Remote FPGA Lab

Remote FPGA Lab

Pavlinka Radoyska (Technical University of Sofia, Sofia, Bulgaria) and Nadezhda Spasova (Technical University of Sofia, Sofia, Bulgaria)
DOI: 10.4018/jwltt.2012100105
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Abstract

In this paper the authors discus leading examples of the remote laboratory, based on FPGA. The architecture of Internet-accessible Automatic Test Equipment can be classified in two categories: internet-based ATE and ATE as a web service. The authors’ realization is based on the first architecture. Experiment management problems are discussed and some solutions, realised on user interface are presented.
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Approaches For Experimental Work

The introduction of widely available general-purpose computers and the Internet has opened new doors to experiments and education. Explained in this section are the different approaches to performing research work.

The general norm of performing laboratories is the traditional method where the students engage in prescribed tasks involving different physical components. In other words, the student has to be physically present to access the lab equipment. As in, to set up a traditional FPGA laboratory will include an on-campus space that has lab benches, developer boards, and expensive support equipment. The support equipment on every lab bench might include a power supply, clock frequency generator, logic analyzer, oscilloscope, and a PC/workstation. These labs involve physically setting up of the equipment every time the laboratory is performed. Must be stressed - the creation the program for programmable devices require long work time. This is important because many times, the lab space is shared among various courses. Although this method is the most elementary method to perform labs is limited in the case of FPGAs.

The experimental work in simulation laboratory is generally based on sets of software models that represent objects or systems in a given abstraction level. Most of them are web based. The students can use them at any time and any place. Also, they are very flexible in the sense that the simulation can be stopped at any step for review or if there has been a mistake. The problems here are with the accuracy of the behavior of the simulator representing a real system and speed of detailed simulation for complex systems. Often the real objects differ from their abstract model. In this case, the simulated objects cannot represent all details - features and behavior of real objects.

Unlike virtual laboratories, the work in remote laboratory is based on real hardware. Such laboratories are very convenient and effective for hardware design laboratory course. Hardware experimental environment is usually treated as an exclusive resource for single user usage. However, the actual test run time is rather short and most of the time is wasted leaving these costly resources idle. The combined use of FPGA/PC connected test hardware and PC-controlled measurement equipments such as logic analyzer, digital storage oscilloscope, etc. may open a way to develop a remote multi-user time-sharing system for hardware experiments, where students at remote terminals can perform actual experiments using real hardware equipments and tools remotely from home or students residence.

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