Improving Timing in Embedded Systems

Timer/counter hardware is crucial to embedded systems. A timer measures elapsed time or counts an external event. Timer and counters made of crystal oscillators have been adapted to fit into computers, tablets, mobile phones, industrial robots and many other kinds of electronic equipment. Basically, all embedded systems contain a timing/counter device. They are the heartbeat of digital devices.

It is important that the clocks return stable signals and have low jitter. So what is jitter? When a serial data stream or timing signal is transmitted, even a small variation in the signal can cause the signal to shift. It usually happens because of imperfections in the receiver, channel and transmitter.

Most embedded systems and micro-controllers contain on-chip clock signal generators. However, if you want low jitter or timing accuracy, you can bypass it on-chip clock generator and connect an external clock to the system. Some clock generators produce several clock outputs, each configured to the timing requirements of multiple chips. It does away with the need for several crystals, reducing the consumption of power, saving space on the board and lowering system cost. Finally, the system can also provide much stable and accurate clock signals.