Embedded systems have been almost entirely digital throughout their long history, while RF and microwave technologies were separate subsystems with no effective interface between the two. For many reasons, this “RF/digital divide” should finally be connected.
Last October, Mercury Systems, which makes embedded systems (i.e., board-level digital and RF subsystems), proposed that manufacturers of embedded and microwave subassemblies participate in its initiative called OpenRFM.
OpenRFM is a modular, open architecture built around OpenVPX that combines hardware, firmware, and software, and allows high channel density, advanced interconnect technology, and employs a “building block” approach.
The company’s goal is to make it possible to integrate RF and microwave technology into current “digital-only” embedded form factors for the first time. If you’re not in the embedded systems business you’re probably wondering “Why is this just happening now?”
• It would allow these two technologies (digital and microwave) to be integrated in a standard form factor followed by the embedded systems industry.
• It would be a major step toward realizing two major goals of the U.S. Department of Defense: to dramatically increase function integration, and to allow radar, electronic warfare, and other systems to be used in multiple platforms without major redesign.
• All embedded systems manufacturers and prime contractors could follow a single design roadmap while retaining the flexibility to differentiate their products from others by using their own OpenRFM-compatible products.
• Systems could be constructed that are smaller, lighter, consume less power, are less expensive, and shorten the time to market for both embedded systems and end products.
Although Mercury targeted OpenRFM to sectors of the defense industry in which it participates, there is no reason why it could not be adopted in other embedded markets such as rugged industrial, scientific, and medical systems, and telecommunications, for example. As some of these applications make use of wireless communications in some form, OpenRFM should be useful for manufacturers of commercial systems that incorporate it.
For a more complete discussion of why this is happening now and the challenges, limitations, and opportunities OpenRFM presents, see my article of the same title at: Bringing RF into the Embedded World: It’s Time
Barry Manz is president of Manz Communications, Inc., a technical media relations agency he founded in 1987. He has since worked with more than 100 companies in the RF and microwave, defense, test and measurement, semiconductor, embedded systems, lightwave, and other markets. Barry writes articles for print and online trade publications, as well as white papers, application notes, symposium papers, technical references guides, and Web content. He is also a contributing editor for the Journal of Electronic Defense, editor of Military Microwave Digest, co-founder of MilCOTS Digest magazine, and was editor in chief of Microwaves & RF magazine.
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