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2012

The recent release of Intel’s Cedar Trail platform has caused quite a stir in the embedded community as designers scramble to take advantage of the improved graphics performance, lower power requirements, reduced component count, and overall lower costs. As I covered in part 1 of this series, Cedar Trail is based on the next generation Intel® Atom™ processor plus the Intel NM10 Express chipset for embedded computing. This new architecture offers seven year lifecycle support and is available in several versions so that a single design can be scaled to fit multiple embedded applications. Within a week of the release of the new Intel® Atom™ processors, over a dozen embedded computing manufacturers worldwide announced multiple boards, modules, and other hardware based on this new architecture. Let’s take a look at some of these Cedar Trail-based products and uncover the benefits compared to previous architectures.

 

A wide range of embedded devices incorporate standardized, off-the-shelf computer-on-module (COM) architectures so that they can be easily upgraded to the latest technology by simply plugging in a new computer board.  For example, the new PCOM-B218VG COM Express module from Portwell provides the new Intel® Atom™ processor architecture to a variety of existing military, medical, industrial and networking applications (See figure 1). The 95mm x 95mm (3.74˝ x 3.74˝) module includes the integrated Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 3600/3650 graphics engine to enhance 3D performance for media applications such as high definition 1080p imaging, and two DisplayPort (DP) interfaces that support multiple DP/HDMI/DVI functions.  The PCOM-B218VG is designed with the intelligent ability to monitor system loading and allocate computing power to optimize energy efficiency. Onboard security firmware provides hash functionality, ATA commands, and flash region protection to ensure that the system is secure from hacking during operation.  Remote display and control functions allow customers to control systems without a local monitor and keyboard to simplify system designs and also save the cost of sending technicians to perform on-site services.

 

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The M1858 patient infotainment terminal from ARBOR Technology is a great example of new, high performance embedded devices supporting the healthcare industry (See figure 2).  The 18.5" terminal is designed around the Intel® Atom™ Dual Core N2800 processor which allows a fanless, ventless configuration that can guarantee anti-bacterial protection for bedside deployment. The system provides patient identification through integrated RFID, barcode scanner, and dual smart card reader slots. According to ARBOR’s chairman Eric Lee "The latest Intel® Atom™-based platform provides enriched video playback, such as full MPEG2, WMV, and MPEG4 with the hardware decode/acceleration technology. This enabled ARBOR to design a patient infotainment terminal that can not only inform and entertain patients but also shortens data checking time for medical staff through integrated connectivity to access patient’s records, medication data, and radiology information."

 

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Digital signage, gaming, point-of-sale, and kiosk applications are a large and growing portion of the embedded landscape and will benefit greatly from the Intel® Atom™ processor architecture performance improvements. Many of these systems operate unattended and require high-speed, high-definition image processing to drive one or more displays. Supporting these applications, DFI launched a compact, low-profile embedded computer system powered by the 1.60GHz dual-core Intel Atom processor N2600 and Intel http://www.dfi.com/Upload/Press/ACP/en_US/Digital-Signage-DS910-CD-Datasheet.pdfNM10 I/O Express chipset (See figure 3). The DS910-CD offers 5 watts system total design power (TDP) along with fanless cooling for-low power, low-noise installations. The Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 3600 integrated into the processor delivers high quality graphics with DirectX 9, Open GL 3.0, PAVP 1.1c, and HDCP 1.3 support to fulfill a variety of applications using HDMI and DVI graphics interfaces with up to 1920 x 1200 display resolutions. The DS910-CD supports 2 hardware decoders (H.264, VC-1, MPEG-2) with full HD 1080p video playback capability for dual independent displays.

 

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The new Cedar Trail platform is also an excellent choice for low-power, handheld/portable embedded device development.  With a focus on these super low-power applications, Advantech recently announced the SOM-7565 COM-Express mini module powered by the N2600 Intel® Atom™ processor (See figure 4). The compact design (84 x 55 mm) is about the size of a business card, making it suitable for portable applications in point of sale, transportation, medical and factory devices. The dual-core processor delivers a 40% or more improvement in processing power compared to Intel® Atom™ processors N455 and E680. According to Miller Chang, Vice President of Advantech Embedded Computing Group, “Low power features are an important requirement when we develop industrial computers. The latest Intel® Atom™ processor N2000 and D2000 series have not only reduced power consumption, making them more environmentally friendly, but also enabled embedded platforms to improve computing capabilities, especially for graphics and display intensive applications.”

 

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These new products based on the new Intel® Atom™ processor architecture are just the tip of the embedded iceberg. More than thirty new embedded products have already been announced with plenty more in work. Here are a few more examples:

 

Aaeon - 7 boards: COM-CV, XTX-CV, PFM-CVS, EPIC-CV07, GENE-CV05, EMB-NM10, TKS-G21-CV05

Avalue - ECM-CDV 3.5-inch, EBM-CDV 5.25-inch, and EQM-CDV Q7 Module

BCM Advanced Research - MX260N Mini-ITX module and NX260N Nano-ITX industrial motherboard

Emerson - COM Express module, Mini-ITX motherboard, and Nano-ITX embedded motherboard

Eurotech - 67 x 100 mm form factor Catalyst platform

IEI - 3.5-inch Ultra Low Power Embedded SBC

Norco - Mini-ITX motherboard

SBS Science & Technology Co. - Rugged tablet SPC-1005B

TimeSys - Expanded LinuxLink offering to support Cedar Trail

 

You can find a more information on the next generation Intel® Atom™ Processors including technical datasheets, webinars, and videos at the N2000 and D2000 website. If you are starting an embedded design and plan to incorporate the next generation Intel® Atom™ platform, please offer your suggestions and share your experience or questions via comments with fellow followers of the Intel® Embedded Community.  You can keep up with the latest related technical articles and product announcements at the Embedded Computing Design archives on Intel Atom N2800 D2700.

 

To view other community content on energy efficiency, see "Energy Efficiency - Top Picks

 

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

 

Advantech and Emerson are Premier members of the by Intel® Embedded Alliance. Portwell, Avalue, Aaeon, Eurotech, IEI, Norco, BCM Advanced Research, and DFI are Associate members of the Alliance, Arbor Technology and SBS Science and Technology are Affiliate members, and TimeSys is a General member.

 

 

As competition grows, embedded designers must pack increased performance, real-time connectivity, and interactive graphics features into each new design while reducing power requirements to eliminate fans or extend battery life. Some of the latest specifications in critical applications such as healthcare also call for always-on, always-connected embedded devices to eliminate delays due to startup and data updates. The current generation of consumers that grew up with computers and smart phones also expect an easy to use, graphics-based device interface. To minimize future development efforts, designers also want to create scalable systems that can be easily upgraded as performance expectations increase. And as with all embedded projects, design teams are looking for the best architecture that can enable low cost, small form factor configurations with the minimum number of components.

 

Addressing these escalating requirements, the recently released the next generation Intel® Atom™ processor based platform (codenamed Cedar Trail) offers improved performance and lower power consumption along with improved graphics features including a dedicated media engine and enhanced display options.  Based on 32 nm process technology, this new architecture offers extended 7 year lifecycle support and multiple versions with that can be optimized for individual embedded applications and provide improved performance and power efficiency. The new embedded Intel® Atom™ processors include the 1.66 GHz N2600 with 3.5 W thermal design power (TDP), the 1.85 GHz N2800 with 6.5 W TDP, and the high performance 2.13 GHz D2700 with 10 W TDP. All of the processor options are dual-core, support up to 4 GB of DDR3 system memory, and interface with the Intel NM10 Express chipset for embedded computing (See figure 1).

 

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The new Intel® Atom™ processors feature an integrated Intel® Graphics Media Accelerator 3600/3650 graphics engine to enhance 3D performance for media applications such as high definition 1080p video playback and streaming at a fraction of the power consumption of previous generations. Intel streaming single instruction, multiple data extensions can also be used to accelerate software processing of complex arithmetic and video decoding tasks. The platform delivers multiple digital display and output options including LVDS, HDMI, VGA, and DisplayPort to support a variety of presentation formats.  The dedicated media engine combined with the integrated memory controller provides enhanced performance and system responsiveness, including an improvement in graphics performance up to 2X compared to the previous generation platform. Theses display features are well suited for embedded market applications such as digital signage, retail terminals, medical devices, and industrial controls.

 

One of the key improvements of the Cedar Trail platform for embedded devices is the low power consumption while delivering dual core performance. Designers can now develop power-efficient portable devices with up to 10 hours of battery life. These enhanced performance-per-watt scores also enable embedded designers to create always-on, always-connected devices using Intel Smart Connect Technology that interacts with the communications channel and updates data while it is in sleep mode. The N2600 and N2800 processors also support Intel® Deep Power Down Technology which significantly reduces power usage during idle periods so that internal transistor power leakage is minimal. Next generation embedded devices must provide the immediate response and rapid boot-up sequences similar to the “instant on” features of today’s consumer electronics technology. For fixed function embedded devices, the Intel® Boot Loader Development Kit allows designers to create customized initialization firmware to reduce boot-up times to less than a second. Intel® Rapid Start Technology enables fast resume from standby mode and helps conserve battery life for the more general embedded operating systems including Microsoft Windows Embedded Standard 7, Microsoft Windows XP/XPe, Microsoft Embedded Compact 7, and Yocto.

 

The question for embedded designers is how to best take advantage of these new features. One in depth approach is to start with an Intel® Development Kit featuring the N2800 or D2700 processor and the NM10 Express chipset (See figure 2). These kit features a small form factor, all-in-one design with dual independent display capabilities in a fanless system. The board provides standard VGA display ports with options for embedded DisplayPort (eDP), DVI-I or HDMI, and single or dual-channel LVDS. Other I/O ports include dual or single 10/100/1000 Mb/s integrated LAN, integrated Intel® HD Audio, serial ports, expansion capabilities, and debug features. Kits are initially priced at $249 and ship as a complete system in a mini-ITX chassis including the development board with 2 GB DDR3 memory, a solid state disk, power supply, documentation, and software.

 

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An even faster method to get involved with the next generation Intel® Atom™ processor based platform is to investigate pre-engineered, off-the-shelf boards, modules, and platforms that have already integrated this new architecture. In the wake of the release of the Cedar Trail architecture, embedded computing manufacturers worldwide have announced many new products that will benefit from the improved graphics performance, lower power, reduced component count, and lower costs.  In the second part of this blog series, I will present a selection of boards, modules, and other hardware based on this new architecture and explain how these products can help developers leverage the Cedar Trail platform. If you are starting an embedded design and plan to incorporate the next generation Intel® Atom™ platform, please offer your suggestions and share your experience or questions via comments with fellow followers of the Intel® Embedded Community.  You can keep up with the latest related technical articles and product announcements at the Embedded Computing Design archives on Intel Atom N2800 D2700.

 

An even faster method to get involved with the next generation Intel®  Atom™ processor based platform is to investigate pre-engineered,  off-the-shelf boards, modules, and platforms that have already  integrated this new architecture. In the wake of the release of the  Cedar Trail architecture, embedded computing manufacturers worldwide  have announced many new products that will benefit from the improved  graphics performance, lower power, reduced component count, and lower  costs.  In the second part of this blog series, I will present a  selection of boards, modules, and other hardware based on this new  architecture and explain how these products can help developers leverage  the Cedar Trail platform. If you are starting an embedded design and  plan to incorporate the next generation Intel® Atom™ platform, please  offer your suggestions and share your experience or questions via  comments with fellow followers of the Intel® Embedded Community.   You can keep up with the latest related technical articles and product  announcements at the Embedded Computing Design archives on Intel Atom N2800 D2700.

 

 

To view other community content on energy efficiency, see "Energy Efficiency - Top Picks

 

efficiency.jpg

 

 

 

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

Embedded design teams are turning to stand-alone, automated devices to increase presence, reduce overhead, and engage customers. These remote terminals are being deployed in a wide variety of industries including retail, industrial, healthcare, advertising, education, hotel, and transportation as designers search for the optimal hardware and software configuration in each application.  Although a key objective is to reduce overhead and eliminate operator personnel, many of these industries install remote devices with no local IT support. The challenge for designers is to reduce or eliminate service calls for system diagnosis or software updates because on-site visits are expensive and can involve long periods of downtime.

 

Addressing these potential system support challenges, the 2nd generation Intel® Core™ technology supports an advanced version of Intel® vPro™ Technology and Intel® Active Management Technology (Intel® AMT) allowing remote access regardless of the state of the hard drive, operating system, and software applications.  These direct hardware-based communications features in a pre-boot environment are very important to minimize downtime for critical, high-reliability systems. For example, RadiSys has developed the Embedded System Platform (eSP) tool suite that works with the 2nd generation Intel® Core™ architecture allowing developers to create pre-boot diagnostic and repair capabilities including system readiness checks, troubleshooting, and software recovery (See figure 1). The eSP suite includes Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI) applications, user BIOS customization tools, and a standardized Application Programming Interface (API) for low-level functions. The Radisys EFI provides support for a pre–boot environment to develop a diagnostic and recovery environment independent of operating system functionality. Diagnostics can be useful for situations ranging from initial bring-up and development, to diagnosing factory or field issues.  EFI also supports the latest advances in Intel® vPro™ Technologies, including Intel® AMT for remote manageability, Intel® Trusted Execution Technology (Intel® TXT), Intel® Virtualization Technology (Intel® VT), and Intel® Turbo Boost Technology for performance optimization. Each of these can be configured (or even disabled) through the Radisys EFI.

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With a growing list of embedded devices including point-of-sale terminals, self-serve kiosks, back office servers, and digital signage, the retail industry is a major beneficiary of remote management technology. Targeting all of these in-store configurations, Hewlett Packard recently developed the HP rp5800 Retail System incorporating Intel® vPro™ Technology for security and remote system management (See figure 2). The system has a flexible design that retailers can customize to fit the needs individual applications. There are VGA and DisplayPort interfaces for displays or signage, a range of I/O interfaces including USB 2.0, PCI Express, RJ12 cash register port, RS 232, and RJ-45 Ethernet LAN.  The HP rp5800 also supports further customization and expansion with two slots for either PCI or PCI Express x1 boards.

 

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To remotely manage an array of remote devices in multiple configurations, Hewlett Packard offers the HP Client Automation (HPCA) software that automates routine tasks such as software deployments, upgrades, usage monitoring, and system management (See figure 3). This HPCA software utilizes a desired-state management model defined for each remote device configuration. Software agents on each device proactively synchronize and manage to that defined state on an ongoing basis. HPCA can scan devices across the environment for security vulnerabilities, regulatory and corporate compliance, and security tool status. HPCA also helps control power consumption by automatically controlling device power settings and timing. These automation tools insure compliance with image standards and a reduction in the amount of effort needed to manage the environment.

 

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The 2nd generation Intel® Core™ architecture with Intel® vPro™ technology allows embedded designers to contain costs, improve security, enable remote management, and maximize system availability. These benefits will lower the customer’s total cost of ownership and maximize the return on investment. 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.

 

To view other community content on manageability, see “Manageability - Top Picks

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RadiSys is a Premier member of the by Intel® Embedded Alliance. Hewlett Packard is an Associate member of the Alliance.

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