Remotely managed embedded devices such as point-of-sale terminals, intelligent kiosks, digital signage, medical appliances, and gaming platforms are growing in popularity and promise lower operating costs and simplified maintenance if implemented properly.  Many of these embedded systems must simultaneously interact with a user and drive local digital displays at high data rates while communicating with a remote server. As the number of units grows, these performance requirements will continue to rise as developers strive to outperform the competition and deliver a unique user experience. Along with escalating performance needs, most of these systems are usually deployed in remote locations away from a system operator thus creating security and remote management problems for the support team.

 

The performance and security requirements of multiple remote embedded devices are addressed with the latest 2nd generation Intel® Core™ processor family. This new architecture combines a variable number of CPU cores with an integrated graphics processor plus dedicated fixed function hardware for high performance video processing. All of these remote applications depend on intensive floating point calculations to drive the needed high speed graphic displays.  Serving this need, the new Intel® Advanced Vector Extensions (AVX) instruction set is optimized for audio, image, and video processing and can potentially eliminate external hardware-based digital signal processing circuitry to reduce the component count and lower overall power requirements.  With signal processing algorithms programmed in AVX code, future updates can be made with a software modification. The CPU and graphics cores also support Intel® Turbo Boost Technology, allowing clock frequencies to scale up temporarily to handle intense workloads.

 

To take advantage of these performance gains, module manufacturers have already integrated 2nd generation Intel® Core™ architecture into a wide range of board level products designed to support remote embedded systems. For example, The ETXexpress®-SC module from Kontron combines a 2.1 GHz Intel® Core™ i7 processor and the Intel® Mobile QM67 chipset in the popular Computer-on-Module (COM) Express form factor featuring a quad-core processor, USB 3.0, and digital display interfaces. COM Express modules integrate processor, memory and popular I/O functionality into a small plug-in module to simplify the embedded development and upgrade process. Based on the COM Express™ Rev. 2.0 specification, the Kontron ETXexpress®-SC supports up to 16 GBytes of dual-channel DDR3 SODIMM RAM with ECC and offers several I/O options. The Type 6 Pin-out option features three digital display interfaces for SDVO, DisplayPort, and DVI/HDMI plus VGA and dual-channel LVDS. You can also upgrade two of the eight USB 2.0 ports to the SuperSpeed USB 3.0. The Type 2 Pin-out option delivers standard PCI and parallel ATA in addition to several display options. Both versions feature 4x Serial ATA ports, Gigabit Ethernet, and Intel® high-definition audio.

 

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The 2nd generation Intel® Core technology also supports an advanced version of Intel® vPro™ Technology for security and remote system management. This technology allows designers to activate, reconfigure, and if necessary, deactivate a remote embedded system. vPro also includes Intel® Active Management Technology with certificate-based security allowing remote access to the embedded system for management and security tasks even when the system is powered off. This technology gives remote device support personnel a low cost technique to monitor operation, perform diagnostics, deliver product training, and manage future software updates.

 

Congatec has also announced a number of small form factor embedded boards based on the 2nd generation Intel® Core processor family. The conga-BM67 COM-Express module offers either the 2.1 GHz, 45W Intel® Core™ i7 processor or the 2.5 GHz, 35W Intel® Core™ i5 processor along with up to 8 GBytes of dual channel DDR3 memory. The processor graphics supports the Intel® Flexible Display Interface (FDI), which allows for two independent video channels on the VGA, LVDS, HDMI, DisplayPort or SDVO interfaces. The Intel® HD Graphics supports Intel® Clear Video HD Technology and DirectX Video Acceleration (DXVA) for accelerated video processing. Peripheral interfaces include six PCI Express lanes, eight USB 2.0 ports, four SATA with RAID support, one EIDE and a Gigabit Ethernet interface. Fan control, LPC bus for slow speed extensions and Intel® High Definition Audio complete the feature set.

 

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These COM Express products are a couple of examples where the performance improvements and energy efficiency of the 2nd generation Intel® Core technology provides the developers of remote embedded devices with new graphics capabilities in a small, low power form factor with a reduced component count. This new architecture also maximizes embedded system availability with remote security and device management. If you have a new project that might benefit from the latest 2nd generation Intel® Core processor family and you have questions, please share your concerns with fellow followers of the Intel® Embedded Community. Also, please check back as I present more information on the latest off-the-shelf embedded products based on the 2nd generation Intel® Core™ processor family.

 

Warren Webb
OpenSystems Media®, by special arrangement with Intel® Embedded Alliance

 

Kontron is a Premier member of the by Intel® Embedded Alliance. Congatec AG is an Associate member of the Alliance.