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McObject Embedded Database Reference Application

Pentair-Tyco Thermal Controls

Heat tracing systems are often invisible, yet vital in certain industries. Using networks of sensors and control devices, these industrial control systems perform such tasks as keeping factory pipes and vessels at optimal temperature, preventing parking garages and sidewalks from icing over, and ensuring thermal conditions that keep long-distance pipeline contents flowing.

Heat tracing industry leader Tyco Thermal Controls produced a third-generation heat-tracing system under its DigiTrace brand. The improved system features new devices that simplify deployment of heat tracing networks and ease integration with old ones, while holding down costs by “right-sizing” the levels of computing horsepower deployed on the network.  Embedded databases are an important part of the devices. Tyco Thermal Controls chose to integrate McObject’s eXtremeDB in-memory embedded database because of its superior flexibility.

The new DigiTrace technology includes the Communications Bridge, a field-based device that coordinates over 100 intelligent heat tracing controllers, networked via a custom communications protocol. The Communications Bridge is based on the Motorola ColdFire 5282 micro-controller running the uClinux embedded operating system.

Another new features is the Gateway device that integrates legacy heat tracing networks with multiple new Communications Bridge-based networks. Capable of “seeing” thousands of controllers, the Bridge merges data from old and new systems and delivers the results to control rooms upstream. For these more intensive tasks, the Gateway uses a higher horsepower Intel Pentium-class processor running the QNX Neutrino real-time operating system (RTOS).

Both devices incorporate McObject’s eXtremeDB in-memory embedded database. Support for larger DigiTrace installations means more data on temperature, environmental conditions and other factors must be stored, searched and retrieved, often to support real-time automated decisions. “Our previous data management solution was quite rigid. eXtremeDB will allow us to add processes that require database access fairly easily,” Mark Lilley, senior developer, said.

The system’s architecture illustrates several key embedded systems trends. The first is the use of heterogeneous networks to deliver a more cost-effective networked application. Through its devices, Tyco Thermal Controls has allocated different levels of processing capability via diverse CPUs and operating systems at different points in its heat-tracing system.

The system also illustrates a de-centralizing of processing intelligence within the network through deployment of smart devices: while earlier systems connected heat tracing controllers directly to a control panel via point-to-point connections, the Communications Bridge provides field-based coordination of 100+ controllers, facilitated by the device’s on-board real-time database, McObject’s eXtremeDB in-memory database system (IMDS).

The DigiTrace system also illustrates emerging embedded systems’ increased utilization of commercial off-the-shelf software components. While earlier systems included custom data management, Tyco Thermal Controls expects adoption of a commercial real-time database in both the Gateway and Communications Bridge devices to significantly shorten the embedded software development and testing period, and to provide greater reliability. For more information visit

Please read the press release about Tyco Thermal Controls.

Operating System:  QNX Neutrino RTOS and uClinux
CPU Architecture:  Intel Pentium-class and Motorola ColdFire 5282
Communications:  Custom communication protocol
On-device embedded database:  eXtremeDB In-Memory Database System

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