Energy efficiency has become a key design requirement across a broad range of embedded markets – whether to stretch battery life in portable devices, to enable fanless designs in harsh environments, or to lower costs in communications infrastructure, to name just a few examples. At the same time, these markets are looking for ever-greater performance and features. To meet these conflicting requirements, OEMs need a hardware platform that combines low power with high performance.
Intel® architecture (IA) processors are an excellent match for this requirement, with platforms available for a wide range of performance and power requirements. These include:
- Intel® Atom™ processors with thermal design power (TDP) starting at 2.7 W
- Intel® Core™ processors that deliver advanced graphics, media, and video performance with ground-breaking power efficiency
- Intel® Xeon® processors with advanced multi-core architectures that deliver excellent performance-per-watt
What’s more, all of these platforms are supported by the Intel® Embedded Alliance, whose 200-plus members collaborate closely with Intel to create power-optimized hardware, software, tools, and services that can help you speed energy-efficient designs to market.
Let’s now take a closer look at these platforms and how you can deploy them, starting with the new Intel® Atom™ processor N200 and D2000 series (formerly codenamed “Cedar Trail”). As the first Intel Atom processor built in a 32nm process technology, this processor series feature new levels of performance-per-watt, opening the door to always-on, always-connected embedded devices. Notable features of the platform include:
- Up to 10 hours of use and weeks-long standby
- Integrated hardware-accelerated decoder for low-power 1080p video playback and streaming
- Intel® Rapid Start Technology for fast resume
- Intel® Smart Connect Technology for an always-updated experience even during standby
For a closer look at these features, I recommend our just-published blog on the new Intel Atom processors. I also recommend reading the companion piece, which shows how you can use off-the-shelf hardware to quickly build systems using these new parts. Last but not least, you should attend our webinar on Adding “Wow” to Embedded from Advantech and Portwell to see how you can apply these processors to your next design.
If you are looking for even lower power consumption, you should consider the Intel® Atom™ processor E6xx series, which offers TDPs as low as 2.7 W. The low power is accompanied by a highly-integrated design created specifically for embedded. This design gives developers flexible I/O options and can even eliminate the need for companion I/O chips. For details, check out the Advantech article Flexible Design Options with the Intel® Atom™ Processor E6xx Series.
Moving the other direction on the performance spectrum, we find the 2nd Generation Intel® Core™ processors. These multi-core processors offer several important power-saving features including:
- Intel® Advanced Vector Extensions (Intel® AVX) for power-efficient vector processing
- Intel® HD Graphics 3000 and Intel® Quick Sync Video for high-end media and graphics acceleration
- Processor, graphics, and memory controller on the same die for maximum power and space efficiency
For an in-depth review of these features, check out the article Visibly Smart Performance with 2nd Generation Intel® Core™ Processors. Intel AVX is particularly useful for cutting power in applications such as medical imaging, and video analytics, and radar processing. For example, Intel AVX is a great tool for meeting size, weight, and power (SWaP) requirements in mil/aero applications. You can dive deeper into the details of the vector processing capabilities in the article Intel® AVX: Next-Generation Vector Processing.
Finally, let’s turn our attention to the high-performance applications like communications infrastructure. The explosion of network traffic is driving processing demands so high that power consumption has become a major factor in operator’s cost of ownership. Intel Xeon processors address this problem with advanced multi-core technology that can handle heavy workloads with great efficiency. For example, the Intel® Xeon® processor 5600 series offers features including:
- 32nm technology for power-efficient performance
- Intel® QuickPath Interconnect (Intel® QPI) for bandwidth improvements
- Intel® AES-NI for faster, more efficient cryptographic performance
- Integrated power gates for near-zero power in idling cores
- Intel® Virtualization Technology (Intel® VT) for flexible, efficient utilization of processor resources
For examples of how you can use these features to your advantage, see the blog ATCA Servers and Carrier-Grade Software Accelerate Application Deployment. I also recommend checking out my recent round-up of virtualization articles to learn more about this key technology.
Of course, hardware is not the only factor driving energy efficiency – software matters too! Kontron recently wrote a white paper on this topic titled Software Optimization Advances Power Efficiencies in Global Telecom Solutions. This paper explains how software techniques can reduce power consumption by 32%.
The links I’ve listed here only scratch the surface of what the Alliance has to offer. To learn more about power-efficient performance, see intel.com/go/embedded-energyefficiency
Advantech and Kontron are Premier members of the Intel® Embedded Alliance. Portwell is an Associate member of the Alliance.
Roving Reporter (Intel Contractor), Intel® Embedded Alliance
Editor-In-Chief, Embedded Innovator magazine
Follow me on Twitter: @kentonwilliston