Rugged design is a key requirement for many embedded applications, including industrial automation, mil/aero, and energy. The basic techniques for ruggedization – such as fanless design and minimized component counts – are well understood, but these techniques often conflict with other requirements such as high performance, flexibility, and short time-to-market. For example, it can be difficult to achieve high performance without using power-hungry parts that require fans to keep cool. Similarly, flexibility and short time-to-market are easiest to achieve with commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) parts, but COTS designs typically have high component counts than custom designs.


Fortunately, the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance can help you get around these conflicting requirements. The 200-plus members of the Alliance collaborate closely with Intel to create hardware, software, tools, and services to help you speed rugged designs to market. These include a wide range of solutions designed around the latest Intel® architecture (IA) processors, which offer a host of features that benefit rugged designs.  Let’s briefly review these new features and then look at some application examples.


New Processors


First up, the new 3rd-generation Intel® Core™ processors (formerly codenamed “Ivy Bridge”) are the first to use Intel’s 22 nm fabrication process, which provides up to 20% better performance in the same thermal envelope as the previous generation, making it easier to achieve your performance goals in a fanless design. What’s more, graphics engine has been upgraded to provide an up to 2X boost in 3D performance and support for 3 displays – features that can eliminate the need for a graphics card, thus lowering system power and component counts. To dive deeper, check out my Intel™ Core® processor blog.



Figure 1. The latest Intel Core processors boast significant performance improvements. Note that the data shown here is for a PC-oriented part; performance for embedded parts will differ somewhat.


The new Intel® Atom™ processor N200 and D2000 series (formerly codenamed “Cedar Trail”) are similarly upgraded with up to 4X the 3D graphics performance of their predecessors along with 1080p hardware video decode. The new parts also gain major improvements in performance-per-watt – for more details, I recommend my recent Intel Atom processor blog.


Example Applications


These new processors go a long way towards addressing concerns around performance, power, and component counts, but what about flexibility and time-to-market? That’s where the Alliance comes in. Alliance solutions offer a compelling balance of application-specific optimization and flexibility to help you innovate. In industrial automation, for example, Alliance members offer specialized systems designed for hazardous locations like oil rigs or chemical processing plants. These systems greatly reduce hardware design complexity while retaining the software-design flexibility inherent to Intel® architecture. For example, developers can use the multi-core performance of Intel Core processors to replace real-time hardware with software.



Figure 2. MEN Mikro’s RC1 family of rugged systems is a good example of highly ruggedized equipment


Similar concepts apply to energy applications such as smart grids and building automation. Whether you are trying to securing smart grid devices or build home energy management systems, Alliance solutions can help you deliver advanced features on a short timeline. The security and manageability features of IA processors are particularly useful for these applications, and can help give you a leg up over your competitors. To learn more, check out my recent smart grid blog.



Figure 3. The Norco PPC-3112 is well suited to wind power monitoring.


In the mil/aero market, the Alliance supports for a wide range of applications including sensing and analytics such as radar, sonar, and video surveillance.  Many of these solutions are designed to address the size, weight, and power (SWaP) concerns that have become so prominent in mil/aero. Virtualization is one key element of addressing this concern – and virtualization is also key to providing military-grade security. To see one example of how the Alliance is bringing virtualization to the battlefield, check out the Radisys white paper Leveraging Virtualization in Aerospace & Defense Applications.



Figure 4. Virtualization allows applications with different security levels to run on the same platform.


The links I’ve noted here show just a few examples of the solutions available from the Alliance. To learn more about the Alliance and its solutions, see


Radisys is a Premier members of the Intel® Embedded Alliance. Norco is and Associate and MEN Mikro is an Affiliate member of the Alliance.


Kenton Williston

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

Editor-In-Chief Embedded Innovator magazine

Follow me on Twitter: @kentonwilliston