I’ve followed the ever-continuing advances in Intel® processors for many years now, but it’s still amazing to me how much difference a processor generation can make. With the recently announced 4th generation Intel® Core™ processor family (formerly codenamed “Haswell”), there are a surprising number of new features for retail transactional technology, particularly point-of-sale (POS) systems (see Figure 1).
These new processors can help improve transaction experiences for both businesses and customers, enabling POS systems that:
- Deliver engaging personalized service and incentives
- Enable mobile checkout options
- Protect personal and transactional data
- Reduce IT costs
- Improve remote device uptime
Delivering all of these benefits may sound like a tall order, but it’s one that the members of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance are already addressing using this new generation of processors. In this blog we’ll look at customer engagement and mobile solutions. In a subsequent blog, we'll look at how this new processor family helps ramp up security and manageability to protect data, reduce IT costs, and improve uptime.
Delivering Engaging Personalized Service and Incentives
The first step in engaging customers is delivering compelling visuals. The 4th generation Intel Core processor family offers superb integrated graphics, with up to 60% faster graphics improvement over the previous generation. It does this through wider data paths, sampler improvements, double clocked geometry, more execution units, and support of the latest 3D APIs (DX11.1 and OGL4.3). And with the ability to power three independent displays, these processors are well-suited for multi-display POS systems that show items as they’re rung up and run promotional offers and advertisements to earn extra revenue for the store.
You’ll see some of this improved graphics performance in:
- Intel® Clear Video HD Technology which uses hardware acceleration to dynamically improve video quality through frame-rate conversion, image stabilization, and more
- Intel® HD Graphics which mixes crystal clear video with immersive 3D and responsive 2D graphics to bring products and offers to life on-screen
- Intel® Quick Sync Video which enables the super-fast transfer of promotional content to customer devices and phones
The other big improvement for delivering personalized service and incentives is performance. The 4th generation Intel Core processor family delivers between10 to 15 percent improved processing performance over the previous generation. This enables smooth, responsive interactive experiences and faster analytics at the edge.
This last point is important because of the increasing need for edge devices like POS systems to analyze customer profiles in real time and encourage add-on sales at the checkout. For example, a customer buying seeds at a garden supply store could be presented a special today-only price on soil amendments. This is more than an offer. It’s a helpful reminder of what else you should be buying—something customers will appreciate. The same might be true if you’re buying shoes at a department store and a POS display offers a great price on socks. Instead of having to train store personnel to make these suggestions, you can buy software that does it. And the software never forgets to do it and never has a bad day.
Enabling More Checkout Options
Today’s retailer wants sales associates to engage customers more and not just sit behind the register. On-the-floor sales assistance and checkout line busting require mobile POS solutions. The 4th generation Intel Core processors with up to 25 percent lower thermal design power compared to the previous generation are optimized for thin and light form factors with long battery life that are detachable, dockable, and can swivel and be convertible.
For developers looking to take mobile POS interactivity to the next level, the Intel® Perceptual Computing SDK enables rapid development and deployment of multi-touch, gesture, speech, and facial recognition. Imagine a POS checkout screen that reacts to people’s attention and engages them with responses to their touch, hand gestures, and even a smile. Available as a free download with no licensing necessary, the SDK supports close range hand and finger tracking, speech recognition (English, with more languages to come), face analysis, and augmented reality via 2D/3D object tracking. High-level APIs provide developers with fast, easy programming access to perceptual computing functionality, while low-level APIs provide experienced developers the control needed for application innovation.
Examples of New Boards
Accompanying the launch of the 4th generation Intel Core processors is a long list of boards and systems for a wide variety of retail applications, from digital signage to digital security surveillance. I’m going to point out some solutions that are particularly well suited for POS devices.
The Congatec conga-TS87 (Figure 2) is a Type 6 COM Express module with the mobile Intel® QM87 Express chipset and powerful quad core Intel® Core™ i7-4700EQ processor with 6MB L2 cache. It can be powered at 2.4 GHz with a TDP of 47W. In Turbo Boost mode, the clock rate is increased to 3.4 GHz. The processor handles up to 16 GB, 1600 MT/s fast LV 1.35V dual channel DDR3 memory. The integrated graphics support Intel® Flexible Display Interface (FDI), DirectX 11.1, OpenGL 4, OpenCL 1.2 and high-performance, flexible hardware decoding of multiple high-resolution full HD videos—imagine the video advertisements a self-checkout kiosk could run equipped with that. Static graphics will also stand out with 4K pixel resolution of up to 3840 x 2160 with DisplayPort and 4096 x 2304 with natively supported HDMI.
The Kontron KTQ87/mITX Mini-ITX board (Figure 3) integrates new features such as the new Intel® Advanced Vector Extensions 2 instructions (Intel® AVX2), which dramatically accelerate floating-point-intensive computations, and the improved Intel® Advanced Encryption Standard New Instructions AES-NI), which accelerates data encryption and decryption. Graphics-intensive POS applications will profit from the improved graphics performance of the 4th generation Intel Core processors, while the thermal footprint has remained nearly the same. Kontron has integrated an excellent range of interfaces, including PCIe 3.0 and USB 3.0. With long-term availability and support for up to three independent displays, the KTQ87/mITX provides everything to build a broad array of future-oriented, rich media embedded applications on a single compact Mini-ITX form factor that’s an ideal fit for retail kiosks and POS.
The Axiomtek SHB130 (Figure 4) is a high-performance PICMG 1.3 full-size CPU card designed around 4th generation Intel Core processors with the Intel® Q87 Express chipset. The card comes with two DDR3/L 1333/1600 MHz unbuffered ECC DIMM slots up to 16 GB of system memory and provides 14 USB ports (four USB 3.0 and 10 USB 2.0 ports), two Gigabit LAN ports, DVI-D/VGA or DisplayPort (optional), HD audio, one RS-232/422/485 port, four RS-232 ports, DIO (4-IN & 4-OUT) and two PS/2 keyboard and mouse ports. This high performance PICMG 1.3 slot CPU card is fully compatible with Axiomtek's PICMG 1.3 full-size passive backplanes. Axiomtek offers various industrial housing enclosures and has the capability to assist with any customer's integration requirements.
Figure 4. Axiomtek SHB130
The ready-to-go Venture Compact eIPC380 also comes with a rich set of IOs, such as USB 3.0 ports, and the user can select to output to HDMI, VGA and Display Port (see Figure 5). Further flexibility and configurability are provided by internal mini-PCIe slots. In addition, the ruggedized and low-profile enclosure protects the system in tough operational environments. Developed with reference to the Intel® Intelligent Systems Framework guideline, the eIPC380 is an excellent solution that brings excellent connectivity and performance for delivering engaging experiences to retail POS. The eIPC380 supports Windows 8, 7 and Windows Embedded Standard. It’s also available with cellular mobile connectivity.
Figure 5. Venture Compact elPC380
Enable a New Generation of POS Systems
The rapid implementation of the 4th generation Intel Core processor family in these and other Alliance products is designed to enable developers to speed to market a new generation of stationary and mobile intelligent POS systems with high-power graphics. In my next post, I’ll cover the manageability and security benefits of these new processors that will appeal to retailers.
Contact Featured Alliance Members:
Solutions in this blog:
· Performance - Top Picks (blogs, white papers, and more)
· Retail - Top Picks (blogs, white papers, and more)
Roving Reporter (Intel Contractor), Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance
Associate Editor, Embedded Innovator magazine