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Smart thinking with SMART cluster

Written: Wednesday, March 5, 2014 11:20:00 AM

CrossControl presents the SMART cluster, featuring instrumentation integrated with display technology and other HMI functionality for efficient human control of machinery.

Users of industrial vehicles are increasingly expecting the same user experience in their work equipment as they get with their Smartphone or in their car. It is partly a question of generation but the trend is there and it will prompt equipment suppliers to react in order to keep their machines attractive. Safety is another challenge for equipment OEMs and smart integration of safety functions will be a key concern.

In response to these trends, CrossControl is now combining the traditional instrumentation solutions from Maxima Technologies with display solutions from CrossControl, creating the SMART cluster. The main difference between the SMART cluster and a traditional instrumentation cluster is the high-performance computing core with full-fledged operating system support, making the Smart cluster a platform for a wide range of value-adding applications. Applications may be customized for the equipment in question, like embedded manuals, fault tracing support and graphical user interface for specific vehicle functions. Or they may be of more generic nature, like navigation, reversing camera monitoring or Eco-driving. In essence, the SMART cluster is a platform allowing industrial vehicle OEMs to implement the same infotainment and user support systems found in modern cars.

The SMART cluster concept is built around a low-power, high performance ARM core, running Linux. The graphical color display is optionally in 4’’3 or 7’’ size with high brightness. The ECU controlling the instruments is implemented as “soft ECU” in the ARM core. The platform supports up to 6 traditional, stepper-motor controlled instruments. The platform features serial communication via CAN, USB and Ethernet for easy integration into modern system architectures. The platform also supports built-in wireless connectivity via GPRS and/or WLAN. To manage HMI-related I/O, the platform supports analog and digital I/O interfaces for sensors, interaction panels/operator interfaces etc.

The SMART cluster concept is formed with a platform approach, meaning that an all-encompassing product is developed and proven. Based on the platform, dedicated product instances are realized to fit the needs of a specific OEM application. Compared to traditional instrumentation solutions, this approach means heavily reduced NRE and shorter time-to-market for a dedicated OEM product instance. The dedicated OEM product instance also leverages the scale benefits of the platform in supply chain etc. And finally, having a solution based on a proven platform mitigates technical risk and the OEM can leverage continuous improvements on the platform, like performance upgrades and new software components.

In the concept we have combined the experience of Maxima Technologies in realizing cost efficient instrumentation products for high production volumes with the advanced computing and software competence of CrossControl. The result is a platform satisfying the needs of next generation instrumentation and HMI solutions.