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By now, it’s probably a safe assumption that regular readers of this blog are more than familiar with the many benefits that Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) promises to deliver for telecom service providers (and if you’d like an introduction, this page would be a good place to start).

Good attendance at the April ETSI NFV meeting in Santa Clara, as well on-going participation in the various working groups that are hammering out technical details, certainly seems to confirm strong interest not only from the service providers who started the initiative in late 2012, but also other ecosystem stakeholders such as network equipment manufacturers, system integrators, software companies and processor suppliers.

In terms of the business benefits of NFV, most of the discussion to date appears to be around saving money. Significant CAPEX and OPEX savings are expected through the virtualization of functions that have traditionally been implemented as stand-alone, dedicated, fixed-function equipment.

One use case that’s frequently discussed is a “virtual CPE”, with an architecture that relies on a very simple CPE (modem, switch and antenna) with all services relocated to virtual network appliances on a central server. Another example is the cloud RAN (Radio Access Network) concept, in which the eNodeB at the antenna is replaced by a low-cost Remote Radio Head, with digitized RF data backhauled over fiber to a centralized Baseband Unit pool in which the baseband processing is performed. Finally, Evolved Packet Core (EPC) functions for mobile networks can be run as Virtual Network Functions (VNFs) in Virtual Machines (VMs) on generic server platforms.

From the perspective of the service providers, though, top-line P&L growth ultimately comes from making money, and specifically from increasing their Average Revenue per User (ARPU).

Increasing ARPU means extracting more money from subscribers, both enterprises and also consumers like you and me. In fact a recent study by Infonetics “SDNs, 40G/100G, and MPLS Control Plane Strategies: Global Service Provider Strategy, July 2013” indicated that 48% of carriers want SDN/NFV in order to “create network services not possible with existing technologies/protocols”.

So I think it’s interesting to speculate on what kinds of innovative and presumably valuable new services we can expect thanks to the massive investments that service providers will presumably be making in NFV. This subscriber-side view doesn’t seem to be a big topic (yet) at NFV events, but there were some relevant discussions at the recent SDN & OpenFlow Congress in Singapore.

Potential new services mentioned at that event included:

  • Bandwidth-on-demand: Want to watch a really important sporting event on your laptop in HD for the next couple of hours? Just go to online to your service provider, select “HD quality”, specify how long you want it for and the network instantly provisions the necessary bandwidth and service chaining.
  • Services-on-demand: Need Japanese-to-English translation on your tablet? Go online and request that service as soon as you hit the ground in Tokyo and it’ll be up and running automatically before you’re off the plane.
  • Tiered security: How about if the network automatically configured its service chaining to route your traffic through security appliances appropriate to the content that you’re accessing? Maybe you need different security features in the chain for web browsing as opposed to a Skype session.


As the NFV network-level architecture details and deployment strategies firm up, so that the service providers have confidence about the new capabilities of the infrastructure, I’m sure we’ll see a lot more discussions about interesting new services that will raise our monthly bills as subscribers and boost the service providers’ top line revenue.

What are your thoughts on this? What new services do you see being introduced thanks to NFV that will bring real value to subscribers, whether enterprises or consumers?

At 6WIND we’re doing our part to boost the cost-effectiveness of the NFV network infrastructure and accelerate deployment of NFV solutions. Please join us and Red Hat for a webinar on June 25th “The first open software platform for network functions virtualization” to learn all about our initiative in this area. Click here to register.

In my last blog, New 4th Generation Intel® Processors Ring Up Big Retail Advantages, I looked at ways that the latest generation of Intel® Core™ processors (formerly codenamed “Haswell”) could enhance customer-engagement capabilities and mobile solutions for point-of-sale (POS) systems. In this blog, I want to look into the security and manageability enhancements that 4th generation Intel® Core™ processors bring to retail transactional technology, focusing on their advantages in:






  • Protecting personal and transactional data
  • Reducing IT costs
  • Improving remote device uptime






I’m also going to look at how products from McAfee, a wholly owned subsidiary of Intel, take advantage of these enhancements to help developers incorporate game-changing security in their products. It’s important for me to point out that the new and enhanced platform technologies I describe here complement specific components of Intel® vPro™ technology and thus it must be activated.




Protecting Personal and Transactional Data

The sharing of high-value retail data used to perform financial transactions between in-store systems and a retailer’s data center is spawning sophisticated data and identify thefts. Attackers are using firmware to gain access to a device’s operating system and applications, in addition to creating viruses and malware that can disable a retail system or provide thieves with access to sensitive data.


The 4th generation Intel Core processors’ security capabilities address the full range of threats in retail devices—malware, content graffiti, identify theft, system compromise or theft, and data theft—with four hardware-based security technologies:



Intel Platform Protection Technology with BIOS Guard provides authentication and protection against BIOS recovery attacks. Since a device’s BIOS is contained in a privileged space invisible to anti-virus software, this is critical protection. In addition, malware infecting a BIOS remains persistent, even after a cold boot. With BIOS Guard, BIOS updates are cryptographically verified to ensure malware stays out of the BIOS.


Intel Platform Protection Technology with Intel® Platform Trust and Boot Guard are designed to work with Microsoft Windows. Available on the forthcoming U-Series processors, Intel Platform Trust supports Windows 8 secure and measured boot and supports all the Microsoft mandatory commands for Trusted Platform Module (TPM) 2.0. Boot Guard technology works in conjunction with it to reduce the complexity of the Windows 8 boot process and protect again boot block-level malware, providing an added level of hardware-based platform security to prevent repurposing the platform to run unauthorized software—such as keylogging applications.

Intel® Data Protection Technology with Intel AES-NI enables rapid and secure data encryption and decryption. Encryption is a PCI DSS compliance requirement for protecting data in transit across public networks. Equally important, encryption of the hard drive protects data in the event of device theft . 

Intel® Identity Protection Technology (Intel® IPT) with NFC is a great addition for retailers making the move to enabling “Tap-and-Pay” sales through digital wallets via NFC-enabled smartphones or smartcards. A suite of four technologies—One Time Password, Protected Transaction Display, Embedded PKI, and NFC, Intel IPT introduces a “Tap and Interact” use case that enables secure interaction with interactive devices. An integrated chipset-based security feature, Intel IPT provides extra security by isolating the data received by NFC from the operating system. By not letting the OS “know” transaction data used in a transaction, Intel IPT prevents many forms of potential malware from gaining access to a customer’s identity information.

Working with McAfee to Secure Endpoint Devices

Intel works closely with McAfee, a wholly owned subsidiary of Intel and globally recognized for its proactive and proven security solutions, to develop hardware-enhanced software security (see Figure 1). By deploying solutions like McAfee solutions with 4th generation Intel Core processors, retailers can achieve a greater degree of security than by depending on one or the other. For example, a new processor feature called Beacon Pass when used with McAfee® Deep Defender—a product designed to protect systems against “below the operating system” malware attacks, a much more difficult threat to detect and recover from. Beacon Pass provides a new instruction for streamlining the efficiency of memory read/write scanning activity so overall system performance is not degraded by this protection.


Haswell Security.JPG

Figure 1. When coupled with McAfee security solutions, the 4th generation Intel® Core™ processor family helps protect against a wide variety of retail threats. 

Another McAfee solution for securing endpoint devices is McAfee® Embedded Control. This software automatically creates a dynamic whitelist of the authorized code on the device. Once the whitelist is created and enabled, the system is locked down to the known good baseline. No program or code outside the authorized set can run, and no unauthorized changes can be made. When untrusted software attempts to execute, an alert is sent to McAfee® ePolicy Orchestrator (ePO), an enterprise security management software product, to prompt potential corrective action.


McAfee Whitelisting diagram.JPG

Figure 2. How McAfee® Embedded Control uses application whitelisting to protect devices.



Intel vPro technology-enabled solutions provide hardware-based mechanisms that work with McAfee solutions to help protect against software-based attacks, and protect the confidentiality and integrity of data. They do this by enabling an environment where applications can run within their own space, protected from all other software on the system. These capabilities, enhanced by hardware-assisted Intel® Virtualization Technology (Intel® VT), provide the protection to mechanisms, rooted in hardware, that are necessary to provide trust in the application’s execution environment. In turn, this can help to protect vital data and processes from being compromised by malicious software running on the platform.

Reducing IT Costs and Improving Remote Device Uptime

Using integrated platform capabilities and popular third-party management and security applications, Intel® Active Management Technology (Intel® AMT) is a much written about technology in the community that allows IT or managed service providers to better discover, repair, and protect their networked computing assets. For embedded developers, this means that devices can be diagnosed and repaired remotely, ultimately lowering IT support costs. Intel AMT is a feature of Intel® Core™ processors with Intel® vPro™ technology and workstation platforms based on select Intel® Xeon® processors.

The 4th generation Intel Core processors include the latest Intel® Active Management Technology (Intel® AMT) features. Of particular interest is Embedded Host-Based Configuration. This new capability enables more simplified retail device provisioning. Using Embedded Host Based Configuration, a retailer’s IT staff can easily remotely provision unattended retail devices. This eliminates the need and cost for an IT person or employee to be present at the device location.


Graceful shutdown.JPG

Figure 3. New graceful shutdown enhancements in Intel® Active Management Technology help simplify remote repair.

Also new are graceful shutdown enhancements (see Figure 3). If an incident occurs where IT staff using Intel AMT’s remote administration functions encounters a hung operating system, they can analyze the problem, and then initiate a graceful shutdown, rebooting the device and restoring it to normal operation. This helps keep POS systems and other devices up and running more of the time.


Move into a New Era of POS Security and Manageability

Through the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance Solutions Directory, it’s easy to find a wide range of different types of boards and solutions for retail applications using 4th generation Intel Core processors. To learn more about how 4th generation Intel Core processors can help secure POS devices, I highly recommend the white paper Intel® Hardware-based Security Technologies for Intelligent Retail Devices.


Learn More

Contact Featured Alliance member:

Solutions in this blog:

·        McAfee Deep Defender

Related topics:

·        Security - Top Picks (blogs, white papers, and more)

·        Manageability - Top Picks (blogs, white papers, and more)

·        Intel Intelligent Systems Framework - Top Picks (blogs, white papers, and more)

·        Retail - Top Picks (blogs, white papers, and more)

McAfee is an Associate member of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance.

Mark Scantlebury

Roving Reporter (Intel Contractor), Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance

Associate Editor,Embedded Innovator magazine

Many of the performance enhancements in the new 4th generation Intel® Core™ processors (code name Haswell) will give a new kick to Digital Signage.  Boosts to accelerate graphics processing capabilities on-chip, as well as general performance improvements to the Haswell microarchitecture and resulting chips, will further enhance the dynamics possible in digital signage.  Quicker response, richer graphics in both 2-D and 3-D, and more lively video will attract more viewers to the displays and hold their attention longer.  Smoother transitions, faster movement, and a higher frame rate are all possible.


There are two other angles that will offer benefits to 4th generation Intel Core processor-based digital signage users.  The software people and content creators will appreciate the new support for additional codecs that will ease the use of more formats of images.  Hardware designers will like the lower power consumption of the chips, permitting smaller cabinets, higher integration, and easier physical design since less heat is generated.  Nexcom has already announced a digital signage player that will make use of the 4th generation Core processor.


Graphics, Performance, and Power – Improved

Intel just revealed the 4th generation Core processor which improves on prior generations in some key areas.  These are not surprising in some sense because Intel is very good at providing higher performance with each new product family.  While Moore's Law refers to the number of transistors that can be put on a chip over time, applying those transistors to the most useful purposes is a science that Intel has perfected.  This time those transistors are going to performance areas that are very advantageous for Digital Signage.


Key Features for Digital Signage


  • New instructions, better performance               Up to 60% faster graphics
  • MultiMedia Codec improvements                      Easier MJPEG and SVC decoding
  • Enhanced 4Kx2K screen resolution support     The best displays
  • Three-screen collage operation                         Even larger displays


Among other improvements, new MJPEG and SVC acceleration makes for more efficient decoding.  3D and 2D graphics will run up to 60% faster, enabling subtleties like fog, smoke, haze, shadowing, and even lens flair add a realism to still and moving images that are sure to stop traffic.  And it can all be done without a separate graphics processor unit (GPU), the heat that would generate, and the cost, power, and board space it would consume.


Additional benefits to using 4th generation Intel Core processors include complete support for DirectX 11.1, OpenGL 4.0, and OpenCL 1.2.  Embedded DRAM (in the package) is used as a nearby cache in some chip configurations to minimize memory access delays now that the included processors are faster and hungrier.


gfx engine for kw-Roving Reporter - Digital Signage AI.png


One of the big advantages of accelerators and more dedicated hardware for functions appropriate for Digital Signage is that the underlying general-purpose processor is freed up for mainstream processing, higher-level operations, operating system functions, and administrative chores, enhancing overall performance and capabilities - or to just lay idle for longer periods of time to save power.


Screaming Screens

The final link for Digital Signage is the display and it is an all-important component.  The 4th generation Intel Core processors support the latest in eye-catching displays.  Support for Display Port 1.2 offers double the bandwidth of other interfaces and accommodates high-resolution 4Kx2K screens.  These UltraHD displays are now starting down the cost curve to be a viable option for more modest Digital Signage systems, especially with additional support from the processor.  Graphics performance allows up to three displays to be daisy-chained to replicate images across all.  For dramatic, larger, multi-panel screens, a collage mode will split images across three screens to really draw the crowds.  Size matters.


More advanced power management on Haswell micro-architecture results in greater power efficiency – turning off circuits that are not needed during particular operations – with finer-grain control than prior chips.  Even with the higher performance and the integration of graphics accelerators and other features, U-Series 4th generation Intel Core processors can operate on just 15-watts.  Idle power – when the chip is mostly quiet – has been reduced as well, so during off-hours when the signage isn't needed, the electric grid can take a rest, too which helps keep operating costs of Digital Signage low.


The low power consumption, a smaller chip package, and no requirement for an independent graphics processor allows more compact fanless Digital Signage systems to be designed where natural air flow can keep things cool.  The smaller the box, the easier it is to place the box in a convenient location.



One member company of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance that announced a Digital Signage player when Haswell micro-architecture was announced is Nexcom.  Nexcom's NDiS B533 takes advantage of the 4th generation Intel Core processors to drive full HD video programs to three screens and up to 4K resolution.  The system can take advantage of the Anonymous Viewer Analytics in Intel's AIM Suite to better target messages to the audience of the moment and can protect content and remote management with the support of Intel® Advanced Encryption Standard New Instructions (Intel® AES-NI).  The fanless design is the size of a pad of paper; maybe a ream of paper because it's 2" thick.


Another Alliance member, Axiomtek, is releasing the OPS880 Digital Signage Player that uses Haswell and is Open Pluggable Specification (OPS) compatible.


Bottom Line – Attractive Digital Signage

The purpose of Digital Signage is to attract attention, inform viewers, and (in many cases) lead a passer-by to a sale or at least to better brand awareness.  Rich content, dynamic imagery, responsive interactivity, and a compelling visual experience are vital to the effectiveness of Digital Signage.  A high-performance system able to produce realistic 2D and 3D graphics, action-packed video, smooth Flash playback, and well-planned informative, engaging, and maybe even fun content on a state-of-the-art display will make Digital Signage stand out.  4th generation Intel Core processors will kick up the capabilities of Digital Signage with improved performance and more lively displays.  With the integrated Iris graphics, there is no need to resort to a graphics card or discrete graphics chip just to be able to drive amazing graphics to three 4K UltraHD screens.


Note that performance and power indications used herein were provided by the manufacturer and will change based on specific chip and system configurations, compiler choices and options, OS and application programs, and immediate operational conditions.  "Your mileage may vary."


Learn More


Solutions in this blog:

    4th generation Intel® Core™ processor

    Nexcom NDiS B533 Fanless Digital Signage Player

    Axiomtek OPS880 OPS Digital Signage Player


Related Topics:
    Digital Signage - Top Picks


Nexcom is an Associate member of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance.  

    Contact Nexcom>>
Axiomtek is an Associate member of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance.

    Contact Axiomtek>>

Transport buses worldwide typically may use an ARM-based platform to provide limited infotainment applications to riders, such as arrival stops and schedule, or some ads. To give riders more entertainment and information,  China's Bus Online provides television networking in transit buses to broadcast commercials, TV programs, and short movies for a less boring passenger experience.


To enable such connectivity in a demanding transportation environment, Norco, a maker of embedded computing boards, developed its CBP-3000 in-vehicle computing system as an intelligent network control for functional flexibility. The system is an X86 platform based on the Intel® Cedar Trail AtomTM processor N2800/D2700/D2500 low-power embedded CPU for high computing power, multiple I/O, and low-noise operation. Besides entertainment, the CBP-3000 can serve the practical uses of bus surveillance, vehicle systems monitoring and displays, navigation, and WiFi and Internet connectivity. And other transportation applications include taxis, emergency response vehicles, fleet vehicles, trucks, and trains.


Design challenges and enablers

Design engineers had to provide ruggedness, including vibration resistance, in the system and a wide temperature operating range to handle the transit bus environment. Transportation vibrations are characterized by large amplitudes in any direction. Thus features such as "air-tight" pin connections, guide pins, and all-around damping material are incorporated into the modular design. Spring isolators are introduced if a given system will use a hard disk drive. Thus the CBP-3000 design meets ISO-16750-3-2003 for vibration. In addition, double-layer seals and multiple coatings guard against moister intrusion—including the effects from washing the vehicle.


In any transportation application, vehicle electrical power quality affects the stability of all electrical devices onboard. The power and other modules in the CBP-3000 system must handle a variety of transients and interference possible during bus operations. Thus electrical power provisions for the in-vehicle computing system incorporate under-voltage, overload, over-current, over-temperature, load-dump (vehicle battery disconnect), and short circuit protection.


Examples of such electrical transient upset occurrences include:

  • A pulse caused by disconnection of a DC supply through an inductive load, such as a windshield wiper motor
  • When the ignition is switched off, DC motors may act as pulse generators.
  • When automotive electrical switches and relays are cycled on or off, voltaic arcing can cause transients.
  • Activating an internal combustion engine starter motor or turning on the air conditioning system compressor can cause a system voltage drop.
  • The previously mentioned electrical system "load dump" transient (voltage pulse) can occur when a discharging battery is disconnected while the alternator is generating a charging current with other loads still on the circuit. A battery cable can be disconnected because of an inadequately tightened connection, corrosion in a cable or fitting forming an open circuit, or deliberate disconnection or inadvertent fusing of the battery while the vehicle is undergoing maintenance.

To accommodate such challenges as noted above, the CBP-3000 design meets ISO-7637-2-204 for electrical power systems quality and ruggedness.


Keeping cool

The Atom processor has another design benefit for the CBP-3000. Vehicle applications can have a wide temperature range, including the influence of direct solar radiation, producing temperatures up to 70°C. The processor's high conversion efficiency and inherent low power cuts heat generation so much so that only convection cooling is needed. The temperature range of the CBP-3000 goes as low as -30°C.


Key features

The in-vehicle computing system is a modular design that utilizes an "industrial grade" chassis for surviving the rugged bus transportation environment. For system flexibility with the potential for change and expansion, all modules load into the front of the chassis (and have front-facing connection provisions) and are interchangeable in each slot. This kind of accessibility and connectivity also eases trouble shooting and maintenance.




Modules include:

  • Power module: Voltage input ranges from 8 to 36V with total power provision up to 150W, and includes transient protection as well as reverse-polarity protection; under-voltage threshold = 7V and over-voltage threshold = 80V; optional UPS provision; provides software compiler interface
  • Vehicle amplifier: Supports up to four stereo inputs in priority order with power up to 40W, normally off and automatically on with power activation
  • Vehicle server: Intel Atom processor with Intel NM10 chipset with up to 4G DDR3 RAM plus RJ45 debug port and 1 Gbit Ethernet port connected to switch module via backplane
  • Switch module: Integrated WiFi support for up to 50 users online (with one minute delay when powering down), eight adaptive Ethernet ports
  • Vehicle media player: Intel Atom processor with Intel NM10 chipset with up to 4G DDR3 RAM, twin mini-PCIE for 3G and WiFi support

The CBP-3000's low-power Intel Atom CPUs, compact modular design for installation flexibility, access and maintenance ease, and UPS power availability also contribute to shorter time-to-market and lower overall costs for space-limited vehicle applications.



Learn More


Solutions in this blog:


Related Topics:


Norco-Habey is an Associate member of the Intel Intelligent Systems Alliance.

     Contact Norco>>


Rick DeMeis

Roving Reporter (Intel® Contractor), Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance

Follow me on Twitter: @rickdemeis

Horrific though it was, footage from both public and private security cameras in Boston proved to be an invaluable tool for authorities during the Boston Marathon bombing investigation, contributing significantly to the effort to identify suspects in the case. As a result, market research firms are predicting that the attack will likely drive increased government spending on video surveillance.


As the demand for high resolution and intelligent video analytics within Digital Security and Surveillance (DSS) systems grow, the attention of providers focuses on improving video and graphics performance, which operators want to achieve without an equivalent increase in power consumption.


As a result, new DSS systems will be more complex than their predecessors because their tasks are more complex, including multi-channel streaming, real-time software-based analytics, event-triggered alerting, and much more.  Cameras equipped with built-in video analytics, for example, can assist the system in identifying abnormal events, offloading workload from the backend system to ensure more timely alarm notification and faster video retrieval.  Modern IP cameras for DSS application need to support high resolution and high frame rates with visual enhancement technologies including image stabilization and Wide Dynamic Range (WDR) in order to deliver clear and smooth images to assist the process of video analysis. To reduce camera shake, these cameras also require intelligent analysis that uses image stabilizing algorithms to detect and reduce horizontal and vertical movements.


Taken together, the workloads handled by the CPU and GPU of these DSS systems are massive. They must manage video encoding, video decoding, video scaling and display, storing video onto a hard disk, and video packetization for streaming, as well as running video management software for monitoring and data storage across multiple locations.


In a recent White Paper Steve Yang, General Manager of Nexcom’s Intelligent Digital Security Business Unit, pointed out that image clarity is the primary criterion for video capture so as to provide security personnel a clear, real-time view of the monitored area and detailed information about a vehicle, allowing them to gain a better control of the situation.


The 4th generation Intel® Core™ processor family (code name Haswell) helps enable a new standard in security and surveillance tools, from digital video recorders to video analytics servers, by delivering the superior media and graphics, improved security and manageability, and breakthrough performance necessary to support DSS applications.


With its new microarchitecture and enhanced media capabilities in video en-, trans- and de-coding, the 4th generation Intel Core processor improves overall system performance and reduces power consumption when compared to previous generation processors. An overall performance increase of 15% can be expected (using standard benchmarks); allowing for increased top-end performance or reduced power consumption of the system.


DSS target applications for Haswell include Digital Video Recorders (DVRs), Network Video Recorders (NVRs), video transcoders, Video Management Systems (VMSs), and video analytics server workloads (such as video packet processing and video streaming, video content analysis, storage redundant array of independent disks (RAID) acceleration, and multiple video channel playback and display) all on a single computing device.


The 4th generation Intel Core processor family offers a 30 percent improvement in video playback and display capability than the 3rd generation Intel® Core™ processor to deliver smoother full HD 1080p images. Other advances include Intel® Quick Synch Technology and Intel® Media SDK 2013 to enable simultaneous real-time video encoding and decoding of multiple full HD 1080p video at 30 frames per second.


Also of benefit in DSS applications are new Haswell features such as the Intel® Advanced Vector Extensions 2 (Intel® AVX2 ) instructions, providing a huge performance improvement in signal processing capabilities to accelerate video analytics algorithms. Intel AVX2 is an expansion of the AVX instruction set introduced with Sandy Bridge.


Haswell’s integrated graphics processor, HD Graphics 4600, enables multiple full HD 1080p video playback and display in real time, enhancing the surveillance manager’s experience. Other upgrades to Haswell's graphical abilities enable it to drive triple-display desktops, with support for DirectX 11.1, and full 4K resolutions over DisplayPort 1.2.


Figure 1: High resolution video will facilitate DSS analytics

Haswell micro-architecture adds decode support for Scalable Video Coding (SVC) on top of the VC1 and MPEG2 support provided in 3rd generation Intel Core processors.  SVC is the commonly used name for the Annex G extension of the H.264/MPEG-4 AVC video compression standard. The SVC codec translates bits from a network data stream into a picture and conversely translates camera video into a bit stream. The 4th generation Intel Core processors also come with end to end decode and encode 4K x 2K support for up to 3840 x 2160 resolution @ 60 Hz on DisplayPort 1.2, and up to 4096 x 2304 @24 Hz on HDMI.


Featuring the higher computing and graphics capabilities of the 4th generation Intel Core processor family to speed up image acquisition and analysis Nexcom’s new COM Express Type 6 Basic module ICES 670 features a full design package aimed to stimulate innovation of intelligent systems by facilitating system integration via an integrated embedded controller (EC) and an Embedded Application Programming Interface (EAPI). To simplify system management, the ICES 670 supports Xcare 3.0, a utility that can keep track of hardware status. The API of Xcare 3.0 is compliant with the PICMG EAPI standard and can provide users with information on processor, RAM, BIOS, fan speed, operating temperature and more.


The ICES 670 supports the latest interfaces including SATA 3.0, PCIe 3.0, USB 3.0, and DisplayPort to provide high bandwidth and throughput.  In addition, a verification code embedded in the controller helps block unauthorized applications and devices to strengthen security of the intelligent system. Data cryptography is also supported by means of Intel® Advanced Encryption Standard New Instructions (Intel® AES-NI) technology.


“The 4th generation Intel Core processor-based platform allows ADLINK Technology to deliver up to double the graphics performance over the previous generation,” said Dirk Finstel, EVP of ADLINK’s Global Module Computer Product Segment, in introducing ADLINK’s new lineup, including Express-HL and Express-HL2 (COM Express®), NuPRO-E42 (PICMG 1.3), cPCI-3510 (CompactPCI®), and Matrix MXE-5400. “In addition, these new integrated graphics capabilities enable more compact imaging solutions, leading to new form factors and devices with an as-yet-unseen level of visual capabilities.”  These improvements, combined with the advanced high-resolution display capabilities for either 4K (4xHD = 3840x2160) or three 32x20 displays, have helped ADLINK to provide its advanced solutions for imaging and interface applications across key industries, he said.



ADLINK's Express-HL and Express-HL2 COM Express modules with 4th generation Intel® Core™ i7/i5 processors and mobile Intel® QM87 Express chipset offer up to 16GB dual channel DDR3L SDRAM at 1600MHz. The Express-HL is a COM Express Type 6 module offering three independent displays via DDI interface, as well as seven PCIe x1, one PCIe x16 (Gen3) for graphics (or general purpose x8/4/1), four SATA III (6 Gb/s), Gigabit Ethernet, four USB 2.0, and four USB 3.0 interfaces. The Express-HL2 features the COM Express Type 2 pinout and offers 18/24-bit single/dual channel LVDS, Analog CRT, and a legacy 32 bit PCI bus, as well as a PATA IDE interface.


Learn More


Solutions in this blog:

ADLINK Express

Nexcom ICES 670


Related topics:

•  Digital Surveillance and Security Top Picks (blogs, white papers, and more)

Sensing and Analytics - Top Picks (blogs, white papers, and more)


Nexcom is an Associate member of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance.

    Contact Nexcom>>

ADLINK is an Associate member of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance.

    Contact ADLINK>>

Murray Slovick

Roving Reporter (Intel Contractor), Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance



The cloud is revolutionizing healthcare, helping patients manage chronic conditions such as diabetes or heart disease by remotely monitoring their condition and automatically and securely uploading data to their care provider. Now the same technology is being used to update fitness centers, to the benefit of both owners and exercisers.


Fitness centers and health clubs are filled with equipment with the potential to provide valuable data: check-in systems, vending machines, people counters, exercise equipment, surveillance systems, etc. But for many clubs, these systems aren’t network-enabled—and even if they were, the club may not have the IT resources to set up and manage a complex system. The result is that equipment maintenance and stocking may be handled manually, without information that could help club owners monitor usage, anticipate maintenance, and schedule downtimes conveniently. At the same time, exercisers armed with smartphones and health apps want to access equipment information so they can upload, track, and share data about their workouts.


All of these goals can be accomplished by taking the fitness center to the cloud.


Eurotech’s smart services gateways are flexible, high-performance devices that support the data acquisition and machine-to-machine (M2M) communications needs of fitness centers. These devices can be easily integrated into the existing IT infrastructure of a fitness center or health club—or can be installed as a standalone device that requires minimal IT support once installed. These gateways leverage industry-standard Intel building blocks, including the Intel® Atom™ processor and the Wind River Linux operating system. On top of that foundation sits the Eurotech Everywhere™ Software Framework (ESF)—integrated middleware that is based on an OSGI framework to simplify application development. The Eurotech ESF includes software bundles that can be used across applications and across industries, including a seamless connection to the Eurotech Everywhere Device Cloud (EDC) platform.


Cloud Connected Fitness.jpg

“The Intel architecture has allowed us to focus on our Everywhere Software Framework and we can move it across Intel platforms very easily,” says Bill Johnson, cloud solutions business development manager-for Eurotech North America. “Having a standard, very well-documented architecture such as Intel has enabled us to bring multiple platforms with different price-performance features to market.”


Eurotech also chose Wind River Linux for its gateways.  “We wanted a best-in-breed, reliable Linux distribution,” Johnson adds.  “We have world-class customers developing applications on these gateways, and Wind River’s tool sets and the backing of Intel made this a very easy decision for us.”


The Eurotech wireless-enabled gateways can aggregate sensor data from almost any kind of equipment in the health club, including RFID readers, people counters, surveillance systems, vending machines, and exercise equipment. With the gateway installed and connected to the devices in the fitness center through the Eurotech Device Cloud, club owners have access to data they can use to better manage assets. For example, they can access usage records to see which equipment has higher (or lower) usage and use that information to adjust traffic patterns or rearrange floor layouts. They can also receive service alerts for equipment, so that machines can be taken offline and maintained before they go down during a period of high demand. Data from vending machines or point-of-sale terminals can be used to manage inventory, and RFID tags on high-end assets allow them to be tracked and monitored. Exercisers can also be provided access to cloud-based data from the equipment to track and share their workouts and even receive relevant ads.


fitness club application.jpg


Key to fitness center applications is ease-of-use, Johnson explains. “One of product definitions was that it needs to be similar to a set-top box. They just need to put it in place and it does what it needs to do with no technical interaction.”


Eurotech provides several gateway options depending on the club’s needs, the number of devices that need to be aggregated, and the number of Ethernet ports or communications protocols needed. Health clubs can choose their platform depending on their I/O requirements, but the Eurotech platforms all host the same software stack and all communicate with the Eurotech M2M platform as well as Eurotech’s application partners’ platforms. Once installed, the systems can essentially be forgotten, with no ongoing technical support required. Security is also built into the software stack, so the bi-directional device communications are secure sessions as appropriate for each market.


The Eurotech Helios™ is a smart services gateway with flexibility in programmability, hardware, software, and connectivity, including a range of pre-certified wireless modules for cellular, Bluetooth, and other protocols. The ReliaGATE family is an industrial-grade platform with multiple options, including globally certified radio technology from Telit.


Eurotech’s Everywhere Software Framework sits on the gateway and hosts the appropriate applications and protocols, including the cloud client protocol; as long as the gateway has a path to the Internet and is collecting data from a device, it can send the data to Eurotech’s Everywhere Cloud platform. Standard dashboards, management operations, and industry-standard APIs support easy integration both to legacy equipment (updated with Eurotech or partner-provided wired or wireless connectivity devices) or to new equipment with embedded connectivity.


Eurotech has plenty of experience providing gateways for applications such as in-home patient monitoring: aggregating data from scales, blood pressure cuffs, and blood glucose meters to help improve patient quality of life. Moving to the health club was a logical evolution. As Johnson says, “It was just natural for us to take that platform and use it as the basis for this new initiative.”


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Solutions in this blog:

•             Eurotech Everywhere™ Software Framework

•             Eurotech Everywhere Device Cloud (EDC) platform

•             Helios™ smart services gateway

•             ReliaGATE industrial-grade gateway family



Related topics:

•             Medical - Top Picks (blogs, white papers, and more)

•             Connectivity - Top Picks (blogs, white papers, and more)



Eurotech is an Associate member of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance.

     Contact Eurotech>>

Cheryl Coupé

Roving Reporter (Intel Contractor), Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance

Freelance technology writer and editor (scribo.net)

Embedded computing is moving into the world of “Big Data” and that means lots of scalable, high performance computing. RADAR, SIG-INT and EW are data intensive applications thatneed embedded computers that are able to process the vast amounts of data and do it quickly. Many applications in defense and aerospace must process their way through this “Big Data.”

Fortunately, the capability of high performance computing continues to evolve as technology advances. Processors get faster, memories larger, and interconnect pipes get bigger. All of this adds up to greater performance in smaller packages, packages that make it easier to embed these platforms in more applications. What once took racks of computers can now be reduced to a single rack or system the size of a shoe box or smaller.


High performance embedded computing (HPEC) takes much of its lead from the high performance computing (HPC) technology found in data centers, taking concepts and extending them to the more environmentally demanding conditions in embedded computing applications. Processor off-loading, cluster computing, distributed architectures, and open source software are but a few of the traits of high performance computing that are being passed on to HPEC.


For the military and aerospace embedded markets, additional requirements must be met. Size, weight, and power (SWaP) must be optimized for embedding in smaller systems. Long product life cycles and long term product support must match the life cycle of the deployed systems. Reliable and deterministic operation is mandatory and the platforms must be able to be deployed in everything from benign to harsh environments. As a result, boards and systems are made smaller, modified to run in extended thermal ranges and rugged environments.


High Performance Computing Requirements







  • Throughput oriented
  • Many threads per core
  • Large memory capacity
  • X86, Intel Xeon
  • Connect anyone, anywhere, anytime and on any device
  • Ethernet
  • Network Attached, SAN
  • Application specific
  • Transaction based
  • Windows, Linux

High Performance Computing

  • Compute Intensive
  • MultiCore, many-core
  • PowerPC
  • X86, Intel  Xeon
  • GPGPUs
  • Scalable high bandwidth
  • Common protocol for inter/intra systems
  • InfiniBand
  • High capacity storage devices
  • Open source
  • MPI, OpenMPI
  • OFED
  • Linux


  • Processors targeted at embedded
  • FPGA’s
  • AdvancedTCA, microTCA, VPX, emerging small form factors
  • Low latency
  • Ethernet
  • PCI Express
  • Serial RapidIO
  • Limited
  • Data recorders
  • Solid State Drives (SSDs)
  • Real-time
  • Vendor specific
  • Math libraries
  • VxWorks, Linux

Source: CSPI, Embedded Tech Trends 2013



Platform Architectures

Two organizations in particular have driven the efforts to evolve high performance embedded computing platforms. Both started their efforts on industrial computing, but have moved down separate paths to define alternate platforms commonly used for HPEC.


VITA was the first to organize, with members focused on the development of VMEbus in the early 1980’s. VMEbus started out as a solution for industrial platforms, providing a parallel bus architecture that could be scaled to 20 boards in the backplane. As VMEbus became a prime choice for many defense applications that demanded a more rugged solution, the members extended the original VMEbus specification to include options for alternate cooling strategies such as conduction cooling.


PICMG rolled out CompactPCI* in the mid-1990’s, implementing the parallel PCI bus in a 6U form factor. Again, the initial focus was on industrial applications but the communications industry quickly picked up on the architecture and started to drive it towards specific needs of their industry, primarily moving large blocks of data to multiple destinations. AdvancedTCA* was soon defined using a scalable switch fabric approach instead of a parallel bus. The form factor was enlarged to better address the needs of the communication industry.


Members of VITA responded with the VPX* initiative, bringing the scalable switch fabric architecture to the smaller 6U form factor. The primary influence for VPX came from the defense industry.


Both AdvancedTCA and VPX have greatly extended the ability to develop impressive HPEC platforms. The use of serial switch fabrics enables the design of systems ranging from three modules to complex mesh systems with point-to-point connections in many configurations suitable to specific application processing needs. While data center blade systems are occasionally used in embedded applications, it is AdvancedTCA and VPX that are specifically targeting markets and applications that require HPEC platforms. VPX offers a smaller packaging option over AdvancedTCA and is specifically designed for military and aerospace applications, including those with a need for conduction or liquid cooling options.


To give us a better feel for what is possible today, let’s look at what some of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance members are offering.


MEN CompactPCI Serial.jpg

At Embedded Tech Trends 2013, MEN Mikro Elektronik GmbH presented a multi-cluster HPEC solution using CompactPCI Serial. This specification adds greater support for serial point to point fabrics like PCI Express, SATA, Ethernet and USB in the classic CompactPCI form factor. In the MEN configuration, Ethernet is added to the CompactPCI specification so that traditional star, ring, or mesh configurations (up to eight-slots in a standard CompactPCI chassis) can be built. Additional clusters can be added to build very large scalable systems using low-cost modules. MEN builds systems with a single Intel quad-core CPU system slot module and up to 7 GPGPU modules directly controlled via PCIe x8 or PCIe x1.

At the same forum, Mercury Systems discussed the need for advanced fabric innovations to maximize the performance of HPEC systems. Their concern being that existing choices such as PCI Express and 10G Ethernet, are running out of steam and that we should be preparing to implement 40G Ethernet and InfiniBand. Mercury Systems has been building HPEC platforms for many years, their extensive experience in the interconnect implementations of these platforms makes them especially knowledgeable on what it takes to build HPEC platforms. They are not as concerned about computing as they are on how to handle huge amounts of I/O data that is collected by HPEC platforms.


Mercury Systems has been researching what it will take to get to the next generation of infrastructure for HPEC platforms. They feel that advances in connector and backplane technology will be needed to get beyond 8 Gbaud transfer rates, in other words “The connector is key to unlocking speed.”


Mercury Systems uses Serial RapidIO and 10G Ethernet for most data plane transactions today but they are quickly developing InfiniBand and 40GigE solutions for tomorrow. One of the technologies that most intrigues them is InfiniBand which is used extensively in HPC platforms. Advances in connector, backplane and cooling technologies will kick VPX into the next gear allowing them to develop massive many-core HPEC engines that are optimized for SWaP.


GE Intelligent Platforms puts such an emphasis on HPEC that they formed a HPEC Center of Excellence. Through this center, GE Intelligent Platforms can engage early with customers to help with architecture definition, develop application-ready systems, and then provide post sales application support and services all with the emphasis on the needs of HPEC applications.


GE Intelligent Platforms discussed the impact of new architectures on SWaP through an example of a radar processing system that they recently developed. The original system, based on VMEbus, was 4 cubic feet in size, weighed 105 pounds, and consumed 2000W of power. The newest system, based on 3U VPX, is 0.8 cubic feet in size, weighs 10 pounds, and consumes 120W of power. The original system delivered 576 GFLOPS peak while the new system delivers 770 GFLOPS peak with a combination of 3rd generation Intel® Core® i7 and GPGPUs.


I recently discussed the Kontron HPEC strategy in Roving Reporter: Kontron HPEC Proof-of-Concept delivers breakthrough I/O data bandwidth. The Kontron HPEC platform delivers 40 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) equivalent data transfer rates via PCI Express 3.0. What sets the Kontron platform apart is the use of PCIe 3.0 to deliver 40GbE equivalent data transfer rates using common TCP/IP protocols. The combination of PCIe 3.0 and TCP/IP is achieved through Kontron’s VXFabric* middleware, which implements the TCP/IP protocol over the PCIe infrastructure to boost transmission bandwidth to nearly 40 GbE speeds. The PoC platform is based on VPX, which is known for its high performance, harsh environment capability, and small size.


Concurrent Technologies advocates a similar approach. The Concurrent Technologies Fabric Interconnect Networking Software (FIN-S) provides a rich software ecosystem allowing applications on multiple processor boards to communicate efficiently with each other over supported bus interconnect fabrics, enabling development of high performance embedded computing (HPEC) systems. FIN-S provides a variety of communication mechanisms to address the needs of various embedded applications. Support for the widely accepted IP socket interface is provided, enabling portability and ease of use at application level. A high performance, low latency message based direct communication library is included, enabling direct zero copy application level communication between boards. This provides the additional benefits of having the same application programming interfaces across multiple operating systems and multiple supported fabrics. High performance computing applications can easily be implemented in the embedded domain. FIN-S supports various system architectures including VPX, VXS and AMC along with their associated interconnect fabrics such as PCI Express, Serial RapidIO, and 10 Gigabit Ethernet. FIN-S is available on a range of Concurrent Technologies boards utilizing Intel processors in commercial, industrial, ruggedized air cooled, and ruggedized conduction-cooled operating environments.


Curtiss-Wright Controls Defense Solutions has published a must read technology white paper, “Understanding HPEC Computing: The Ten Axioms.” An HPEC system must meet the criteria outlined in the Ten Axioms of HPEC to be able to satisfy the requirements of today’s most demanding defense and aerospace rugged embedded applications. To help system designers to better understand what to look for in an HPEC system, and what to avoid in less capable system alternatives, the paper discusses the Ten Axioms, organized by the industry (HPC, Embedded Systems and Sensor) from which each is derived. The details of how each of these essential elements relates to and meets the unique requirements of these high performance-processing solutions are explained.


HPEC Positioning.png

HPEC vs non-HPEC, Courtesy of Curtiss-Wright Controls Defense Solutions


Themis Computer is a long time provider of high performance computing to the embedded community and in particular, the defense and aerospace markets. They have a strong background in server technology that is designed to withstand the extreme operating environments of many defense applications. Themis Computer has been defining and prototyping a new form factor called the NanoPAK Small Form Factor Computer based on VITA 74. While targeted at smaller embedded systems, this small package has some big capabilities. Leveraging work done with serial switched fabrics, meshed computers such as those using VPX can be built on a smaller scale. With the right processor payload, these NanoPAKs occupy the low-end of the HPEC processing range.



HPEC computing is a rapidly growing market opportunity with no end in sight for the amount of performance needed for embedded computing in this class. When searching for HPEC computing platforms, there is no shortage of options. All of these alliance member focus on supporting the HPEC needs of defense and aerospace applications. You can be sure that all of them will have new products to announce with the roll-out of the 4th generation Intel® Core® processors. This will add a much appreciated performance boost to process the “Big Data” encounter in embedded computing.

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Solutions in this blog:


Related topics:


Kontron is a Premier member of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance.

GE Intelligent Platforms is an Associate member of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance.

Concurrent Technologies and MEN Mikro Elektronik GmbH are Affiliate members of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance.

Curtiss-Wright Controls Defense Solutions, Mercury Systems and Themis Computer are General members of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance.


Jerry Gipper

OpenSystems Media®, by special arrangement with the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance

Editorial Director,OpenSystems Media,VITA Technologies

I’ve followed the ever-continuing advances in Intel® processors for many years now, but it’s still amazing to me how much difference a processor generation can make. With the recently announced 4th generation Intel® Core™ processor family (formerly codenamed “Haswell”), there are a surprising number of new features for retail transactional technology, particularly point-of-sale (POS) systems (see Figure 1).


Haswell in Retail.JPG

Figure 1. The 4th generation Intel® Core™ processor family provides a wide range of benefits for retail transactional devices.

These new processors can help improve transaction experiences for both businesses and customers, enabling POS systems that:

  • Deliver engaging personalized service and incentives
  • Enable mobile checkout options
  • Protect personal and transactional data
  • Reduce IT costs
  • Improve remote device uptime


Delivering all of these benefits may sound like a tall order, but it’s one that the members of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance are already addressing using this new generation of processors. In this blog we’ll look at customer engagement and mobile solutions. In a subsequent blog, we'll look at how this new processor family helps ramp up security and manageability to protect data, reduce IT costs, and improve uptime.


Delivering Engaging Personalized Service and Incentives

The first step in engaging customers is delivering compelling visuals. The 4th generation Intel Core processor family offers superb integrated graphics, with up to 60% faster graphics improvement over the previous generation. It does this through wider data paths, sampler improvements, double clocked geometry, more execution units, and support of the latest 3D APIs (DX11.1 and OGL4.3). And with the ability to power three independent displays, these processors are well-suited for multi-display POS systems that show items as they’re rung up and run promotional offers and advertisements to earn extra revenue for the store.

You’ll see some of this improved graphics performance in:

  • Intel® Clear Video HD Technology which uses hardware acceleration to dynamically improve video quality through frame-rate conversion, image stabilization, and more
  • Intel® HD Graphics which mixes crystal clear video with immersive 3D and responsive 2D graphics to bring products and offers to life on-screen
  • Intel® Quick Sync Video which enables the super-fast transfer of promotional content to customer devices and phones

The other big improvement for delivering personalized service and incentives is performance. The 4th generation Intel Core processor family delivers between10 to 15 percent improved processing performance over the previous generation. This enables smooth, responsive interactive experiences and faster analytics at the edge.


This last point is important because of the increasing need for edge devices like POS systems to analyze customer profiles in real time and encourage add-on sales at the checkout. For example, a customer buying seeds at a garden supply store could be presented a special today-only price on soil amendments. This is more than an offer. It’s a helpful reminder of what else you should be buying—something customers will appreciate. The same might be true if you’re buying shoes at a department store and a POS display offers a great price on socks. Instead of having to train store personnel to make these suggestions, you can buy software that does it. And the software never forgets to do it and never has a bad day.

Enabling More Checkout Options

Today’s retailer wants sales associates to engage customers more and not just sit behind the register. On-the-floor sales assistance and checkout line busting require mobile POS solutions. The 4th generation Intel Core processors with up to 25 percent lower thermal design power compared to the previous generation are optimized for thin and light form factors with long battery life that are detachable, dockable, and can swivel and be convertible.

For developers looking to take mobile POS interactivity to the next level, the Intel® Perceptual Computing SDK enables rapid development and deployment of multi-touch, gesture, speech, and facial recognition. Imagine a POS checkout screen that reacts to people’s attention and engages them with responses to their touch, hand gestures, and even a smile. Available as a free download with no licensing necessary, the SDK supports close range hand and finger tracking, speech recognition (English, with more languages to come), face analysis, and augmented reality via 2D/3D object tracking. High-level APIs provide developers with fast, easy programming access to perceptual computing functionality, while low-level APIs provide experienced developers the control needed for application innovation.

Examples of New Boards

Accompanying the launch of the 4th generation Intel Core processors is a long list of boards and systems for a wide variety of retail applications, from digital signage to digital security surveillance. I’m going to point out some solutions that are particularly well suited for POS devices.


The Congatec conga-TS87 (Figure 2) is a Type 6 COM Express module with the mobile Intel® QM87 Express chipset and powerful quad core Intel® Core™ i7-4700EQ processor with 6MB L2 cache. It can be powered at 2.4 GHz with a TDP of 47W. In Turbo Boost mode, the clock rate is increased to 3.4 GHz. The processor handles up to 16 GB, 1600 MT/s fast LV 1.35V dual channel DDR3 memory. The integrated graphics support Intel® Flexible Display Interface (FDI), DirectX 11.1, OpenGL 4, OpenCL 1.2 and high-performance, flexible hardware decoding of multiple high-resolution full HD videos—imagine the video advertisements a self-checkout kiosk could run equipped with that. Static graphics will also stand out with 4K pixel resolution of up to 3840 x 2160 with DisplayPort and 4096 x 2304 with natively supported HDMI.


Figure 2. Congatec conga-TS87


The Kontron KTQ87/mITX Mini-ITX board (Figure 3) integrates new features such as the new Intel® Advanced Vector Extensions 2 instructions (Intel® AVX2), which dramatically accelerate floating-point-intensive computations, and the improved Intel® Advanced Encryption Standard New Instructions AES-NI), which accelerates data encryption and decryption. Graphics-intensive POS applications will profit from the improved graphics performance of the 4th generation Intel Core processors, while the thermal footprint has remained nearly the same. Kontron has integrated an excellent range of interfaces, including PCIe 3.0 and USB 3.0. With long-term availability and support for up to three independent displays, the KTQ87/mITX provides everything to build a broad array of future-oriented, rich media embedded applications on a single compact Mini-ITX form factor that’s an ideal fit for retail kiosks and POS.



Figure 3. Kontron KTQ87/mITX



The Axiomtek SHB130 (Figure 4) is a high-performance PICMG 1.3 full-size CPU card designed around 4th generation Intel Core processors with the Intel® Q87 Express chipset. The card comes with two DDR3/L 1333/1600 MHz unbuffered ECC DIMM slots up to 16 GB of system memory and provides 14 USB ports (four USB 3.0 and 10 USB 2.0 ports), two Gigabit LAN ports, DVI-D/VGA or DisplayPort (optional), HD audio, one RS-232/422/485 port, four RS-232 ports, DIO (4-IN & 4-OUT) and two PS/2 keyboard and mouse ports. This high performance PICMG 1.3 slot CPU card is fully compatible with Axiomtek's PICMG 1.3 full-size passive backplanes. Axiomtek offers various industrial housing enclosures and has the capability to assist with any customer's integration requirements.



Figure 4. Axiomtek SHB130




The ready-to-go Venture Compact eIPC380 also comes with a rich set of IOs, such as USB 3.0 ports, and the user can select to output to HDMI, VGA and Display Port (see Figure 5). Further flexibility and configurability are provided by internal mini-PCIe slots. In addition, the ruggedized and low-profile enclosure protects the system in tough operational environments. Developed with reference to the Intel® Intelligent Systems Framework guideline, the eIPC380 is an excellent solution that brings excellent connectivity and performance for delivering engaging experiences to retail POS. The eIPC380 supports Windows 8, 7 and Windows Embedded Standard. It’s also available with cellular mobile connectivity.





Figure 5. Venture Compact elPC380


Enable a New Generation of POS Systems

The rapid implementation of the 4th generation Intel Core processor family in these and other Alliance products is designed to enable developers to speed to market a new generation of stationary and mobile intelligent POS systems with high-power graphics. In my next post, I’ll cover the manageability and security benefits of these new processors that will appeal to retailers.






Learn More

Contact Featured Alliance Members:

Solutions in this blog:

Related topics:

·        Performance - Top Picks (blogs, white papers, and more)

·        Retail - Top Picks (blogs, white papers, and more)


Kontron is a Premier member of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance. Axiomtek, Congatec, and Venture Corporation are Associate members of the Intel® Intelligent SystemsAlliance. 


Mark Scantlebuiry

Roving Reporter (Intel Contractor), Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance

Associate Editor, Embedded Innovator magazine




The Problem


According to a Defense Science Board analysis of 32 major automated information system acquisitions, the average time to deliver an initial DoD program capability is 91 months once funding is approved. This is two to three times the average industry IT refresh cycle time, making it difficult to keep pace with user needs and technology evolution. (Department of Defense Cloud Computing Strategy)

The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) recognizes that they have a problem keeping up with technology and as a result is embracing a strategy for cloud computing. The DoD Cloud Computing Strategy is the official published document that lays out the groundwork, consistent with the broader Federal Cloud Computing Strategy, for accelerating cloud adoption in the Department. Cloud computing is a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.

DoD Cloud Computing Goal

Implement cloud computing as the means to deliver the most innovative, efficient, and secure information and IT services in support of the Department’s mission, anywhere, anytime, on any authorized device.

DoD Strategy


The DoD strategy can be summarized as follows:

  • The DoD Cloud Computing Strategy introduces an approach to move the Department from the current state of a duplicative, cumbersome, and costly set of application silos to an end state which is an agile, secure, and cost effective service environment that can rapidly respond to changing mission needs.
  • The DoD Enterprise Cloud Environment includes separate implementations and data exchanges on Non-secure Internet Protocol Router Network (NIPRNet), Secure Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPRNet), and Top Secret Sensitive Compartmentalized Information (TS SCI) security domains.
  • All cloud services must comply with Department Information Assurance (IA), cybersecurity, continuity, and other policies. The Department will leverage commercially offered cloud services that offer the same or a greater level of protection necessary for DoD mission and information assets. [Department of Defense Cloud Computing Strategy]

One can sense how the DoD wants to leverage current commercial enterprise and consumer cloud computing technology to their advantage. The DoD recognizes the value of a cloud computing strategy but also is clearly aware of the pitfalls that may interfere with mission imperatives. The Department is reducing the number of data centers from about 1,500 to “a number far below that,” Robert J. Carey, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Information Management, Integration and Technology) / Department of Defense Deputy Chief Information Officer, said, and is implementing a coherent and consistent architecture across thousands of computing environments.


The DoD has identified specific cloud computing challenges that require careful adoption considerations, especially in areas of cybersecurity, continuity of operations, information assurance (IA), cybersecurity, and resilience. Additional challenges include service acquisition and funding sustainment, data migration and management, and overcoming network dependence at the tactical edge (where users are often Disconnected, Intermittent and Low-bandwidth (DIL) users).

DoD Cloud Computing Strategy Figure 1.png

DoD Enterprise Cloud Environment


The move to consolidated data centers is guided by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cloud Computing Reference Architecture, and the NIST Cloud Computing Standards Roadmap. Leveraging the NIST guidance, the DoD Cloud Reference Architecture includes a modular infrastructure that scales up for deployment within large, Continental United States (CONUS) data centers and scales down to offer containerized and small footprint computing resources in regional facilities and deployed tactical edge environments.


DoD Cloud Computing Strategy Figure 2.png

Consolidated Core Data Centers will Form the Basis of the Enterprise Cloud Infrastructure


The DoD wants the same costs savings already realized by commercial enterprises. In data center operations, this should be a relatively easy goal to achieve. Where it gets a bit more challenging is with deployed tactical edge environments where the deployed platforms are more heterogeneous. Multi-service defense systems have widely varying missions with many unique needs. The DoD has always faced a challenge getting the various armed services to work together to develop common platform strategies. I just don’t see this going away anytime soon, leaving the door open for a wealth of divergent platforms.


Key elements from the DoD Cloud Computing Strategy that most impact Intel Intelligent Systems Alliance members center around efforts to optimize data center consolidation. The Department wants to reduce hardware footprints in data centers by implementing server virtualization and infrastructure-as-a-service. Data centers throughout the DoD will be consolidated into smaller, core data centers that will reduce the number of different hardware platforms, resulting in savings in equipment, facility, and operational costs. Information security is another key element that will require support from both hardware and software suppliers before their products can be implemented as part of this strategy.




I looked at Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance members with enterprise solutions and cloud computing initiatives to determine how they are addressing my questions. Here are some of my observations.


Dell believes that cloud computing is not a technology but rather a strategy. Federal agencies have the same IT needs and opportunities as their private sector counterparts, but they demand a different approach. Dell is committed to developing solutions that match business vision and drive them forward with maximum flexibility and minimum risk. They work with customers and organizations to build on technologies and processes already in place. Dell Federal Government Solution’s case-by-case approach is used to determine the right technology and services for an agency, including cloud computing, data center modernization, employee mobility initiatives and cybersecurity.


Hewlett-Packard appears to be more aggressive with a cloud computing strategy focused on federal government needs. They already manage and secure two of the largest intranets in the world for the U.S. Department of Navy and UK Ministry of Defense. HP Cloud Services for Government clients can select from of an array of HP’s commercially available cloud offerings as well as those designed to meet specific Public Sector needs. HP cloud sourcing options include Private Cloud, Virtual Private Cloud (enterprise-class, managed, highly secure multi-tenant cloud), Public Cloud services, or a combination.


Microsoft approaches cloud computing as a way to help customers take a key step toward better business agility, economics, and user experiences. The cloud presents an opportunity to redefine the role IT plays in implementing a business’s strategy. Microsoft Cloud Computing for Government provides scalable, on-demand cloud computing services to help government organizations focus on mission-critical objectives, while helping to reduce IT costs.


Oracle provides aerospace and defense organizations with a complete, open, and integrated suite of business applications, server, and storage solutions engineered to work together to optimize every aspect of their business. Oracle Cloud Computing Services provides enterprise-grade cloud solutions, including software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), and infrastructure as a service (IaaS).


Intel launched their Cloud 2015 Vision to help businesses implement cloud computing solutions that are federated, automated, and client-aware. This vision offers the promise of swiftly responding to the demands of users. With federated clouds, IT can rapidly scale computing resources, while client-aware clouds enable the delivery of optimized applications to end-user devices. Intel Cloud Builders is a cross-industry initiative aimed at making it easier to build, enhance, and operate cloud infrastructure. Here you will find an extensive library of cloud computing tools and solutions in the Cloud Builders Reference Architecture Library.


Intel delivers leading foundational technology that improves your ability to optimize, scale, and better secure your server, network, and storage infrastructure. Intel provides practical implementation guidance and tools, including proven reference architectures from more than 50 leading systems and solutions providers.




From what I can discern, there does not appear to be any significant change in strategy for Intel Intelligent Systems Alliance members that are supplying commercial enterprise products that is driven by the DoD Cloud Computing Strategy. Since the DoD is placing a heavy emphasis on using commercial grade equipment, they are not necessarily looking for the suppliers to do anything beyond what they do to support commercial initiatives or current needs for specific operational conditions. Security is a top priority for nearly all user types of cloud computing and is clearly reflect in the DoD plan. The DoD does have some unique mission critical needs that they address through mission networks that are special purpose with their own cloud computing services, especially in edge environments.


All of the companies reviewed have federal government or defense and aerospace business units in place that are already key contributors to the DoD strategy. They all have solid commercial enterprise solutions and a focus on cloud computing. Most have government cloud computing called out as part of their overall strategy.


Fortunately, for most Intel Intelligent Systems Alliance members, cloud computing neutralizes many hardware and software dependencies. With security, interoperability, and portability cited as major barriers to broader adoption, the opportunities for alliance members to contribute to the cloud computing strategy remain high. Most of the members focus on products that are used in edge devices so having fast wide-area network access is the single most important aspect for participation in any cloud computing strategy. These members should be aware of what is going on in the big picture, especially as it relates to the barriers to be sure that they can take full advantage of future opportunities.


The DoD Cloud Computing Strategy was published in July of 2012. It is evolving and should be studied if you are serving this market.


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Related topics:


Dell is a Premier member of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance.

    Contact Dell>>

Hewlett-Packard is an Associate member of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance.

    Contact Hewlett-Packard>>

Microsoft is an Associate member of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance.

    Contact Microsoft>>

Oracle is an Associate member of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance.

    Contact Oracle>>



Jerry Gipper

OpenSystems Media®, by special arrangement with Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance

Editorial Director, OpenSystems Media, VITA Technologies

by Tom Starnes

Digital signage can be so much more than a PC behind a large monitor mindlessly looping through a PowerPoint presentation.  Adding a few buttons along the side may give the viewer a chance to re-direct the program to another series of slides, but this interaction is fairly limited and dependent upon the viewer for explicit inputs.  More exotic software is being developed that distinguishes digital signage as a truly new, exciting product category.  This "more aware" digital signage senses enough about a passer-by to better attract and engage the person to stop and pay attention to the signage without their having to do anything.  The system can keep better track of how engaged viewers of the signage are, allowing the operators to fine-tune the messaging to specific categories of people.


Such software enhances the experience for the passer-by, who is a potential customer.  Sensing and analytics can better match products and messages to viewers, greatly improving the effectiveness of messaging.  Remote management lets real-time updates be made conveniently to a widely distributed network of signs.  The Intel® Audience Impression Metrics Suite (Intel® AIM Suite) establishes a base platform blending viewer sensing with analytics, which can increase effectiveness for the display and make a very positive impact on profitability for a store.


Know Your Audience

The AIM Suite adds intelligence to digital signage by detecting characteristics of the viewers of the signage on a moment-by-moment basis so the content being shown can be adjusted to better fit the viewer's likely interests.  Just the presence of people looking at the sign can trigger software to jump into action.  With AIM, that action can be a carefully planned sequence based on characteristics gathered about the viewer to better target their potential interests.  Showing women's clothing to male viewers is not likely to generate a sale.  Younger people often look for different things in the same products than older folks do.


Some fairly basic information about people in front of the digital signage can be quite useful.  Is the person male or female?  Are there children, teenagers, adults, or seniors?  Are they passing by or pausing to look, and for how long?



Part of the AIM Suite software runs on the local digital signage hardware, classifying people viewing the sign by using Anonymous Viewer Analytics (AVA).  Optical sensors on the display feed images to the processor which are analyzed to find faces in the image that are turned toward the display.  Size, shape, and relationship of key features of faces and bodies in the frame are evaluated to determine how many people are there, how far away the subjects are, and whether they are facing the display.  This is similar to what is done to determine focus and exposure in some digital cameras.  The height and proportions of people help classify their age group.  Bright and dark spots are evaluated to assess gender and age.  Patterns that look like facial hair or a bald head are an easy indicator of men.  Tracking the movement of subjects in the frame over time gives important information about whether people are paying attention to the signage or just passing by.


stop watch.JPGPeople lingering at the signage, facing the display, are probably interested in the subject matter (or at least curious enough to see what will come up next).  If a person moves away after a few seconds, the follow-on image may have soured the person to the subject. A pattern of such abandonment may indicate that more work needs to be put into the follow-on image or the flow of the messaging.  Was it too much information or just repetitive?  Maybe this was the point where available colors or styles should have been shown.  It might be time to start spelling out key features.


Intel is quick to highlight two important points about how the AIM software evaluates images.  One is that it does not store any personally-identifiable information, and the other is that it uses algorithms developed to broadly classify people, not techniques that are designed to identify individuals as one might do looking at drivers licenses.  Words like face detection, facial representations, audience characteristics, audience detection, demographics, and indications are used rather than facial recognition, matching, or identification.  Privacy should not be a concern here.


These systems are not trying to pick out return shoppers, but are hoping to avoid wasting time showing peek-toe pumps (these are shoes) to men or socket wrenches to senior women.  Guys can get the creeps walking through the ladies underwear department, which we're inevitably forced to do.  Broad generalizations may imply certain biases that can be wrong, but their use is common in general merchandising.  TV advertisers don't need to know that John Smith at 123 State Street watched the latest reality show, but they do want to know how many 18- to 49-year old females tuned in.


Knowledge of the makeup of the audience is key to effective advertising.  The subject matter as well as the presentation are important for getting through to the audience.  Action and music may grab the attention of younger viewers, but a more businesslike attitude may work better on some men.  Fun and fashion may rule over facts and figures.  Some groups are captivated by a lot of quick pictures, while others prefer slower-moving traditional imagery.  It seems that pink versus blue is over-the-top for gender affinity, but such matters are beyond the author's forte.


The data gathered may not be perfect, but it will still provide insights by its volume.  Hats, glasses, and bulky clothing may give false classifications.  Three girls facing the sign may be talking to a fourth whose back is to the sign.  They may be paying no attention to the sign at all and soon wander off.  But if the products, music, and style of the images on the sign changes to something closely targeting teenage girls, the signage may soon catch their attention – exactly the intention of the digital signage – and a sale or three may be imminent.

Rebuilding Brick-and-Mortar

Computer-based kiosks and digital signage can bring shoppers back to brick-and-mortar stores to browse, learn about products, and make their purchases right then and there. In recent years shoppers may have tried to do it all sitting at home on the Internet, stuck with only whatever information they could dig up there.  Then after a few day wait for delivery of their order, they might find it wasn't what they had expected or it didn't fit.  Interactive digital signage can bring the best of both worlds together at the local retail store.


While you can't go to the store in your pajamas, networked digital signage and kiosks can bring the wealth of information available on-line to a point in the brick-and-mortar store, near the merchandise and where a real person can help when the prepared information falls short.  Shopping for clothing on-line, a person can see all the styles, colors, and sizes that are available.  The in-store digital signage has the same capabilities when connected to a real-time database.  Enhanced with the intelligence gained from the AIM Suite, the display and messaging should be more effective at offering suggestions than a user-driven browser.  The added benefit in-store is that the shopper can immediately go see the actual clothing, feel the cloth, make sure the color is just right, check the workmanship, try it on to see how it looks, and narrow down the best size.  olbnm.PNG


Shopping instead for new consumer electronics, after checking out detailed feature lists and comparisons and perhaps seeing a demo of a function or two from digital signage in a store, a patron can walk over to an actual system and try it out.  How do those buttons feel?  Is that screen bright enough?  Can you feel that bass in your bones?


The key is that the resources of the digital signage can give the depth of information available on the Web that isn't on the package label or the placard on the shelf and might be difficult for a clerk to keep in mind for each product.  Computer-driven signage can present information accurately, hitting the best selling points, fine tuned for the shopper according to characteristics determined by the AIM Suite.


The physical store gains two big advantages over pure Internet shopping.  One is that a real person is available to answer questions, address negatives, demonstrate personal favorite features, and redirect to a better choice.  A nurturing salesperson may still be needed to "bring home the sale," including assuaging concerns about the price, but on-line retailers don't get that human touch – the last ditch "are you sure?" banner when a person clicks off on their Web browser is pretty desperate.  Even if the sale is lost, a live salesperson should at least come away knowing why.


The second advantage is that of instant gratification.  Five minutes later, the store customer can be driving home with the new dress, sunglasses, or audio gear and can be showing it off later in the day.  If the party is tonight or the water heater breaks, it can be a long two days waiting for the delivery truck to arrive.  Again, a good salesperson will work this advantage.

For Your Information

Situations suggested here have mostly been set in a retail environment, but the concepts also work in many other applications.  Increased sales may not be the direct goal of all applications, but digital signage taking advantage of the AIM Suite will improve effectiveness in more informational applications.  Engaging the viewer is the key, and the better the system can classify the viewer, the better it can present the information in an easily digestible way.


Digital signage in museums, guidance, tourist information, and training all should be as useful as possible.  More text. Lists. More audio. More pictures. More animals. More action. Music. Fred Astaire, John Travolta, or Psy?  More interactivity.  Simpler verbiage. More diagrams. Senior discounts, wheelchair accessible. Highlight neighborhoods, colleges, museums, restaurants, or bars?  Matching content and presentation to the viewers can improve how readily information is absorbed in most applications.  Effectiveness on some applications might be measured by how quickly viewers leave the signage rather than how long they linger there.  After all, nobody wants to miss the train because they were still trying to figure out which train to be on.


Tools of the Trade

The Intel AIM Suite 2.2 is the current version of the software.  Hardware based on 3rd Generation Intel® Core processors will provide the highest performance, quickest response, and most dynamic graphics for the content.  With a 60% improvement in graphics performance over Sandy Bridge, many systems were able to eliminate independent graphics processors from the works.  As always, buzz of even greater CPU capabilities is on the horizon.



For content creation, Flypaper offers the Intel OPS KIT which lets users develop and then manage Flash, video, and other media-rich content for digital signage.  The Intel AIM Suite is integrated into this software with an AVA Component which lets the producer define their own rules within the content.

Take Aim at Customers with Digital Signage to Improve Brick-and-Mortar Sales

Digital signage takes a step forward using optical sensors with Anonymous Viewer Analytics in the Intel® Audience Impression Metrics Suite to characterize potential customers to better target them with appropriate messaging.  The AIM Suite is a starting point, but hardware and additional software needs to be assembled for a fully managed system, and significant creative content will need to be developed for individual applications.


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Both law and logic dictate that networked transportation systems must be as secure as possible. In a previous post we explored Positive Train Control (PTC), a computerized system for monitoring and controlling the movement of trains. These are typically proprietary mission-critical wireless systems that utilize the 217-222 MHz band. They’re not open to the public, and—needless to say—not easily hacked.


There are other transportation systems—for trains, buses, heavy industrial equipment and other rolling stock—that aren’t part of a closed control loop and that utilize widely available commercial interfaces, including Wi-Fi, 3G/4G cellular, USB, Ethernet, RS232 and RS485. These are non-mission critical systems that may include passenger counting, asset management, and GPS location.


“One example is a project we’re doing for DC Metro,” explained Kurt Hochanadel, Corporate Product Marketing Manager at Eurotech. “They have a wear leveling project where we’re reporting the wear level on the wheels of the trains. We’re actually on the wheels, measuring wear and reporting to their back-end asset managers through a Wi-Fi access point technology. There are access points at depots and stations; we supply a secure, encrypted channel to the Wi-Fi and also a secure connection to the server, so it’s double encrypted [using] IPsec and VPNs. We’re using standard tools that provide the best security in the marketplace and not trying to build something from scratch.”


The heart of Eurotech’s DC Metro system is the DynaVIS 10-00 (see Figure 1), a compact, rugged mobile display computer. The DynaVIS 10-00 features a 5.7” VGA touchscreen and connectivity through Wi-Fi, 3G cellular, and Gigabit Ethernet. It’s powered by a 1.10 GHz Intel® Atom Z510PT processor with 512K cache and 400 MHz FSB and an Intel® System Controller Hub US15WPT Chipset (Intel(R) SCH US15WPT). . The device is housed in an IP65-rated enclosure and features high-end rugged connectors that provide long-term reliability in harsh environments.


Figure 1: The Eurotech DynaVIS 10-00 is an Intel® Atom processor-powered
rugged computer designed for use in the transportation industry.


The DynaVIS 10-00 is EN50155 certified—the European standard for "Railway Applications—Electronic Equipment Used On Rolling Stock”, which covers the extended operating temperature range (-25/+70 degrees Centigrade), plus resistance to the humidity, shock, vibration, and radiation encountered in vehicle or airborne installations. When asked about automotive applications, Hochanadel replied that rail requirements “are substantially more robust than for automotive. There are a lot of different applications in transportation—basically all your typical logistics. The DynaVIS 10-00 is an onboard computer that talks to all your interfaces and all your equipment.”


Secure by Design

On the software side the DynaVIS 10-00 runs Wind River Linux 3.0, from which it derives many of its security features. According to Hochanadel, “Typically most applications start from a Linux environment and meet the security requirements from that standpoint. Most of the security is done using standard IP tools utilizing SSL and SSH encryption.” Wind River Linux provides a secure and robust environment for the rest of the applications.


Security starts at the operating system level. Wind River Linux includes SELinux as a Linux Security Module (LSM), a piece of the kernel that arbitrates access to all systems resources based on security policies as well as a collection of tools for developing, debugging, and enforcing those policies. Wind River Linux also includes advanced preemptive security technologies such as run-time stack and buffer overflow protection as well as a complete intrusion detection and prevention system.


At the protocol level older Internet security systems, including the Secure Socket Layer (SSL), Transport Layer Security (TLS), and Secure Shell (SSH)—all of the DynaVIS 10-00 also supports—are implemented at the application layer of the Internet protocol suite. In contrast Internet Protocol Security (IPsec) is implemented at the Internet layer, where it can provide seamless end-to-end security between hosts and networks.

Implemented in both IPv4 and IPv6, IPsec can operate in both Transport mode—where only the payload of the IP packet is encrypted and the routing is left intact—or Tunnel mode, where the entire IP packet is encrypted and inserted into another packet with a new IP header. Tunnel mode is used to create virtual private networks (VPNs). In either case IPsec implements one of three cryptographic algorithms: HMA-SHA1, TripleDES-CBC, and AES-CBC. The probability of hacking any of these encryption algorithms when implemented with a sufficiently long key is vanishingly small.


Architected for Success

Having been designed from the beginning with Intel hardware and software, the DynaVIS 10-00 supports the Intel® Intelligent Systems Framework (ISF). Designed before ISF was introduced, Eurotech built the system said Hochanadel “with the same kind of componentry as a Java Virtual Machine (JVM) and an OSI framework to provide functionality that’s portable across different platforms.” Eurotech called this its Everywhere Software Framework (ESF). Built around Intel hardware and software and with the same design goals, it’s not surprising that the system is not just “ISF ready” but in fact ISF validated.


Asked why Eurotech chose the Intel architecture Hochanadel replied, “The hardware, software, and tools were more advanced than anything else. Also the price/performance gap favors Intel, as does its ease of wireless connectivity, especially in a Linux environment. Plus most devices have x86 drivers. There are a lot of issues that you don’t have to deal with in an x86 environment.” That’s especially true when everything is designed to work together.

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John Donovan
Roving Reporter (Intel® contractor), Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance
Low-Power Design
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Recent storms and record high temperatures have put a lot of stress on the power grid. Load shifting, smart meters, and integrating alternative energy sources are all part of the solution. But how do you measure and control what’s happening at all points on a widely distributed power grid, and then how do you coordinate all these technologies in the most effective way? In short, just how smart is the Smart Grid?


Let’s start with measurement. Phasors mean one thing to Star Trek fans and quite another to utility companies.  A phasor is a complex number that represents the magnitude and phase angle of the sine waves found in electricity. By placing phasor measurement units (PMUs) at critical points around the grid utility companies can measure power quality and assess local system conditions, enabling them to respond to local disturbances (see Figure 1) as well as balance power flow over different lines and from different power sources.


Figure 1: PMU data reveal dynamic behavior as the system responds to a voltage disturbance.


For all this to work over a large grid all phasor data is synchronized to a GPS radio clock; phasor measurements that occur at the same time are called syncrophasors. PMUs take voltage and current measurements and then digitize the results using A/D converters. This data is time stamped and sent over the network to a phasor data concentrator (PDC), where it is collected and sent to a computer to be analyzed by the  a Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition (SCADA) system at a central facility.

Synchrophasors enable a flexible, efficient smart grid by utilizing distributed measurements to maximize transmission efficiency and minimize outages. However, a major obstacle to deploying synchrophasors is the lack of standards for the PMUs that communicate line conditions back to a SCADA system.


Intel, Dell, National Instruments, and OSIsoft are helping overcome this obstacle through a synchrophasor data management solution based on the Intel® Intelligent Systems Framework. This solution combines high-performance PMUs from National Instruments with a Dell 19-inch server rack. The servers run phasor PDC software from OSIsoft that collects and analyzes data from multiple PMUs (see Figure 2). This solution enables advanced visualization, analytics, and early warning systems to help utilities detect evolving disturbances and avoid widespread blackouts.


Figure 2. The synchrophasor data management solution built on Intel® Intelligent Systems framework-based platforms employs high-volume, standard computing systems used across many industries in order to reduce deployment cost and complexity.


The National Instruments PMUs can interface with sensor hardware from a wide variety of vendors and can be updated while deployed on the grid to allow for new communications protocols or more advanced analysis. They’re powered by high-performance multicore Intel® Core i7 processors.


The PMU data from the synchrophasors is delivered to centralized Dell PowerEdge servers, which provide a complete computing, networking, and storage platform with three tiers of scalable storage. The Intel® Xeon® processor-powered servers deliver data in near real time to grid operators.


Grid operators can then manage and analyze the resulting mass of data using OSIsoft’s PI System, enabling them to quickly understand and react to problems. Data security is not an issue as the PI System meets strict North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) requirements.


Key to the success of the NI, Dell, OSIsoft synchrophasor data management solution is the use of standardized, optimized, and scalable hardware and software systems—the heart of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Framework value proposition. The North American power grid is an enormously complex network based on countless proprietary legacy systems. As the network starts to add distributed intelligence, it’s critical that these systems be able to seamlessly communicate and interoperate, not just at the substation level but on a regional  and even national basis.


The Intel® Intelligent Systems Framework provides a roadmap for readily scalable connectivity, manageability, and security based on the use of standardized, well supported hardware and software architectures. With the explosive growth of data that the Smart Grid is starting to generate—and which it requires to operate—a consistent framework for building and connecting devices that interoperate over the Smart Grid is critical to its success.


The use of Intel processors all the way from the National Instruments PMUs doing data acquisition to the Dell servers, storage hardware, networking gear, and client workstations simplifies the integration, connectivity, security, and manageability of an end-to-end solution.


Validated and tested to reduce a utility’s engineering and development costs and risk, the synchrophasor data management solution uses framework-ready hardware to provide the open architecture utilities needed to precisely sync and manage transmission and distribution systems. In addition to helping utilities improve efficiency, the framework-ready components increase compatibility and speed integration. This lets utilities focus on improving energy management instead of struggling to connect, manage, and secure the hardware.


In answer to our initial question, the Smart Grid is quite smart and getting smarter all the time.


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John Donovan
Roving Reporter (Intel® contractor), Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance
Low-Power Design
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As factory infrastructures transition to cloud compatibility and the number of interconnected intelligent devices grows, a host of company benefits and new business opportunities are possible. For example, the large volumes of data generated from a fully connected enterprise can be used to predict failures, simplify management, reduce support costs, and even generate new revenue streams from smart services. In addition, with cloud-based communications, device manufacturers can offer a variety of after sale services including remote product updates, failure detection, and on-site repairs to reduce customer support costs and personnel.  However, in order to reach the goal of a fully unified manufacturing facility, design teams must overcome a variety of equipment fragmentation problems caused by incompatible connectivity, management, and security technologies employed in an assortment of embedded devices.


To address the fragmentation and product interoperability issues in the intelligent systems market Intel recently announced the Intel® Intelligent Systems Framework. The framework is a set of standard practices for hardware and software development to simplify connecting, managing, and securing embedded devices and data in a standardized, reliable, and scalable manner. With this new framework in place, designers can eliminate the detailed analysis and verification of connections and functionality as new devices are added to a network.  The basic capabilities are provided by software and middleware from Intel, Wind River, and McAfee plus the hardware features of supported processors including Intel® Xeon® Processors, 2nd and 3rd generation Intel® Core™ Processors with Intel® vPro™ Technology, and Intel® Atom™ processors. To verify adherence to the standard practices outlined in the framework, Intel validates hardware and software components from members of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance to build an inventory of Intelligent Systems Framework-Ready Products.


Alliance member Eurotech offers a number of industrial-grade products targeting factory applications that have been tested for readiness with the Intel® Intelligent Systems Framework. For example the Eurotech Helios Programmable Edge Controller provides a flexible hardware platform with enhanced wired or wireless connectivity that enables simplified data acquisition and integration (See figure 1). The controller can be used to collect data from multiple distributed devices, summarize or condense the readings, and then transmit the information to a central processing center. The Helios platform is powered by the Intel® Atom™ Z5xx processor at 1.1 to 1.6 GHz and is programmable to run customer specific application software using Wind River Linux 3.0 or Windows Embedded Standard or Windows CE 6.0 operating systems. Connectivity choices allow users to select wired Gigabit Ethernet or pre-certified wireless modules for cellular, Bluetooth and others dependent upon technology or carrier preferences. Other I/O options include a multimedia card for display and audio, USB 2.0/serial ports, and a GPS system plus antenna.




Eurotech has also developed proprietary technologies that are compatible with the Intel® Intelligent Systems Framework and further simplify intelligent device development. From the communications perspective, the Everyware Cloud is a software platform that provides a simplified method to connect cloud-ready devices to enterprise systems and/or applications (See figure 2). The platform provides a low bandwidth, cloud-based communications, storage, and analysis capability allowing designers to lower network costs with an open and optimized protocol for device data transport. All the platform features are accessible through a standard application program interface (API) interface so that remote machine to machine (M2M) data can be easily integrated with information technology applications. The Everyware Cloud technology enables customers to make on the spot business decisions based on real-time data coming from the intelligence at the edge of the network.


The Everyware Software Framework (ESF) is another Eurotech technology that provides an integrated hardware and software infrastructure to enable application-ready platforms (See figure 3). ESF is an inclusive software framework that puts a layer between the operating system and the customer application, with industry standard interfaces that shorten custom development time, simplify coding, and deliver software that can be easily ported from one Eurotech hardware platform to another.  Device drivers are approached as services, implemented using simple APIs instead of complex code and removing the need to modify low level operating system code or configuration files. Because ESF is based on standardized open software backed by large industry companies, developers can easily port existing applications from third parties to their own devices.


The Eurotech Helios Programmable Edge Controller and software technologies discussed here are excellent examples of industrial products already available from alliance members that are compatible with the Intel® Intelligent Systems Framework. These products allow intelligent systems developers to immediately start extracting value from M2M data and bypass the lengthy verification of interconnectivity, system security, and remote management. You can keep up with the latest products and articles on the Intel® Intelligent Systems Framework at the Top Picks webpage.  If you are ready to start an intelligent industrial automation project requiring remote management and security, please share your questions and comments with fellow followers of the Intel® Embedded Community.


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Warren Webb
OpenSystems Media®, by special arrangement with the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance

Between two and three hundred people attended the ETSI Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) meeting in Santa Clara last month. As expected, there was a strong turnout from the telecom service providers who started the NFV initiative in late 2012, while many other companies were also represented such as network equipment manufacturers, system integrators, software companies and processor suppliers.

The overall impression was that key service providers are strongly committed to NFV, with the potential of interesting new business opportunities for a range of other players in an ecosystem that will have to include providers of hardware, software and services.

In terms of the business benefits of NFV, most of the discussion to date appears to be around the CAPEX and OPEX savings that can be achieved through the virtualization of functions that have traditionally been implemented as stand-alone, dedicated, fixed-function equipment.

One use case that’s frequently discussed is a “virtual CPE”, with an architecture that relies on a very simple CPE (modem, switch and antenna) with all services relocated to virtual network appliances on a central server. Another example is the cloud RAN (Radio Access Network) concept, in which the eNodeB at the antenna is replaced by a low-cost Remote Radio Head, with digitized RF data backhauled over fiber to a centralized Baseband Unit pool in which the baseband processing is performed. Finally, Evolved Packet Core (EPC) functions for mobile networks can be run in Virtual Machines (VMs) on generic server platforms.

Each of these scenarios promises to reduce both CAPEX and OPEX for service providers, though there’s still healthy debate as to whether a simple substitution of virtualized functions for dedicated equipment really reduces costs enough, once new operational expenses are factored in.

I was surprised not to hear more at the ESTI meeting about how NFV can enable new services, especially cloud-based applications, which would deliver real value to subscribers. These would seem to be the key to increasing Average Revenue per User (ARPU) and driving top-line growth in the P&L, rather than just reducing expenses through virtualization. On reflection, though, carriers probably view new services and applications as their proprietary secret sauce and not the kind of topic that they want to talk about in a room full of their competitors.

At this point in the evolution of NFV, the working groups and “expert groups” are mainly focused on topics relating to network management and orchestration topics. This makes perfect sense given the extreme complexity of legacy telecom networks and challenges of migrating these control-related systems to a completely new software-based architecture. And, of course, the concept of “Carrier Grade reliability” reflects expectations that we all have, as subscribers with the freedom to switch providers as soon as our contracts are up.

Before too long, though, we’ll need to talk about a fundamental data plane issue that must be addressed in order for any NFV implementation to be cost-effective.

Packet processing is a key function that dominates the processing workload for many telecom network subsystems. These include the CRAN and CPE solutions mentioned above, as well as several key EPC functions such as the Mobility Management Entity (MME), Packet Gateway, Security Gateway and Serving Gateway. In the case of traditional non-virtualized equipment, standard Operating System networking stacks provide poor performance for packet processing because of overheads and latencies within the kernel, so many equipment suppliers have adopted solutions such as 6WIND’s software, which solves that problem through a fast path architecture.

Virtualized implementations present additional challenges for packet processing. Virtualizing hundreds of CRAN, CPE or complex EPC functions on a single server requires high performance network bandwidth to be distributed to the virtualized functions. Standard virtualized architectures that work well for computing applications are unable to deliver the required performance for these demanding network applications. Bottlenecks in the hypervisor, the virtual switch and the VMs themselves can degrade overall networking performance by an order of magnitude for virtualized functions when compared to physical implementations. This is a potential showstopper in terms of the cost-effectiveness of NFV architectures, for which cost-per-subscriber will be a critical metric.

Fortunately, this problem can be solved. Through the use of techniques such as IO Virtualization (IOV), virtual NIC (vNIC) drivers and direct VM-to-VM (VM2VM) communication, as well as a fast path data plane implementation, it’s possible to bypass the bottlenecks. Advanced software solutions can deliver the high networking performance that’s required in order to achieve the cost reductions that are the basis of the NFV concept.

As an example of this, at Open Networking Summit during the week before the recent NFV meeting, 6WIND demonstrated a solution that delivers a 10x improvement in the performance of the standard Open Virtual Switch (OVS), which performs the critical switching function required to deliver high-bandwidth network traffic to VMs.

So while most of the NFV attention and conversations are currently centered on management and orchestration issues, let’s not forget that sooner or later we’ll need to make sure the data plane performance challenges are addressed too. This will be a critical factor in ensuring that the NFV architectures do indeed deliver the CAPEX and OPEX reductions that are promised. And then we’ll have low-cost, high-performance platforms for the delivery of innovative new services for subscribers, which can be the basic of increased service provider revenues.


As industrial designers incorporate remote, fully interconnected factory equipment to reduce costs and simplify maintenance, the exposure to data disruptions or system cyber attacks becomes apparent.  According to the 2013 Internet Security Threat Report published by Symantec Corporation, manufacturing was the most-targeted sector in 2012 with 24 percent of all attacks, compared with 15 percent in 2011. In addition, the research detected a 42% increase overall in cyber attacks in 2012 compared to 2011. Similarly, Verizon recently released the 2013 Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR) which found that manufacturing is the highest targeted industry (33%) by those motivated by industrial espionage. In these attacks, cyber thieves were trying to access intellectual property, product designs, and trade secrets. The DBIR analyzes data from 19 organizations — covering more than 47,000 reported security incidents and 621 confirmed data breaches from the past year. The manufacturing sector also is one of 18 critical infrastructure sectors established under the United States Department of Homeland Security National Infrastructure Protection Plan to enable assessment of national, cross-sector critical infrastructure protection and resilience programs.


To deal with these potential disruptions, designers are devising techniques to protect or harden important and vulnerable elements of the industrial infrastructure. In fact, security precautions have changed the basic design goals for many industrial embedded devices. Designers are no longer just motivated to produce the simplest, lowest cost device for each project but must now strengthen systems with faster, more capable processors, secure data storage, and tamper-proof communications to simultaneously protect the software structure and data while executing the manufacturing function. To assist in this new industrial design approach, Intel has devised an overall framework combined with state of-the-art architecture to provide multiple security strategies that designers can employ to defend individual devices and the overall plant infrastructure.

One of the most recent security enhancement announcements is the Intel® Intelligent Systems Framework  used to simplify connecting, managing, and securing embedded devices (See figure 1). The framework eliminates the man-hours spent analyzing and verifying interconnections and secure operation as new devices are added to an existing network. The framework combines processor architecture, operating systems, and other software to create ready-to-run, secure, and interoperable platforms for intelligent systems.  Addressing security, the framework provides flexible recipes using scalable, off-the-shelf elements for platform, software, and data protection. For example, the firmware BIOS must be based on the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) specification version 2.1 or greater to enable Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI) Development Kit support for measured boot and secure boot. The framework also includes software and operational middleware from Wind River, McAfee, and Intel® for secure communications and manageability without sacrificing performance.

ISF C.png


The framework leverages system processors with Intel® vPro™ Technology (Intel® vPro) providing built-in hardware support for remote management, virtualization, and platform security functions. This technology allows designers to activate, reconfigure, and if necessary, deactivate a remote embedded system. Intel® vPro™ technology capabilities are embedded in hardware so they can be accessed and administered independently from the operating system and software applications. Intel® vPro™ includes several features that provide hardware support for platform security. Intel® Active Management Technology (Intel® AMT) delivers certificate-based security allowing remote access to the embedded system for management and security tasks to minimize attack opportunities along with complete isolation for rapid repair of compromised systems. Intel® Virtualization Technology (Intel® VT) increases system performance and reliability with hardware support for virtualization software to safely separate and isolate security-critical applications running on the same system. In addition, Intel® Trusted Execution Technology (Intel® TXT) protects embedded devices against rootkit and other system level attacks with an industry-standard Trusted Platform Module device to store key encryption components and protected data.


A low risk way to take advantage of the security features of Intel® Intelligent Systems Framework and Intel® vPro™ technologies is to integrate products that have been certified or tested for readiness. For example, Avalue subsidiary BCM Advanced Research has announced a series of industrial computers that are designed to support the framework, Intel® AMT and Intel® TXT technologies.  Based on Mini-ITX form factor motherboards, the BI255-67QMD series is equipped with the Intel® QM67 Express Chipset and supports Intel® 2nd generation Mobile Core™ i7, Core™ i5, Core™ i3 or Celeron® processors (See figure 2).



Intel Intelligent Systems Alliance members also provide variety of off-the-shelf boards and systems that include the Intel® Intelligent Systems Framework and Intel® vPro™ technologies. For example, the Advantech AIMB-273 Mini-ITX motherboard and the Portwell PCOM-B219VG COM Express module are framework-ready products supporting industrial embedded applications. These products allow industrial designers to start new projects with pre-tested hardware and software components to ensure that devices and systems include security provisions for built-in threat management. If you are ready to start an industrial project requiring a protected infrastructure, please share your questions and comments with fellow followers of the Intel® Embedded Community.


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