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2012

Medical innovations come in a variety of forms, from something as large and intimidating as a virtual 3D video X-ray that continuously takes pictures above or underneath a patient to something as convenient and (hopefully) discreet as a bra that detects cancer. To enable the right type of functionality and ensure reliability in the diverse continuum of medical devices, embedded designs must be tailored to fulfill the exact specifications of each unique application.

 

Like a broad-spectrum antibiotic that treats a wide range of infections, members of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance offer a variety of Intel Architecture-based boards and modules that meet both high- and low-end medical application requirements.

 

At the high end of the medical market, targeting imaging equipment such as MRI, CT scan, and ultrasound machines, Supermicro provides dual-processor workstation motherboards that deliver high-performance features for handling data acquisition, reconstruction, and rendering.

 

“Our products utilize Intel® Core™ i7/i5/i3 plus Intel® Xeon® E3-1200 V2, E5-2400, and E5-2600 processors with large memory capacity, enhanced graphics, and high I/O throughput options, making them ideal platforms for use in a variety of high-resolution image processing and data analysis applications,” says Marc Schneider, product manager for dual-processor motherboard products at Supermicro.

 

To keep large images cached for smooth, seamless viewing, the dual-processor motherboards offer up to 16 DIMM DDR3 memory slot options, as well as a SAS II/SATA III hot-swap hard disk drive with onboard RAID to help prevent data loss or corruption. The boards also meet the need for high network bandwidth in medical imaging systems by providing onboard dual and quad 1G or 10G Ethernet options for speedy communication between servers and the main data center.

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Figure 1: Supermicro X9DAi dual-processor motherboard


At the other end of the medical device spectrum, aiming for patient monitoring carts, ECG systems, and other portable diagnostic equipment, Supermicro provides single-processor motherboards that deliver server capabilities with lower power consumption at a lower price point. Designed with the Intel® Core™ i7-3555LE processor, these Mini-ITX motherboards can be easily ported and operated using DC power supply and offer battery backup power to protect data in case of power failure – both critical requirements in mobile medical systems. These motherboards deploy several Intel advanced technologies, including:

 

Intel® Active Management Technology (AMT) 8.0 for out-of-band remote management

Intel® HD Graphics 4000 for enhanced 3D performance

Intel® Quick Sync Video for improving decode and transcode performance

Intel® vPro™ Technology for vital security and remote management functions

Intel® Intelligent Power Technology for reducing idle power consumption through integrated power gates and automated low-power states

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Figure 2: Supermicro X9SPV-M4 single-processor motherboard

 

Radisys also leverages the performance of Intel® Core™ i7/i5/i3 processors in its CEQM67 and CEQM77 COM Express product families, which are used in cart- and laptop-based portable ultrasound equipment, as well as a mobile medical robot application that enables video streaming for physicians to interact with patients and staff at offsite locations. COM Express modules are well-suited for both high- and low-end medical applications because they deliver mid-high performance processing in a small, upgradable, modular form factor offering a range of low-power choices and the ability to speed time to market, says Jennifer Zickel, COM Express product line manager at Radisys.

 

“COM Express modules are available at the same time as Intel processors are released, effectively saving 6-plus months on a design schedule,” she says.

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Figure 3: Radisys CEQM77 COM Express module

 

In addition to addressing medical application requirements for low power, small size and weight, and long lifetime of 7-plus years, these COM Express modules fulfill the strident EMI requirements called for in noise-sensitive equipment such as ultrasound systems.

 

“Customers rely on Radisys to provide this finely tuned noise reduction by making small yet important hardware changes to support the exact frequencies used,” Zickel says. “Many customers also take advantage of the Radisys Embedded Software Platform (eSP) based on Intel® AMT technology that provides diagnostics and system recovery capability.”

 

No matter which segment of the medical market embedded designers choose to target, they must understand and successfully address significant design considerations for critical embedded systems vital to maintain patients’ health. Check out this blog post for an overview of how Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance members are fulfilling key technology requirements for the health care sector, and watch this video to learn how designers can maximize performance for the high end and minimize product cost for the low end of the medical market using COM Express modules. For more coverage on medical design-related issues, check out recent articles at the Embedded Computing Design archive.

 

To learn more about delivering quality health care with secure devices, see intel.com/go/embedded-medical.


Jennifer Hesse

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


Radisys is a Premier member of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance. Supermicro is an Affiliate member.

In October 2010, Intel introduced the Open Pluggable Specification (OPS) to help standardize the design and development of digital signs. As 2012 comes to a close, it’s time to look deeper into the advantages of the specification, the benefits of using Intel® architecture with it, and some of the products now featuring it.

 

The Advantages of OPS-Compliant Systems

For those unfamiliar with the specification, OPS modularizes the development of display panels and media players. OPS-compliant displays have a built-in slot for an OPS-compliant media player (see Figure 1). The player and the display connect through an 80-pin JAE connector that supports commonly used interfaces such as DisplayPort and USB. (A short Intel video provides a great overview of OPS and its benefits.)

 

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Figure 1. OPS modularizes digital signage, enabling insertion of the media player into the display. (Photo courtesy of Nexcom.)

 

With OPS, digital signage manufacturers can deploy interchangeable systems faster and in higher volumes, while lowering costs for development and implementation. Through the OPS specification, their products are automatically compatible with more systems—including future systems not on the market yet. This opens up new sales opportunities as their customers can upgrade their infrastructure more easily because components are interchangeable by design.

 

OPS-compliant systems have many advantages for signage customers as well. By enabling the media player to be tucked into a slot in a monitor, OPS-compliant systems provide clean, all-in-one designs for digital signs. Not only does this look better in a store environment, but it reduces cabling and improves serviceability. Have a problem with a unit? Remove the offender, whether it’s the display or the player, and simply replace it with a good unit. A sign owner can be back in business in minutes without a lot of fuss over wires and connections.

 

Another big advantage is scalability. If a customer wants to use the same media player with a bigger display, it’s no problem. They just pull the player out of the smaller display and insert it into the larger one. If they want to run a display with a more powerful media player, again, it’s no problem. They just pull out the old media player and insert a more powerful one.

 

Before OPS, there were no open standards for such modular media player and display designs. This made design, component integration, implementation, and upgrades harder because system integrators or customers had to consider how to connect A to B. Now if a systems integrator or digital sign user buys an OPS media player and an OPS display, there’s no mystery to it. They’re going to connect, it’s going to be easy, and the resulting unit will be easy to place in its intended environment. In fact, with wireless networking, the only cord necessary will be the power cord for the display.

 

Controlling the combined display/player unit is no problem either. The display/player communication interface (UART and HDMI CEC) provides status reporting and control. Plus, running digital audio/video signals via HDMI or DisplayPort assures picture-perfect images and video.

 

Advantages of Intel® Architecture (IA) for OPS Signage Systems

Although it is not required by the specification, installing digital signage equipment based on IA empowers scalable digital signage applications that can network easily with other equipment. IA also helps future-proof signage investments through its well-established interoperability and the wide variety of applications designed for it.

 

Of particular interest for high-performing digital signage solutions are 3rd generation Intel® Core™ processors (formerly codenamed “Ivy Bridge”). These processors feature Intel’s latest integrated graphics innovations, offering up 60 percent improvement in graphics performance and a 2X boost in 3D performance over the previous generation. These processors also include the ability to power up to three displays. This means that in addition to running the display a player module is in, they can run two additional displays. You can learn more about these processors and their advantages for digital signage in a previous post: Matching Processor to Signage Application.

 

Other reasons for going the IA route are all the intelligent software applications and capabilities Intel offers to enhance OPS-compliant and other digital signage solutions. These include:

 

  • The security and remote management and automation features enabled by 3rd generation Intel® Core™ vPro™ processors and their Intel® Active Management Technology.
  • The anonymous video analytics provided by the Intel® Audience Impression Metric (Intel® AIM) Suite. This application enables targeting personalized content to consumers while providing retailers and advertisers with valuable analytics. The software monitors viewer metrics, such as gender, age bracket and length of attention, and can analyze the data in real-time to deliver more targeted messaging. Intel AIM Suite can also be used to provide metrics on advertising effectiveness and measure ROI. Intel Core processors provide all the processing performance necessary for this application.
  • The Near-Field Communication (NFC) capabilities that all 3rd generation Intel Core processors include to enable mobile payments and signage interactions—such as downloading coupons.

 

For more economical, less graphic-intensive applications, many media player manufacturers offer systems based on Intel® Atom™ processor N2000 and D2000 series (formerly codenamed “Cedar Trail”). These processors provide integrated graphics, including a hardware-accelerated video decoder for smooth full HD (up to 1080p) playback and streaming, eliminating the need for a graphics card. Two features they share in common with 3rd generation Intel Core processors also make them ideal for retail signage applications. The first is Intel® Rapid Start Technology. This provides fast resume, an excellent feature for signage systems looking for a fast restart after a power conservation mode. The second feature is Intel® Smart Connect Technology. This enables a media player to receive content updates even when on standby.

 

What’s Happening with OPS

Many major manufacturers of commercial-grade LCD and LED display screens like NEC, Mitsubishi, Philips, Samsung and ViewSonic now offer models that accommodate OPS-compliant players. Some media player manufacturers, such as Axiomtek, also offer OPS-compliant displays.

 

On the media player side, many Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance members offer a wide range of choices. I’ll just point out several.

 

Kontron has taken a big step in simplifying the evaluation of OPS-compliant digital signage solutions with its Digital Signage Evaluation Kit-12 (DSEK-12). The kit features technologies from Intel, Kontron* and Microsoft* in a pre-validated system that allows developers to focus on software development. The kit includes an OPS-compliant Kontron media player KOPS800 (see Figure 2) based on 3rd generation Intel Core processors, as well as a 180-day evaluation copy of Windows Embedded POSReady 7. In addition, demos of Content Creation and Content Management Software (CMS) from Flypaper* and Scala* are included. Additionally, this pre-validated system comes pre-loaded with Intel AIM Suite and Intel® vPro™ Technology activated. Add an OPS-compliant display and you’re in business.

 

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Figure 2. Kontron KOPS800.


Advantech offers the OPS-compliant ARK-DS262 (see Figure 3) powered by 3rd generation Intel Core processors. All Advantech media players are available pre-loaded with an embedded OS, along with SUSIAccess remote device management software, Acronis data protection software, and network security software by McAfee. This enables system integrators and their customers to quickly set-up, manage and operate in the field, focusing more on their own applications and saving important development time and resources.

 

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Figure 3. Advantech ARK-DS262.

 

Nexcom expands its digital signage family with a new OPS-compliant player, the NDiS M532 (see Figure 4). Based on 3rd generation Intel Core processors, it includes advanced built-in remote management functions. Like other OPS-compliant systems, the M532 includes the ability to adjust display brightness and system volume over the network.

 

nexcom.JPG

Figure 4. Nexcom NDiS M532.

 

iBASE provides a versatile OPS-compliant player, the iOPS-76 (see Figure 5), that runs on 3rd generation Intel core processors. An evaluation kit includes dual USB 2.0 ports, a USB 3.0 port, serial port, audio jack and additional DisplayPort and HDMI ports for connecting additional monitors. Two DDR3 SO-DIMM (dual channel), one Gigabit Ethernet LAN, two USB 3.0 and an external-accessible mSATA SSD are standard. Optional Bluetooth/Wi-Fi/TV tuner connections are available.

 

 

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Figure 5. iBASE IOPS-76.


Axiomtek is deep in the OPS space. Their OPS-compliant OPS870 player uses 3rd generation Intel Core processors to deliver outstanding performance and superb graphics capability. In addition, their

OPS-compliant OPS830 (see Figure 6) employs a dual core Intel® Atom™ processor D2550 to provide low-power processing and high graphics performance. For extra versatility, a PCI Express Mini Card expansion slot is available for graphics-enhanced video card, wireless LAN card for 802.11 a/b/g/n and 3G/GPRS, and tuner/AV capture card. It also supports a DDR3 SO-DIMM with a maximum of 4 GB of memory and one 2.5” SATA HDD tray for operating system and storage. Need an OPS-compliant HD display with either of these? Axiomtek has you covered there, too. You can choose from the OFP321, a 31.5-inch LED backlight display or the OFP320 31.5-inch TFT LCD.

 

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Figure 6. Axiomtek OPS830.


Conclusion

OPS-compliant designs are not just clever. They’re smart for how they deliver the all-in-one benefit as well as modular future-proofing. Television and PC manufacturers should take note. What’s your opinion?

 

retail[1].pngTo learn more about bringing intelligence to digital displays and other retail devices, see Digital Signage - Top Picks

 

 

Advantech and Kontron are Premier members of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance. Axiomtek, iBASE and Nexcom are Associate members of the Alliance.

 

Mark Scantlebury

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

Associate Editor, Embedded Innovator magazine

In the past, when it came to processor thermal and power management for most high performance Intelligent Systems used in military applications, the only option was “let it burn.” Processor clocks were locked into full speed mode all the time regardless of the current operational situation. The critical nature of many military applications demands that the system be running 100% clock speed all the time to address immediate processing needs. But today that is changing in many cases as better processor thermal management techniques have evolved.

 

Thermal and power management are ongoing challenges that designers of intelligent systems face every day. In higher end systems the traditional solutions have usually been focused on the thermal aspects and even that has been restricted to creative ways to mechanically move heat from one place to the next. With the 3rd Generation Intel® Core™ processors, there are more processor management options available through software that gives system designers and users more control than ever.

 

3rd Generation Intel® Core™ processors have Enhanced Intel SpeedStep® Technology and Thermal Monitoring Technologies to provide thermal management support. Conventional Intel SpeedStep technology switches both voltage and frequency in tandem between high and low levels in response to processor load. Enhanced Intel SpeedStep Technology builds upon that architecture using design strategies that include the following:

  • Separation between voltage and frequency changes. By stepping voltage up and down in small increments separately from frequency changes, the processor is able to reduce periods of system unavailability (which occur during frequency change). Thus, the system is able to transition between voltage and frequency states more often, providing improved power/performance balance.
  • Clock partitioning and recovery. The bus clock continues running during state transition, even when the core clock and phase-locked loop are stopped, which allows logic to remain active. The core clock is also able to restart far more quickly under Enhanced Intel SpeedStep Technology than under previous architectures.

 

Included in Thermal Monitoring Technologies are the following capabilities:

  • Digital Thermal Sensor
  • Intel Adaptive Thermal Monitor
  • THERMTRIP# and PROCHOT# support
  • On-Demand Mode
  • Memory Thermal Throttling
  • External Thermal Sensor (TS-on-DIMM and TS-on-Board)
  • Render Thermal Throttling
  • Fan speed control with DTS

 

The first level of control begins at the BIOS. The BIOS is responsible for providing sensor data to the operating system so that the OS does not need to know about all the particular details of the processor. Through the BIOS you can set trip points, control fans, and monitor the thermal sensors for each core in a multicore processor. The BIOS passes critical information to the operating system that can be made available to an application if necessary. The OS or the appropriate application can then make decisions on how they want the processor to perform in given operating conditions. It is important that the BIOS provides the first level of control otherwise the OS would have to know specific details about many different processors, adding unnecessary complexity to the operating system. The BIOS is closer to the specific hardware and can be optimized for that particular platform and processor as necessary.

 

The Advanced Configuration and Power Interface (ACPI) specification was developed to establish industry common interfaces enabling robust operating system (OS)-directed motherboard device configuration and power management of both devices and entire systems. ACPI is the key element in Operating System-directed configuration and Power Management (OSPM).

 

ACPI evolved the existing pre-ACPI collection of power management BIOS code, Advanced Power Management (APM) application programming interfaces (APIs, PNPBIOS APIs, Multiprocessor Specification (MPS) tables and so on into a well-defined power management and configuration interface specification. ACPI provides the means for an orderly transition from existing (legacy) hardware to ACPI hardware, and it allows for both ACPI and legacy mechanisms to exist in a single machine and to be used as needed.

 

The specification enables new power management technologies to evolve independently in operating systems and hardware while ensuring that they continue to work together. The interfaces and OSPM concepts defined within this specification are suitable to all classes of computers including (but not limited to) desktop, mobile, workstation, and server machines. From a power management perspective, OSPM/ACPI promotes the concept that systems should conserve energy by transitioning unused devices into lower power states including placing the entire system in a low-power state (sleeping state) when possible.

 

Becoming a bigger part of the layers between the processor and operating system is the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI). The UEFI specification defines a new model for the interface between operating systems and platform firmware. The interface consists of data tables that contain platform-related information, plus boot and runtime service calls that are available to the operating system and its loader. Together, these provide a standard environment for booting an operating system and running pre-boot applications. Intel has recently launched a new website, the Intel UEFI Community Resource Center, that is your gateway for developing UEFI firmware, drivers, and applications for use on Intel® architecture platforms.

 

The Phoenix Technologies flagship product line, Phoenix SecureCore Technology™ (SCT) has two BIOS offerings, Phoenix SecureCore and their UEFI product, SecureCore Tiano. SCT addresses the needs of the embedded market with Phoenix’s leading technology in system security and connectivity. Tailored to the needs of embedded applications, SCT is the ideal solution for intelligent system developers seeking security, performance, and interoperability with cloud computing. For Power Management, SCT supports ACPI 5.0 and Win8 Connected standby (with TPM2.0 support).

 

Insyde Software offers InsydeH2O®, a UEFI BIOS, that is claimed to be the most widely used UEFI BIOS in production. Insyde targets embedded and mobile applications with InsydeH2O. Enhanced SpeedStep is supported as well as S-state and C-state power management giving developers access to critical parameters to manage the thermal characteristics of their embedded system.

 

American Megatrends Inc. (AMI) provides BIOS and UEFI firmware for Intel processors. The AMI options include AMIBIOS® 8, Aptio®, and Aptio® V, with the Aptio products being UEFI compliant. AMIBIOS provides built-in power management support for Enhanced SpeedStep and Thermal Monitoring Technology. Users can control the C-states of the processor through the BIOS setup screen.

 

Aptio is built around Visual eBIOS (VeB), the innovative BIOS development environment introduced by AMI in 2001. VeB simplifies BIOS development worldwide by removing barriers normally associated with BIOS development in the command line environment. Aptio builds on that experience, providing next-generation BIOS firmware leveraging UEFI standards for extended pre-boot functionality.

 

The following screenshot shows some of the platform thermal configuration settings that can be configured to execute at boot time. The operating system can then use this information to manage the platform.

 

AptioPlatformThermalConfig1.bmp

 

While the main function of the BIOS may be to act as a kind of translator between the processor/board and the operating system, it is an extremely important role in simplifying the interaction. Embedded devices are becoming ever more ubiquitous and intelligent, demanding improved power consumption and management capabilities so be sure that your BIOS is up to the task.

 

Military systems developers have options for power and thermal management, they can maintain the high performance they require but extend system life (and battery life for mobile systems) for some efficiency and cost gains.

 

References:

Intel Embedded to learn more about BIOS support options.

Unified EFI Forum

Intel UEFI Community Resource Center

Advanced Configuration and Power Interface

 

efficiency.pngFor more on energy efficiency, see Energy Efficiency - Top Picks

 

American Megatrends Inc. (AMI) and Phoenix Technologies are Associate members of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance. Insyde Software is an Affiliate member of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance.


Jerry Gipper

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

Editorial Director,OpenSystems Media, VITA Technologies

Server platforms based on the new Intel® Platform for Communications Infrastructure, with configurations handling <1 Gbps to 80 Gbps. In this blog I am going to explore the benefits of the low-power end of the range, known as the Intel® Platform for Smaller-Footprint Communications Infrastructure. This platform combines select  Intel® Xeon® Intel® Core™, Intel® Pentium®, and Intel® Celeron®  processors with the Intel® Communications Chipset 89xx Series for through puts up to 20 Gbps. For this blog I am using implementation examples from Lanner Electronics Inc. , an Associate Member of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance. The 200-plus members of the Alliance collaborate closely with Intel® to create hardware, software, tools, and services to help speed intelligent systems to market.

 

Scaling Platform Performance

 

The Intel® Communications Chipset 89xx Series integrates standard peripheral interfaces, four Gigabit Ethernet MACs and hardware acceleration for Intel QuickAssist Technology covering security processing and compression. There are several Intel® Communications Chipset 89xx Series devices that support up to 20 Gbps security processing with power consumption from 8.5W to 12.5W.

 

The Intel® Communications Chipset 89xx Series is connected to the processors through x4 DMI Gen and PCIe x8/x16 interfaces. As shown in Figure 1 the Intel® Communications Chipset 89xx Series is paired with a one- to four-core processor for systems up to 20 Gbps.

 

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Figure 1. The Intel® Platform for Smaller-Footprint Communications Infrastructure, which scales from <1 Gbps to 20 Gbps.

 

This approach allows system developers to optimize platforms for performance and power efficiency. Developers can use processors including Intel® Xeon® Processor E3-1125C, Intel® Xeon® Processor E3-1105C, Intel® Core™ i3 Processor 2115C, Intel® Pentium® Processor B915C and Intel® Celeron® Processor 725C. Power consumption for these processors ranges from 40W down to 10W.

 

Integrated Server Platform Example

 

The Lanner FW-7575 shown in Figure 2 is based on the Intel® Communications Chipset 89xx Series. The platform is available with quad, dual or single core processors, including Intel® Xeon® Processor E3-1125C or Intel® Core™ i3 Processor 2115C, depending on performance requirements. The system will support up to 32 GB DDR3-1066/1333 memory. The front panel includes six Gigabit Ethernet ports, management port, two USB ports, Com port and user interface. On the right is a network interface module bay connecting through a PCIe x8 interface.

 

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Figure 2. 1U Rack-mount Security Platform

 

Figure 3 shows the MB-7575 block diagram with Intel® Communications Chipset 89xx Series (Cave Creek) and Intel® architecture processors (Gladden Sandy Bridge). The Intel® Communications Chipset 89xx Series integrates Intel QuickAssist Technology with hardware acceleration for security processing up to 20Gbps and compression/decompression up to 9Gbps. The six Gigabit Ethernet ports are connected through the four integrated MACs on the Intel® Communications Chipset 89xx Series and through a PCIe x4 interface on the processor. The optional network interface module and riser are driven directly through a PCIe x8 interface also on the processor.

 

MB-7575 Block Diagram.jpg

Figure 3. FW-7575 Block Diagram

 

The Lanner FW-7575 supports the Wind River Network Acceleration Platform which uses the Intel® DPDK (Intel® Data Plane Development Kit) libraries for accelerated packet delivery. The combination of Intel DPDK, Wind River Network Acceleration Platform and Intel® Platform for Smaller Footprint Communications Infrastructure provides a power efficient packet processing solution that will support many networking applications. The Lanner FW-7575 also supports Windows (2003, 2008 server) and Linux Kernel 2.6 and up.

 

Power-Efficient Platforms for packet Processing

 

The Intel® Platform for Smaller Footprint Communications Infrastructure, with a combined power of 18-52W, provides a very power efficient platform for packet processing across a wide range of applications up to 20 Gbps. The Lanner FW-7575 rack-mount network security platform is just one example of the many different platforms that can be built using this architecture. The combination of quad, dual or single core processor and integrated chipset device with peripheral I/O, networking I/O and hardware acceleration for packet processing provides a very compact and scalable solution.

 

The Lanner FW-7575 rack-mount platform covered in this case study is a mid-range system. As shown above this solution can be scaled down to 1 Gbps or below with lower performance Intel® Core™ Processors or up to 80 Gbps with higher performance Intel® Xeon® Processors and additional Intel® Communications Chipset 89xx Series devices to accelerate packet processing performance.

 

efficiency.png To learn more about power-efficient performance, see intel.com/go/embedded-energyefficiency

 

comm.png For more on flexible, scalable, standards-based communications visit intel.com/go/embedded-communications

 

Lanner and Wind River are Associate Members of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance.

 

Simon Stanley

Roving Reporter (Intel® Contractor), Intel® Embedded Alliance

Principal Consultant, Earlswood Marketing

Follow me on Twitter: @simon_stanley

Industrial manufacturers are always looking for faster and more efficient factory automation systems to increase production rates and lower costs while extending their lifecycle to interact with multiple generations of technology. At the same time, the demand for faster response times, complex functionality, and instant data access extends the embedded design challenge. To meet these evolving requirements, designers have transitioned to high performance architectures with multiple processing units to boost performance through parallel processing and to minimize hardware costs by combining platforms.  Although developers have access to multiple techniques to enable this performance gain including symmetric or asymmetric multiprocessing and virtualization, the Open Computing Language (OpenCL) framework combined with Intel architecture delivers a unique technology to significantly improve the speed and responsiveness for a wide range of industrial applications.

 

OpenCL is an open, royalty-free standard for parallel programming of heterogeneous platforms with multiple processing units (See figure 1). Programmers can write a single portable program that employs all the computing resources in a multi-core platform such as the 3rd Generation Intel® Core™ family formerly codenamed Ivy Bridge. OpenCL extends the power of the graphics processing unit beyond graphics and allows any application to access to the graphics processing unit for non-graphical computing.  The open standard includes a language for writing kernel functions and application programming interfaces (APIs) that are used to define and control the individual parallel platforms. OpenCL is maintained by the Khronos Group consortium and the latest version, OpenCL 1.2, was released in November 2011. You can download the core API and SPIR (Standard Portable Intermediate Representation) specification, headers, and documentation from the Khronos website.

 

OpenCL.png

 

Intel is a contributing member of the Khronos Group consortium and provides a software development kit (SDK) implementing the OpenCL standard optimized for Intel processors running Microsoft Windows and Linux operating systems. The Intel® OpenCL SDK makes it easy for developers to design, build, debug, and profile OpenCL applications targeting Intel processors. Now available for free download, the Intel® OpenCL SDK 1.5 is fully conformant with the OpenCL 1.1 specification for the CPU and with Microsoft Windows 7 operating systems. In addition, Intel recently released the Intel® SDK for OpenCL Applications 2013, an updated, beta development environment for OpenCL applications for Windows 8 and Linux operating systems that support 3rd Generation Intel® Core™ processors with Intel® HD Graphics. In addition to parallel processing, the Intel® OpenCL SDK delivers performance improvements through full code generation using the Intel Advanced Vector Extensions (Intel® AVX) 256-bit instruction set extension designed for applications that are floating point intensive.

 

One of the fastest ways to take advantage of the Intel® OpenCL SDK in a new industrial system design is to incorporate a compatible, off the shelf processor board based on 3rd generation Intel® Core™ architecture. For example, the MSC CXB-6SI module from Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance member MSC Vertriebs, offers several versions of the quad core Intel processors along with up to 16 GB of dual channel DDR3-1600 memory, multiple display interfaces and an optional NAND Flash silicon disk (See figure 2). This new COM Express module delivers lower power consumption with simultaneously higher clock rates and an improved graphics and video performance compared to previous generations. The Intel® HD 4000 Graphics controller also offers an improved video and graphics acceleration and provides support for three independent displays. The MSC CXB-6SI supports OpenCL 1.1 so that the graphics engines can also be used for applications that require extensive use of floating-point computations.


CXB-6SI.png

 

When combined with off-the-shelf, 3rd generation Intel® Core™ processors and the free-to-download Intel® SDK, OpenCL becomes a noteworthy strategy for significantly increasing the number crunching performance of factory control systems.  These powerful architectural and software features supply the embedded designer with new tools that promise to change the future of high performance industrial systems. If you think that OpenCL and Intel® Core architecture can improve performance of your industrial project please share your concerns, questions, and successes with fellow followers of the Intel® Embedded Community. You can also keep up with the latest technical articles and product announcements at the Embedded Computing Design archives on OpenCL.

industrial.pngTo learn more about the design of industrial systems, see “Top Picks – Industrial

 

To view other community content on performance, see "Performance - Top Picks” 

 

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

 

Microsoft Corporation is an Associate member of the by Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance. MSC Vertriebs GmbH is an Affiliate member of the Alliance.

 

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