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Supporting UIs on Resource Constrained Systems -- Guest Post by Phil Brumby

Welcome to another blog post in our Guest Blogger series.  Today Phil Brumby (contact information below) , our Technical Marketing Engineer responsible for our graphics and user interface products checks in with his second guest blogger item to discuss embedded UI implementation. You can read his first guest blogger item on utilizing Qt by clicking here.

In my 8 years of experience implementing user interface designs and supporting the development tools and technologies for embedded systems one thing is clear –  there is no one-fit UI technology that addresses all the complex needs of the embedded market!

The wide variety of hardware capability used with embedded systems now, from high end multicore processor boards with GPU enablement to lower end memory constrained MCU based devices, means your UI solution must be feature ready to address the capabilities of your specific hardware choice.

With that in mind, Mentor has just finished integrating its own RTOS Nucleus and development tools with an established UI technology to address the needs of an MCU or MPU based hardware system.

The UI technology we chose to partner and integrate with was the Embedded Wizard (EmWi) UI tool from TARA Systems. As a UI technology it really stood out in my mind for a number of reasons.

First, Embedded Wizard is custom built to produce user interfaces with an absolute lightweight memory  footprint. Using a combination of highly efficient descriptive UI code, then a very slim runtime environment and graphics engine, the RAM and ROM footprint is as low as possible, providing an ideal match to the minimum system requirements often used with the Nucleus RTOS.

In terms of ease of use as a technology, Embedded Wizard allows you to create UI applications by clicking, dragging and connecting visual to logical components with the mouse. You benefit from instant WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get) and evaluate your GUI’s appearance at design time or within the desktop based prototyper for verifying your UI’s interactive behavior and usability. Once coupled with Mentor’s own development tools for optimized compiling and on-target debugging, a highly detailed end to end development package is enabled.

Finally, the ability to implement the desired behavior of a single UI component or the entire application in a completely platform independent way allows you to target multiple hardware targets. Coupling this with the large array of target BSPs supported by Mentor and its Nucleus RTOS and tooling we have a UI solution that is an excellent fit.

To try out the EmWi tool, we implemented a personal glucose meter style UI as a proof of concept demo targeted on the STM32F4 (ARM Cortex M4 based) Discovery board.  The design of the demo itself included use of photo-realistic graphics, animations & system integration for real time data access.  This was one of the most straight-forward UI development processesd that I have ever used. The final resulting performance and the memory footprint of the UI comfortably fit within the constraints of a lower end device such as the STM32F4 Discovery board.

Glucometer

To learn more about the Nucleus integration with EmWi and to get a look at the glucose meter UI demo , please check out this link: http://www.mentor.com/embedded-software/ui.

To contact Phil you can email him at phil_brumby@mentor.com.  

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