As robotics continue to replace humans on the factory floor, MV (Machine Vision) technology has become industrial automation’s new lens. Applications like motion control and quality assurance require high-resolution image analysis from these new “eyes” on the assembly line, and must execute with extreme precision to ensure optimized manufacturing processes. Released in June, the 4th generation Intel® Core™ processor (codenamed Haswell) leverages enhancements that meet the needs of demanding MV systems, including up to  2x graphics performance over previous generations and features like the Intel® Advanced Extensions 2.0 (Intel® AVX 2.0) instruction set, which doubles signal and image processing performance. As a result, several Intel® Internet of Things (IoT) Solutions Alliance members have introduced off-the-shelf products for use in MV system design.


Get Your Graphics Inside

Though most of today’s MV technologies rely solely on 2D image analysis, 3D imaging has started to emerge for certain industrial applications. Supporting both markets, 4th generation Intel Core processors incorporate Intel® HD Graphics Technology into the die of Intel's Haswell microarchitecture to realize up to 60 percent improvement in 2D/3D graphics performance. For example, certain BGA (Ball Grid Array) variants integrate GT3 ( Intel® HD graphics 5000) GPU cores that provide 40 graphics execution units at only 15 W TDP.


Industrial building blocks have already begun leveraging the enhanced graphics performance of the 4th generation Intel Core processor. For instance, NEXCOM, an Associate member of the Intel IoT Solutions Alliance, offers the ICES 670 COM Express Basic module with various graphics engine options supporting DX11.1, including the GT1 and GT2 integrated graphics (See Figure 1). The ICES 670 can accommodate processors up to 45 W, and combines Haswell microarchitecture performance with the Intel® QM87 Chipset for graphics-intensive applications. Compliant with Revision 2.0 of the COM.0 specification, the ICES 670 supports the Type 6 pinout to allow for expansion via 1x PCIe x16 lanes, 7x PCIe x 1 lanes, 1 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) interface, either 4 USB 3.0 or 8 USB 2.0 lanes, and the choice of 2x SATA 3.0 or 2x SATA 2.0 ports. In addition, three DDIs (Digital Display Interfaces) can be implemented through DisplayPort, eDP (embedded DisplayPort), DVI, HDMI, or VGA/LVDS interfaces (via the Platform Controller Hub - PCH - bridge chip), making the ICES 670 a viable subsystem solution for HMI (Human Machine Interface) platforms as well.



Figure 1. The NEXCOM ICES 670 Type 6 Basic COM Express module supports two different Intel® HD graphics engines for intensive imaging and analysis applications.


Intel® Advanced Vector Extensions 2.0 Floats More Image Processing Punch

For industrial system designers, the most significant enhancement of 4th generation Intel Core processors may be the expansion of the AVX instruction set. Sometimes called “Haswell New Instructions,”  Intel® AVX 2.0 instruction set extends most integer vector processing to 256 bits (thereby doubling workload throughputs from 128 bits), and introduces fully pipelined FMA3 (three- operand Fused Multiply-Add) on two ports for SIMD (Single Instruction, Multiple Data) and floating-point scalar operation. For precision MV, FMA3 support increases accuracy and doubles peak floating-point performance for imaging applications by rounding only once during multiply-add workloads. Some of the features and benefits of Intel AVX 2.0 are outlined in Table 1.


Table 1. Intel® Advanced Vector Extensions 2.0 adds significant floating-point performance and throughput enhancements for MV applications.


Intel AVX 2.0 is supported on all 4th generation Intel Core processors, so MV benefits can be leveraged from any available industrial subsystem that supports the Haswell microarchitecture. dfi-itox, another Associate member of the Alliance, has released the industrial-class HD101-H81 Mini-ITX motherboard that enables Intel AVX 2.0 technology, but also includes Microsoft DirectX Video Acceleration (DXVA) to accelerate video processing tasks (See Figure 2). Ten graphics execution units are leveraged from the motherboard’s processor (GT1), which combines with the new Intel® H81 Chipset to support the new LGA 1150 socket (Socket H3). The Intel H81 Chipset enables the HD101-H81 to support the 2x USB 3.0 and 6x USB 2.0 interfaces that accompany 1x PCIe x16 lanes and 1 Mini PCIe slot, 2x SATA 3.0, 2 Gigabit LAN ports, and 2 COM expansion sites. The PCH enables three displays through 24-bit dual channel LVDS, and HDMI and DVI-I interfaces that can offer resolutions up to 1920 x 1200.


Figure 2. The HD101-H81 Mini-ITX motherboard from dfi-itox combines Intel® Advanced Vector Extensions 2.0 technology with DirectX Video Acceleration and the Intel® H81 Chipset to optimize video processing tasks.


ADLINK introduced a familly of industrial-grade products based on the 4th generation Intel Core processor market in June, including the NuPRO-E42, a PICMG 1.3 full-sized SHB (System Host Board) (See Figure 3). Capable of core speeds up to 3.1 GHz, the NuPRO-E42 is also equipped with the Intel® Q87 chipset, another chipset that accompanied the Haswell microarchitecture release. The Intel Q87 chipset brings Intel® Clear Video HD Technology to the SHB, allowing video decoding and post processing to be offloaded to GPU cores, as well as PCI Express 3.0 support that provides the SHB with 8 GTps communications through one x16 lane interface. Additional I/O connectivity on the NuPRO-E42 comes by way of 6 USB 3.0 ports with 5 Gbps data transfer rates, another 6 USB 2.0 ports, 1 PCI Express x16 lanes and 4x PCI Express x1 lanes, 4 PCI, and 6 COM ports. 4 SATA interfaces with 6 Gbps transfer rates, Intel® Rapid Storage Technology (Intel® RST).supporting RAID 0/1/5/1+0, along with two sockets of 16 GB DDR3 1333/1600 MHz memory also highlight the NuPRO-E42, tailoring it to industrial applications that require multitasking and high-speed data transfer.


Figure 3. The NuPRO-E42 includes the  Intel® Q87 chipset, bringing Intel® Clear Video Technology and PCI Express 3.0 support to the SHB.


Seeing 20/20 with Haswell

These products are just a few of the 4th generation Intel Core processor family solutions released by members of the Intel IoT Solutions Alliance that can be put to work in MV applications, with integrated graphics and Intel AVX 2.0 instructions just two of the enhanced features Intel® processors with Haswell microarchitecture can provide industrial engineers. If you are ready to begin implementing “Core eyes” in your MV system, the Solutions Directory can help identify form, fit, and function matches to your design goals.


Learn More

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Solutions in this blog:

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ADLINK, dfi-itox, and NEXCOM are Associate members of the Intel® Internet of Things (IoT) Solutions Alliance.

Brandon Lewis

OpenSystems Media*, by special arrangement with the Intel® Internet of Things (IoT) Solutions Alliance

Follow me on Twitter: @BrandonLewis13