December 15, 2019

MIPS leads the smart connected TV technology platform

The information age is always associated with a variety of video, data and voice services on mobile and digital home devices. The next step in connected consumption is to bring a complete connected entertainment experience to the family life. At the 2011 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), we saw many technological advances related to this. New generation TVs, set-top boxes, Blu-ray Disc players and mobile phones will not only be connected to the Internet, but will also incorporate a variety of features. After integrating into various functions, the fundamental shift is from a device-centric world to a content-centric world. In general, the user's application mode, how to use the device, and how the user interacts with the device varies. Mobile phones are the main way for users to make calls and send messages at any location. Digital TVs and set-top boxes are mainly used in digital homes to help people experience music and video. Business and web applications in the office environment always use the keyboard and mouse of the computer.

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Now we often see devices like the iPhone, which consumers can use to experience network, music, video and digital TV connected to the next generation network. In the near future, these mobile phones and digital TV devices will seamlessly connect and become a tool for experiencing, storing and sharing music, video, cloud-based applications, social media and other platforms to enhance the true connected entertainment experience.

Watching TV shows has moved from before (by watching the TV program you want to watch through the DVR) to shifting (watching the content of the program through mobile video) and then to the source (viewing the required content on any device).

Creating a platform that truly enables a connected consumer experience is a vast undertaking that requires seamless integration of multiple technologies. The mainstream optional platforms currently available on the market to enable such smart TV functions include:

(1) Extend the required network applications based on the traditional Linux system, such as video website client programs, browsers, streaming media players, etc.; the advantage is that the system changes are small and quick to get started; the disadvantage is that the system is closed, and later There may be problems with cross-platform application compatibility that may be popular. However, if no other operating system platform can dominate the market, the standardization of Linux through middleware may also be the mainstream platform. At least for the next long time, Linux will be the mainstream platform in terms of shipments.

(2) Android TV, which is currently discussed by many people, refers to the use of mature and stable Android version, TV-related application expansion (these extensions also basically use the ready-made app on Android). This can make full use of Android's openness and rich resources, and has strong system design flexibility and differentiation capabilities; in the future, you can choose to turn to Google TV, or you can always adhere to the independent Android TV road. Of course, the difficulty is that you have the technical ability to transform the Android system into a TV system.

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Figure 1: Android TV designed by Shenzhen Taijie Software Technology Co., Ltd. displayed on CES, has been listed in the European market, based on Sigma Designs chip, MIPS 24K core

(3) Google TV can also be understood as the Google version of "Android TV." However, there is no fixed timetable for the release of Google TV code, and even the authorization method has not yet been determined; whether Google TV will be open to Android is still unknown (it is very likely that the two will go differently). And the maturity of Google TV, including whether it really meets the needs of users, should first be a question mark. After all, the mature process of the Android operating system and some negative feedback from the first version of Google TV have given us a lot of lessons. Google is not a company that makes products, especially TV sets. So it is very likely that when Google TV is released, it will still be the same as before, the same TV brand will cooperate to test the water and test on their platform. Any other TV company that uses Google TV will need to do some porting testing work; of course, the cross-platform feature of Google TV will be very good, because it is based on Android, and Android has been widely transplanted.

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Figure 2: The first Google TV product produced by Sony last year; the network system uses the Intel Atom chip, and the video system uses NEC's MIPS-based SoC. This TV was reviewed by many people as "Not a TV" after its launch.

In this way, Android TV will be a good choice when it comes to smart TV-related pre-research. First, because of its good support for Internet applications and its maturity; second, open source and free models have been established. But because Android itself is designed for mobile phones, there are still many difficulties in porting Android to the TV platform. At this point, MIPS, together with its many chip customers and software partners, is at the forefront of the market, successfully building optimized Android system resources for TV systems, and implemented on many MIPS chip platforms. There are several MIPS Android TV and set-top box products on the market.

MIPS' latest release of the Android system SmartCETM (Connected Entertainment Platform) platform that integrates basic software and hardware technologies. The platform has been demonstrated on a SoC from a MIPS licensee. The SmartCE platform enables MIPS licensees and their customers to bring differentiated connected entertainment solutions to market quickly. It includes the following features and functions:

• SmartCE is based on the latest version of Android, which can make full use of Android application resources;
• The Adobe® Flash® platform integrated with the TV gives users access to rich video content on the Internet;
• Integrated Home Jinni ConnecTV app that provides the ability to search, organize and access music, photos and video content from local resources and YouTube, Netflix, Yahoo! Movies and many other websites;
• Provide social networking capabilities through integration with Facebook;
• Two-way video and voice calling via Skype, enabling consumers to easily and cost-effectively use HDTV for video calls with family and friends;
• Seamless integration with digital home devices and mobile phones to help consumers transfer calls and use their smartphones, tablets or other mobile devices as remote controls for DTVs;
• Integrated DLNA to easily share multimedia content across multiple connected devices.

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Figure 3: MIPS Technologies' SmartCE platform with integrated home media and communication capabilities

Below we will explain in detail how these key technologies can help achieve a truly connected entertainment experience.

1. Android

Originally designed to provide a variety of applications and features for mobile phones, Android has penetrated into other consumer markets, bringing a rich Internet experience to devices such as digital TVs, set-top boxes, and Blu-ray players. The Android development framework shortens software development time, especially test time. Android eliminates the barriers caused by fragmentation of Linux development and creates a single framework on top of Linux that facilitates writing and running applications once on various devices. And the most fascinating thing is that Android is fully licensable and has no royalty, so many companies can benefit from it.

Android provides a complete software stack with a common application framework and libraries running on standard Linux kernels. At its center is the Dalvik virtual machine, which interprets bytecode applications in a way similar to the Java virtual machine. Since Android apps are device-independent, any Android app can run on any Android platform without any modifications.

Android is designed in a secure mode, and no application has the right to perform any operations that seriously affect other applications, operating systems, or users. In addition, Android runs each operation (and its associated Dalvik VM) in a separate process. If an application has a problem, it does not affect other applications or operating systems. This ensures the reliability of consumer electronics devices.

Since Android was originally developed for mobile phones, many other factors must be considered to make it more suitable for future connected digital home devices. The first is that digital home devices have larger screens that need to support HD resolution, which is not the same as the small screen of a mobile phone. Consumers cannot tolerate frame loss or video compression distortion. They expect full HD video quality on digital home devices, and mobile users will be happy if they can view low-resolution 15fps video streams on their phones.

In addition, the way users interact with digital home devices is completely different from how they interact with mobile phones. In a digital home, multiple users watching the same program in the same room is a one-to-many experience and is implemented by a remote control. . A mobile phone is a "one-on-one" user experience, and both the touch screen and the keyboard are tools for using the device.

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Figure 4: The remote control method of the TV is very important. On the left is LG's latest SmartTV remote control; on the right is the Google TV remote control, its full keyboard design scares many ordinary users.

Android must also integrate with existing middleware to provide client/server support for video on demand, conditional access and security for protected content access; DLNA standards for network access and content sharing; and remote remote support A viable "home" user interface, large screen user interface and menu system.

In these Android optimization for TV applications, the MIPS platform is ahead of any other processor platform.

2. Adobe Flash Platform for TV

The Adobe Flash Platform for TV adds animation, video, and interactivity to web pages and services. Many media web content now uses Adobe Flash. As part of Adobe's industry-leading Open Screen Project initiative, MIPS is working to deliver a rich Internet experience on mobile, TV, set-top boxes and other consumer devices through the Adobe Flash platform across platforms outside the PC. As users demand more from web content and a rich user experience, products need to support users accessing Flash-based content, watching content from major broadcasters and media companies, and accessing videos on social networking media.

SmartCE integration supports high-stream streaming, full HD video Adobe Flash content, and handles user-interactive Flash and common animation features on the Internet.

3. Video conferencing and social networking in the digital home

High-speed broadband and mobile networks provide higher bandwidth and better support for consumer communications and interaction. Video conferencing clients such as Facebook, Skype, and fringTM are popular in North America; there are also many popular client instant messaging software in China. People can have video conference calls with family and friends at home, which is a natural evolution of social interaction technology. Social “access” has become an inseparable part of everyday life, with the click of a button. The mobile phone is very effective for one-on-one interaction. TV is the natural platform for group video conferencing, which is convenient for users to communicate easily with friends and family.

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Figure 5: MIPS Technologies' SmartCE integrates Skype video calls

SmartCE for the Android platform integrates the complete reference port of the Skype client for audio and HD video conferencing. This will help OEMs bring products to market quickly, providing access to millions of Skype users. Regarding shared content on social networks, SmartCE for the Android platform also allows users to access Facebook, Skype and IMS accounts, providing a framework for adding other social media solutions required by original equipment manufacturers.

4. Fast HTML5 web experience

In addition to web browsing, voice and video conferencing capabilities, the SmartCE platform for Android has been extended to become a complete HTML5 application platform for Android applications, HTML5 web applications and Javascript widgets development and running on the platform. This means that any HTML5 web app, widget, and web optimization for Google's GoogleTV can be viewed on SmartCE for the Android platform.

Regardless of how users access the network, the basic technology for a better user experience is a fast web browsing experience. Javascript performance and network rendering will drive users to think of "fast" performance. Mobile phones and computer browsers create an illusion for users that they feel that web pages are downloaded very quickly. For example, when a mobile phone is downloaded, the top of the web page will be loaded first by the user, and when the reader reads the content that was originally downloaded, the rest of the web page is still being downloaded. This gives the user an impression that this is a very fast browser. When browsing a web page on a large screen full HD TV screen, it is assumed that a change will occur, and the mobile "trick" can no longer be used. MIPS now offers a highly optimized solution that delivers the highest quality, large-screen web browsing experience.

5. SmartCE for Android apps: integrated

The application software implements optimized middleware integration, manages the underlying hardware, and provides users with a powerful application extension set and a cohesive user interface. It presents the user with a unified user interface that can access content from any source. With SmartCE, users can enter a keyword and the SmartCE platform can find results from live broadcasts, online content and local content. The platform is smart and will automatically display information such as outlines, actors, and covers. Users can play content from any source.

6. Implement the Android experience in the digital home

We know that Android was originally designed for mobile phones, and the mainstream application processor in mobile phones is ARM architecture. There have been concerns about whether Android's cross-platform portability is expected to be good; but over the past year or so, Android's boom in multiple application areas has effectively eliminated people's concerns. In addition to ARM's mobile phone platform, Android has been widely used in many areas such as x86, SH, PowerPC, ARC and MIPS. In particular, MIPS is the most prominent in digital home applications.

This is primarily due to the widespread use of the MIPS architecture in the digital home. More than 60% of digital TV set-top boxes are currently designed with MIPS-based SoCs. Broadcom, Sigma Designs, ViXS, Trident, Renesas/NEC, Toshiba, Zoran and other foreign major manufacturers, as well as Mstar, MTK, SiS, RealTek, Ali, Haier, Huaya and other TV/set-top box chip companies have adopted the MIPS architecture. A generation of chip development. Currently, SmartCE has been implemented on many MIPS hardware platforms.

Secondly, the technical advantages of the MIPS architecture itself fully meet and play the performance requirements of the Android system. Although the original version of Android is not based on the MIPS platform because MIPS does not have a history of mobile phones, as the most elegant modern CPU architecture, the combination of advanced software system frameworks such as Android is perfect, and together constitute a high efficiency. The computer architecture of performance. The technical match between MIPS and Android is fully reflected in the following two features:

(1) Number of core registers: The general-purpose registers in the CPU core are the hardware resources directly called by the arithmetic unit; the MIPS architecture has 32 general-purpose registers (as a comparison, the number of available registers of the ARM in the run mode is less than 16). This does not make much difference when running small programs; but in the Dalvik virtual machine in the Android system, due to the use of the register based mechanism, the advantages of the register resources under the same software optimization conditions bring at least 20% to the MIPS architecture. The above performance advantages. Dalvik's performance advantages are directly reflected in the performance of Android applications.

(2) Parallel multiprocessing technology combining multi-core and multi-threading technologies. Multi-core technology has become more popular because of its intuitiveness and simplicity, but the multi-core application of consumer electronics has been 2 cores until now (no more than 4 cores in a long time). In fact, for each CPU core, you can also use multi-threading technology to increase its computational parallelism, thereby increasing performance bandwidth. Multithreading is a standard feature (MIPS, PowerPC, x86, etc.) in the classic CPU architecture because of its design complexity, but it is not implemented in a portable architecture such as ARM. The advantages of multi-threading technology need to be achieved by increasing the degree of software parallelism. When the software system is relatively small, its advantages are not obvious. The Android system is very suitable for the multi-threaded processor. Of course, the combination of multi-core and multi-threaded processors is more ideal (such as the MIPS 1004K processor). Android's parallel processor requirements come from two aspects. One is to use Java as the standard application development language. One of the great features of Java is that it directly defines the thread concept to support task parallelization. The second aspect is that Android system will be used for each application. The operation of the program instantiates a Dalvik virtual machine, so that when multiple applications are opened, the entire system is highly parallelized. Therefore, a CPU with good parallel processor technology like MIPS is especially suitable for systems such as Android to run efficiently.

As the development of Android itself matures and stabilizes, it is foreseeable that Google will soon incorporate multi-platform (MIPS and other architectures) and cross-domain (mobile, TV, car, etc.) support into its Android system.

The third point to note is that Android as an operating system provides only an application framework, which is quite different from a specific product design. For example, transferring an Android mobile phone system directly to a TV set is simply not feasible. This issue is precisely where MIPS and its partners are best at. The SmartCE described above is a good example, based on Android, but has done a lot of cutting and optimization work for TV applications. Another example is the Android quick start solution. At present, the usual Android system has a startup time of more than 30 seconds, which is acceptable for mobile phones and tablets, and for TV, I am afraid it is relatively stubborn. MIPS integrates technology from Lineo. On the MIPS 34K processor platform, the Android 2.2 boot process can be completed in just 4 seconds. This is a very practical technology for TV applications.

summary

This year will be a very crucial year for the smart connected TV platform. Many of the first-step Smart TVs will be launched, and the success or failure of Google TV will be revealed at the beginning of this year; the wars of various software and hardware platforms will also be raging. However, behind the excitement, we should also have some calm thinking:

(1) Regardless of the future penetration rate of Smart Connected TV, this is just a stock market that replaces traditional TV, rather than an emerging market like a tablet. And the replacement cycle of TV is longer, so it needs a conservative estimate for the pulling effect of the whole industry.
(2) The current discussion on Smart TV is more of a “technology-driven”, that is, semiconductor and software companies are the most aggressive, system vendors are second, operators are silent, and users expect from new TVs. There are very few sounds in terms of habits. The success rate of simply detonating the market by technology is not high; even if the trend of smart interconnection is certain, the process may be longer than expected. Personal opinion believes that the popularity of smart connected TV requires the full participation of system vendors and operators, and needs to really consider the "TV" habits; we have not made up this lesson.
(3) In addition to smart interconnection, we also need to pay close attention to the basic characteristics of “television”, namely image quality and clarity, such as the development of next-generation tablet technology and Super HD. Advances in image and display will also bring big opportunities to the semiconductor industry. We should fully grasp the various directions of TV development.

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