, requesting hardware, consulting manuals, testing the
system, and so on. Only after racking their bralns to create a fully
functional system can the developers get 10 their core business of
writing their application·specific software. This is where vendors of
embedded computer technology can provide valuable support.
Releaslng the Brake on Innovation
Kontron's Mobile Application platform for Rechargeable Systems, or
MARS for short, provides exactly this type of support. By making usa
of ready-made components of proven caliber instead of starting from
scratch to completely develop new battery solutions themselves
developers can shorten the time to market and Improve reliability. But
Kontron MARS Is not only a hardware module, as one might expecl.
Rather, it is a reference design package consisting of hardware, software, and associated circuit diagrams that can be used unlversally
for all carrierboards designs.
Bodo's Power Systems®
In principle, Kontron MARS allows developers to add the ready-made
layout plans and circuit diagrams for smart battery functionality to
their own carrierboard layout using a simple copy and paste proce·
dure. That decreases the time needed for evaluating the hardware,
drafting circuit diagrams, and incorporating the various components
needed. The components that are utilized have already been tested
and have proven thair reliability, so developers can count on the
mobile power suppty operating perfectly.
In addition, there's no need for the application developers 10 finalize
the entire application specific hardware before programming the software that goes with it. With Ihe MARS reference board they can start
software developmenl and evaluate lt on the development platform.
With this development -in·lhe-Ioop" they know which components are
going to be employed and can improve the appropriate programming
while the specific hardware is still being configured. The cornbination
of Computer-on-Modules and reference platform tor rechargeabJe
systems MARS enables developers to concentrate on their core competencies and save valuable development time.
A System Providing Guldance to Developers
Kontron's MARS consists of three elements: the MARS reference
board, various cables to supply power and enable data communication, and the clrcuit diagrams plus development data that are provided 10 registered customers. The MARS reference platform supports
up to two smart batteries through a smart battery manager. In principie, the developer can build up a test system based upon an evaluation platform which has the same functionality as his application will
have in the end.
The purpose of the evaluation board is to provide all possible inter·
faces to the COM Express ™ module. Therefore the evaluation board
is aJways larger than the customer-specific carrier board wilh only the
necessary interfaces. Kontron's intention with MARS is to provide as
wide a range of funclionality as possibJe. The modular structure of
the reference platform acls as a guide for developers, as it were,
enabling thern to obtain exactly the solution required for lhe applicaUon as simply as possible.
November 2009
Dual Buck Converter OUT
Buck Boost Converter IN
--- -.
-- ,
Smart Battery System Manager
Figure 1: Kontron MARS has a modular structure and comes with
various function units that developers can implement in their applications as needed.
MARS provides developers a great deal of flexibility with respect to
the batleries used by the application. 11 supports various types of
smart batlerles for example, different chemistries Iike lithium-ion and
NiMH. Oevelopers can even incorporate different types of batteries in
parallel. The advantage of doing this is that developers are able to
leverage the specific properties the batleries have, such as the
robustness and cost advantages of nickel-metal hydride batleries or
the high energy density and long storage Iife of Iithium-based balleries (lithium-ion and lithium-polymer).
For instance, an application can draw ils main power from a large Liion battery and a smaller, low-cost NiMH fall back battery provides
the required energy while the Li-ion batlery is being replaced. This
serial mode means the application could continue to run wlthout having to shut It down first to replace a flat ballery. Also MARS can automatically switch from one voltage source to another withln just a few
microseconds, making il weil suited as an uninterruptible power supply. Utilized lhis way, lhe smart batleries could easily bridge the period during when an application's main source of power is changed. An
example of this is when the line voltage fails or a device is transported to anolher loeation without being able to terminate the application
(such as In lhe case of medical apparatus).
Kontron MARS features four function units that can be used whenever required:
The buck boost converter IN extends lhe input voltage range to 5 28 VOC, ensuring a sufficiently high cbarging vollage and producing
an output voltage of up to 19 V. This makes it possible to charge any
smart battery currently available. If the target system's supply vollage
is larger than the required battery's charging voltage, the developer
can dispense with this converter er bypass 11.
The buck-boost converter OUT increases the battery output voltage If
a backup batlery with Vmin < 12 V Is used. If the developer will
employ a smart batlery with a voltage range always over 12 V, he
can manage withoul. The same applies if he uses the wide-range
input of the Kontron ETXexpress® modules in order to simplify the
system design.
The smart batlery system manages the charging and discharging
processes of up to 2 smart batlerles In parallel or serlal operation.
Furthermore, It Is responslble to provide the smart batlery state data
via System Management Bus to the carrier board.
Figure 2: With the he/p of Kontron MARS, mobile appllcationssuch as the diagnostic system for automobiles shown here - can be
supplied with uninterrupted energy: A fall back battery allows to
rep/ace the discharged battery without intermission.
The dual buck converter provides an ATX-compliant power supply. It
supplies all necessary voltages for the carrierboard and Computeron-Module as weil as connection options for - 5 V and - 12 Vor + 3.3
V via a OC/OC switching controller.
Optimized for Mobile Use
If two smart batleries with the same cell configuration are employed
in parallel mode, developers can increase ballery efficiency by up to
10 % compared to serial mode: Since both batleries discharge in parallel at the same time, only half the amounl of current is drawn from
each batlery, as opposed to the discharge that takes place when lhe
balleries are utilized individually in turn. This is defined by the current
f10wing and lhe resistance presented by lhe batlery and power
cables. A further positive side effect is that lhe batteries do not heat
up as much, which further increases efficiency and furthermore their
operating life. Also, if the same types of batleries are used, lhen the
charging cycles are considerably shorter. Of course the parallel mode
makes it possible to replace the batleries sequentlally during operation.
From these function units the developer picks just the ones needed
and can leave out the elements not required.
Using Power Intelligently
Kontron MARS supports operation of two smart batleries. Smart batterles feature an integrated microcontroller which provldes data such
as batlery characteristics, current charge/discharge rate and extrapolated remaining capacity via the system management bus. The COMbased system can use this data in programming the target appllcation. This enables helpful functions to be implemented in the mobile
application, such as displaying the batlery charge status signalling
when the batlery needs to be replaced or the device should be
docked on the charger.
The rules how Kontron MARS manages the Smart Ballery System
are programmed via an easy to use API. By this adeveloper additionally can define how MARS provides power to the application in
November 2009
Bodo's Power Systems®
any operating system that supports ACPI (advanced configuration
and power interface), for MARS is stored in the ACPI registries provided for lhe purpose using BIOS in Kontron ETX®, ETXexpresS®,
microETXexpress® and nanoETXexpress modules.
Shorter Time to Develop
Kontron's smart battery system is also used by b-plus GmbH, a specialist in automation, embedded system solutions, and automotive
applications. Engineers at the Deggendorf firm use MARS when evaluating nanoETXexpress modules with a view to their integration in
mobile applications. ''The standardized hardware and software interfaces save us time-consuming steps in product development, such
as the time we'd otherwise need to get the battery and controller to
communicate with each other," says Bernd Eggl, leader of the
Embedded System Solutions team at b-plus. "Besides that, integration in commonly used operating systems such as Windows already
exists, so there's no need for us to program any drivers or test software," he explains. "Another point is that MARS also allows us to
check the results in the development phase more easily." All In all,
this means that less effort is required for development and that new
products have a shorter time to marke!.
Figure 3: MARS Installation ATX
Back on the Innovative Track
In a nutshell, the Kontron MARS platform helps vendors of embedded technology saving time and effort that they can invest more
effectively in the application development for power management in
mobile systems. The choice of ways in which the mobile power system can be used gives them more scope to enrich their applications
with additional innovative features.
What the developers say:
IES GmbH & Co. KG, a highly qualified company that has made a
name for itself in the field of intelligent embedded system solutions, is
one business that makes successful use of the functionality Kontron
MARS offers. The company largely serves customers in the manufacturing sector, speciflcally those in the machine and plant construction
market sub-segment. Kontron's smart battery system is utilized for
the development of mobile, portable customer service computers
which run on two rechargeable lithium-ion batleries.
"The MARS solution package provided by Kontron conslsts of software and hardware cO,mponents that are perfectly tuned to each
other, which makes MARS ideal for requirements regarding customers' applications," says Martin Steger, Managing Dlrector of IES.
"Given the technical requirements made in such sophisticated applications, it's a major advantage to be able to draw on proven packages of solutions tailored to the computer plattorm," he adds.
Figure 4: MARS-develop-platform
Kontron MARS - key features at a glance
• Ready to use, easy to integrate Smart Battery System management
• Less development effort and faster time to market
• Modular structure allows individual configuration for any application
• Copyand Paste layouts and routings
• Application development in the loop
• Supports up to two Smart Batteries in parallel or serial mode
• Supports different types of smart batteries for cost efficient designs
• Wide input voltage range from 5 to 28 V for charging and power
• Parallel mode with enhanced battery efficiency and faster recharging cycles
Developing a batlery management system that meets the high
demands of modern PC hardware and users would be relatlvely timeconsuming and, above all, associated with development risks that are
difficult to estimate. "Being such a small software and hardware vendor as we are, we probably wouldn't be able to create applications
like these at all if it weren't for Kontron's preliminary work on MARS:
says Steger. "And even If we could, overall costs would be so high
that the majority of potential customers would be put off from employing these lechnologies." IES can also reduce the development risk
involved by using MARS. Aside from this, the company employs the
MARS starter kit to obtain proofs of concept that are essential for certain fjelds of use.
Bodo's Power Systems®
November 2009
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