White Papers

White Papers


Secure COTS

The security of COTS embedded computing products used in military and aerospace programs has become a focal point for military branches and prime contractors. This white paper addresses the issue of supply chains security, covering topics such as design authority, chain of custody and governance in supply chains. It introduces the SMART Embedded Computing concept of ‘Secure COTS’, a holistic and cradle-to-grave approach that ensures SMART EC products and supply-chains can be trusted.

COTS Bladed Server Architecture for High Performance Defense Applications


AdvancedTCA® (or ATCA®) technology has proven itself to be one of the most successful open, bladed architectures for high-performance, ultra-reliable network computing. The PCI Industrial Computer Manufacturer Group (PICMG®) ratified the original ATCA open standard specification 15 years ago, has enhanced it over the years, and continues be an active organization of vendors and users. ATCA has defined a system architecture that supports systems which are compact, light and power efficient—which has become an ideal choice for military, aerospace and security systems.

High Density Digital Signal Processing with ATCA

Traditional methods of digital signal processing in military and aerospace applications have used specialized FPGAs, multiprocessor VME or OpenVPX solutions. Advances in microprocessor technology and accompanying software could mean that AdvancedTCA® (ATCA®) has the potential to replace some of those elements in complex signal processing applications.

What if? How Safety Systems differ from Reliable Systems

Developing a SIL4 fault-tolerant safety platform and having it certified by an accredited agency requires a significant effort and investment. There are many ‘what if…?’ questions to be addressed at every stage of development, testing and certification. This paper introduces the relevant functional safety standards and some of the areas for consideration including formal failure analysis, voting, the safety communication layer, common mode failures, safety analysis, variations in the operating environment, and certification.

SEUs, Faults and System Level Safety

An SEU or single event upset is a change in state of a storage element inside a device or system. It’s an example of the kind of fault in a system that may go unnoticed for many years as the system continues to operate as expected. This paper outlines how SEUs and other latent faults, which can affect functional safety systems, can be mitigated through a system-level approach. This can improve the projected dangerous failure rate of a functional safety system by an order of magnitude over the life of a system without requiring additional periodic or proof testing requirements upon the user.

Trends and Drivers in Fail-Safe Architectures for Rail Systems

The market for embedded computing technologies in rail applications is following a similar trend as has been seen in other embedded market spaces. A layer of the technology value chain becomes ‘table stakes’— delivering limited competitive advantage to a point that it makes sense for application providers to reallocate R&D resources to differentiating elements of the end product and buy the base technology from companies who are dedicated to that technology. We are witnessing this transition in the rail market for embedded computers that are certified to safety integrity level four (SIL4), the highest level. These embedded computers offer a certified, commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) generic fail-safe platform allowing rail application developers to focus their R&D resources on differentiating applications. This trend is driven by a number of emerging trends in the global rail industry. In the past few years we have witnessed an explosive growth in global investments in public rail transportation, in particular high-speed rail and metro, caused mainly by the effort to reduce a nation’s carbon footprint by replacing inefficient automobile-based transport with efficient mass transportation. This is particularly evident in emerging economies such as China and India, as well as established economies in the Far East, Africa and South America. While less so in Europe and North America, we do witness growth in these markets due to other factors such as pan-European rail standardization as well as modernization of the rail infrastructure to enhance safety.

Maximizing Safety Without Compromising Reliability

A programmable electronic system can be defined as functionally safe if it operates correctly and predictably, so that even in the event of failures it remains safe for persons and the environment. Such a system can be defined as reliable if it performs its function without failure for a specified period of time. These attributes can lead to conflicting requirements and very different designs. For example, to achieve high levels of functional safety, one method is to compare two or more channels as a diagnostic so that if a difference is detected, the system enters a “fail-safe” state and stops delivering its prescribed service. On the other hand, achieving high reliability also requires two or more channels. But in this case, upon failure in one channel, the secondary standby channel becomes active, and the system continues to deliver its prescribed service.

Technical Papers

Migrating from MVME51005E to Later SMART EC Products

With the MVME5100 family of products going end-of-life, there are a number of newer products available from SMART Embedded Computing that might be options to replace your MVME5100 family of boards. This document outlines the pros and cons when selecting a replacement board.

All currently available VME boards from SMART Embedded Computing will continue to be available until at least 2025.


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