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2012

The more digital signage systems a merchant or other user runs in their operation, the more they become concerned about power costs. While a small business operating two or three digital signs isn’t going to worry too much about power, a large business installing thousands of digital signs throughout their locations, is going to care and make power consumption a key part of a request for proposal (RFP). Paradoxically, these same RFPs generally also demand that media players deliver higher quality graphics and video, remote management capabilities, and the processing power for anonymous viewer analytics—all at a low cost per unit.

 

That’s a lot to ask. In this post, I want to look at how the energy savings from the latest generation of Intel® Core™ processors enables meeting such a request. In particular, I want to focus on using less expensive desktop processors rather than mobile versions, and provide two board examples from IEI Technology Corporation.

 

The Power Story

The 3rd generation Intel® Core™ i7-3770 processor with integrated Intel® HD Graphics 4000 is a powerful desktop processor that runs at just 77 watts. This is particularly impressive when compared to a 2nd generation version, the Intel® Core™ i7-2600 processor. That processor runs at 95 watts. What’s the savings here? Nearly 20 percent. A lot of these savings come from Intel’s 22nm process technology used in the 3rd generation Intel Core processors and the revolutionary 3D Tri-Gate transistor technology. These innovations substantially decrease power consumption and die size.

 

Now, if you’re willing to pay the higher price (approximately USD 100 more) for a mobile version of a 3rd generation Intel Core processor such as the Intel® Core™ i7-3615QE processor, you could drop that down to just 45 watts. That’s only the power savings of the processor though. When we’re talking about spending 34 percent more on a processor and the impact it will have on the pricing of a media player, we need to look beyond just the savings in processor watts to see if they might be other reasons for sticking with the less expensive desktop version.

 

Keeping Power Low and Costs Down with Integrated Graphics

One big thing to consider is that all 3rd generation Intel Core processors that include Intel® HD Graphics 4000 virtually eliminate the need for an external graphics card and its power draw on a system. This is a big advantage in reducing overall system power and bill of materials (BOM). In addition to that, digital signage customers will appreciate saving the time and expense of managing thousands of graphics cards and their drivers spread over a large network.

 

Consider too what you get (see Figure 1). This fast graphics core with 16 execution units is up to twice as fast as the previous generation HD Graphics 3000 (12 execution units) in 3D performance and up to 60 percent faster in graphics performance. Plus Intel HD Graphics 4000 supports DirectX* 11 and can run graphics on three monitors simultaneously—a big advantage for digital signage applications.

 

HD4000 diagram.JPG

Figure 1. 3rd generation Intel® Core™ processor HD Graphics microarchitecture.

 

There’s a lot of intelligence in HD Graphics 4000. For instance,  Intel® Quick Sync Video provides native support for all mainstream codecs, as well as the ability to handle multiple 1080p streams simultaneously. Another feature, Intel® Clear Video HD Technology, delivers advanced video technologies that remove jitter, create crisper visuals, plus enable adaptive contrast and skin-tone enhancements for vivid, rich colors.

 

Intel® HD Graphics 4000 shares last-level cache between the CPU and graphics. This optimizes load balancing and helps accelerate 3D rendering. What’s more, the graphics core frequency is a variable parameter. Third generation Intel Core processors support Intel HD Graphics Dynamic Frequency, a feature that adjusts the frequency of the integrated graphics core dynamically depending on the CPU utilization, power consumption and heat dissipation at a given moment. Essentially this means that when the graphics require the most processing power they can get a boost, provided the power consumption and heat dissipation at the moment allow it.

 

Plenty of Headroom

As for handling the anonymous video analytics tasks of such applications as Intel® Audience Impression Metrics Suite, the Intel® Core™ i7-3770 processor has plenty of headroom for that. Not only does this processor have four cores that make simple work out of multi-tasking, but it also includes Intel® Hyper-Threading Technology which allows each individual processor core to work on two tasks at the same time. This further improves multitasking and speeds up the workflow. In addition, for greater adaptability Intel® Turbo Boost Technology 2.0 delivers bursts of processor speed automatically when a workload demands additional performance.

 

Reducing Management and Power Costs with Out-of Band Manageability

Out-of-band manageability features also make the 3rd generation Intel core processors particularly appealing for signage applications. When their Intel® vPro™ technology features are activated, Intel Active Management Technology (Intel® AMT) enables remote management and maintenance capabilities that allow IT professionals to query, fix and protect networked media players even when they’re powered off, not responding, or have software issues. What’s more, this technology helps perform remote asset tracking and checks the presence of management agents virtually anytime.

 

Intel AMT also provides the means to remotely turn devices on/off to reduce energy consumption during non-peak operating times. This means store management doesn’t have to rely on store employees to do it and energy can be saved by keeping signage off when people aren’t present. Plus, if a merchant wants to use anonymous video analytics to put players to sleep when people aren’t present and to restart when they are, Intel® Rapid Start Technology enables systems based on 3rd generation Intel core processors to resume quickly so customers aren’t missed.

 

Two IEI Boards That Deliver These Advantages

Good examples of ATX and microATX boards that can provide all the advantages of 3rd generation Intel Core processors are available from Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance members like IEI. Both their IMBA-Q770 (ATX) and IMB-Q770 (microATX) boards (see Figure 2) support the 22nm LGA1155 3rd generation Intel® Core™ processor family and Intel® Q77 Express Chipset. Integrated dual HDMI and DVI-I on the Intel® Q77 Express Chipset and Intel® HD 4000 Graphics with DX11 support allow these advanced motherboards to deliver enhanced graphics performance and support three independent displays with an additional VGA connector.

 

IMB-Q770.jpg

Figure 2. IEI IMB-Q770 microATX board.


 

Both the IMBA-Q770 and the IMB-Q770 feature USB 3.0, PCI Express generation 3.0, a SATA 6Gb/s port, and dual-channel DDR3 1600/1333 MHz with maximum support up to 32 GB. The Intel® Q77 Express chipset supports state-of-the-art Intel® AMT 8.0, enabling IT managers to remotely diagnose and repair problems, making these platforms ideal for high-resolution digital signage applications seeking advanced manageability. They can even include IEI’s iEZman application which provides an out-of-band KVM function which allows full control of keyboard, mouse and video output viewing on a remote system through hardware-based Intel® AMT. Video output on a remote system is always visible even when there is a blue screen or missing disk.

 

With iEZman, a remote support person can remotely control and perform administrative tasks through a graphical user interface (GUI) in Windows. All functions can be managed through this single interface after password verification. iEZman also makes remote power management extra easy by enabling remote system on, off, and reset through this GUI, as well as scheduling specific times for systems to wake from a sleep state or shut down.

 

Conclusion

Digital signage system designers can effectively reduce both power consumption and system cost low by choosing boards based on desktop Intel® Core™ processors.

 

retail[2].pngTo learn more about bringing intelligence to digital displays and other retail devices, see Digital Signage - Top Picks

 

efficiency[1].pngTo see other community content on energy efficiency, see Energy Efficiency – Top Picks.

 

IEI Technology Corporation 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

Next to winning, nothing encourages people at a casino to stick with a game longer than a highly immersive, multimedia-rich gaming experience. But for casino owners, the requirements of a gaming platform are much more. They want a machine that can’t be remotely compromised or otherwise tampered with. They want ways to minimize downtime and IT visits. Fortunately for platform designers, it’s now easy to provide the desired performance, security and manageability simply by standardizing gaming platforms on the 3rd generation Intel® Core™ processor product family. In this post, I’m going to explain why, as well as provide an example of a board from Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance member Portwell on which to design a game platform.

 

The Ultimate Game in Visual and Audio Performance

Today’s casino goers have much greater expectations for gaming experiences. They’ve grown up with computer games. They know the advanced imaging and animation capabilities computers are capable of. Consequently, automated card, roulette, slot, and other gambling games need to provide similar high-definition 3D animation and video, as well as high quality audio, to captivate and satisfy these customers. Nor is one monitor enough. Another is required for tracking player-game information, such as points earned, player preferences, and casino services such as food and drink orders. Such conveniences are great when a player doesn’t want to leave a “lucky” machine during a hot streak. From the casino perspective, having even a third monitor offers a great way to advertise casino events to both the player and passersby.

 

All this is a lot to ask, particularly when electronic gaming system designers must compete on price for lucrative deals that could encompass hundreds of systems.

 

Fortunately for gaming platform designers, 3rd generation Intel® Core™ processors can drive down bill of materials (BOM) cost to make their solutions more competitive. In addition to providing processing power to spare for applications, these processors include superlative integrated graphics that make expensive add-in graphics cards and subsystems unnecessary. This lowers system cost and form factor. What’s more, since discrete graphics components no longer need to be powered, it also reduces energy consumption. Selling to large casinos, this can be a great sales point.

 

Just how good are these integrated graphics? Intel® HD Graphics 4000, Intel’s upgraded graphics engine, offers an up to 2X boost in 3D performance and up to 60 percent faster graphics performance over the previous generation processor. Built-in support for three displays includes comprehensive video port options—including LVDS, VGA, HDMI, and DisplayPort. Intel® Quick Sync Video provides native support for all mainstream codecs, as well as the ability to handle multiple 1080p streams simultaneously. And Intel® Clear Video HD Technology delivers advanced video technologies that remove jitter, create crisper visuals, plus enable adaptive contrast and skin-tone enhancements for vivid, rich colors. DirectX* 11, OpenGL* 3.1, and OpenCL* 1.1 are all supported.

 

Integrated Intel® High Definition Audio (Intel® HD Audio) also helps reduce BOM and provide excellent sound performance. Capable of playing back more channels at higher quality than previous integrated audio formats, Intel HD Audio delivers outstanding multi-channel audio experiences using newer audio and video encoding/decoding algorithms to enable a higher-quality listening experience. Intel HD Audio hardware is capable of delivering the support and sound quality for up to eight channels at 192 kHz/32-bit quality and is architected to prevent the occasional glitches or pops that other audio solutions can have by providing dedicated system bandwidth for critical audio functions.

 

Taking the Gamble Out of Security

Now let’s talk about security. Gaming IT departments need to maintain the integrity and security of sensitive customer information stored on their electronic gaming devices. Equally important, IT staff must prevent any form of tampering that could result in large revenue losses, as well as electronic sabotage via malware by disgruntled customers or employees.

 

Embedded security technologies in the 3rd generation Intel Core processor family enable a level of protection unavailable to embedded systems until now. These processors incorporate Intel® vPro™ technology, a suite of hardware-based security and management capabilities that operate below the operating system (OS), installed agents and applications, to provide a deeper level of threat management; access authentication; data protection; and monitoring, remediation, and reporting.

 

These security capabilities include:

 

Intel TXT merits extra description. When gaming platforms with Intel TXT are powered on, the configuration in which they are launched is measured and can be verified from a remote management console, ensuring that there has been no tampering of platform subsystems. In the event of an issue, “poison pill” capabilities in Intel vPro technology can be used either to remotely or automatically disable a system based on a policy. Game over for the malware.

 

Intel® VT is also a player here. Typically gaming devices run different software applications on a single platform. These applications include multiple networking games, random number generation, data analysis, player tracking and user interfaces. Intel® VT enables one machine to run multiple independent OSs concurrently and isolates these applications to be stored and executed individually. Not only does this help reduce virtualization overhead and software complexity, but it also, through this high degree of separation, increases system security.

 

For a multi-layered protection, add McAfee Deep Defender. Optimized to work with Intel Core processors, this product provides advanced stealth malware prevention, and also detection, quarantine, and remediation. It does this by tapping into McAfee DeepSAFE software. Jointly developed by McAfee and Intel, this software utilities Intel® VT to execute between the silicon and OS. This enables McAfee Deep Defender to help identify and stop in real time stealthy kernel mode rootkit attacks. Unlike static scans and user-mode protections, McAfee Deep Defender monitors memory operations, stopping unknown, zero-day infections before they have a chance to do damage. If the rootkit has been concealing secondary malware, that malware will be revealed for cleanup by user-level protections like McAfee VirusScan Enterprise.

 

A Winning Hand in Manageability

IT support costs are a major concern for casinos that may have hundreds of gaming platforms on a floor and when any one of them is done, that’s one less machine to earn money on. That’s where Intel® AMT comes into play. It provides remote out-of-band manageability capabilities, allowing staff to remotely access a device even if it is powered down or has a failure at the OS or BIOS level. Using Intel AMT, staff can remotely repair and update the BIOS, OS, or system software through the network. This means casino operators can manage several properties from one location. By reducing onsite technician visits to the floors, it helps reduce maintenance costs for casino owners while shortening the repair time for machines to get back in operation and generating revenue.

 

Another feature to touch on here is Intel® Smart Connect Technology. Introduced in the 3rd generation Intel Core processor family, this feature enables devices to download the latest software updates, such as game or security updates, even while sleeping. This enables immediate installation once the machine resumes a wake state.

 

Playing to Win Starts with the Right Board

If you’re designing a gaming platform, look to the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance for a wide range of boards based on 3rd generation Intel Core processors. A good example comes from Portwell. The Portwell WADE-8013 is a Mini-ITX board that uses 3rd generation Intel Core processors and the Intel® Q77 Express chipset to deliver many of the advanced features discussed here for gaming (Figure 1).

 

2_WADE-8013_American-Portwell.jpg

Figure 1. Portwell WADE-8013 Mini-ITX board.

 

The WADE-8013 has an extensive feature set, including the latest USB 3.0 high speed transmission technology which supports 10 USB ports (four USB 3.0 ports on rear IO and six USB 2.0 pin headers on board). The board provides two long DIMM memory slots for DDR3 SDRAM up to 16GB, and connections for three display types: VGA, HDMI and DVI-D. In addition, the WADE-8013 is equipped with dual Gigabit Ethernet connectors, four SATA ports, six COM ports, the latest PCIe 3.0 (one PCI Express x16 slot), and one Mini-PCIe slot supporting the mSATA interface.

 

The board supports Intel AMT and, according to Portwell, several gaming customers are already testing the platform for their designs.

 

What are thoughts about designing gaming platforms around 3rd generation Intel Core processors? I’d like to hear your comments. 

 

security[1].pngFor more on securing intelligent gaming systems, see intel.com/p/en_US/embedded/innovation/security. I’d also recommend this white paper on securing business PCs. It’s very applicable to securing a network of gaming systems.


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


Mark Scantlebury

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

Associate Editor, Embedded Innovator magazine

As industrial manufacturers increase the use of computer-controlled production line machinery and equipment to improve product quality and lower costs, the need for continuous process observation becomes vital. Intelligent system monitoring technology can be used in these critical industrial applications to detect abnormal conditions and allow users to take immediate action to eliminate waste and reduce downtime. These built-in, self-diagnostic systems are used in factory settings to avoid the waste and long periods of downtime required with a production line shutdown and restart. This blog will take a look at an example of an intelligent monitoring application from Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance member Advantech along with available hardware and software to simplify your next industrial design project.

 

The Advantech technical support website lists a number of applications where products based on Intel technology provide intelligent monitoring functions as a part of the manufacturing process. For example, the Solar Cell Test case study describes a subset of the automatic test and measurement equipment needed in a solar panel production facility (See figure 1). Through the use of pick-and-place motion control technology, solar cells are placed on a conveyer belt and then accurately monitored with discrete sensors and machine vision as they pass through each stage of the inspection procedure. The Advantech UNO-3084 dual-core embedded controller and integrated with a PCI-1202U AMONet communications card delivers commands for real-time motion control and status monitoring. AMONet is a hybrid RS-485-based fieldbus delivering high speed, deterministic communications with a 20 Mbps transfer rate. The controller can scan 1024 digital I/O channels within 1.04ms and manage up to 256 axes for motion control.

 

Solar Cell Case Study.jpg

 

The embedded controller used in this case study is just one example of Advantech’s wide selection of industrial computers based on Intel architecture. For example, the ARK-2105L high performance embedded computer designed around the 3rd Generation Intel® Core™ architecture is one of the most recent additions  (See figure 2). This new system is equipped with the Intel® Core™ i3/i7-3517UE processor and QM77 Express chipset plus multiple I/O ports for communicating with intelligent monitoring peripherals.  The ARK-2105L includes a number of features for rugged embedded applications including input power ranges from 12V to 24V, temperature ranges from -20° C to 60° C, structural strengthening, and easy expansion capabilities. The processor also includes a number of performance features that target industrial applications that require high-speed, high-definition image analysis and multiple video displays. The built-in Intel® HD Graphics technology provides up to 16 execution units with DirectX 11 and OpenGL 3.1 support.

 

ARK-2150L.jpg

 

Also supporting intelligent monitoring functions, Advantech recently announced SUSIAccess V2.0, a remote device management software application compatible with all their embedded platforms (See figure 3). SUSIAccess allows system designers to centralize monitoring and managing of remote embedded devices in real-time by automatically collecting device data and providing logs for remote management. The application monitors essential device status information including temperature, voltage, fan speed, signal strength, and remaining battery power. When errors occur, SUSIAccess notifies the administrator via warning popups and e-mail alerts. If there is a major system crash, the system automatically reboots in order to run diagnostics and deploy system recovery procedures. SUSIAccess is preloaded on all Advantech platforms and contains an on-demand software platform in the cloud, providing new applications and software updates.

 

susiaccess.jpg

 

In addition to the intelligent monitoring features described above, software developers addressing industrial automation applications can take advantage of Intel® vPro Technology to access, control, and reconfigure a remote embedded system. vPro includes Intel® Active Management Technology (Intel® AMT) with certificate-based security for remote access regardless of the operational status of the system. This technology provides industrial automation support teams an economical method to monitor, manage, and control a large number of production platforms from a central location. If you are ready to start an industrial automation project requiring intelligent monitoring please share your questions and 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 archives on remote management.

 

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

 

manageability.jpgTo view other community content on Manageability, see "Manageability - Top Picks” 

 

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

 

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

 

Attention to the size, weight and power consumption (SWaP) of an embedded platform in military and aerospace applications becomes increasingly critical as devices become more mobile and integrated into other electrical and mechanical subsystems.  The principals for optimizing the SWaP ratio apply across all levels of technology from chips to boards to systems. Added to this is the additional focus on cooling and cost, commonly referred to as SWaP-C2. Here we are going to take a look at the top considerations for SWaP-C2 that can have the most impact on your next design. Included are current examples of how Intel technology can help with your SWaP-C2 conundrum.

 

Processor and chipset selection

Top on almost every embedded platform designer’s list is the choice of processor and any related chipsets. Here Intel has the mid to high performance processor choices covered. Start with the best performance to watt ratio with the Intel® Atom™ processors and chipsets, move up to the Intel® Core™ processors and chipsets when performance is a bit higher in priority. Atom processors are available starting at under 5 watts for maximum power efficiency. Intel®; Core™ processors start as low as 21 watts and go up from there. Key to the Intel® Core™ processors is the thermal management capability that lets you optimize the processor performance but gives you access to higher performance when needed. Check out the two posts, Roving Reporter: Cooling in an unconventional way and Roving Reporter:  BIOS suppliers respond to manipulating the BIOS to affect cooling.

 

Cost-effective SWaP management is best achieved by using commercially available components whenever possible to keep the cost part of SWaP-C2 in balance. Exotic components that are custom built can blow any budget out of the water. This also means that you don’t have the use the cheapest, lowest priced processors or chipsets, boards, or systems; you can select from enterprise grade parts, with wider operating environments, and still be more cost effective than designing with specialized components.

 

Processor core management and Hypervisors

With the widespread use of multicore processors come many SWaP-C2 advantages. One is the fact that you can run multiple operating environments on a single multicore processor, assigning dedicated cores to specific tasks, and eliminating the need for application specific processors. In essence, a single multi-core processor eliminates several stand alone chips from the past. How does this all come together? It requires software that is capable of managing multiple operating modes, a la, the hypervisor. Intel’s Wind River has this covered with their Hypervisor.

 

Wind River Hypervisor is an embedded hypervisor that brings a new level of flexibility to the development of embedded devices. It opens up new opportunities for cost savings through hardware consolidation; it allows developers to leverage multiple operating systems in a single device so they can expand and enhance device functionality; it facilitates the adoption of multi-core processors by increasing reliability and reducing risk; and it provides the new software configuration options required to architect next-generation embedded devices.

 

Learn more about using hypervisors to improve your SWaP-C2 ratio by reading Roving Reporter: Paravirtualization improves hypervisor performance.

 

Power Management

Power management is addressed in the processor with Enhanced Intel SpeedStep®; Technology and Thermal Monitoring Technologies. Managing the processor speed has a great impact on the power budget of a system. Enhancements in 3rd Generation Intel®; Core™ processors makes power management even easier. Effective power management can eliminate the need for expensive, large, and heavy cooling systems. Designing a system that provides the proper amount of operating margin without blowing the SWaP or cost budget is important.

 

GPGPU - General Purpose Graphics Processor Unit

Adding additional functionality to processor packages is a favorite way to improve the SWaP-C2 ratio. Systems-on-a-chip (SOCs) have been doing this for years. One of the most power intensive processor blocks is the graphics processor (GP). Once you have added a GP to the die, you can then use that to aid in general purpose computational processing tasks. The ability to add this key functionality to today’s die packages is a major breakthrough in reducing the SWaP ratio, totally eliminating the need to expensive, space consuming graphics co-processors or boards. The fact that you can even use the processing capability of the GPU for other aspects of the application at no additional hardware costs is a huge savings in all areas of SWaP.

 

The latest 3rd Generation Intel® Core™ processors come equipped with the Intel® HD Graphics 4000/2500. This enables leading edge graphics capability all within a single chip solution. While designed primarily for the gaming industry, many military applications have the same requirements for high levels of graphics performance. Intel HD Graphics offers powerful features that enable a highly responsive and stunning 3D visual experience:

  • Advanced technologies that deliver higher performance and better energy efficiency.
  • Faster 3D rendering and more complex shading create incredibly responsive and realistic 3D graphics.
  • Intel HD Graphics 4000 delivers immersive mainstream capabilities with entry-level discrete graphics card performance—without an additional graphics card or chip.
  • Intel HD Graphics 2500 delivers casual capabilities without an additional graphics card or chip.


Solid State Disk drives

The ability to capture data accurately and efficiently is becoming as important as the advancement in the weaponry in the Mil-Aero market. To achieve increased functionality, performance and extended mission life in electronic systems, SWaP must be managed and reduced across applications. Developers are looking for embedded storage solutions that are smaller, lighter, and less expensive that can meet SWaP standards. Solid State Disks or SSDs are becoming very cost effective, leading the charge to reduce size and weight while remaining cost effective and improving system performance.

 

Premio has solved this challenge by offering developers a small Echostreams 1U 18" short-depth and light-weight storage system that supports an embedded Unified Storage Controller with onboard Intel i350 (GbE)/X540 (10GbE) Ethernet Controller, or an 3rd Generation Intel® Core™ processor-based ATX motherboard, ideal for low-power and high-performance digital data/content recording applications used on aircraft, submarines, and even in vehicles. And while similar solutions on the market are much longer and can only accommodate ten SSD drives, the 2.5” high Intel SSD 520 drives made it possible to support sixteen SSD bays with an AC/DC or DC/DC power supply, all in one compact package.

Premio Image.JPG

 

Premio 1U 16bay FlacheSAN1S

 

“Our biggest challenge when it comes to SWaP is in understanding exactly what a customer really needs,” commented Gene Lee. “Many customer won’t tell us the details of how a system will operate, so they often do not ask for the right solution.” Customers often have a hard time distinguishing between hard and soft requirements which leads them to frequently pick products that are either too expensive to build or compromises on key capabilities that comes back to haunt them later.

 

Small Form Factors

Size is relevant to the application. What may be considered small enough for one application may be way too large for another. When it comes to selecting a module, board, or system form factor, there is no shortage of choices; many of them are specifically targeted at small form factors. While the size is relevant to the application, there are many choices.

 

Intel works with the embedded community to support the development of a host of small form factors utilizing Intel processors from Atom to 3rd Generation Intel® Core™ processors. These platforms target intelligent systems across all markets. Single board computers and systems based on these small form factors greatly improve the SWaP-C2 ratio especially when total product life costs are taken into consideration.

 

“The combination of ruggedness, reliability and performance in Radisys’ COM Express modules enables our customers to implement an entire system or network that can be picked up and moved to meet changing battlefield situations,” said Jennifer Zickel, COM Express product line manager, Radisys. Radisys’ CEQM77, with third-generation Intel Core i7 processing, enables video applications in the defense, medical and enterprise markets to be brought into smaller more efficient space designs.

 

Many members of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance offer board and system level products of all types and configurations to address your preferred SWaP-C2 priorities.

 

Connectors

This may be one of the few technology areas impacting SWaP where Intel does not have a catalog offering though they may be closer than they think. As systems get smaller, there is a need smaller and more higher performing connectors. Active cables are one way to increase the performance so it is not a far stretch to the day when Intel processors will be embedded at one or both ends of cables to make them active.

 

But while Intel may not actually produce connectors, they do influence the protocols that require connectors. USB is perhaps the most ubiquitous connection in play today. Used in devices of all types, size and performance are key to its continued acceptance in all markets. Intel launched the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) in 1995 and the rest is history. Size and performance are the two top priorities for the USB standard as mobile devices of all types implement USB as the primary physical interconnection to other devices. Today, SuperSpeed USB 3.0 provides the highest standard in USB performance—up to 10 times faster than High-Speed USB 2.0, with a design data rate of five Gbps. In addition, SuperSpeed USB dramatically reduces the power necessary to transfer large amounts of data. Portable devices such as handhelds, cell phones, and digital cameras that connect to PCs as USB peripherals benefit from having additional capabilities to connect to other USB devices directly using USB On-The-Go (OTG) technology.

 

Thunderbolt™ is a new technology that is having great impact on SWaP. Transforming device interconnectivity, Thunderbolt™ technology is a dual protocol I/O innovation that dramatically increases transfer performance with bi-directional 10Gbps speed and offers daisy chaining to multiple devices, providing flexibility and simplicity for innovative system designs.

 

Out of all of this is a drive to continuously improve protocols and connector technology to be smaller and higher in capability and performance provided support for data, video, audio, and power connectivity.

 

Chassis cooling technology

Fully understanding the operating environment is very critical when it comes to chassis cooling. For instance, an embedded subsystem designed to operating without fan, will require some kind of airflow over the chassis. Otherwise the system will slow cook the system around it – leading to eventual failure. Even a very low power system without the right airflow will impart long-term damage.

 

Used widely in server platforms, the Intelligent Platform Management Interface (IPMI) specification continues to improve server management and help reduce costs. IPMI is implemented by many intelligent systems, playing a key role in SWaP-C2 by providing a tool for chassis management and cooling.

 

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For more on energy efficiency, see Roving Reporter: Improved Energy Efficiency Can Eliminate Active Cooling Devices, Reduce Power Consumption, and Save Board Space

 

References

Energy Efficiency - Top Picks

Military, Aerospace, Government - Top Picks

 

Radisys is a Premier member and Premio Inc. 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

Smart is the new cool, and if there’s any machine among the plethora of Internet-connected gadgets and systems available today that you’d want to be smart, it’s the one that’s monitoring or even sustaining your health.

 

The Internet of Things is hyping great expectations now and in the near future for the deployment of billions of intelligent devices that promise to enhance productivity, increase safety, and in general make life easier for businesses and consumers. Everyday objects – everything from your table lamp to your coffee maker – will be able to talk to each other and possibly learn how to customize operations to your preferences.

 

Embedded technology companies who are producing these smart devices are smart enough to recognize that this new era of über connectivity presents a number of challenges that must be overcome to capitalize on the opportunities for growth, not the least of which is figuring out what to do with all this data being communicated from device to device. This data manageability issue is particularly concerning for the health care sector, adding to the complications of incompatible electronic medical records and stringent privacy requirements.

 

Intel is working to address the data dilemma posed by the Internet of Things by developing the Intel® Intelligent Systems Framework, an evolving set of interoperable solutions designed to enable connectivity, manageability, and security across devices in a consistent and scalable manner. From embedded devices to the data center and cloud, the Intelligent Systems Framework enables interoperability in end-to-end systems and helps OEMs extract greater value from their data. To meet the needs of intelligent systems, Intel processor platforms including the low-power Intel® Atom™ architecture and the high-performance Intel® Xeon® architecture provide the processing power required for handling burgeoning volumes of data, while Intel technologies such as Intel® Active Management Technology (Intel® AMT) and Intel® Trusted Execution Technology (Intel® TXT) provide solutions for data manageability and security, respectively.

 

Members of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance including Wind River are supporting the Intelligent Systems Framework by contributing their technologies and expertise to achieve interoperability across the network of intelligent devices. In the following interview, Santhosh Nair, general manager of intelligent platforms at Wind River, discusses how the two companies are promoting initiatives to simplify intelligent systems development and deployment and reveals how these efforts will help the health care market get smarter and more connected.

 

RR: How will the Intel® Intelligent Systems Framework utilize software and middleware from Wind River?

Nair: Wind River Intelligent Device Platform, a complete software development environment built exclusively for Machine-to-Machine (M2M) applications, is a key software enabler of the Intelligent Systems Framework. It provides a simple yet powerful software platform to design, build, and operate intelligent connected embedded devices. Intelligent Device Platform is built on Wind River’s embedded Linux operating system and tools, as well as integrated middleware addressing connectivity, manageability, and security at the device level. A simple way to think about the Intelligent Systems Framework and Intelligent Device Platform is the following:  Intelligent Systems Framework is the end-to-end framework (device to data center and in between), and Intelligent Device Platform is the embedded device software stack that aligns with this framework.

idp-stack-diagram-large.jpgFigure 1: Wind River Intelligent Device Platform

 

RR: How will Intelligent Device Platform benefit the health care market?

Nair: There is a marked trend in the medical industry toward smarter, connected devices and a shift in focus from illness toward wellness. Through emerging applications such as patient monitoring and in-home patient care for seniors and patients with chronic conditions, mobile health technology enables physicians and family members to cost-effectively improve care, respond to emergencies, and more accurately monitor and treat illnesses. Wind River Intelligent Device Platform can be a key enabler for medical device developers to fuel rapid innovation and deployment of safe, secure, and reliable connected health care devices.

 

Think about Intelligent Device Platform as a software component that enables medical devices to connect well with each other and to the backbone, so as to advance interoperability in health care. In addition, Intelligent Device Platform allows post-deployment in managing these systems securely and providing secure remote updates. All these are cost and efficiency drivers in the industry and will directly address the bottom line for device manufacturers by providing them with an industry-leading infrastructure based on safety, security, connectivity, and manageability.

 

RR: How can Intel and Wind River platforms and technologies be used to maximize the value of data in intelligent medical systems?

Nair: Approximately 75 to 80 percent of all U.S. health care spending is related to one or more chronic conditions (for example, heart, kidney, or lung issues or other forms of ongoing serious illnesses or disabilities). Smart M2M devices, services, and applications enable health care professionals to understand patients’ conditions and make accurate, timely, and realistic recommendations. In some cases actions can be taken (such as taking insulin for diabetes), or a caregiver can be alerted to assist a patient needing help. There are hundreds of M2M-based health care services in hospitals, doctors’ offices, and homes, and on mobile applications as well.

 

While some operators and device manufacturers may adopt a do-it-yourself approach and try to build internal competence rather than outsource key aspects of creating new devices and services responsible for managing the growing sensor and other patient data intelligence, this investment strategy likely doesn’t match the company's value equation. Intel and Wind River are enhancing paths to revenue for health care companies by eliminating the need to develop internal competency in areas that don’t help differentiate their products from their competition.

 

RR: What innovations are needed to improve connectivity and address data demands in medical devices?

Nair: Connectivity is ubiquitous in almost every industry out there except the medical industry. And in general, there is not much innovation needed in the connectivity arena regardless of industry. The key is to use leading platforms that enable connectivity and basic standards, allowing medical device makers to focus on applications built on this standard infrastructure that provide value to patients and physicians. The bigger question at hand is how to address manageability, analytics, and data. Big Data is as big a theme in the medical industry as it is in other industries. The following initiatives are key for addressing data demands in medical devices:

 

  • Developing standard interfaces and infrastructure at the endpoints to generate high-quality data
  • Ensuring world-class security in designs for end devices and the entire ecosystem
  • Generating proactive statistics that enable better decision making regarding system health
  • Most importantly, having analytics that feed into better decision support for clinicians and patients based on the information generated


To make these high value-add applications work, it is paramount that a strong, solid foundation is laid for connectivity, manageability, and security – and the Intel® Intelligent Systems Framework and Wind River Intelligent Device Platform enable just that.


Download this recently recorded webcast to hear how Wind River and Intel are collaborating on a reference design for a mobile therapeutic device that combines Intel’s high-performance multicore processing technology with Wind River virtualization software, and check out this previous blog Q&A with Santhosh to learn how embedded vendors can protect mobile medical designs. Read this Roving Reporter blog for an overview on the key elements comprising the Intel® Intelligent Systems Framework, and check back for future blog posts on this subject involving other members of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance.

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

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For more on extending the Internet to embedded devices, see intel.com/go/embedded-connectivity.

 

Wind River is an Associate member of the lntel® Intelligent Systems Alliance.

     Contact Wind River >>


Jennifer Hesse

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

It’s possible that the most expensive and ineffective video surveillance equipment in any organization is the security staff assigned to watch monitors. Video surveillance literature often cites is a study by the U.S. National Institute of Justice that found: “After only 20 minutes of watching and evaluating monitor screens, the attention of most individuals has degenerated to well below acceptable levels. Monitoring video screens is both boring and mesmerizing.”

 

The industry’s answer to this problem? Video analytics solutions that automate most of the “watching.” In this post, I want to look into the performance considerations for such solutions deployed in edge devices and the role that 3rd generation Intel® Core processors can play.

 

Video analytics solutions use complex algorithms to determine changes, such as an object moving, within a prescribed view. Video analytics also provides a way to search recorded video for specific events. This is a real time-saver compared to having someone watch fast forward through hours of video from multiple cameras.

 

In digital security surveillance (DSS) systems, video analytics software is generally set up to send alerts to a centralized control room, as well as mobile devices used by on-premise security. Staff can view the video and determine a proper response.

 

A typical IP-based video surveillance system uses multiple video cameras, some of which may be analog and some digital IP network cameras (see Figure 1). The analog cameras feed into encoders which digitize their video. The digitized video is then transmitted to a central control room, where a server processes the video for display and storage.

 

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Figure 1. Diagram of a hybrid (analog and IP camera) DSS system.

 

As the diagram shows, video analytics solutions are often deployed on standard off-the-shelf servers at the edge or in a central location. Video analytics can also be run on NVRs or embedded in video surveillance devices such as network cameras and encoders. Many DSS solutions use both.

 

Centralized server-based solutions generally collect full streams of video for analysis from all across the network. For more on these solutions, see my earlier post “High Performance, High Bandwidth for Large DSS Systems.” In edge server solutions, the video is analyzed locally and can be briefly stored and then deleted after a set period of time if no event was detected. This is an excellent strategy for reducing the bandwidth demands of a DSS system.

 

A more recent strategy for edge video analytics is to divide the work between the camera and video encoder hardware. The camera performs simple analytics while the encoder performs more sophisticated analytics. This means that the encoder has to have a processor powerful enough to do more than just digitize and compress the video signal. It has to be powerful enough to perform video content analysis. The advantage of this approach is that it eliminates a device—the edge server—but still makes optimal use locally of high resolution video, while minimizing network video traffic.

 

Some DSS architectures are beginning to use this approach and more will surely follow. It’s a particularly good strategy in systems using encoders to stretch existing investments in legacy analog cameras.

 

To enable video content analysis in an encoder or a sophisticated camera, the device needs to become an intelligent system. In fact, the more sophisticated the video analytics in terms of combining mathematical, statistical, signal and image-processing techniques with machine learning, pattern recognition and other types of algorithms, the more intelligent the device has to be. When you add the tremendous amount of data that high resolution video cameras generate to this equation, the processing requirements are intensive.

 

On most DSS devices that handle video, a majority of the processing capacity goes to system control and image processing tasks. This leaves limited capacity for video analytics. Adding a dedicated analytics processor is a possibility, but increases the bill of materials (BOM) and the price of the ultimate product. IMS Research sees a different way. In its report on video trends for 2012, IMS predicts that not only will   the types of applications that can be performed at the edge increase, but that this trend will be driven by the availability of more powerful general purpose processors and the refinement of video analytics applications that will make them less processor-intensive.

 

There’s little reason to wait though if you’re a designer of DSS systems. The 3rd generation Intel Core processors offer all the required performance for today’s video analytics solutions. What’s more, the broad selection of off-the-shelf boards from members of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance makes it easy to meet the small form factor needs of cameras and encoders, plus maintain competitive pricing.

 

A good example is the Portwell PCOM-B219VG, a Type 6 COM Express Compact (95mm x 95mm) module based on the 3rd generation Intel® Core™ processor and Mobile Intel® QM77 Express chipset (see Figure 2). With multiple cores (from two to eight), as well as Intel® Hyper-Threading Technology, this processor family provides excellent multithreaded processing and multi-tasking. It also includes Intel® Turbo Boost Technology 2.0 to boost performance for specific workloads by increasing processing frequency. Equipped with a low thermal design power (TDP) processor (as low as 17 W), the PCOM-B219VG can provide superior performance while sipping power in harsh environments from as low as -40 and up to 80 . Support for one PCI Express*x16 Gen 3 lane (8.0GT/s) and USB 3.0 more than double I/O throughput over the previous generation. Seven PCI Express x1 Gen2 (5.0 GT/s) are also included. Support for up to 16GB ECC DDR3 1333/1600 MT/s SDRAM on two 204-pin SODIMM sockets provides plenty of memory headroom.

 

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Figure 2. Portwell PCOM-B219VG Type 6 COM Express Compact (95mm x 95mm) module.

 

Of particular note for DSS applications like encoders is the upgraded graphics engine of the 3rd generation Intel Core processors. The Intel® Core™ i7-3770 processor, for example, can encode four channels of 1080p 30 frames per second (fps) video and decode 20 channels of 1080p 30 fps video. Though admittedly a more powerful processor than available with the PCOM-B219VG, it provides an idea of the power of these processors.

 

For maximum performance, media processing applications can be optimized using the Intel® Media Software Development Kit (Intel® Media SDK 2012). This cross-platform application programming interface (API) for developing media applications supports the hardware-accelerated video encoding, decoding and transcoding provided by the Intel® HD Graphics 4000 integrated into 3rd generation Intel® Core™ processors. The Intel® Media SDK 2012 significantly reduces the time for coding media applications that take can advantage of this underlying hardware performance. The Intel® Media SDK 2012 supports a range of codecs and features, including H.264, MPEG-2 and MVC video encoders and decoders and various video processing filters. The key advantage here is that fixed-function hardware blocks perform the codec operations, minimizing processor utilization. This, in turn, frees up additional headroom for video analytics and other tasks.

 

In addition to the performance boost of Intel HD Graphics 4000, 3rd generation Intel Core processors have one more thing up their sleeve: Intel® Advanced Vector Extensions (Intel® AVX). This set of instructions for doing Single Instruction Multiple Data (SIMD) operations on Intel® architecture supports the high-performance 256-bit vector and matrix processing crucial to applications like video analytics.

 

Of course, one of the big advantages of COM Express modules like this one from Portwell is that it enables designers to partition host processors from proprietary baseboards, thereby minimizing current and future design risks during the initial phase of development. Separating the CPU-upgradable module from system specific I/O carrier boards safeguards development investments and lowers total cost of ownership. In addition, companies like Portwell can also provide services to clients on the carrier board design and development, review schematics and BIOS customization.

 

Have some thoughts on moving more video analytics to the edge with intelligent encoders and cameras? Please send them my way. In the meantime, I recommend checking out the white paper: Intel® Digital Security Surveillance System Media Performance Benchmark Methodology.

 

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To learn more about DSS solutions based on Intel processors, see our top picks on the subject..

 

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

 

Mark Scantlebury

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

Associate Editor, Embedded Innovator magazine

While “share the love” may serve as the theme song for many charitable organizations and hippie retailers, “share the data” may be the new rallying cry for the previously closed, unyielding health care industry.

 

The ability to seamlessly share data across an often uncoordinated network of disparate medical devices and systems is a significant concern in the health care field that is becoming more palpable with the emergence of Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) and Electronic Health Records (EHRs). As some EHR vendors are promoting standards to exchange clinical data among providers and policymakers are calling for a roadmap to advance health IT interoperability, the industry is recognizing the need to collaborate on a consistent framework for communicating patient data.

 

The task of changing workflows in an industry that still runs on fax machines and paper forms isn’t an easy undertaking. The health care sector, under the compulsion of long and rigorous FDA regulations, uses legacy systems, which are not built to share. Whether old or relatively new, many of these systems – both hardware and software – were purposely built as proprietary rather than open platforms, says Mike Cioffi, security architect at McAfee Embedded Security.

 

“These systems don’t talk to each other, so standardized data sharing is a huge challenge,” Cioffi says. “New business intelligence solutions are trying to solve this with software that can pull data in from the disparate systems and try to amalgamate different data from the silos into one view for analyzing, but that is not resolving the fact that the data is still not standardized.”


Even though some health IT standards exist today, such as those developed by Health Level Seven International (HL7), earlier versions allowed customizable fields that manufacturers took advantage of by adding optimizations for their own systems, making them custom products that are not necessarily interoperable with other systems, Cioffi says.

 

In addition to requiring standardized methods for data exchange, the push for interoperability in health care demands that data be unlocked for health professionals to share information, thus creating an opening for security breaches.

 

“If the data could be kept point-to-point or in a single private network, the problem with security, it could be argued, could be solved the way it always has been,” Cioffi says. “But once this data must leave the private network to get to a common database, then both the data and network are exposed to external forces.”


The challenges to achieving medical data interoperability must be solved by different teams in the health care ecosystem with the help of organizations such as IEEE, IHE, American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), and Healthcare Information Technology Standards Panel (HITSP) supporting various standards, Cioffi asserts. Furthermore, a governance council and data czar are needed to guide the integration of clinical data, which would help streamline communication among health care providers, reduce costs for resources, and improve outcome metrics success and thus patient care and satisfaction, he says.

 

Another solution for integrating medical data shared among dissimilar technology platforms is to move all this data to the cloud.

 

“The cloud can improve interoperability by having translators between the formats described by various standards, then supplying it to various EMRs,” Cioffi says. “Providing a safe and consistent place for data at rest could also be an advantage.”

 

While the cloud promises to increase interoperability among medical systems, it does not protect the systems or data being exchanged, so embedded designers must take precautions such as whitelisting to secure their medical designs from potential attacks, Cioffi says. Software solutions such as McAfee Embedded Control lock down the system and address HIPAA and FDA requirements for privacy and auditable control by preventing unauthorized code from running and ensuring that software changes only happen via authorized mechanisms. The platform can help maintain medical systems in a known predictable state while securing them from external or internal threats, reducing operation costs by eliminating the need for emergency patching.

 

To further increase the robustness of medical systems, embedded developers can leverage Intel® Virtualization Technology (Intel® VT), which accelerates the transfer of platform control between guest Operating Systems (OSs) and a Virtual Machine Manager (VMM) or hypervisor. Utilizing Intel® VT in a medical system design allows several OSs to be run so that various modalities can be separated and consequently be less susceptible to attack, given that two or more OSs have to be defeated versus just one OS, Cioffi says. Intel® Trusted Execution Technology (Intel® TXT) can also make medical systems safer by generating a root of trust, he adds. Trusted compute pools with Intel® TXT can protect medical data in the cloud from attacks toward hypervisor and other pre-launch software components.

 

Moving medical data to the cloud to achieve greater health care system interoperability necessarily requires effective cloud security solutions for protecting data and the overall infrastructure. Read this paper to learn how Intel and McAfee are working together to secure the entire server stack for cloud computing, from the underlying silicon and hardware through the hypervisor, OS, and applications. And tune in to this upcoming webcast to hear how several embedded technology manufacturers are tackling the challenges of advancing standards and interoperability in the health care field. 

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

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For more on securing connected devices, see intel.com/go/embedded-security.

 


Jennifer Hesse

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


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

Providing software "knobs and dials" is a different way to handle thermal management on board level products. Most cooling strategies for hardware involve intricate heatsinks, extensive fan systems, or even complicated conductive cooling packages. 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. As discussed in my November 12 posting, Roving Reporter: BIOS suppliers respond to manipulating the BIOS to affect cooling, the BIOS suppliers have taken steps to leverage features in 3rd Generation Intel® Core™ processors, for instance, the Enhanced Intel SpeedStep® Technology and Thermal Monitoring Technologies.  But what are the hardware suppliers doing to take advantage of the work done by the BIOS suppliers?

 

In the case of blade boards and systems, such as AdvancedTCA, the thermal management is responsibility is within the Intelligent Platform Management Interface (IPMI), a standardized computer system interface used by system administrators for out-of-band management of computer systems and monitoring of their operation. Intel was a key contributor to the development of the IPMI standard. In most IPMI supported systems is a separate Baseboard Management Controller (BMC) that is responsible for thermal management. It monitors thermal conditions and makes system adjustments to fans and processors in accordance to pre-set trip points either established through the BIOS or applications running on the operating system.

 

In most cases, advanced operating systems such as Windows 7 and later releases of Linux do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to thermal management and processor performance management. The operating system either communicates through the BIOS or in some specialized cases, directly to dedicated monitoring processors provided by the hardware vendors. But the general feeling is that there is an opportunity for the hardware vendors to enhance the manageability of thermal monitoring in new board products with Enhanced Intel SpeedStep® Technology and Thermal Monitoring Technologies.

 

The biggest breakthrough is the improved dynamic monitoring and response capability in 3rd Generation Intel® Core™ processors. This gives users much more capability than possible in previous generations. Thermal Monitoring extends the capability to monitor to new levels, potentially making it possible to simplify future board designs by reducing or eliminating the need for external thermal monitoring circuits that were implemented via various microcontrollers.

 

Here is a look at what several hardware suppliers are doing today.

 

Advantech Co., Ltd

Advantech has a very broad range of board level products from single board computers to blades, many of them using 3rd Generation Intel® Core™ processors. AdvancedTCA products utilize IPMI but where Advantech really views the advantage is with the configurable Thermal Design Power (TDP) options included with 3rd Generation Intel® Core™ processors. Many customer requirements exist that can leverage TDP so Advantech now offers a mechanism for implementing "reduced power modes". More specifically, they are implementing static as well as dynamic "reduced performance modes" that allow their customers to run systems in borderline conditions. For example, running processor blades in chassis’ that cannot provide adequate cooling for full performance modes or running systems with ambient temperature limits, the static cases. Or dynamically limiting power when a fan failure or other critical conditions (e.g. rising ambient temperature because of failing AC) are detected.

 

“There is a lot more thermal management technology available today than what is managed by the BIOS,” commented Thomas Kastner, x86 Software Architect, Advantech. “Configurable TDP allows us to implement thermal management in a low level and failsafe way that does not require OS support. Of course we have mechanisms to notify the OS about reduced performance mode being triggered, but the point is that we don't have to rely on power-management capable software (OS) for the actual control.” Architectures that use IPMI, BMCs, and now 3rd Generation Intel® Core™ processors give users very granular and dynamic thermal management capabilities.

 

Kontron

The Kontron product line is very diverse covering many different platform technologies for many different markets. Many of the new computer platform products are now using 3rd Generation Intel® Core™ processors in several different configurations. Kontron subscribes to the use of the Advanced Configuration and Power Interface (ACPI) specification developed to establish industry common interfaces enabling robust operating system (OS)-directed motherboard device configuration and power management of both devices and entire systems. They expose key ACPI trip-points to allow the user to manage the processor and thermal responses.

 

“We often look at the needs of individual customers and work with them set up the best configuration for their application,” stated Steve Potocny, software engineering manager at Kontron. “Sometimes we use additional hardware devices to monitor and control the hardware so that the customer can set specific parameters that do not require operating system intervention.”

 

Radisys Corporation

Radisys has developed the Radisys Embedded Software Platform (eSP) that encompasses EFI pre–boot environment applications, user BIOS customization tools, and standardized APIs for low–level functions. Designed primarily for their COM Express modules, eSP provides easy access to monitoring and control settings via its user–friendly Application Programming Interface (API) calls. An API is tightly written code that interfaces between the OS and BIOS to check or set specific functions. These APIs can save developers the time and effort of writing and testing the interface code, providing a tested and proven call routine. The Radisys APIs include access to board information, backlight control, I2C bus, GPIO programming, HW monitoring and setting the watchdog timer. New Radisys APIs are compliant to the PICMG EAPI specification for COM Express modules. The PICMG EAPI supports reading values for various processor, chipset, temperature, voltages, and fan registers. Here the user can monitor thermal trip points and control fan speeds.

 

Commented Scott Fabini, Radisys, “The demands on SWaP constrained products could certainly benefit from the ability to optimize thermal management and processor performance at any level, including the BIOS.” In addition to the capability build into the 3rd generation processors, Radisys adds additional sensors to the memory arrays to be sure that they are thermally monitored over a -40°C to 85°C operating environment.

Radisys includes temperature sensors on SO-DIMM memory modules, allowing the customer’s OS/application to monitor memory temperature, along with standard processor and system temperatures.  This provides greater coverage to ensure the total solution remains within challenging temperature constraints found in aerospace and defense environments.

 

In summary, the general feeling I get is that there is still a lot of room for taking advantage of many of the new features in 3rd Generation Intel® Core™ Processor family when it comes to thermal management. Many hardware suppliers are comfortable with existing microcontroller strategies but they are studying how they can better leverage the Enhanced Intel SpeedStep® Technology and Thermal Monitoring Technologies in future designs.

 

References:

Intel Embedded to learn more about BIOS support options.

Desktop 3rd Generation Intel® Core™ Processor Family and LGA1155 Socket Thermal Mechanical Specifications and Design Guidelines

Kontron whitepaper on Advanced Thermal Management Solutions, requires registration

You can also find more information on the Radisys eSP platform in the following article in the Intel Embedded Innovator Magazine: Minimizing Downtime in High-Reliability Systems


mag.pngFor more on energy efficiency, see Roving Reporter: Improved Energy Efficiency Can Eliminate Active Cooling Devices, Reduce Power Consumption, and Save Board Space

 

Advantech Co. Ltd, Kontron, and Radisys Corporation are Premier members of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance.

 

Jerry Gipper

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

Editorial Director, OpenSystems Media, VITA Technologies

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