FPGA embedded instruments for bit error rate tests (BERT)

March 15, 2013 // By Graham Prophet
Goepel electronic's IP-based ChipVORX technology has been extended to execute Bit Error Rate Tests (BERT). The automated solution enables deployment of FPGA Embedded Instruments in the form of special soft cores for the test and design validation of high-speed I/O.

Users of embedded instruments can now evaluate transmission channel quality via measurement of the bit error rate. A graphical evaluation via eye diagram is possible to support design validation. ChipVORX takes over the complete process flow starting with Target FPGA programming, IP to pin configuration, and instrument control as well as data processing and the final IP unloading. In the debug mode, the BERT parameters can be changed interactively for immediate effect without design synthesis, making the new BERT solution efficient and user-friendly. According to Goepel electronic’s managing director of its JTAG/Boundary Scan Division, Thomas Wenzel, “Our announcement on ChipVORX prototype demonstration for Bit Error Rate Tests in November last year generated an enormous interest, which reflects this technique‘s strategic importance for quality assurance of modern high-speed designs”. This also, he says, strengthens the company's position in synthesis-free FPGA Embedded Instruments.

So called Bit Error Rates (BER) are measured to evaluate the channel quality in digital transmission systems. Bit patterns, created by a pattern generator, are in particular important for the quality of the Bit Error Rate Test, as they have critical influence on the fault stimulation during the transmission (stress pattern). Chip embedded Instruments are permanently integrated or temporarily implemented test and measurement functions (T&M) in an integrated circuit. Virtually, they are the counterpart to external T&M instruments as they don’t require invasive contacting by means of probes or test-fixture nails, eliminating the problem of signal distortion in high-speed designs by parasitic contacting effects is omitted.

ChipVORX is an IP-based technology for implementation, access and control of Chip embedded Instruments via IEEE Std. 1149.x/JTAG. It also supports FPGA embedded instruments in the form of softcores. The ChipVORX library currently contains more than 300 different test and measurement instruments for all leading FPGA platforms. Some of these instruments are frequency meters and high-speed Flash programmers as well as IP for at-speed access test of dynamic RAM devices.

The BERT instruments