Providing warfighters with accurate situational awareness on the battlefield requires computing platforms that have high levels of graphics performance and video processing. The ultimate goal is for every soldier, sailor and airman to be able to convey real-world information to their comrades as well as all to levels of the DoD command structure--and to carry this task out in a harsh environment.


The vastly improved integrated GPU on 4th Generation Intel® Core™ processors (code name Haswell) offers powerful features that enable a dramatic 3D visual experience via faster 3D rendering and more complex shading, creating more realistic 3D graphics, which is vitally important in terrain visualization as well as other imagery features presented on military displays. The graphics processing unit (GPU) has been enhanced via additional execution units for 3D /media graphics and L3 cache, resulting in up to a 25% increase in raw 3D performance. In addition, Intel has increased the bandwidth of display ports, enabling higher resolution and the ability to connect up to three screens as a Collage Display.


Image quality is crucial for target recognition. The integrated processor graphics (IPG) in the 4th generation Intel Core includes the latest version of Intel® Quick Sync hardware-accelerated transcoding technology in the HD graphics portion of the chip. Intel® Quick Sync Video 2.0 technology almost doubles the H.264 transcoding speed of its predecessors and now supports up to 4K display resolutions. By way of review, video transcoding involves converting one compressed video format to another. The process can apply changes to the format, such as moving from MPEG-2 to H.264, or changes in the properties of a given format, such as bit rate or resolution.


4th generation Intel Core architecture brings with it other improvements when compared with predecessor generations. These include Intel® Advanced Vector Extensions (Intel® AVX 2.0) enhancements which provide a significant performance improvement in floating-point-intensive computations, which are a key part of digital signal and image processing applications.


The integrated GPU on 4th generation Intel Core processor offers additional SWAP (size, weight and power consumption) benefits, too.  Since the graphics processor is one of the most power intensive processor blocks the on-chip graphics engine can represent a savings of 50 W to 75 W compared to solutions that require separate graphics co-processors.  Cost and board space is saved by eliminating the need for these expensive, external graphics chips. A further bonus is that designers can use the processing capability of the integrated GPU for other aspects of the application at no additional hardware cost.


As an example consider the Curtiss-Wright VPX6-1958, a rugged 6U OpenVPX single board computer (SBC) based on the new 4th Generation Intel® Core™ i7 processor. Each of the Intel Core i7 processor's four cores delivers 2.4 GHz of performance. The SBC is available with up to 32 GB of high-bandwidth DDR3 SDRAM (1600 MHz) and supports Dual 40 GbE, PCI Express (PCIe) Gen3, Quad GbE, and PMC/XMC expansion. The board's integral high-speed Ethernet, PCIe fabric and XMC/PMC mezzanine module connectivity enables high bandwidth data flows; data can also flow from the VPX (Versatile Performance Switching) backplane to the XMC (Switched Mezzanine Card) site to support demanding high bandwidth applications such as video acquisition, processing and distribution.




The Intel® Core™ i7-4700EQ processor powering the VPX6-1958 features Intel’s HD Graphics 4600, which represents an advancement of the previous generation HD Graphics technologies that were first introduced in 2010. It offers an integrated ring bus technology that connects all CPU components (computational cores, L3 cache, graphics, and system agent) with the memory controller to enable an optimized approach of communicating with the system memory via the fast L3 cache. Intel® HD Graphics P4600 processor-based graphics support Microsoft DirectX11.1, OpenGL 4.0, OpenCL 1.2 and DirectCompute 5.0 standards. OpenGL is the most widely adopted 2D and 3D graphics API in the industry; it is window-system and operating-system independent as well as network-transparent. Support of OpenCL 1.2, also enables the chips to perform as general-purpose graphics processing units (GPGPUs).

The XVR16 6U VME SBC from GE Intelligent Platforms is also based on the 4th Generation Intel Core i7 processor architecture, which offers integrated graphics and memory controller plus quad core processing of up to 2.4GHz all in one device. Capable of delivering high quality 2D/3D graphics for a compelling visual experience the XVR16 features graphics support for Microsoft DirectX11.1, OpenCL 1.2 and OpenGL 3.2. It can utilize up to three independent displays with one DisplayPort routed to the front panel, two VGA ports routed to P0/P2 and two DVI ports routed to P0/P2.  GE.png

The devices offer support of PCI Express Gen3 technology and USB3.0, providing even greater bandwidth for on-board and off-board connectivity. In addition to its range of onboard I/O features, the XVR16 also offers two on-board mezzanine expansion sites for enhanced system flexibility. Memory resources include up to 16 GB DDR3 SDRAM, up to 64 GB NAND Flash, optional SATA hard drive, BIOS Flash and BIOS backup Flash. The XVR16 is available in five build versions from air-cooled to fully rugged with extended temperature capability, providing solutions in environments from benign to extremely harsh.


There are many excellent COTS hardware vendors providing latest generation embedded computing solutions. However, the hardware is only as good as the graphics driver powering its associated graphics processing unit (GPU). Creating and maintaining a software driver for COTS hardware can be a time consuming and expensive task. The certification process for software integral to airborne equipment, for example, is subject to very stringent standards and this certification process adds substantially to the costs and time involved in building an aircraft, making it a significant risk factor. Presagis, a provider of commercial-off-the shelf (COTS) modeling, simulation and embedded display graphics software for the aerospace and defense industry offers production-quality source and object code for an OpenGL API-capable environment that is compatible with real-time system constraints.


Designed from inception to support the delivery of future cockpits, the Presagis VAPS XT provides a rapid prototyping, design, and deployment environment for the creation of 2D and 3D photo-realistic graphical displays, including instrumentation and equipment models, specifically for real time 3D simulation and training applications. Using VAPS XT, engineers can: develop virtual flight displays including primary flight displays (PFD).


The company also offers its VAPS XT ARINC 661 solution for those wishing to develop their displays in conformance with the ARINC 661 standard. Originating directly from the aviation industry, ARINC 661 was created to initiate a fundamental shift away from having to integrate monolithic systems where each supplier provided its own HMI to a position where different systems share a common HMI. It addresses a need to allow multiple systems to interact with a display system in a safety critical environment in such a way that system changes do not require a re-certification of the display system.



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GE Intelligent Platforms and Microsoft are Associate Members of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance.

Curtiss-Wright Controls Defense Solutions is a General Member of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance.

Murray Slovick 

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