Swedish company first to use STMicroelectronics chips

by Wire Tech

Swedish company first to use STMicroelectronics chips

Powerful new processors help power next-generation industrial human machine interfaces, starting in the Nordics

Martinsson Elektronik, a small Swedish company specialising in display systems for the Nordic market, was the first to use industrial microprocessors (MPUs) from the STMicroelectronics STM32MP2 family of chips that are scheduled to enter volume production in June 2024.

The company gained early access through STMicroelectronics’ partner programme, and has since used the chips to power a new version of its platform, which they use to create advanced HMI and display services.

While STMicroelectronics targets a range of use cases with its technology, it expects the biggest market to be in edge AI inference for sectors like automotive, consumer and industrial. “The microprocessors can be useful for a lot of things, but we focus on helping companies control industrial equipment,” said Daniel Aspeskär, product and marketing manager at Martinsson.

“Let’s say you want to control a welding machine or an MRI. You need an interface to change the settings. Other examples are professional dishwashers used in restaurants at Ikea and large airports. The HMI helps them set up the machines and control them.”

Martinsson focuses on the Nordic market, with a commitment to providing future-proof technology. The MPUs are expected to help them deliver on their strategy.

As an original design manufacturer (ODM), Martinsson uses its own platform to customise displays for controlling industrial equipment. The new chips, which are based on an ARM architecture, address many of the platform’s needs – including connectivity, cyber security, internet of things and inference features for artificial intelligence (AI) on the edge.

Martinsson calls its platform MERISC-STM32MP2. Nobody will ever remember the name, but when you’re in the business of white-labelling products, that doesn’t matter.

Connectivity features

The system is tailored for different customers, in the same way Volkswagen uses a common platform to make Passat, Audi and Golf vehicles. It’s populated with a lot of features, a lot of which are removed depending on the needs of a given project. Included in the features are several connectivity options, such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and cellular, which help address a growing need for customers to access their equipment remotely and at all times of the day.

“We will use this new platform on around 10 projects, using it to deliver tailor-made products that are branded differently for each customer,” said Aspeskär. “One might have a 3.5-inch display; another might have a larger display and a cover lens with the customer’s logo on it. Still others will want a touch screen. Some customers want cellular connectivity; others will want just Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.

“Welding machines, transportation and security systems are some of the projects we will work on,” he said. “We also have heating systems for houses – heat pumps. The house owner can set the heating up or down and connect it to other things in the house via the Matter protocol. That application is available now.”

While most of the displays are used by technicians at companies, in the case of the heat pump interface, homeowners will operate the interface. Martinsson is well aware that homeowners will likely form an opinion about the overall heating system based on the user interface. In this case, it is particularly important to deliver an intuitive interface that allows users to easily navigate and select the options that will bring them the greatest household comfort.

They also know that one of the biggest concerns of homeowners trying to use so-called smart home applications is compatibility of the different systems. An open standard enabling interoperability among different devices operating in a home, the Matter protocol is a step in the right direction.

Different use cases

This is one example of how Martinsson has to be mindful of the different needs of different use cases. They also have to be careful about planning early to meet future user needs, because like any other company using a white-label business model, they have a long lead time before anything they develop is seen by a user. A case in point is cyber security regulation.

The European Union recently enacted regulation to enhance cyber security for connected devices to ensure data privacy. Businesses selling industrial equipment are aware of the regulation – which is called CRA, for Cyber Reliance Act – but are unsure what to do about it.

“One of the strong points of the STMicroelectronics microcontroller is that it has very strong security features built in,” said Aspeskär. “We see a lot of interest in this from our customers, because they need to conform to the CRA. They now need stronger cyber resilience and stronger security for electronic devices because everything is connected now.”

Most customers also know that they will need to address AI but aren’t yet sure when and how. One of the other strong features of the STMicroelectronics microcontroller is the neural processing unit, which can run AI on edge devices. Part of Martinsson’s future-proofing is to include edge AI inference, because they know customers will want to see that in the platform roadmap.

Martinsson’s business model is to take responsibility for the platform, guaranteeing to keep it alive and to update components as they reach end of life. “We have a kind of a care-free ownership for the customer because we take the product lifecycle management on our books,” said Aspeskär. “We own the platform. They own the application.”

This business model will be even more popular for customers in the near future, when industrial devices will need to run AI inference to do things we can’t imagine today. Most companies won’t have the know-how to do it themselves.

Originally published at ECT News

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