Tracking Tech Trends On The Queen Mary

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VITA's Embedded Tech Trends (ETT) conference was held at the Queen Mary hotel. The Queen Mary (Fig. 1) is docked in Long Beach, CA in its own lagoon surrounded by a rock seawall. It has a German submarine next to it and both are museums that you can explore. The first class state rooms are used for the hotel.

Figure 1. The Queen Mary can now be found in Long Beach, CA where it is a floating museum and hotel.

Much of the ship has been removed such as the boilers and engines but a significant portion has been maintained since it was docked after it ended its role as a cruise liner. The art deco of its time remains as elegant as ever including the galleries (Fig. 2) where we had our meetings. There are three restaurants on board and the food is pretty good.

Figure 2. The interior of the Queen Mary is still as elegant as it was when it was a cruise ship.

The tour we had of the ship was rather enlightening. It started as a cruise liner but got drafted for World War II (Fig. 3) because it was the largest and fastest ship around. It held the speed record for cross Atlantic travel by a ship of this size and was bested later by one other ship, the SS United States. The SS United States is docked here in Philadelphia.

The Queen Mary was so fast that it had to run unescorted across the Atlantic. It would have to slow down for other ships to keep up. Its speed made it difficult to intercept and it would outrun anything behind it.

Figure 3. The Queen Mary was used as a transport ship in World War II.

At one point the Queen Mary carried over 16,000 troops. They actually divided the troops into three groups and one would sleep while the other two were awake. It was standing room only.

The decking and trim of the ship are made of teak. Most of the walls were covered with wood as well. Remarkably, there was minimal damage to the wood even with the Queen Mary transporting thousands of troops and cargo for years. The care of the ship is another story that will have to wait.

The Queen Mary is a mix of old and new technology now. It seemed appropriate for ETT because it covers technologies that do the same. OpenVPX and CompactPCI Serial are the latest and greatest but VME and CompactPCI remain major players in the military and aerospace markets. These were the technologies covered by ETT along with issues such as upgrading and supporting legacy systems.

I won't get into all the interviews I had during the conference. You can check most of them out at Engineeing TV in a little while. I recorded most of the sessions although some of the audio is not great. The following are a random selection of the announcements from the conference.

Aitech Defense Systems showed me a prototype that packs an Arm Cortex-M4 into a rugged box (Fig. 4). It was the precursor to Aitech's RIO-NG (see Stackable Arm DSP Controller Handles Rugged Environments).

Figure 4. Aitech's prototype packs an Arm Cortex-M4 into a rugged box.

Obviously the RIO-NG is designed for rugged environments but it does not use a Power architecture or x86 processor. This lets the platform use less that 5W and the processor only uses 300mW. The platform can be a black box on a network such as Ethernet with commands to control the system or query data. Stackable personality modules provide custom interface support. Programmers can have direct access if they prefer to utilize their own code on the system.

Concurrent Technologies has been delivering a range of rugged systems including CompactPCI boards (see CompactPCI SBC Backed By High-End Processors). This time they showed off a new series of Advanced Mezzanine Card (AMC) boards.

Concurrent Technologies' double wide, AM 90x/x1 N-series AMC board targets more than just the communication space (Fig. 5). It has an Intel Core i7 processor with a QM77 Express chipset and ECC DDR3 memory. The board has multiple Gigabit Ethernet ports, SATA ports, USB ports and serial ports. It supports x8 and dual x4 PCI Express Gen 3.

Figure 5. Concurrent Technologies' double wide AMC board has an Intel Core i7 processor and it targets more than just the communication space.

Creative Electronic Systems was showing off a compact, VITA 74 system solutions (Fig. 6). VITA 74 was developed by Themis (see Shootout At The VPX Corral). VITA 74 is designed for more compact rugged applications such as small to medium size UAVs.

Figure 6. Creative Electronic Systems is delivering compact, VITA 74 system solutions.

VITA 74 uses a varation of the VPX signals providing high speed serial interface support. This allows high bandwidth applications to fit into very compact form factors. The systems have more limited functionality compared to 3U or 6U VPX boards but they utilize less power and fit into a smaller space.

SWaP-C (size, weight and power - cost) was the watch word again this year. It is what makes solutions like AMC and VITA 74 very interesting but they were not along. I'll get to covering all this in more detail in future articles here on Electronic Design and Defense Electronics, another Penton publication I contribute to.

In the meantime, check out the Queen Mary if I piqued your interest. It has a fascinating history and it is a great place to stay in Long Beach.

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Bill Wong covers Digital, Embedded, Systems and Software topics at Electronic Design. He writes a number of columns, including Lab Bench and alt.embedded, plus Bill's Workbench hands-on column....
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