As the new 3rd-Generation Intel® Core™ (Ivy Bridge) architecture emerges, off-the-shelf module makers have announced a variety of new products to take advantage of the improved performance, I/O, and power efficiency for embedded systems. These new COTS products come at a time when industrial manufacturers are looking for faster and more efficient factory automation tools to increase production, lower costs, and beat the competition. Based on an innovative tri-gate transistor design and 22 nm process technology, the new 3rd-Generation Intel® Core™  processor architecture offers embedded designers an integrated graphics engine with improved performance along with high speed data I/O for enhanced real-time applications.  The Ivy Bridge architecture also supports USB 3.0 when paired with the Intel® 7 Series Chipset Family to increase maximum I/O data rates from the current 480 Mbps to 5 Gbps.


The 3rd-Generation Intel® Core™ Processor family includes a number of enhanced performance features that are ideal for rugged, industrial applications supporting high-speed, high-definition image analysis and multiple video displays.  For example, the newly integrated Intel® HD4000 graphics core performs up to 50 percent better than its predecessors and can control up to three independent displays simultaneously. Intel® Quick Sync Video Technology uses dedicated hardware on the processor instead of software to accelerate media processing functions such as video encode, decode, and transcode operations. In addition, Intel® Clear Video HD Technology integrates multiple hardware and software image processing technologies to enable jitter-free, 1080p playback with enhanced color fidelity. The Ivy Bridge graphics core also supports Intel® Turbo Boost Technology, allowing clock frequencies to scale up temporarily to handle intense workloads.  For enhanced security, the architecture includes a hardware-based random number generator for higher performance encryption to provide protection against malware attacks.


The fastest way to take advantage these performance gains in factory automation applications is to incorporate COTS products that have already integrated the 3rd-Generation Intel® Core™ architecture. For instance, congatec recently announced the conga-TM77 COM Express module that can be ordered with either the 35W i7-3612QE or the 45W i7-3615QE quad core processors (See figure 1). The module supports Intel® Flexible Display Interface, DirectX 11, OpenGL 3.1, and OpenCL 1.1, as well as a MPEG-2 hardware decoding unit in order to decode multiple high resolution full HD videos in parallel. In addition to VGA and LVDS, the module has three digital display interfaces, each of which can be configured for DisplayPort, HDMI, or DVI. Eight USB ports are provided and three of those are capable of USB 3.0 Superspeed operation.  System expansion features include seven PCI Express 2.0 lanes, 16 PCI Express graphics 3.0 lanes, four SATA interfaces, and a gigabit Ethernet port. The conga-TM77 is available immediately and prices start at less than $1,000 in single unit quantities.




Extreme Engineering Solutions (X-ES) plans to support the 3rd-Generation Intel® Core™ i7 processor across multiple industry-standards including COM Express, VPX, CompactPCI, VME, PMC, and XMC form factors. The XPedite7470 3U VPX Single Board Computer is one of the first products announced and is available with either the 2.1 GHz i7-3612QE or the 2.3 GHz i7-3615QE processors (See figure 2). The module supports high-bandwidth and processing-intensive applications with two PCI Express Fat Pipe P1 interconnects and two Gigabit Ethernet ports. The XPedite7470 accommodates up to 8 GB of DDR3 ECC SDRAM plus numerous I/O ports including USB 2.0, SATA, graphics, and RS-232/422/485.  The module can be used in either the system slot or peripheral slot of a VPX backplane. Board support packages are available for Wind River VxWorks, QNX, Neutrino, Green Hills INTEGRITY, and Linux as well as drivers for Microsoft Windows.




These products are a couple of examples where designers of industrial systems can get a head start in project development to capture the performance improvements and energy efficiency of the 3rd-Generation Intel® Core™. These commercial off-the-shelf products allow design teams to trade a slightly higher recurring cost for a shortened development schedule. If you think that Ivy Bridge fits your next factory automation project or if you have already started a project please share your concerns, questions, and successes with fellow followers of the Intel® Embedded Community. You can keep up with the latest technical articles and product announcements at the Embedded Computing Design archives on the Ivy Bridge. Also, please check back as I uncover more 3rd-Generation Intel® Core™ architecture products that you can use to extend the performance of your next industrial project.


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Warren Webb
OpenSystems Media®, by special arrangement with the Intel®
Intelligent Systems Alliance

Microsoft, Wind River, and congatec are Associate members of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance. QNX and Green Hills Software are Affiliate members of the Alliance.  Extreme Engineering Solutions is a General member of the Alliance.