Single-purpose embedded devices typically use microcontrollers (MCUs), which are essentially small single-chip computers. However their limited capabilities and lack of flexibility make low-power, small form factor (SFF) single-board computers (SBCs) a very attractive option for applications that must work in complex environments.
But SBCs face the same constraints as smaller embedded applications: the need to be extremely energy efficient while still providing high performance. Small form factor SBCs based on Intel Intel® Atom™ processor E3800 product family (codename Bay Trail) from Intel partners provide speed and flexibility without sacrificing power or performance. This is a particularly important advantage as the number of connected, intelligent devices continues to swarm onto the so-called Internet of Things (IoT).
Intel® Atom™ Processor Powered
The new Intel Atom processor E3800 product family represents a timely, transformative response to the myriad opportunities made possible by IoT. The high-performance, low-power solution enables more intelligent devices and powers the gateways that improve data flow from device to cloud. The processors address real-world needs through excellent computing and graphics, accelerated security and image processing, an integrated memory controller with error correcting code (ECC), high throughput, and low-power I/Os that can operate over an industrial temperature range.
Figure 1: Intel® Atom™ processor E3800 block diagram
Specifically designed for intelligent systems Intel Atom processor E3800 SoCs utilize Intel’s 22 nm process technology with 3D Tri-Gate transistors. By increasing the distance between transistor source and drain the Tri-Gate design significantly reduces static power loss, while the move to 22 nm greatly reduces active power consumption; both increase computational efficiency. The new microarchitecture provides extensive power management capabilities and enhanced security. Intel® Virtualization Technology (Intel® VT) allows the operating system more direct access to the hardware, enhancing system and application performance.
The Intel Atom processor E3800 product family is available with one to four cores, 512 KB to 2 MB of L2 cache, and one channel that is configurable for Error Correction Code (ECC). Intel Atom processor E3800 product family cores operate from 1.33 MHz (E3825) to 1.91 MHz (E3845), processing graphics at up to 792 MHz (Turbo mode). The high-speed graphics capabilities enable highly efficient image processing, which is increasingly important in industrial and commercial applications.
Different Intel Atom processor E3800 product familly feature one or two memory channels and support DDR3L-1066 or DDR3L-1333 memory modules. The Intel Atom processor E3800 product family is certified for the industrial temperature range of -400C to +1100C. Overall power consumption ranges from 5W (E3815) to 10W (E3845)—very low numbers for this degree of computing capability.
Intel on Board
The Portwell WADE-8078 is a Mini-ITX embedded SBC is based on the Intel Atom processor E3800 family with memory and PCI Express controller integrated to support one-channel DDR3L memory and PCI Express 2.0 lanes. Each WADE-8078 board supports VGA, HDMI, Gigabit Ethernet, Audio, USB 3.0, SATA, and CFEX. Available in the popular Mini-ITX form factor (17 x 17 cm), these Portwell SBCs meet multiple industrial requirements for cost effectiveness, reliable performance, and a high level of data integrity and uptime.
Figure 2: Portwell WADE-8978
The Axiomtek CAPA841 3.5” Embedded SBC goes all out for performance, combining a quad-core Intel® Atom™ processor E3845 running at 1.9 GHz with a 1.4 GHz dual-core Intell® Atom™ processor E3826 and up to 8 GB of DDR3L-1066/1333 SO-DIMM system memory. The CAPA851can support dual displays including full HD over HDMI. Advanced connectivity features include four serial ports, two of which are BIOS-selectable as RS-232/422/485; four high-speed USB 2.0 ports; two Gigabit Ethernet ports with Intel® Ethernet controller 12101-T; HD audio; SATA-300 port; CFast™ socket; and digital I/O. Despite its diminutive size (14.6 x 10.4 cm) the CAP851 can support two PCI Express Mini Cards (one full size and one half size).
Figure 3: Avalue ECM-BYT SBC
The Avalue ECM-BYT 3.5” SBC is available with single, dual, and quad-core Intel Atom processor E3800 SoCs. While able to drive two simultaneous displays (HDMI + VGA/LVDS) , the ECM-BYT also features an interface to 4-, 5-, and 8-wire touchscreens—or the board can be ordered with a built in touchscreen. Other I/O interfaces include one each SATA II, RS-232/422/485, and USB 3.0; 3 x RS-232; 3 x USB 2.0; and 4-bit GPI and GPO. A system temperature sensor works with an auto-throttling control to protect the system in harsh environments.
With a full range of high-speed, low-power video and connectivity options of the Intel Atom processor E3800 Soc family, the Nexcom EBC 355 3.5” SBC is ideal for battery-powered portable devices, multimedia HMI panels, outdoor systems installed in harsh environments, home automation, and thin clients. Designed for harsh outdoor environments, the EBC 355 series is a logical choice for gate control systems, gas station kiosks, and public information displays.
Powering Down—and Up
While MCUs can power a wide range of single-function embedded applications, small single-board computers provide far more power and flexibility for demanding industrial applications. The low-power SBCs discussed above can enable, for example, faster collection of patient data for portable health monitoring devices. In addition, with 3D and video hardware acceleration support, the Intel Atom processor E3800 SoC family-powered SBCs can provide faster image processing for handheld ultrasound machines and offer a more precise visualization of process controls in industrial automation.
The latest generation of Intel Atom processors—combining low-power with fast data and image processing—are making it possible for small form factor SBCs to replace older, bulkier computing platforms in a wide range of industrial applications.
Contact Featured Alliance members:
Solutions in this blog:
Roving Reporter (Intel Contractor), Intel® Internet of Things (IoT) Solutions Alliance
Editor/Publisher, Low-Power Design
Follow me on twitter: @jdonovan43