The recently announced 4th generation Intel® Core™ processor family (codenamed Haswell) delivers substantial performance, I/O, and power efficiency improvements for designers of industrial embedded systems. This new architecture emerges as manufacturers search for faster and more efficient factory automation tools to increase production, lower costs, consolidate equipment, and minimize downtime. Based on an enhanced tri-gate transistor design and 22 nm process technology, the new architecture offers embedded designers an up to 15 percent increase in processor performance, up to double the graphics performance, and up to 50 percent increase in battery life for portable applications when compared with the previous generation. Separate voltage planes were also added so that unused portions of the core can be rapidly shut down and restored to preserve power. In addition, new instructions are introduced to provide a performance improvement in integer and floating-point-intensive computations such as image processing applications and to accelerate data encryption and decryption in hardware.


Along with the announcement of the 4th generation Intel Core processor family, multiple members of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance introduced a wide selection of compatible, off-the-shelf modules and systems that target industrial applications. For example, Advantech introduced the MIC-6311, a new 6U OpenVPX blade designed to take advantage of the performance improvements for rugged workstation and compute intense applications (See figure 1). The module features two Serial RapidIO ports in the VPX data plane in order to interface to digital front ends such as DSP and FPGA cards via a high speed, low latency deterministic interconnect. In addition, PCI Express 3.0 ports with up to 8 GB/s throughput offer a high performance interface to popular peripherals and IO cards. The 4th generation Intel Core processor family  also offer increased cache size and efficiency as well as instruction set upgrades with Intel® Advanced Vector Extensions (Intel® AVX) 2.0 which make the MIC-6311 an effective compute engine with improved floating point and vector processing performance.  Tailored for the rugged environments found in industrial applications, the MIC-6311 maintains maximum memory throughput with dual channel error correcting code DRAM plus an onboard, soldered, solid state disk.



The Haswell architecture expands the graphics core with a greater number of execution units and the addition of a new processing engine to do a lot of the set-up work the CPU cores would once have handled. Highlighting this new graphics capability, Kontron announced the COM Express basic Computer-on-Module COMe-bHL6 to accelerate the implementation of the new processors into individual platforms for applications such as industrial plant and machine line control (See figure 2). The new modules offer increased performance density and up to twice the graphics performance compared to its predecessors. Three independent, daisy-chained displays with up to 4K resolution are supported through a mix of DisplayPort, HDMI, and VGA external links. To simplify development of interactive graphics content, the Application Programming Interface (API) supports DirectX 11.1, OpenCL 1.2 and OpenGL 4.0. The COMe-bHL6 module is available in several different variants ranging from the low-power processor versions up to quad-core Intel® Core™ i7 processors plus multiple peripheral interface ports. The Kontron COM Express basic Computer-on-Module COMe-bHL6 supports the full Windows OS portfolio along with Linux and Wind River* VxWorks.




The Haswell architecture also improves I/O flexibility with support for USB 3.0, PCI Express 3.0, and Serial ATA interfaces. Emphasizing a flexible expansion interface and improved performance for the industrial market, Portwell developed the WADE-8015, a Mini-ITX form factor embedded system board, which incorporates the Intel® Q87 chipset and the 4th generation Intel Core processor family (See figure 3). Unlike existing Mini-ITX boards in the marketplace, which utilize a riser card to increase functional interfaces or additional PCIe/PCI slots, the Portwell WADE-8015 uses an extension board to furnish a flexible platform that allows multiple functional expansion choices for customized system integration. The WADE-8015 offers multiple additional features including 6 Gb/s storage via four Serial ATA interfaces supporting multiple RAID modes plus the latest PCI Express 3.0 delivers high speed and bandwidth at up to 8 GT/s. In addition, peripheral interfaces include 10 USB ports, two memory slots for up to 16GB of DDR3 SDRAM, and triple displays via VGA, HDMI and DisplayPort. The Portwell WADE-8015 is also equipped with dual Gigabit Ethernet connectors and a Mini-PCI Express interface with a mini-SATA connector for storage-demanding applications.




The Advantech, Kontron, and Portwell products covered above are a just a few of the new industrial products already available from Alliance members that incorporate the 4th generation Intel Core processor family. These off-the-shelf products allow intelligent systems developers to immediately take advantage of the increased performance, reduced power requirements, and I/O flexibility of this new processor architecture. You can keep up with the latest products and articles featuring the 4th generation Intel Core processor family at the Top Picks webpage.  If you are ready to start an intelligent industrial automation project based on the Haswell architecture, please share your questions and comments with fellow followers of the Intel® Embedded Community.


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

Advantech is a Premier member of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance.

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Kontron is a Premier member of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance.

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Portwell is a Premier member of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance.

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