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2012

Over the next five years, smart, cloud-connected systems—also known as Intelligent Systems—will transform embedded industries such as retail, automotive, manufacturing, and communications. To build these next-generation designs, developers will need to incorporate completely new kinds of features such as cloud and enterprise connectivity, advanced security and manageability, and service- and commerce-enablement. This will be a tough challenge for organizations that lack expertise in these fields.

 

What’s needed is a collaborative design model that allows developers to focus on their unique application expertise, leaving the new requirements to partners who have already solved the challenges. As demonstrated in the latest Embedded Innovator magazine, you can meet this goal by working with the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance. The 200+ members of the Alliance collaborate closely with Intel and each other to deliver sophisticated solutions ranging from modular components to highly integrated, market-ready systems. By working with the Alliance, you can continue to concentrate on what you do best while expanding your product line to include Intelligent Systems. And by relying on the Alliance to simplify the complex design process, you can deploy Intelligent Systems ahead of the competition.

 

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For more ideas on meeting the latest market challenges, subscribe to the Embedded Innovator. Subscribers receive a bi-annual magazine and quarterly newsletter with the latest industry trends and design ideas. To learn more about the Alliance, visit intel.com/go/embeddedalliance.

 

Kenton Williston

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

Editor-In-Chief, Embedded Innovator magazine

Follow me on Twitter: @kentonwilliston

Forgetting to take your meds or not having time to get to the gym no longer cut it as excuses for not maintaining your health. With all the mobile health (mHealth) products available today – from wearable devices that measure vital signs to pills that send texts about missed doses to a host of gaming apps to track fitness or disease management activities – consumers have an arsenal of resources for promoting their well-being.

 

It’s a lack of motivation, not information, that often inhibits patients’ efforts to manage their health – i.e., you know where the gym is; you just don't feel like going. And if the device or program is hard to understand and/or requires a lot of work to implement, it’s about as useless as a busted treadmill.

 

“Patients are far more engaged in their care plan or wellness program when their own personal data is presented back to them – the feedback loop – in an easy-to-understand format,” stated Dr. Joseph Kvedar, founder and director of the Center for Connected Health, in an interview to be published in the May issue of Embedded Computing Design. “They can track their progress, see how their lifestyle choices are affecting their health, and learn how to best manage their health and wellness.”

 

Members of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance are helping enable this feedback loop in mHealth applications by offering products that ensure reliable real-time connectivity. For example, wireless modules from Telit Wireless Solutions are deployed in a wide range of mHealth applications, including Vitality GlowCaps pill bottle reminders, pomdevices’ Sonamba senior well-being monitor, and MedApps’ HealthAir personal health monitor, which uses Telit’s GE865-QUAD module to automatically send medical data to a patient’s Electronic Health Record (EHR), allowing users to manage and record their health regimen.

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GE-865-QUAD module

By providing a platform for immediate data transmission, Telit modules allow physicians to monitor patients remotely, reducing costs and decreasing response times to immediate medical problems.

 

“These devices are used as communications channels, employing cellular connectivity where other wireless connections are unavailable, as in a senior’s home where setting up and managing a Wi-Fi network could prove to be complicated and unreliable for a less tech-savvy individual,” says Mike Ueland, senior vice president and general manager of Telit Wireless Solutions North America.

 

The choice of wireless module for health care applications depends on the functions of the device itself, Ueland says. For an in-home health monitor that transmits a large amount of data such as video, data speed is critical while network coverage may be less of a concern, as the device is not considered portable. For pill reminders or other small mobile devices that send less data, an embedded module that provides reliable network coverage and also features a compact form factor is crucial. Devices that will be tested in clinical trials, possibly on an international scale, should use a module like the Telit HE910, which offers global compatibility in 3G mode, Ueland says.

 

Hardware vendors developing telehealth products also must consider the requisite international RF certifications, as well as the type and number of interfaces to use in their designs.

 

“It is desirable to have as many wireless connections as possible,” says Advantech medical product engineer Joseph Chung. “However, as more wireless connectivity options are built into the system, antenna placement and antenna cable routing have to be carefully designed to ensure optimal reception and no electromagnetic interference.”

 

Advantech’s line of health care infotainment terminals enables patients to engage in their medical treatment by offering 10/100/1000 LAN, Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n, Bluetooth, and RFID. Using the multifunction touch screen, patients can browse online to read up on health and dietary information, view health care service transactions, or simply have fun and watch TV or play a video game. The Internet connectivity and 2 megapixel camera also allow patients to communicate with family and friends via VoIP or video chat.

 

Besides helping patients get educated and involved in their care, Advantech’s infotainment terminals and medical tablets enable physicians and nurses to access EHRs, lab results, prescription orders, and other info from a hospital database. The built-in network connectivity options also allow physicians in different locations to consult in real time on a diagnostic assessment or medical procedure, thus improving the quality and coordination of patient care, Chung says.

 

Offering Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity in a slim iPad-like design, the new DMS-SR06 medical tablet from Advantech leverages the Intel® Atom™ processor N2600 to provide 1.6 GHz processing power and enable fanless, low-power operation. The 9.7" XGA multitouch screen tablet supports USB 3.0 and Windows 7 Professional and incorporates a smart card reader and Trusted Platform Module (TPM) 1.2 for additional security.

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DMS-SR06 medical tablet

The ICEFIRE2 Mobile Clinical Assistant from IEI Technology, another mHealth device based on the Intel® Atom™ N2800 1.86 GHz processor, supplies Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and 3.75G wireless connectivity. Powered by the Windows 7 Embedded OS, the medical tablet is equipped with a 10.4 TFT XGA touch screen and offers a 1D/2D barcode reader and 13.56 MHz RFID reader. With dual-mode input (digitizer plus multi-resistive touch screen) and other data collection functions, the MCA can help health care practitioners improve their productivity and increase the accuracy of collected information.

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ICEFIRE2 Mobile Clinical Assistant

While these types of mHealth devices make health care more efficient and manageable for patients and doctors, their strict requirements make the design process more difficult for embedded engineers. For ideas and suggestions on how to address these medical device design challenges, visit the Intel® Embedded Community, and look for telehealth coverage in the May issue of Embedded Computing Design.

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To view other community content on healthcare applications, see “Top Picks – Medical.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jennifer Hesse

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

 

Advantech is a Premier member of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance. IEI Technology and Telit Wireless Solutions are Associate members of the Alliance.

The future 3rd generation Intel® Core™ processor family will provide a number of enhancements—including upgraded graphics,  PCI Express* Gen 3 and USB 3.0—that can lead to improved throughput on production lines and an enhanced worker experience. To see how you can put these features to work, check out Portwell’s new Embedded Innovator article.

 

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industrial-small.pngFor more articles like this, subscribe to the Embedded Innovator. Subscribers receive a bi-annual magazine and quarterly newsletter with the latest industry trends and design ideas. For more on connecting, consolidating, and optimizing industrial automation, see intel.com/go/embedded-industrial

 

 

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


 

Kenton Williston

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

Editor-In-Chief, Embedded Innovator magazine

Follow me on Twitter: @kentonwilliston

Anonymous viewer analytics (AVA) lets signs see their audience—meaning advertisers can customize their messages and measure the results. What’s more, new features in the future 3rd generation Intel® Core™ processor family can cut signage operators’ costs. Emerson Network Power has all the details in its new Embedded Innovator article.

 

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security_analytics.pngFor more articles like this, subscribe to the Embedded Innovator. Subscribers receive a bi-annual magazine and quarterly newsletter with the latest industry trends and design ideas. To learn more about advanced signal processing, see intel.com/go/embedded-analytics.

 

Emerson Network Power is a Premier member of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance.

 

Kenton Williston

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

Editor-In-Chief, Embedded Innovator magazine

Follow me on Twitter: @kentonwilliston

The embedded world is transforming at an astonishing rate. What were once isolated, fixed-function devices are rapidly evolving into smart, cloud-connected systems. This new breed of electronics—known as Intelligent Systems—is bringing together everything from enterprise IT to consumer electronics in a continuum of connected, interacting devices.

 

This shift represents a huge new opportunity, as explained in the Embedded Innovator feature article by Jim Robinson, General Manager, Marketing and Business Operations, Intel® Intelligent Systems Group. The developers who are first to deliver Intelligent Systems have a rare opportunity to position themselves as market leaders. Jim’s article reveals how you can take the lead by leveraging Intel technology along with solutions from the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance.

 

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For more articles like this, subscribe to the Embedded Innovator. Subscribers receive a bi-annual magazine and quarterly newsletter with the latest industry trends and design ideas. To learn more about the Alliance, visit intel.com/go/embeddedalliance.

 

Kenton Williston

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

Editor-In-Chief, Embedded Innovator magazine

Follow me on Twitter: @kentonwilliston

 

As you probably heard, and if not, now you are, Carl Hayden won again the regional competition here in Arizona in March 2012. As you know, Carl Hayden is in the Phoenix inner city, mostly Latino, English Learning, immigrant environment, low income.

In spite of that (or maybe because of that, the Lord acts in mysterious ways) they have been able to be one of the most competitive teams in Arizona, they have a yearlong program on robotics, mentor the community so that more minority young people (and females) stay in school and go on to college, mainly into engineering.

This year there were 50 teams participating, from Arizona, New Mexico, California, Canada (1), Mexico (1) and Brazil (1)

If you have any questions or want to help/donate to the team, feel free to contact Fredi, the coach, directly or me and I will help you make contact with him.

 

Below are some highlights about their great accomplishments just this year :

 

Carl Hayden won the final rounds and also won the Industrial Safety Award from Underwriters Laboratories for having the best run pit and the Innovation in Control Award by Motorola.... and wait! John Rangel (programmer) won the Dean's List award and is now in contention for the national award.

 

Videos of the Final matches:
http://bit.ly/FRC2012A

http://bit.ly/FRC2012B

 

Frank Nuperger, a mentor of the Falcon Robotics Team was interviewed on PBS Horizon. It is a very good interview, he gives a good overview of the purpose of the competition.
http://bit.ly/PBSAZFRC

He mentioned Highland High, but that school is in a different competition

The other team from Arizona, besides Carl Hayden going to the FRC is Seton Catholic (the partner with Carl Hayden in the finals)

 

Pictures from the event http://bit.ly/googlePics

 

In case you did not know or remember, last year CNN followed them during the build season, see them in actions: http://bit.ly/Dontfailme

 

Wait, you thought that remote control robots was all they did? Nah, they are preparing for the AUVSI this summer (underwater autonomous competition) in San Diego. Here is the 2012 robot so far.

If you have any expertise in Linux, python and C++ contact Fredi as they can use some software assistance.

http://bit.ly/AUVSIUW

 

NBC 12 News did a story on the team. Thanks to Jim St. Leger (@intel_jim) for posting the video.

http://bit.ly/NBCFRC

 

Below is the report from Fredi Lajvardi, team coach.

 

From: Faridodin Lajvardi [mailto:coachfredi@hotmail.com]
Sent: Sunday, March 25, 2012 10:29 AM

The Falcon Robotics Team of Carl Hayden High School with their robot Angelica's DREAM, named after the Valedictorian ASU Mechanical Engineering student Angelica Hernandez who has recently been accepted to Stanford University with a fellowship, won the FIRST Robotics Arizona Regional!  The event was held at Hamilton HS in Chandler.

 

The team had  10 wins 1 loss in the qualifying rounds and was ranked number 2 behind Team 610 the Coyotes from Toronto, Canada who was 11 and 0.

During Alliance selection team 610 selected us, and through our scouting data we determined that team 1212 from Seton Catholic School of Chandler would make a great alliance.

So off we went into the finals. Quarter final match scores were 36 to 12 and 37 to 15 with our alliance moving on to the semifinals. Semifinal scores were 69 to 22 and 54 to 32 and that advanced us to the finals. There appeared to be a field management system failure that caused our robot to crash into the opposing alliance ramp and we remained there for the remainder of the match. As a result of this significant and potentially disastrous mishap, we incurred a huge amount of penalties and thus we lost the match. The Falcon pit team quickly inspected the robot for damage and found little. They patched Angelica back up and she was ready to go. In the two subsequent matches we scored 67 to 50 and 61 to 44 and were victorious!  We helped team 610 to win their first Regional Championship in ten years and team 1212 their first Regional victory ever! The International championship competition will take place from April 25th to the 28th in St, Loius, MO.

 

But that's not all. The Falcons also won the Industrial Safety Award from Underwriters Laboratories for having the best run pit and the Innovation in Control Award by Motorola.... and wait! John Rangel won the Dean's List award and is now in contention for the national award.

 

All in all it was a great Regional competition for Falcon Robotics! All of this success would not have happened if not for the help of the many mentors and sponsors


Cloud computing is one of the key elements in the era of intelligent systems identified by research firm IDC and now the major focus of the recently renamed Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance. Wanting to get a better understanding of how cloud computing figures into one of our key markets, industrial automation, I recently had a question and answer session with Alexander Damisch, director of industrial solutions at Wind River Systems, an Associate member of the Alliance.

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AlexanderDamisch

Director, Industrial Solutions, Wind River

 

What does "cloud computing" mean in the context of industrial automation?

As embedded devices are increasingly connected to the enterprise, arguably the most cost-effective way to implement these systems is via cloud architecture. Within industrial automation, clear targets for cloud computing are typical IT components like manufacturing execution systems (MES) and production planning systems (PPS). There is no need for discrete servers in industrial automation environments that perform functions for only a few machines or manufacturing processes when they can be performed and operated more efficiently as cloud services.

 

In industrial automation, the cloud is already affecting the architecture of IT structures as these move from a fixed client server architecture to a distributed architecture with local and global intelligence. It is also impacting machine-to-machine (M2M) communication in the embedded cloud. In short, the shift to cloud computing is causing a disruption in the embedded space by changing key paradigms regarding data and the location of intelligence.

 

What are the benefits of cloud computing for industrial automation?

The embedded world and cloud computing will increasingly be intertwined in the future. In the case of industrial automation, as embedded products and systems become more intelligent and connected, there will be significant gains in efficiency, mobility, business productivity, and capability due to cloud computing. The cloud enables a complete system and service to be offered rather than a single “box” or device – and this also provides benefits in terms of lower costs and higher quality. The key transition point will be the movement from the isolated embedded world into the enterprise and using the cloud to take advantage of greater business intelligence for better decision-making, making it effective from both a cost and use standpoint.

 

Where will we see the first applications of cloud computing? Are any of these applications using cloud computing now?

In industrial automation, we’re currently seeing applications of cloud computing in MES and PPS, as well as in preventative maintenance, which requires every potential machine parameter to be collected and analyzed to derive an intelligent decision that typically would not be possible locally.

 

How will the introduction of cloud computing impact the development process?

With cloud computing, the development process stays the same, but the architecture changes. With designers moving from creating discrete “boxes” to providing essential “services” to the bigger system, there are several key considerations, including:

 

  • Data is no longer strictly local any more, and the quality of this data will impact the whole process.
  • Data needs to be available beyond static tag mapping.
  • Data needs to be secure to avoid disruption through corruption.
  • Services need to scale from discrete devices to intelligent systems that allow workload consolidation (cost optimization).
  • Depending of the criticality of the process, safety impacted by security can no longer be an afterthought.

 

What can developers do to simplify the integration of cloud services into their designs?

Developers can simplify the integration of cloud services into their designs in several ways, including:

 

  • Using open communication standards.
  • Eliminating complex and/or proprietary architectures (with simplicity comes power).
  • Thinking in terms of “services” and not discrete boxes.
  • Making sure that the architecture provides sufficient separation to scale into the cloud. (If a real-time communication stack has a compile-time dependency with the soft PLC and the HMI, scaling to an intelligent system or cloud architecture will be difficult.)

 

Do you offer any cloud computing solutions specifically designed for industrial automation? If so, what are the features and benefits?

Wind River is helping companies across a wide range of market segments solve the many challenges that come with cloud computing and helping them effectively implement device-to-cloud topologies. Moving from the isolated embedded world and connecting into an enterprise or potentially the cloud is highly disruptive, and it can have a significant impact on businesses. All the rules change once this level of connectivity exists, but it also brings about incredible opportunities for everyone.

 

For companies in industrial as well as other market segments, Wind River provides the complete infrastructure and services used in embedded cloud-based solutions today. For example, Wind River allows customers the ability to scale a services-oriented architecture from single- to multi-core, and from the real-time operating system level to multi OS support via embedded virtualization. In addition to a comprehensive portfolio of embedded technologies, Wind River can play a key role throughout the entire development process with its tools, services and support, and deep industry relationships.

The story of the current economic recovery is largely one of rising manufacturing productivity. In the US, for example, investment in manufacturing technology has grown an astounding 35% over 2011 levels. This trend looks likely to continue as first-world nations seek ways to compete with developing regions, and as those developing nations face soaring labor costs.

 

These trends present a huge opportunity for developers creating factory automation equipment. To take advantage of this burgeoning market, developers must deliver systems with cutting-edge performance, connectivity, and security – and the Intel® Core™ and Intel® Atom™ processors can be a big help in meeting these goals.

 

Let’s start with a look at performance. With the introduction of the Intel® Advanced Vector Extensions (Intel® AVX), Intel® Core™ processors boosted their already significant vector-processing capabilities by a factor of two. This upgrade enables significant advances in production testing such as X-ray and video analysis, as demonstrated in Kontron’s 360° inspection case study (Figure 1). This performance can also be put to work in sophisticated real-time control schemes, allowing developers to replace expensive, proprietary ASICs and FPGAs with software.

 

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Figure 1. 3D scanning to locate and read a 2D barcode.

 

The forthcoming 3rd generation Intel® Core™ processors will offer even greater performance, along with major upgrades to the graphics and I/O capabilities that can help speed production lines. Portwell just published an article previewing the new features and explaining how to put them to work in the factory.

 

Another major trend impacting industrial automation is the increasing connectivity of sensors and controllers – both within the factory floor and to back-office sensors (Figure 2). The key buzzwords to know here are cloud computing and machine-to-machine (M2M) communications. I recently wrote about these trends, so I won’t cover them in depth here.  However, I will note that may legacy systems lack the connectivity and other features needed to meet the needs of today’s factories. One way to overcome this challenge is to use virtualization, a technology that allows multiple operating systems to run on the same platform. With this technology, the legacy automation software can run unchanged on one OS, while new features run on a second OS.

 

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Figure 2. Conenctivity is a key feature in today's factories.

 

In addition to enabling advanced communications features, virtualization is useful for combining HMI and real-time control on the same platform. This hardware consolidation can improve system cost, size, and power consumption. For two perspectives on this technology, see TenAsys’ article and Maury Wright’s blog.

 

The other factor to consider when adding communications and other advanced features is the need for greater security. I recently posted an overview of this topic, so again, I won’t dive into the details here. However, I will note that Wind River just posted an excellent piece on security best practices that I consider a must-read. I also recommend reading Kontron’s white paper on embedded security principles.

 

The links I’ve noted here show just a few examples of the solutions available from the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance. With over 200 members, the Alliance provides a wide range of optimized hardware, software, tools, and services designed in close collaboration with Intel. To learn more about the Alliance and its solutions, see intel.com/go/embeddedalliance

 

Kontron and Portwell are Premier members of the Intel® Embedded Alliance. Wind River is an Associate member and TenAsys is a General member of the Alliance.

 

Kenton Williston

Roving Reporter (Intel Contractor), Intel® Embedded Alliance

Editor-In-Chief, Embedded Innovator magazine

Follow me on Twitter: @kentonwilliston

The green energy revolution is here. With oil prices stuck above $100/barrel, temperatures hitting record highs, and the costs of renewables – particularly solar – dropping fast, the interest in sustainable, efficient power is reaching a tipping point. Yet many challenges lie ahead, both at the grid level and at the building level.

 

One key challenge is building smart grids that can respond to shifting supply and demand. In addition to enabling greater efficiency, responsive grids are needed to support renewable sources like wind and solar that have fluctuating output levels. The first step to building a smart grid is enabling communications between local producers and consumers – and to do this, system developers need an embedded platform with excellent connectivity, reliability, and security.

 

To illustrate the importance of connectivity and reliability consider the wind monitoring platform built on Eurotech’s ISIS PC/104 offering (Figure 1). This clever device uses LIDAR to measure wind patterns and optimize windmill performance. The heart of the system is an Intel® Atom™ processor that makes connectivity easy thanks to its runs industry stand readily satisfies the connectivity requirement through its broad support for networking and communications stacks. Meanwhile, the hardware’s ability to tolerate temperatures from -40°C to +50°C provide reliability even for wind farms in arctic snows or desert heat.

 

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Figure 1. Natural Power’s ZeprhIR 300 Wind Lidar is based on an Intel® Atom™ processor.

 

Another good example comes from Norco, which offers a panel PC for wind power monitoring (Figure 2). As explained in their white paper, this PC can be used to gather performance data from a field of windmills and communicate back to a central server. The panel PC is designed for rugged operation, with an operating range of -30°C to +75°C and a protection grade of IP65.

 

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Figure 2. The Norco PPC-3112.

 

Eurotech and Norco are just two members of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance with solutions for the energy market. With over 200 members, the Alliance provides a wide range of optimized hardware, software, tools, and services designed in close collaboration with Intel. Many of these solutions employ cloud computing and machine-to-machine (M2M) communications. These topics deserve their own blog – and indeed I recently posted a blog covering these topics and related Alliance solutions.

 

That’s a good place to leave our discussion of connectivity and reliability and move on to security. Wind River recently tackled that topic in its article Securing smart grid devices. In short, secure hypervisors and Intel® Virtualization Technology (Intel® VT) let you separate the communications stack, hardening your devices again unintended access. Of course, the communications stack is just one element that needs securing. For a more comprehensive look at this topic, I recommend Wind River’s review of security best practices and my recent overview of security technologies.

 

So how can we extend the smart grid into individual homes and businesses? It turns out that the M2M technology we mentioned earlier will play a major role. The basic idea is to deploy connected sensors – such as smart outlets, door sensors, and cameras – throughout the building. By analyzing the data gathered from these systems, a power management system can determine how the facilities are being used and adjust power strategies accordingly. As a simple example, a home could detect (or be told) that its residents were leaving for the day and power off items like the television and water heater.

 

Kontron recently introduced an M2M kit that can be used to develop building automation systems. National Taiwan University recently posted a detailed presentation on how you can deploy such system for home automation – I highly recommend reading it. (See Figure 3 for a preview, as well as the short video of Kontron’s home automation demo I included in my recent Best of ESC blog.)  I also recommend checking out the article Touch-Screen Automation, Simplified by M31 S.p.A.

 

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Figure 3. The NTU lab.

 

connectivity.pngThe links I’ve listed here only scratch the surface of what the Alliance has to offer. For more on extending the Internet to embedded devices, see intel.com/go/embedded-connectivity.

 

Kontron is a Premier member of the Intel® Embedded Alliance. Eurotech, Norco, and Wind River are Associate members of the Alliance.

 

 

Kenton Williston

Roving Reporter (Intel Contractor), Intel® Embedded Alliance

Editor-In-Chief, Embedded Innovator magazine

Follow me on Twitter: @kentonwilliston

Retail is a tough industry – consumer tastes are fickle, margins are often razor-thin, and employee turnover can be high, making it difficult to improve staff expertise and efficiency. Fortunately, intelligent retail system can address all of these problems, helping retailers grow and prosper even in today’s middling economy. In this blog, we will look at three particularly hot technologies: digital signage with viewer analytics, retail systems that combine entry-level prices with advanced features, and design features that can cut operational costs.

 

Let’s start with a look at digital signage. Retailers and advertisers alike have already embraced digital signage for its ability to attract attention – and drive sales – with splashy visuals. Digital signs also offer cost advantages because they can be updated remotely, without any manual labor. In some ways, however, digital signs have been as “dumb” as their analog predecessors. Specifically, advertisers have been unable to gauge viewership or respond to changing audience interests.

 

Today that is changing thanks to the advent of anonymous video analytics (AVA). As illustrated in Figure 1, this technology adds a camera to the sign, enabling the sign to determine key demographic information such as gender and age bracket. The beauty of this technology is that it allows the sign to display custom ads target to the demographics of the viewers. For example, a young man might see an ad for the latest sportswear, while an adult woman might see an ad for a family vacation. What’s more, the sign can track the number of viewers and length of each view, enabling advertisers to see which ads are succeeding and tweak their campaigns for greater impact.

 

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Figure 1. Anonymous video analytics (AVA).

 

Figure 2 shows the operation of one recent AVA solution, the Intel® Audience Impression Metric Suite (Intel® AIM Suite).Software installed at the retail location analyzes the audience and uploads viewer metric data to a remote server. That server hosts Intel® AIM Analytics, a reporting system that lets users view the data and generate reports from a web-based interface. Intel AIM Suite also provides an API that enables audience metrics to be included in the digital signage software’s proof-of-play report.

 

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Figure 2. Intel® AIM Suite.

 

Building one of these advanced signs is easier than you might think. Numerous signage solutions are available from the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance, whose 200-plus members collaborate closely with Intel to create optimized hardware, software, tools, and services to help you design smart, connected systems. I recommend starting with the just-published article from Emerson Network Power, which gives a detailed review of both the hardware and software needed for AVA – including a look at the features in the forthcoming 3rd generation Intel Core processor. For more example solutions, check out part 1 and part 2 of the signage series written my colleague Warren Webb.

 

While AVA pushes the frontiers of what signage can do, other innovations are bringing advanced features to lower cost points. One notable innovation is the introduction of the Open Pluggable Specification (OPS), a standardized form factor for signage players (Figure 3).  This standardization simplifies design, installation, and maintenance, and makes it considerably easier to change player or display vendors. All of this adds up to lower up-front and lifetime costs. Alliance members like Axiomtek already offer OPS solutions, and more are coming soon.

 

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Figure 3. Intel OPS standardized the player module form factor.

 

The new Intel® Atom™ processor N2000 and D2000 series also offers opportunities to cut costs – not only for signage, but for an array of retail systems such as kiosks and point of sale (POS) terminals. This 32 nm processor integrates high-performance graphics into an entry-level platform, enabling cost-effective retail solutions. I just wrote a magazine article and follow-up blog post with all the details, but one point I’ll note here is that these devices can be a big help in supplementing inexperienced staff. A graphics-rich, interactive retail system can help customers quickly understand the products for sale, locate desired items, obtain coupons, and check out – all with minimal staff intrusion.  This takes a lot of pressure off of the staff and helps them operate more efficiently.

 

Finally, let’s take a moment to consider operating costs. As illustrated in Figure 4, total cost of ownership is dependent on many factors. (I pulled this chart from an excellent Fujitsu white paper on the subject.) One factor that is often overlooked is manageability. Retail systems may need service for a variety of reasons: software updates, virus removal, crash recovery, etc. Intel® vPro™ technology enables service technicians to perform these tasks remotely, reducing the need for expensive on-site visits and cutting sales-killing downtime.

 

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Figure 4. Total cost of ownership.

 

Intel vPro is available in select Intel® Core™ processors. For a general intro to the technology, check out my recent overview.  To see how you can apply it in a retail setting, you I recommend the IEI article Manage and Secure Remote Systems as well as the blog Managing remote embedded devices.

 

The links I’ve listed here only scratch the surface of what the Alliance has to offer. To learn more, see intel.com/go/embeddedalliance

 

Emerson Network Power is a Premier member of the Intel® Embedded Alliance. Axiomtek and IEI are Associate members and Fujitsu is a General member of the Alliance.

 

Kenton Williston

Roving Reporter (Intel Contractor), Intel® Embedded Alliance

Editor-In-Chief, Embedded Innovator magazine

Follow me on Twitter: @kentonwilliston

I spent last week at the Embedded Systems Conference (ESC), and as usual I saw tons of cool new products and demos – including loads of new hardware, fun demos, and some cool software tools. The highlight of the show was the new Intel® Xeon® processor E5-2600 series, formerly codenamed Sandy Bridge-EP. These parts are the first Intel® Xeon® processors to use the latest-generation “Sandy Bridge” architecture found in 2nd generation Intel® Core™ processors. This upgrade provides a major boost in performance/Watt – for example, an eight-core part provides 68% more performance than a previous-generation six-core part with the same thermal envelope. Memory and I/O also get major upgrades, with four channels of 1600 MHz DDR3 and 40 lanes of PCI Express Gen 3 integrated into each processor.

 

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Figure 1. Intel® Xeon® processor E5-2600 series.

 

The show floor was full of ATCA boards featuring this new processor, including the Emerson Network Power ATCA-7370, the Kontron AT8060, and the ADLINK aTCA-6200. All of these boards had impressive spec sheets, but the one that stood out to me was the Advantech MIC-5332. This board supports up to 256 GB of DDR3 – that’s a lot of memory!

 

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Figure 2. Advantech MIC-5332.

 

I was also quite impressed by Super Micro’s Intel Xeon processor-based motherboards. Its X9DRi-LN4F+ motherboard supports an incredible 768 GB of DDR3 ECC registered memory (RDIMM), while its X9DRX+-F motherboard offers a stunning 11 PCIe slots – including 10 full-speed PCIe Gen 3.0 slots. Both boards really show off the high-end I/O available on the new processors.

 

There were also plenty of intriguing Intel Core processor-based products. For example, Emerson was showing its first OpenVPX single-boards computers (SBCs), the iVPX7220 and iVPX7223.  Emerson also noted that it had recently achieved VMware certification for its CPCI7203 CompactPCI SBC. According to Emerson, this is the first embedded product to be certified, and the first Intel Core processor-based product. What makes this so interesting is that this certification gives embedded systems access to enterprise-tested tools for managing virtual machines. Emerson expects these tools to be popular with its military customers, who rely on virtualization to achieve high levels of security and task separation.

 

On the other side of the show floor, Kontron had a “toy house” demo showing off its M2M Smart Services Developer Kit. The demo, shown in the video below, crams cameras, electronic door locks, and an HVAC system into a scaled-down house about 1m tall. The demo even pumped its video feeds to an external server so you could see who was walking by the booth from a web interface. I thought it was a creative way to show what you could do with the kit.

 

(Note: The HVAC connection actually uses ZigBee, not Bluetooth as I say in my narration.)

 

Norco also had a booth full of great embedded PCs. When I stopped to talk to their rep, he pointed out the many ways Norco is supporting scalability and longevity – to the point of thinking about how customers can retain their tooling even as they upgrade their designs over time. On the scalability front, Norco can go from an Intel Atom processor to a 2nd generation Intel Core processor in the same box. On the I/O front, Norco can offer 10-15 boards with different I/O combinations that can fit within the same box. The rep showed me an example box that has two rows for built-in I/O in the back, leaving room for custom I/O on a third row, along with an optional panel for custom I/O on the front. The point of this approach is that it lets customers keep their one set of tooling for different design variations.

 

I also saw a truly impressive debugger from Macraigor. With their new WiFiDemon, you can do you debugging wirelessly – how cool is that? And that is only the start of the unique features! The debugger is basically a specialized development computer – it is based on the Intel® Atom™ Processor E6xx Series and runs a full Linux-based development suite (complier, debugger, etc.). That means you don’t need to install any tools on your own desktop – all you need is a VNC client. In principle, you could do your development from an iPad! The debugger also includes a serial port and 12V DC power, which means you can remotely access and power cycle the target hardware from anywhere in the world.  Unfortunately the debugger does not seem to be online yet, but it is worth noting that it is intended to replace the existing Etheret-based mpDemon.

 

Last but not least, I want to give a quick shout-out to my colleague Stewart Christie, who won the Mentor of the Year ACE Award from EE Times and EDN. Stewart was recognized for his contributions to engineering education, including for his efforts to provide open-source development kits. Nice work, Stewart!

 

There was plenty more to see at the show. If you didn’t attend, I hope you can make it next time. I certainly found it worthwhile!

 

Emerson Network Power, Kontron, and Advantech are Premier members of the Intel® Embedded Alliance. ADLINK and Norco are Associate members of the Alliance. Super Micro and Macraigor are Affiliate members of the Alliance.

 

Kenton Williston

Roving Reporter (Intel Contractor), Intel® Embedded Alliance

Editor-In-Chief, Embedded Innovator magazine

Follow me on Twitter: @kentonwilliston

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