Compact Apollo-Lake Box PC Targets Mobile Comms

MEN Micro has announced its BC51M box PC based on the Intel Atom E3900 series, optionally with two or four cores, up to 1.6 GHz. The fanless and maintenance-free device is used in graphics and memory intensive applications in trains, buses or commercial vehicles and, thanks to its numerous communication interfaces, is highly variable.

With 8 GB DDR3 SDRAM memory, a rear accessible SD card, an integrated eMMC memory and an optional SATA HDD/SSD, the box PC has the necessary storage capacity for entertainment servers or video surveillance systems.  The BC51M was designed for mobile use in trains, buses or commercial vehicles and takes over wireless on-board functions such as Internet on board, positioning via GNSS, entertainment or predictive maintenance.

The box PC supports up to two DisplayPort interfaces with a maximum resolution of 4K, as well as two Gigabit Ethernet interfaces, one USB 2.0, one HD audio and two variable connections for serial I/O, CAN bus, MVB or IBIS. Two PCI Express Mini Card slots and two micro-SIM slots provide flexibility in implementing mobile service standards up to 4G LTE or WLAN. The system is designed for fanless operation at temperatures from -40°C to +85°C. Thanks to the integrated 30 W/24 VDC wide-range power supply, the box PC complies with the railway standard EN 50155 and ISO 7637-2 for road vehicles.

  • Intel Atom E3900 Series
  • Up to 8 GB DDR3 DRAM, ECC
  • 32 GB eMMC
  • 2 DisplayPorts, each up to 4096 x 2160 pixels
  • 2 Gigabit Ethernet, 1 USB 2.0
  • 2 slots for IBIS, GPS, RS232, RS485, RS422
  • WLAN, 4G LTE, GNSS via PCI Express Mini Cards
  • -40°C to +85°C operating temperature, fanless
  • Complies with EN 50155 and ISO 7637-2

MEN Micro | www.menmicro.com

Pico-ITX and 3.5-inch SBCs Feature Dual-Core i.MX6 SoCs

IBASE Technology has announced two SBCs, both powered by an NXP i.MX 6Dual Cortex-A9 1.0GHz high performance processor. The IBR115 2.5-inch SBC and the IBR117 3.5-inch SBC are designed for use in applications in the automation, smart building, transportation and medical markets.
IBR115 and IBR117 are highly scalable SBCs with extended operating temperature support of -40°C to 85°C and an optional heatsink. Supporting 1 GB DDR3 memory on board, the boards provide a number of interfaces for HDMI and single LVDS display interface, 4 GB eMMC, Micro SD, COM, GPIO, USB, USB-OTG, Gbit Ethernet and a M.2 Key-E interface. These embedded I/Os provide connection to peripherals such as WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, storage, displays, and camera sensors for use in a variety of application environment while consuming low levels of power.

Both models ship with BSPs for Yocto Project 2.0 Linux and Android 6.0. They both run on dual-core, 1 GHz i.MX6 SoCs, but the IBR115 uses the DualLite while the IBR117 has a Dual with a slightly more advanced Vivante GPU.

IBR115/IBR117 Features:

  • With NXP Cortex-A9, i.MX 6Dual-Lite (IBR115) / i.MX 6Dual (IBR117) 1GHz processor
  • Supports HDMI and Dual-channel LVDS interface
  • Supports 1 GB DDR3, 4 GB eMMC and Micro SD (IBR115) / SD (IBR117) socket for expansion
  • Embedded I/O as COM, GPIO, USB, USB-OTG, audio and Ethernet
  • 2 Key-E (2230) and Mini PCI-E w/ SIM socket (IBR117) for wireless connectivity
  • OpenGL ES 2.0 for 3D BitBlt for 2D and OpenVG 1.1
  • Wide-range operating temperature from -40°C to 85°C

IBASE Technology | www.ibase.com.tw

Cavium Octeon-Based SBCs Provide Networking Solution

Gateworks has announced the release of the Newport GW6400 SBC, featuring the Cavium Octeon TX Dual/Quad Core ARM processor running up to 1.5 GHz. The GW6400 is the latest Newport family member with an extensive list of features, including five Gigabit Ethernet ports and two SFP fiber ports. The GW6400 comes in two standard stocking models, the Dual Core GW6400 and the fully loaded Quad Core GW6404 (shown)..

The GW6400 and GW6404 are members of the Gateworks 6th generation Newport family of single board computers targeted for a wide range of indoor and outdoor networking applications. The SBCs feature the Cavium OcteonTX ARMv8 SoC processor, up to five Gigabit Ethernet ports, and four Mini-PCIe expansion sockets for supporting 802.11abgn/ac wireless radios, LTE/4G/3G CDMA/GSM cellular modems, mSATA drives and other PCI Express peripherals. A wide-range DC input power supply provides up to 15 W to the Mini-PCIe sockets for supporting the latest high-power radios and up to 10 W to the USB 2.0/3.0 jacks for powering external devices. Power is applied through a barrel jack or an Ethernet jack with either 802.3at or Passive Power over Ethernet. The GW6400 does not have SFP Ports loaded.

Gateworks | www.gateworks.com

Fault Protection Solution Defends High-Speed USB Ports

With the MAX22505 ±40 V high-speed USB fault protector from Maxim Integrated Products, system designers can now eliminate USB port damage from all faults, including ground potential differences, up to ±40 V without the tradeoffs required by competing solutions. It protects data and power lines from industrial equipment powered at 24 VAC and 40 VDC, while also reducing solution size by more than 50% for industrial voltage applications.
Industrial environments continue striving to reduce solution footprint to increase productivity and throughput while demanding system robustness and increased uptime. As a result, there has been a trend to adopt USB vs. RS-232 on automation equipment due to a much smaller connector size. As industrial environments adopt USB to provide faster communication for applications such as real-time diagnostics, programming/service ports on programmable logic controllers (PLCs), or supporting camera vision systems, USB ports require fault protection from overvoltage and ground differences while balancing the need to support high-speed data rates up to 480 Mbps.

Damage to both the host and device side can occur in these systems, requiring a unique solution that achieves high levels of fault protection. Existing USB fault protection solutions on the market today compromise either USB operating speed or voltage/current limit protection on a device’s data and power lines. Consequently, current solutions on the market are costlier and incapable of providing fault protection at high-speed USB performance.

The MAX22505 answers this market need as a solution that combines high-speed USB fault protection (480Mbps) for industrial voltages, while being flexible enough to support either host or device applications including USB On-The-Go (OTG). It protects equipment from overvoltage or negative voltage on power and data lines, as well as ground potential differences between devices. It reduces solution size by more than 50% compared to competing solutions and ensures robust communications in harsh environments cost-effectively in a simpler design. Housed in a 24-pin 4mm x 4mm TQFN package, it operates over the -40°C to +105°C temperature range. Applications include building automation, industrial PCs, PLCs and diagnostic USB ports.

The MAX22505 is available at Maxim’s website for $2.24 (1000-up, FOB USA); also available with select authorized distributors The MAX22505EVKIT# evaluation kits are available for $110

Maxim Integrated | www.maximintegrated.com

Module Combines Isolated Data Comms and Power in One Device

Murata Power Solutions has announced the introduction of the NMUSB2022PMC, a surface mount powered data isolator module that conveniently provides dual port USB data and power isolation from a single upstream port. When used in conjunction with a USB host, a single NMUSB202PMC module counts as two USB hubs for cascaded applications and provides full 5V/500mA power to each downstream port. 250 VRMS reinforced isolation provides safety, immunity to EMI and breaking of ground loops.

The is NMUSB2022PMC is fully compliant with USB 2.0 specification, which enables hassle-free, “plug and play” operation with any USB-compatible device. It can do automatic switching between full-speed (12 Mbps) and low speed (1.5 Mbps) operation. Operating temperature ranges from -40°C to +85°C.

The device enables USB isolation function with a single SMT component. Users may power any USB compatible device from the NMUSB module. The data isolation function included with the DC-DC module adds value and convenience to the user and also eases system approval for medical systems safety certifications. Applications include industrial control for isolating sensors and medical environments, where USB is becoming common for low cost sensing and communication but isolation is necessary for safety and noise immunity. It is also well suited for harsh environment data communication and sensor communications.

Murata Power Solutions | www.murata-ps.com

Intel Coffee Lake H-Series Debut Processors Debut in Congatec and Seco Modules

By Eric Brown

Intel has rolled out new H-, M-, U- and T-series Intel Core and Xeon chips, expanding its line of 14 nm fabricated, 8th Gen Core Kaby Lake Refresh processors, code-named “Coffee Lake.” Of special interest are four new dual- and quad-core U-series chips with up to 2.7 GHz clock rates and 28 W TDPs, as well as four quad- and hexa-core H-series Core i5 and i7 processors and a pair of hexa-core M-series Xeon chips, all with 45 W TDP (total dissipated power).

Congatec Conga-TS370 (top) and Seco COMe-C08-BT6 (bottom) (click images to enlarge)

The hexa-core Core i7-8850H, quad-core Core i5-8400H, and hexa-core Xeon E-2176M are appearing in a pair of 125 mm x 95 mm COM Express Basic Type 6 announced by Congatec and Seco. Both the Conga-TS370 and Seco’s COMe-C08-BT6 are available with Linux or Windows 10, and support 0 to 60°C temperatures (see farther below).

Intel’s 8th Gen M- and H-series processors (click image to enlarge)

Intel launched its first round of 8th-Gen Kaby Lake Refresh “Coffee Lake” chips back in September. This fourth generation of its 14 nm fabricated Core chips — following Broadwell, Skylake, and Kaby Lake — offers relatively modest performance and power efficiency improvements.Like most of AMD’s new Ryzen Embedded V1000 SoCs, most of the Coffee Lake processors are double threaded, so four cores give you eight threads and six cores give you 12. The exception is a line of standard, desktop-oriented T-series chips with 35 W TDPs. The T-series models are all single-threaded except the top-of-the-line, hexa-core Core i7-8700T, clocked to 2.4 GHz /4.0 GHz.

Intel’s latest batch of U-series (top) and new T-series CPUs (bottom)
(click images to enlarge)

The latest batch of U-series processors give you more speed, but higher 28 W TDPs than the original batch. The initial U-series chips, which were used in recent Linux-based laptops from System76 and ZaReason, provide slightly faster quad- instead of dual-core designs with the same price and 15 W TDP as 7th-Gen “Kaby Lake” models. The first round of Coffee Lake chips also included some high-end models tuned to gaming, as well as the first hexa-core Core i5 and first quad-core Core i3 models.

Also today, Intel unveiled a new line of 300-series I/O chipsets that are based on the upcoming Cannon Lake PCH. The lineup includes a Q370 model that supports up to 6x USB 3.1 Gen2 ports, up to 24x PCIe 3.0 lanes, and Intel Wireless-AC for faster 802.11ac.

Intel’s original line of 8th Gen CPUs (top) and new 300-series I/O chipsets (bottom) (click images to enlarge)Intel added to the Coffee Lake parade with some gaming focused G-series chips that use a Radeon Vega GPU from rival AMD. The Core i7-8809G, which can be overclocked, as well as the fixed rate Core i7-8705G, are available in Intel NUC mini-PCs.Today’s media coverage emphasized Intel’s first mobile version of its gaming-oriented Core i9 design. The hexa-core Core i9-8950HK CPU uses thermal velocity boost” technology to jump from 2.9 GHz to 4.8 GHz.

The related H- and M-series processors used by Seco and Congatec include the Core i7-8850H, the fastest of the two hexa-core Core i7 models with 2. 6GHz /4.3 GHz performance. The i7-8850H offers a 9MB Intel Smart Cache and supports “partial” overclocking. The Core i5-8400H is the fastest of the two quad-core i5 models, with 2.5 GHz /4.2 GHz performance and an 8MB cache. The hexa-core, 2.7 GH z/4.4 GHz Xeon E-2176M with 12 MB cache is the slower of the two Xeon M-series chips. (The turbo speeds can only be achieved by one core at a time.)

All the models used by Congatec and Seco offer 45W TDPs and support Intel Optane memory and Intel VPro technology. As with other Coffee Lake processors, there are software patches to protect against Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities. However, a hardware fix will await the 10nm Cannon Lake generation.

The three models used by the Conga-TS370 and COMe-C08-BT6 modules are the:

  • Intel Core i7-8850H (6x 12-thread 14nm Coffee Lake cores at 2.6 GHz /4.3 GHz); 9 MB Cache, 45W TDP (35W cTDP)
  • Intel Core i5-8400H 4x 8-thread 14 nm Coffee Lake cores at 2.5 GHz /4.2 GHz); 8 MB Cache, 45W TDP (35W cTDP)
  • Intel Xeon E-2176M, 8850H (6x 12-thread 14 nm Coffee Lake cores at 2.7 GHz /4.4 GHz); 9 MB Cache, 45 W TDP (35W cTDP)

Intel claims that the six-core H-series and M-series modules offer between 45 to 50 percent more multi-thread and 15 to 25 percent more single-thread performance compared to 7th Gen “Kaby Lake” Core processors. The built-in Intel Gen9 LP graphics can manage up to 3x independent displays at once, with a resolution up to 4096 x 2304 at 60 Hz, 24 bpp. There’s support for DirectX 12 and OpenGL 4.5, as well as an H.265 / HEVC hardware transcoder.

Conga-TS370

Like Congatec’s 6th Gen Skylake based Conga-TS170 and 7th Gen Kaby Lake powered Conga-TS175, the Conga-TS370 uses the COM Express Type 6 Basic form factor. All common Linux operating systems, as well as the 64-bit versions of Microsoft Windows 10 and Windows 10 IoT are supported.

 

Conga-TS370 block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

The module offers up to 10-year availability, and targets applications including “high performance embedded and mobile systems, industrial and medical workstations, storage servers and cloud workstations, as well as media transcoding and edge computing cores,” says Congatec.Thanks to the Coffee Lake-H chips, the module supports Intel Optane memory, as well as Intel Software Guard extensions, Trusted Execution Engine, and Intel Platform Trust Technology. The Core processors use the new Intel PCH-H QM370 Series I/O chipset while the Xeon is paired with a CM246 Series controller.

You can load up to 32GB of  DDR4-2666 memory via dual sockets with optional ECC. There are 4x SATA III interfaces, as well as an Intel i219-LM GbE controller with AMT 12.0 support. Expansion features include a PEG x16 Gen3 interface and 8x PCIe Gen 3.0 lanes.

The integrated Intel UHD630 graphics supports up to three independent 4K displays via HDMI 1.4a, eDP 1.4, and DisplayPort 1.2. Dual-channel LVDS is also available as an alternative to eDP, and for the first time, you can switch between eDP to LVDS by software alone, says Congatec.

The highlighted feature enabled by Coffee Lake-H is its support for up to 4x USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports, which operate at up to 10 Gbps. The module also includes 8x USB 2.0 interfaces.

The Conga-TS370 is further equipped with LPC, I2C, SMBus, GPIO, SDIO, and dual UARTs. There’s also an HD Audio interface, TPM 2.0, and ACPI 4.0 with battery support. The Congatec Board Controller provides features including watchdog, non-volatile user storage, and backlight control.

Support services are available, along with a range of accessories and standardized or customized carrier boards and systems. A Conga-Teva2 carrier is in the works but is not yet documented.

COMe-C08-BT6

Seco’s COMe-C08-BT6 module, which follows it similarly Type 6, 6th Gen Skylake based COMe-B09-BT6, is designed for applications including gaming, signage, infotainment, HMI, biomedical devices, Industry 4.0, automation, and telco. There’s support for 64-bit Linux and Windows 10.

 

COMe-C08-BT6
(click image to enlarge)

Not surprisingly, the feature set is very similar to that of the Conga-TS370. You get up to 3 2GB of DDR4-2666 with ECC, 4x SATA 3.0 channels, and an Intel i219-LM GbE controller.The COMe-C08-BT6 has the same triple display and 4K support as the Congatec model. In this case you get DP, HDMI, and DVI DDI interfaces, as well as a choice of eDP, LVDS, or LVDS + VGA interfaces. HD Audio is also available.

Like the Conga-TS370, there are 4x USB 3.1 Gen 2 interfaces, 8x USB 2.0 links, a PEG x16 Gen3 interface, and 8x PCIe Gen 3.0 lanes. Other features include 2x UARTs, as well as SPI, I2C, SMBus, LPC, and GPIO. You also get a watchdog, optional TPM 2.0, thermal and fan management signals, and 12 V or optional 5 V DC input.

CCOMe-965 carrier (top) and block diagram (bottom)
(click images to enlarge)The COMe-C08-BT6 is available with Seco’s CCOMe-965 Mini-ITX carrier board, which also supports other Seco Type 6 modules such as the COMe-B09-BT6 and Ryzen V1000 based COMe-B75-CT6. There’s also a Cross Platform Development Kit that includes the CCOMe-965, along with HDMI and DisplayPort cables, and is said to support ARM-based Type 6 COMs in addition to x86.

CCOMe-C30 carrier (top) and block diagram (bottom)
(click images to enlarge)One final development option is an upcoming, 3.5-inch form factor CCOMe-C30 board that features a DP++ port, 2x mini-DP++ ports, and LVDS and eDP connections. The 146 mm x 102 mm board has dual M.2 sockets, dual GbE ports, and SATA and microSD slots. You also get 2x USB 3.0 and 2x USB 2.0 ports, plus 4x serial headers, among other features.Further information

No pricing or availability information was provided for the Congatec Conga-TS370 or Seco COMe-C08-BT6 Type 6 modules. More on Congatec’s Conga-TS370 module may be found in the Conga-TS370 announcement and product pages.

More on Seco’s COMe-C08-BT6 may be found on the COMe-C08-BT6 product page.

Intel’s latest Intel Coffee Lake processors should start shipping in volume by the end of the month. More information may be found on Intel’s 8th Gen Intel Core announcement page.

This article originally appeared on LinuxGizmos.com on April 3.

Congatec | www.congtatec.com

Seco | www.seco.com

Commell Launches its First ARM-Based Pico-ITX

By Eric Brown

Commell has announced the LP-150, a Rockchip RK3128 based Pico-ITX SBC that appears to be its first ARM-based embedded board of any kind. The 100 mm x 72 mm LP-150 is the only ARM-based SBC out of the many dozens of mostly Intel-based boards listed on Commell’s SBC page.

Shipping with Android 4.4.4, but also supporting Linux, the LP-150 is intended primarily for imaging, machine vision and digital signage applications. Other Commell Pico-ITX SBCs include its Intel Braswell based LP-176.

Commell LP-150

Rockchip’s quad-core, Cortex-A7 RK3128 hasn’t seen as much uptake in the embedded world as the quad -A17 RK3288, which is found on hacker boards such as the Firefly-RK3288 Reload or the high-end, hexa-core RK3399, which has appeared on numerous recent products such as OpenEmbed’s em3399 module or Aaeon’s RICO-3399 PICO-ITX SBC. The only RK3128-based SBC we can recall is the open spec Firefly-FirePrime S.

The LP-150 SBC has a fairly modest feature set, with only 512 MB DDR3. Yet, it offers a few features you don’t typically find on x86 Pico-ITX SBCs like eMMC storage (8GB) and built-in Wi-Fi. Media features include an HDMI 1.4 port limited to HD resolution and an LVDS interface with capacitive touchscreen support. You also get CVBS inputs and outputs and audio I/O headers.

The LP-150 is further equipped with a GbE port and USB 2.0 host and OTG ports. There is also an RTC with battery, and a smattering of RS-232, UART, and GPIO interfaces.

Specifications listed for the Commell LP-150 include:

  • Processor — Rockchip RK3128 (4x Cortex-A7 @ 1.3 GHz); Mali-400 MP2 GPU with OpenGL ES1.1 and 2.0, OpenVG1.1
  • Memory — 512 MB DDR3
  • Storage — 8 GB eMMC; microSD slot
  • Display:
    • HDMI 1.4 port for up to 1080p
    • Single-channel 18/24-bit LVDS for up to 1280 x 720 displays or up to 1024 x 600 cap. touchscreens
    • LCD/LVDS panel and inverter connectors
    • CVBS in/out
  • Wireless — Wi-Fi with SMA antenna
  • Networking — Gigabit Ethernet port (RTL8211E)
  • Other I/O:
    • USB 2.0 host port with support for 4-port hub
    • USB 2.0 OTG port
    • 2x RS232 interfaces
    • 3x UART
    • Audio line-out, mic-in headers (Rockchip codec)
    • GPIO header
  • Other features — Power, recovery, reset buttons; RTC with lithium battery; LED
  • Operating temperature — 0 to 70°C
  • Power — DC input 5 V
  • Dimensions — 100 mm x 72 mm (Pico-ITX)
  • Operating system — Android 4.4.4; Linux also supported

Further information

No pricing or availability information was provided for the LP-150. More information may be found on Commell’s LP-150 product page.

Commell |  www.commell.com.tw

This article originally appeared on LinuxGizmos.com on March 6.

Rugged COM Express Module Sports AMD V1000

MEN Micro has announced the CB71C, a rugged COM Express module for rail, public transportation and industry applications like data acquisition, infotainment, transcoding and live 3D. It is 100% compatible with COM Express Type 6 pin-out and conforms to the VITA 59 standard, which specifies robust mechanics to ensure reliable operation even under the harshest environmental conditions.

The CB71C is based on AMD’s V1000 APU family. It is equipped with a Radeon Vega next-generation 3D graphics engine with up to 11 compute units, and supports up to 4 displays with a resolution of up to 4k without the need for additional graphics hardware. With up to four high-performance processor cores, the CB71C is also suitable for virtualization. Based on the Rugged COM Express standard, the CB71C is embedded in a closed aluminum frame, which ensures optimum EMC protection and efficient conduction cooling supporting a temperature range of -40°C to +85°C. To withstand serious shock and vibration, only soldered components are used.

The CB71C can be equipped with a wide range of long-term available processors with scalable performance, all supporting ECC. Passive cooling is possible with low-power versions. The CB71C can also be equipped with up to 32 GB of directly soldered DDR4 main memory and a 16 GB eMMC. Available high-speed interfaces include PCI Express 3.0 links, DDI (DP, eDP, HDMI), SATA 3.0, Gbit Ethernet and USB 3.0.

The board features an advanced board management controller with monitoring functions for safety-relevant applications. In addition, the CB71C has a Trusted Platform Module and supports hardware memory encryption, providing protection against both physical and inter-VM storage attacks. This is essential for security-critical applications such as payment and ticketing terminals, fleet management or monitoring.

MEN Micro | www.menmicro.com

SBC Serves Up MX6 ARM Cortex-A9 Processor

Versalogic has announced a new line of production-ready, ARM-based embedded computers starting with the Tetra. The Tetra is a power-efficient, quad-core SBC. Featuring a quad-core i.MX6 Cortex-A9 32-bit processor, a Tetra typically consumes about 4 W of power when operating (not idle). It is ready for off-the-shelf deployment into demanding industrial applications requiring rugged, long-life, power-efficient, industrial temperature rated (-40° to +85°C) solutions.

Unlike many ARM-based modules, Versalogic’s new line of ARM-based EPC (Embedded Processing Card) products are complete board-level computers. They do not require carrier cards, companion boards, connector break-out boards or other add-ons to function. For ease of mounting, and future upgrades, Versalogic’s ARM products are designed around the size and mounting points of COM Express products. Unlike proprietary-format ARM products, Versalogic ARM boards provide a standardized mounting pattern now, and simplified upgrading in the future.

The Tetra is COM Express Basic size (125 x 95 mm) and offers a variety of I/O options for rugged, industrial applications. The three quad-core Tetra models feature a wide (8 to 17-volt) power input, making it ideal for 12-volt automotive applications. Many applications that require lower power or lower heat dissipation still need very high levels of reliability. Versalogic’s 10+ year formal life-extension program ensures long production cycles free from expensive changes and upgrades that come from short, disposable lifecycles.

A variety of on-board I/O includes a Gigabit Ethernet port with network boot capability, HDMI and LVDS video outputs, and two USB 2.0 Ports. Serial I/O (RS-232) and a SATA II interface or mSATA, support high-capacity rotating or solid-state drives. CAN Bus, I2C and SPI are also included along with a 6-axis e-compass, and MIPI camera input. The on-board Mini PCIe socket provides flexible expansion using plug-in Wi-Fi modems, GPS receivers, Ethernet, Firewire, and other mini cards.

Designed and tested for Industrial temperature (-40° to +85°C ) operation, Versalogic’s rugged Tetra meets MIL-STD 202G specifications to withstand high impact and vibration. It is engineered and validated to excel in unforgiving environments. Each component is carefully selected to ensure reliable operation in the field.

The Tetra, part number VL-EPC-2700, is in stock at both Versalogic Corp. and Digi-Key Corp. OEM quantity pricing starts at $318.

Versalogic| www.versalogic.com

Non-Standard SBCs Put Function Over Form

Compact, Low-Power Solutions

A rich set of single board computer products fall into the non-standards-based category. These SBCs offer complete embedded computing solutions suited for applications were reducing size, weight and power are the priorities.

By Jeff Child,  Editor-in-Chief

While standard form factor embedded computers provide a lot of value, many applications demand that form take priority over function. The majority of non-standard boards tend to be extremely compact, and well suited for size-constrained system designs. Although there’s little doubt that standard open-architecture board form factors continue to thrive across numerous embedded system applications, non-standard form factors free designers from the size and cost overheads associated with including a standard bus or interconnect architecture.

In very small systems, often the size and volume of the board takes precedence over the need for standards. Instead the priority is on cramming as much functionality and compute density onto a single board solution. And because they tend to be literately “single board” solutions, there’s often no need to be compatible with multiple companion I/O boards. These non-standard boards seem to be targeting very different applications areas—areas where slot-card backplane or PC/104 stacks wouldn’t be practical.

Non-standard boards come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some follow de facto industry standard sizes like 3.5 inches, while others take a twist on existing standards—such as ATX, ITX or PC/104—to produce a “one off” implementation that takes some of the benefits of a standard form factor. There are also some company-specific “standard” form factors that offer an innovative new approach. The focus in this article is on commercial SBCs for professional applications, not modules for hobbyist projects.

ARM-Based Boards

In terms of sheer numbers of SBC products, Intel processor-based solutions tend to dominate. But in recent years, non-standard SBCs based on ARM embedded processors are increasing mindshare in the industry. In a recent example of an ARM-based solution, Technologic Systems in December starting shipping its newest SBC, the TS-7553-V2 (Photo 1). The board is developed around the NXP i.MX6 UltraLite, a high-performance processor family featuring an advanced implementation of a single ARM Cortex-A7 core, which operates at speeds up to  696 MHz. While able to support a wide range of embedded applications, the TS-7553-V2 was specifically designed to target the industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) sector.

Photo 1
TS-7553-V2 is developed around the NXP i.MX6 UltraLite, an advanced implementation of a single ARM Cortex-A7 core, which operates at speeds up to 696 MHz. The board specifically targets the industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) sector.

The TS-7553-V2 was designed with connectivity in mind. An on-board Xbee interface, capable of supporting Xbee or NimbleLink, provides a simple path to adding a variety of wireless interfaces. An Xbee radio can be used to link in with a local
2.4 GHz or sub 1 GHz mesh networks, allowing for gateway or node deployments. Both Digi and NimbleLink offer cellular radios for this socket, providing cellular connectivity for applications such as remote equipment monitoring and control. There is also the option for a cellular modem via a daughter card. This allows transmission of serial data via TCP, UDP or SMS over the cellular network. The TS-7553-V2 also includes an on board WiFi b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0 option, providing even more connectivity.

Design-To-Order SBCs

As a provider of design-to-order embedded boards, Gumstix comes at non-standard SBCs from a different perspective than traditional off-the-shelf SBC vendors. Gumstix’s latest ARM-related focus was its announcement in October about its adding the NXP Semiconductor SCM-i.MX 6Quad/6Dual Single Chip System Module (SCM) to the Geppetto D2O design library and the Gumstix Cobalt MC (Media Center) development board (Photo 2). The NXP SCM-i.MX 6D/Q [Dual, Quad] Core SCM combines the i.MX 6 quad- or dual-core applications processor, NXP MMPF0100 power management system, integrated flash memory, over 100 passives and up to 2 GB DDR2 Package-on-Package RAM into a single-chip solution.

Photo 2 — The Gumstix Cobalt MC single board computer shows off some of the best multimedia features of the NXP SCM with CSI2 camera, native HDMI, and audio, and connects over Gbit Ethernet, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

Using Gumstix’s services, embedded systems developers can, in minutes, design and order SCM-powered hardware combining their choices of network connection, communication bus, and hardware features. During the design process, users can compare alternatives for features and costs, create multiple projects and receive complete custom BSPs and free automated documentation. Designers can go straight from a design to an order in one session with no engineering required.

Read the full article in the February 331 issue of Circuit Cellar

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Quantum Leaps

Input Voltage

–Jeff Child, Editor-in-Chief

JeffHeadShot

Throughout my career, I’ve always been impressed by Intel’s involvement in a wide spectrum of computing and electronics technologies. These range from the mundane and practical on one hand, to forward-looking and disruptive advances on the other. A lot of these weren’t technologies for which Intel ever intended to take direct advantage of over the long term. I think a lot about how Intel facilitated the creation of and early advances in USB. Intel even sold USB chips in the first couple years of USB’s emergence, but stepped aside from that with the knowledge that their main focus was selling processors.

USB made computers and a myriad of consumer electronic devices better and easier to use, and that, Intel knew, advanced the whole industry in which their microprocessors thrived. Today, look around your home, your office and even your car and count the number of USB connectors there are. It’s pretty obvious that USB’s impact has been truly universal.

Aside from mainstream, practical solutions like USB, Intel also continues to participate in the most forward-looking compute technologies. Exemplifying that, in January at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) show in Las Vegas, Intel announced two major milestones in its efforts to develop future computing technologies. In his keynote address, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich announced the successful design, fabrication and delivery of a 49-qubit superconducting quantum test chip. The keynote also focused on the promise of neuromorphic computing.

In his speech, Krzanich explained that, just two months after delivery of a 17-qubit superconducting test chip, Intel that day unveiled “Tangle Lake,” a 49-qubit superconducting quantum test chip. The chip is named after a chain of lakes in Alaska, a nod to the extreme cold temperatures and the entangled state that quantum bits (or “qubits”) require to function.

According to Intel, achieving a 49-qubit test chip is an important milestone because it will allow researchers to assess and improve error correction techniques and simulate computational problems.

Krzanich predicts that quantum computing will solve problems that today might take our best supercomputers months or years to resolve, such as drug development, financial modeling and climate forecasting. While quantum computing has the potential to solve problems conventional computers can’t handle, the field is still nascent.

Mike Mayberry, VP and managing director of Intel Labs weighed in on the progress of the efforts. “We expect it will be 5 to 7 years before the industry gets to tackling engineering-scale problems, and it will likely require 1 million or more qubits to achieve commercial relevance,” said Mayberry.

Krzanich said the need to scale to greater numbers of working qubits is why Intel, in addition to investing in superconducting qubits, is also researching another type called spin qubits in silicon. Spin qubits could have a scaling advantage because they are much smaller than superconducting qubits. Spin qubits resemble a single electron transistor, which is similar in many ways to conventional transistors and potentially able to be manufactured with comparable processes. In fact, Intel has already invented a spin qubit fabrication flow on its 300-mm process technology.

At CES, Krzanich also showcased Intel’s research into neuromorphic computing—a new computing paradigm inspired by how the brain works that could unlock exponential gains in performance and power efficiency for the future of artificial intelligence. Intel Labs has developed a neuromorphic research chip, code-named “Loihi,” which includes circuits that mimic the brain’s basic operation.

While the concepts seem futuristic and abstract, Intel is thinking of the technology in terms of real-world uses. Intel says Neuromorphic chips could ultimately be used anywhere real-world data needs to be processed in evolving real-time environments. For example, these chips could enable smarter security cameras and smart-city infrastructure designed for real-time communication with autonomous vehicles. In the first half of this year, Intel plans to share the Loihi test chip with leading university and research institutions while applying it to more complex data sets and problems.

For me to compare quantum and neuromorphic computing to USB is as about as apples and oranges as you can get. But, who knows? When the day comes when quantum or neuromorphic chips are in our everyday devices, maybe my comparison won’t seem far-fetched at all.

This appears in the February (331) issue of Circuit Cellar magazine

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Voltage Regulator Has Low Quiescent Current

Diodes Incorporated has introduced the AP7381. Operating from a wide input voltage spanning 3.3 V to 40 V, this positive voltage regulator offers ultra-low quiescent current and high accuracy, making it well-suited for use in a variety of applications ranging from USB and portable devices to energy meters and home automation.

MFG_AP7381_SOT89The AP7381 is offered with fixed output voltages of 3.3 V or 5 V to power standard logic device supplies and I/O levels and can operate from an input voltage between 3.3 V and 40 V, which covers most common system power rails. The device provides excellent line and load regulation and features a low dropout voltage of typically 1,000 mV for a 3.3 V output device operating at an output current of 100 mA. An internal voltage reference ensures output accuracy at room temperature is maintained within ±2%.

A low quiescent current of just 2.5 µA minimizes standby power in low-power systems and extends the life of battery-operated products. The AP7381 has a built-in current limit and an over-temperature protection (OTP) function and also features over-current protection, provided by an internal current limit circuit. The AP7381 is available in a SOT89 package (on tape and reel) and in a TO92 package (ammo packed).

Diodes Incorporated | www.diodes.com

3.5″ Board Designed Rugged Environments

AAEON has launched the GENE-SKU6 W1, a 3.5-inch subcompact board with the specifications needed to handle harsh, unstable conditions. When hardware is used for outdoor, factory automation, or in-vehicle applications, you can’t always be sure that its DC input will remain stable. Because businesses can’t afford for their systems to shut down, they need computers that can withstand power fluctuations and keep on running. With that in mind, the GENE-SKU6 W1 has a DC input range of 9 to  36 VDC, so it takes power drops and spikes in its stride and continues operating.

pgal_160922_8bg2utThis rugged subcompact board also has a WiTAS 1 wide-temperature rating, meaning it’s guaranteed to run smoothly in environments as cold as -20°C and as hot as 70°C. This capability is achieved through intelligent design, low-power components and an effective heatsink. Those design features enable the GENE-SKU6 W1 to function as a reliable, fanless solution.

The board’s features include support for 4K resolution and independent DP, DVI, and LVDS display outputs. It has Mini-card and mSATA slots, four USB 3.0 and two USB 2.0 ports, four COM ports and an additional BIO interface enabling board-to-board connection.

AAEON | www.aaeon.com

Fanless SBC Targets Industrial IoT

Technologic Systems is now shipping its newest single board computer, the TS-7553-V2. The board is developed around the NXP i.MX6 UltraLite, a high performance  processor family featuring an advanced implementation of a single ARM Cortex-A7 core, which operates at speeds up to 696 MHz. While able to support a wide range of embedded applications, the TS-7553-V2 was specifically designed to target the industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) sector.

ts-7553-v2The TS-7553-V2 was designed with connectivity in mind. An on-board Xbee interface, capable of supporting Xbee or NimbleLink, provides a simple path to adding a variety of Wireless interfaces. An Xbee radio can be used to link in with a local 2.4GHz or sub 1 GHz mesh networks, allowing for gateway or node deployments. Either Digi or NimbleLink offer cellular radios for this socket, providing cellular connectivity for applications such as remote equipment monitoring and control. There is also the option for a cellular modem via daughter card. This allows transmission of serial data via TCP, UDP or SMS over the cellular network. The TS-7553-V2 also includes an on board WiFi b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0 option, providing even more connectivity.

Further radio expansion can be accomplished with the two internal USB interfaces (one on a standard USB Type A connector, and the second on simple pin headers). The USB interfaces enable support for multiple proprietary networks via a dongle or USB connected device. This provides the opportunity to run mesh, LoRa, ZigBee, automotive WiFi or other protocols with the TS-7553-v2 . All of these radio options combined with the on board 10/100Base-T Ethernet create the opportunity to communicate seamlessly with up to 5 different networks simultaneously from a single point.

The TS-75553-V2 supports standard interfaces including:

  •     10/100 Ethernet
  •     TTL UART
  •     4 USB ports (3 host interfaces and, 1 device)
  •     3 RS-232 Serial/COM ports
  •     RS-485 port
  •     CAN bus
  •     Up to 5 GPIO

A Nine-Axis Micro-Electro-Mechanical System (MEMS) motion tracking device containing a gyroscope, accelerometer and compass are optional on-board in for asset management, fleet management and other applications which would require sensing motion or vibration in the environment.

A low cost monochrome 128x64px LCD with 4 button keypad is available for Human Machine Interface (HMI) applications.  The keypad offers intuitive operation using 4 tactile function keys and the LCD is ideal for simple visualization tasks, even in harsh environments.  If HMI is not a consideration compact, lightweight, rugged enclosures are available to contain your gateway in a secure fanless enclosure. Both enclosures are DIN mountable.

Technologic Systems has taken the lead in combating read/write errors to memory that can prove fatal to Operating Systems. TS-SILO is an optional feature which will provide up to 30 seconds of reserve power in the event of a power failure. This precious extra time gives the board time to gracefully power down and ensures file system integrity. Additionally, for heavy data logging applications The TS-7553-V2 is the first SBC from Technologic Systems to include Ferroelectric RAM (FeRAM or FRAM). FeRAM advantages over flash include: lower power usage, faster write performance and a much greater maximum read/write endurance, allowing a user to keep running data logs without prematurely wearing out their flash memory. Combined these two features provide you with insurance from abrupt power loss, read/write errors and startup difficulties.

Applications with strict low power requirements will appreciate the work that’s been done to reduce power consumption to less than 2 W in typical conditions and a 9 mW sleep mode. Power over Ethernet (PoE) is supported via a daughter card, if desired.

Development can begin out-of-the-box with pre-installed Linux and utilities for controlling DIO, UARTS, CAN bus, and more. A complete board support package is provided, as well as access to our software repository and online support. Third party application support can be provided via the Technologic Systems’ Partner Network.

Technologic Systems | www.embeddedARM.com

COM-Based SBCs Offer High I/O Density

Diamond Systems has released its ultra-small COM-based ZETA single board computer family. Highlights include interchangeable COM Express COMs for scalability and long product life, ultra- compact size and an rich amount of I/O, including a complete high-quality analog and digital data acquisition subsystem.

Designed in the COM Express Mini Type 10 form factor (84 mm x 55 mm / 3.3 in. x 2.2in.), the Zeta family offers performance scalability due to its use of COM Express CPU modules. Three processor options are currently available: Intel “Bay Trail” E3825 dual-core 1.33 GHz CPU with soldered 2 GB RAM; Intel “Apollo Lake” E3940 quad core 1.60 GHz CPU with soldered 4 GB RAM; and Intel “Apollo Lake” N4200 quad core 1.1 GHz (burstable to 2.5 GHz) CPU with soldered 8 GB RAM.

zeta-enlargedThe use of interchangeable CPU modules in the increasingly popular COM Express Mini Type 10 format enables Zeta to serve applications across a wide spectrum of price and performance needs. It also offers customers the longest possible product lifetime by vastly simplifying migration to a new CPU when the current one reaches its end of life. Zeta is an excellent choice for applications with expected lifetimes of 10 or more years, including military, medical, and transportation.

Zeta’s two-board COM + baseboard construction yields the highest feature density possible in a given footprint. The COM provides the core CPU functions, while the baseboard provides the “final inch” for all the system I/O plus the data acquisition subsystem, power supplies, and expansion sockets. Zeta provides as much as a 60% reduction in size compared to boards in larger form factors offering the same level of I/O.

Zeta’s impressive I/O list includes the following:

  • VGA display and Single-Channel LVDS port
  • Dual Gigabit Ethernet
  • 4 USB 2.0 Ports + 1 USB 3.0 port
  • 4 RS-232/422/485 ports with software-programmable protocol and termination
  • 16 digital IlO lines
  • Optional complete analog and digital data acquisition system
  • Integrated wide-range 6 V to 36 V power input circuit

Zeta is available in two I/O configurations, digital I/O only or digital + analog I/O. The DIO only circuit offers 16 DIO lines with selectable 3.3V/5V logic levels. The full circuit includes 16 channels of 16-bit A/D, 4 channels of 16-bit D/A, 27 digital I/O lines with selectable 3.3V/5V logic levels, and 8 32-bit counter/timers, all supported by Diamond’s free, industry-leading Universal Driver data acquisition programming library. An interactive graphical control panel for Windows and Linux is also provided to control all data acquisition features.

Zeta offers multiple options for system expansion and mass storage. It includes a PCIe Minicard / mSATA socket and a micro-SD socket. A unique expansion connector enables the installation of a daughterboard that contains an M.2 SATA SSD socket, a second PCIe Minicard socket, HD audio and 16 additional GPIO lines.

A built-in heat spreader efficiently removes heat from the SBC to keep the processor and all internal electronics cooler for improved reliability. The bottom-side mounting configuration of the heat spreader provides a secure and convenient mounting system for the board. It also simplifies the installation of I/O expansion modules by eliminating interference or airflow problems that can occur with traditional heat sinks. All three models of Zeta are tested for operation over the full industrial temperature range of -40°C to +85°C, making Zeta well suited for vehicle applications.

Diamond Systems | www.diamondsystems.com