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.