In the first part of this series I covered techniques and products that you can use to start developing digital signage for promotional and information delivery applications based on the latest Intel® Atom™E6xx architecture. Although these applications are extremely popular, another segment of the digital signage industry has also recently attracted a lot of attention and developer interest, namely In-Vehicle Infotainment (IVI). As consumers spend more time in automobiles, trucks, buses, and trains, they are demanding the same real-time, multimedia functionality from the on-board electronics as they get with their smart phones, home entertainment systems, and internet-based computers. For example, with an advanced IVI system, the driver of an automobile can engage in a hands-free telephone conversation or check on traffic congestion while a rear seat passenger simultaneously watches a movie or plays a video game.
The Intel® Atom™E6xx architecture includes a number of performance features ideally suited for advanced IVI applications. One of the significant improvements over the previous generation is the integration of the display, audio, and memory interfaces onto the CPU resulting in higher system bandwidth while allowing designers to reduce component count and board area. The Intel® Atom™E6xx series also updates the front side bus used in previous generations to a four-lane PCI Express interface giving designers the option of replacing the companion chipset with custom or third-party circuitry. The processor incorporates the Intel® Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) 600 2D/3D graphics engine which delivers a 50 percent improvement in graphics performance compared to the predecessor. To deal with the potentially rugged environments found is in-vehicle applications the Intel® Atom™E6xx series processors are also available in the -40 to 85 °C extended temperature range.
Targeting IVI and mobile digital signage applications, NEXCOM recently introduced the VTC 1000 in-vehicle computer with a built in GPS receiver, a variety of wireless communications options, and CAN bus support (See figure 1). The computer is designed around the Intel® Atom™E640 processor operating at 1 GHz along with 1 GB of on-board DDR2 memory. The VTC 1000 includes a power management system with a backup battery to allow the computer to run continuously even when the vehicle power is temporally shut down while refueling. The low power Intel® Atom™E640 processor also allows for a small (7.1” x 4.7” x 1.6”) fanless, aluminum enclosure with multiple installation options. The computer provides a number of display and interconnection interfaces including general purpose I/O plus ports for LVDS, VGA, RS232/RS422/RS485, CAN bus, and USB. NEXCOM also offers a white paper entitled “Smarter Solutions for In-Vehicle Signage and Infotainment” which describes the features and possible applications for the VTC 1000 computer.
If you plan to start a design for a vehicle-based display system, please stop by the Intel® Embedded technologies section on In-Vehicle Infotainment. There you can find a wealth of information, video demonstrations, and technical articles covering entertainment, navigation, location based services, internal connectivity, and external communications. The site also includes a reference design for a low power IVI platform along with application notes, bill of materials, design guides, software, and schematic/layout files.
The most common user interface found in digital signage based IVI systems is the touch screen display monitor. This allows the system to display easy to decipher video or graphics based images with a minimum of textual information. The touch screen provides a large and fast input mechanism thereby eliminating hard-to-find keys or pushbuttons. With these requirements in mind, NEXCOM offers the VMD 1000, a 7-inch TFT LCD monitor with a 4 wire resistive touch screen sensor (See figure 2). The monitor features both automatic and manual brightness control, remote power control, and provisions for an optional 2M pixel front panel camera sensor. The display delivers a maximum resolution of 800 x 480 pixels and a 600:1 contrast ratio. The unit houses two 1 watt audio speakers and front panel controls for power, volume, and brightness.
Although somewhat restricted by safety concerns, IVI offers the embedded designer plenty of opportunities to bring the same technical innovation to trucks and automobile that we have experienced over the past few years in consumer electronics. In addition to low power, high performance video-processing the Intel® Atom™E6xx series provides a flexible I/O architecture to simplify IVI designs and shorten the time to market. If you are starting or have completed an in-vehicle design, please offer your suggestions and share your experience or questions via comments with fellow followers of the Intel® Embedded Community. You can keep up with the latest technical articles and product announcements at the Embedded Computing Design search archives on in-vehicle infotainment. Also, stay tuned as I next take a look at Intel® architecture in industrial automated test and measurement applications.
OpenSystems Media®, by special arrangement with Intel® Embedded Alliance
NEXCOM is an Associate member of the by Intel® Embedded Alliance.