Meet Crank Software at the Embedded Systems Conference

We are on the road again. This week we are at the Embedded Systems Conference (ESC) in Minneapolis (November 8-9) and we are excited to see the best in tech for embedded systems.

We’re at the show to discuss embedded design strategies and best practices and to showcase the latest in HMI user interface (UI) development, including the innovative Storyboard Suite platform that lets designers and developers work side-by-side to create amazing user experiences on a wide range of platforms.

Experience multi-market demos on a number of embedded platforms

Pop by booth 218 to see how beautifully Storyboard Suite applications scale across a range of hardware. Whether you’re in the medical, home automation, or consumer/white goods industry, we’ve brought an application of interest. Come interact with a medical demo on the Microchip SAMA5D2 that includes blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen, and temperature monitoring, as well as ECG display. Read more about the making of this demo on the Crank blog. We also have multi-market demos on an NXP i.MX 6QuadPlus and an STM32F7.

In addition to these applications that we’ve created in-house, we have a really cool customer application developed by Metrohm to show off. The Metrohm Instant Raman Analyzers (Mira) is a robust and reliable portable spectrometer for identifying and verifying chemicals and compounds that have a Raman signature. Metrohm used Storyboard Suite to create an intuitive user interface for the application, taking advantage of the internationalization capabilities in Storyboard to ensure fast and easy translation of UI elements.

See Storyboard Suite in action

Want to see us build a UI while you wait? Nik, our awesome field applications ninja, will walk you through the entire UI creation process, from Adobe Photoshop to deploying and debugging on a real target.

Drop us an email to set up a time to chat and see Storyboard Suite in action. We hope to see you at the show!

Meet Nik or Jason

To try out Storyboard on different platforms for yourself, download and run our ready-to-go demo images.

Bringing Sketch designs to Storyboard

Sketch to Storyboard Suite

We talk a lot about removing barriers to embedded development for Graphic Designers, keeping them engaged and supported throughout the lifecycle, and enabling them to work in popular 2D and 3D design tools. Adobe Photoshop has been the most popular in the design toolkit, so we’ve worked hard to ensure that designers could leverage the best of Photoshop when creating artwork for import into Storyboard. Because of this, importing PSDs into Storyboard is a quick and easy way to create applications.

Growing adoption of Sketch for user interface design

So, have you heard about Sketch? If you’re a designer, we are willing to bet you’ve either heard of it, work with it currently, or are planning to evaluate it. Sketch has garnered rapid adoption for UI design.

“It has grown in popularity like I’ve rarely seen an app do in the recent past, and for a good reason: The developers of Sketch have figured out exactly what interface designers have been looking for and have steadily added functionality to address those needs.”
Why I Switched To Sketch For UI Design (And Never Looked Back), Smashing Magazine

While we aren’t advocating the use of one design tool over another, we always work to stay educated on industry trends, tool adoption, and how to best support our customers. In fact, we have several in-house UI designers, so they have their finger on the pulse of the design industry and provide valuable feedback to our R&D team so that we can improve Storyboard release-over-release.

With the growing adoption of Sketch as a UI design tool, we’ve started working with it here at Crank, and have committed to supporting it as another source for importing content into  Storyboard applications. In our next release, you will be able to export your UI design from Sketch to be packaged for import into Storyboard. This feature is still in development being tested and refined, but if you are currently working with Sketch and Storyboard and want to get early access to the functionality, contact our Support team and we will hook you up.

You aren’t using Storyboard Suite? Take it for a spin. Download our FREE 30-day trial.

Storyboard Suite support for the NXP i.MX RT 1050

Storyboard on the NXP i.MX RT

Last week at Arm TechCon, NXP announced the new i.MX RT Series, a crossover processor that’s optimized for low power and high performance and features advanced multimedia for enhanced embedded GUIs.

Of course, we support the i.MX RT! We are working on updating our Storyboard demo images for NXP to include a demo for the i.MX RT in the coming weeks. In the meantime, check out the following video showcasing Storyboard multi-market applications on the i.MX RT 1050, which is based on the Arm Cortex-M7 core.

In addition, our friends at EmCraft Systems have created a short demo built with Storyboard Suite and instructions for quickly installing it to an NXP i.MX RT1050 EVK board. Check it out.

What?! You don’t use Storyboard Suite? Download our full-featured 30-day FREE trial today and test drive it for your embedded UI development.

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Creating a medical HMI with Storyboard Suite

The following is a post from Nik, our awesomely bearded and multi-talented Field Application Engineer. Nik recently attended the Microchip MASTERs event in Phoenix, Arizona, and describes the making of the medical demo that we brought to the show.

Storyboard Suite medical demo for the Microchip sama5d2

If you were at Microchip MASTERs 2017, you might have seen the Patient Monitor demo at the “Ask the Experts” table. Perhaps you saw the demo at the Crank Software booth and spoke to Jason Clarke or me about it. If you didn’t get the opportunity to see it live, read on to learn more. This medical HMI, created in collaboration with the fine folks at Microchip, showcases how Storyboard Suite can help you quickly prototype your UI, foster collaboration between designers and engineers, and deliver a polished product to market faster.

The goal of this medical demo was to take real data from medical devices and display it in an aesthetically pleasing, feather-rich, and user-friendly UI. The system powering this demo is the Microchip SAMA5D2 Xplained board running Linux. The following Microchip medical breakout boards are connected to the SAMA5D2:

With multiple pieces of hardware communicating to the UI, we needed a couple of design iterations to create the UI we envisioned for this setup. Storyboard allowed us to iterate designs quickly and easily by importing and reimporting content from Photoshop. We did not have to start from scratch each time the design changed. The application logic and event bindings that were previously declared stayed in place and Storyboard took care of managing the new assets. When we had a design that we were happy with, we moved on to integration.

In the integration phase, UI and engineering teams come together and connect the UI to real data. Storyboard IO enables this merger by allowing an IO interface to and from the UI. Defining a structured event and data protocol over Storyboard IO has a number of benefits. It forces a clean separation between low-level business logic and UI logic and it allows the UI to be developed in parallel to any back-end systems. The event protocol was defined early on in the design, which made the integration cycle fairly seamless. I was able to work on the C application which handled all the interfacing to hardware devices while one of our designers built the UI in parallel. When implementing features like live trend data in the UI, we were able to easily inject simulation data via Storyboard IO without needing to connect to actual hardware. With the hardware interface completed, it was simply a matter of dropping it in place. Many bugs had already been ironed out due to the ability to use simulated data, so the final stage of this project was focused on fine-tuning and tweaking the experience.

When I hooked up the UI to real data we were finally able to polish and stress test the system. The final phase was to ensure that the UI was smooth and responsive under heavy load before demo completion. Initially, there was some event flooding when all four breakout boards started sending event data at the same time. Having four active data streams also highlighted some areas for optimization in the UI which led to faster redraw times. While the designer worked on tweaking the UI, I was able to modify how frequently the back end sent data. After a few quick iteration cycles, we were able to finalize the Medical demo that shipped to Microchip MASTERs.

This easy iteration and Storyboard’s collaboration support meant we were able to work in parallel without compromising the design or underlying code in the process. The end product is a user-friendly, aesthetically pleasing, and high-performance medical UI.

To try a Storyboard application on a Microchip platform, download one of our pre-packaged and easy-to-install demo images.

If you aren’t using Storyboard, start your free trial now and see how easy it is to create beautiful embedded UIs from concept to production.

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Storyboard Suite accelerates UI performance on the Renesas RZ/A1

The best and most user-friendly user interfaces are those that are responsive and have great performance. One of the biggest hits to performance comes from drawing graphics. In order to boost speed and reduce User Interface (UI) lag, many platforms, including the Renesas RZ/A1, provide a solution to optimize how graphics are drawn.

The Renesas RZ/A1 is built upon an ARM A9 running at 400Mhz, which provides good performance when rendering only with a software framebuffer. However, on the H and M variants of the platform, users can leverage even more impressive 2D acceleration, either through OpenVG or the Renesas Graphics Architecture (RGA) API interface.

The RGA library allows high-speed drawing using 2D hardware acceleration and provides an API to boost graphics performance, such as image and font blending. While integration requires development time to configure and optimize, there are desirable performance advantages that make it worth the effort.

Storyboard Suite 5.1 reduces this effort and allows you to take advantage of the 2D acceleration provided by the RGA library, without having to worry about additional work and configuration.

Enhances existing Storyboard application performance

If you have a Storyboard application already, moving to a Renesas RZ board using RGA is as simple as selecting a different runtime to build with. After that, you’ll notice some significant performance improvements as your application takes advantage of native 2D hardware acceleration.

The video below shows the performance improvements when taking advantage of Storyboard utilizing both software rendering and the RGA. Both provide solid performance, but there are obvious advantages with the RGA.

To compare the differences in performance, we ran some tests on an RZ/A1H board with and without using RGA. Here are the results with the application’s frame rate capped at 60 frames per second (FPS). We saw performance gains of 100-200% using RGA.

Software rendering frame rate (FPS) RGA frame rate (FPS)
Medical Demo 17 34
Oven Demo 24 60
Bubble Mark 20 60

We ran these tests by deploying an RGA and non-RGA runtime to the same board, no additional modifications to the application code or build settings were necessary. These are the same runtimes provided for your use in your development environment.

Reduces effort for new UI applications

If you’re building a new Storyboard application for boards that support RGA, the benefits are even better. Not only do you get the performance improvements stated above, Storyboard reduces the development time and effort.

We’ve done the research, development, and testing using RGA for you, so all you need to do is focus on making your UI applications as awesome as possible. This could save you weeks to months of development and integration effort.

Saving development time and improving performance—there’s no reason why Storyboard isn’t the best choice for developing UIs on Renesas platforms.

To try out a Storyboard application for your RZ/A1 platform, download our latest demo image and experience the performance first-hand.

Download the Storyboard Renesas RZA1H demo image

If you don’t have Storyboard Suite, start a free trial now and see how easy it is to create beautiful embedded UIs from concept to production.

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