Retail, industrial, transportation, medical, and gaming are just a few of the industry segments that now deploy remote terminals, systems, and signage to speed information delivery, enhance user interaction, automate data exchange, and simplify purchases. For example, as travelers enter a typical airport environment they may find a touch-screen information display with on screen maps, transportation schedules, nationwide weather conditions, and local tourist information. Next, the traveler proceeds to the ticket kiosk to purchase tickets or to a self check-in terminal that retrieves customer records and prints a boarding pass.  As the numbers of remote devices multiply, embedded designers must find ways to incorporate system protection, management, and troubleshooting features to lower the total cost of ownership and minimize on-site visits.

 

The recently deployed 2nd generation Intel® Core™ processors deliver a number of performance and security enhancements that support the requirements of remote, unmanned devices such as point-of-sale terminals, digital signage, and self-service kiosks. In addition to long term availability, increased performance, lower power, and integrated graphics, the 2nd generation Intel® Core™ architecture 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. Intel® vPro™ technology capabilities are embedded in hardware so they can be accessed and administered separately from any hard drive, operating system, or software applications.

 

Intel® vPro™ includes several technologies that provide hardware support for management functions, virtualization, and platform security. Intel® Active Management Technology (Intel® AMT) delivers 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. Intel® Virtualization Technology (Intel® VT) increases system performance and reliability with hardware support for virtualization software to simplify the transfer of data and control between virtual operating systems. In addition, Intel® Trusted Execution Technology (Intel® TXT) protects embedded devices against rootkit and other system level attacks with an industry-standard Trusted Platform Module device to store key encryption components and protected data.

 

A low risk way to get started with Intel® vPro™ technology is to integrate products that have been certified or tested for compliance. For example, AOpen designed Intel® vPro™ technology into the MP57-D digital engine supporting a wide range of remote digital signage applications in industries such as healthcare, banking, education, transportation and retail (See figure 1). The platform supports remote power control, scheduled power control, remote access, hardware asset tracking, and system alerts to minimize the number and cost of on-site visits for system management. The MP57-D features an Intel Core i5/i7 processor coupled with the Intel QM57 chipset and is equipped with a 2.5-inch solid state disk drive, and up to 4GB of DDR3 RAM. For I/O, the system features a DVI-i port, a HDMI port, an Expansion slot, plus HD Audio, Gigabit Ethernet, six USB ports, and an eSATA connector.

 

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If your embedded project requires custom circuitry, you can develop it around an Intel® vPro™ certified, commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) processor board such as the Kontron ETXexpress-AI COM Express Computer-on-Module (See figure 2). The ETXexpress-AI has gone through Intel® vPro™ Use Case Validation at Intel’s hardware enabling lab. The module is available with the Intel® Core™ i5 or i7 processor and supports up to 2 x 4 GB of dual channel DDR3 SO-DIMM modules with ECC. Interfaces via the COM Express COM.0 Type 2 connector include a 1x PCI Express Gen 2 graphics, 6x PCI Express x1, 4x Serial ATA, 1x PATA, 8x USB 2.0, Gigabit Ethernet, dual-channel LVDS, VGA, and Intel® High Definition Audio. Non-PCI Express-compliant components can be incorporated via the PCI 2.3 interfaces. Operating system support is offered for Windows 7, Windows XP, Linux, and VxWorks.

 

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On-site software updates, troubleshooting, and routine maintenance can be an enormous cost for remotely deployed embedded devices. Intel® vPro™ technology eliminates many of these visits with remote maintenance and management even when the devices are powered off or have software issues. If you are starting a new embedded project with remote equipment and you have questions, please share your concerns with fellow followers of the Intel® Embedded Community. You can also keep up with the latest technical details and product announcements at the Embedded Computing Design archives on Intel® vPro™ remote management.

 

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Warren Webb


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

 

Kontron is a Premier member of the by Intel® Embedded Alliance. AOpen is a General member of the Alliance.