Avoid Reinventing the Wheel on Industrial Designs

Software updates are easy to roll out, but hardware upgrades on custom designs often require a major investment of time and money. A modular approach can speed up this process. In this article, congatec’s Dan Demers explains how.

Make slow progress or speed ahead with buy-in?

By Dan Demers, Director of Sales and Marketing – Americas, congatec

We are used to receiving software updates on-the-fly today. So why not utilize converged embedded computing platforms to upgrade our hardware? This would enable us to take direct advantage of the rapid development cycles of the computing, vision and AI industries.

There are plenty of examples on how to upgrade the hardware during running series production. In the medical sector, for instance, where medical devices even require certification. But it appears that some system developers have not yet learned how to consistently build computing core upgrades into their product development.

This is because full custom designs are still quite common. The integration of expensive navigation systems by premium vehicle manufacturers is a bad example of this. Although pretty and expensive, they are often much slower than the driver’s considerably cheaper mobile phone. Before the computer technology that’s installed in the vehicle gets used by the customer, it is usually already obsolete.  Market acceptance for such monolithic solutions is therefore dwindling noticeably.

The problem of these manufacturers is anchored in the design principles of mass production, where every cent matters, but no attention is paid to the innovation cycle demanded by users. This has fatal consequences: If the computing part is entirely custom designed, an upgrade will in many cases require a redesign, where the ability to reuse blocks of the previous generation is limited. So all in all, we’re talking about a major investment to always deploy the latest computer technology in an application.

But there’s another way: To avoid having to reinvent the wheel every time, the Computer-on-Module concept was developed at the end of the 90s. Modular approaches had existed before then, but it is only since the Computer-on-Module concept emerged, that modules stopped being proprietary and became available as standardized components from numerous providers.

congatec offers SFF Computer-on-Modules for all leading standards: SMARC 2.0, Qseven, COM Express Mini and COM Express Compact modules.

Computer-on-Modules are available in different designs. For low-power CPUs such as Intel Atom, AMD G-Series or the ARM i.MX6 and i.MX8 platforms from NXP, the Qseven and SMARC Computer-on-Module standards are particularly suitable. For higher computing power and interface demands, COM Express is the best standard. COM Express Type 6 modules support fast CPUs, like the AMD V1000 or the latest Intel Core processors.

Type 7 was defined for edge server processors and 10 Gbit Ethernet support; however, in true server fashion, it no longer supports any video interfaces. The upcoming PICMG COM-HPC standard will support even faster interfaces. The specification is due to be published in 2019, with first products expected in 2020.

With Server-on-Modules a modular approach is even suitable for the development and constant update of high-performance microservers by just exchanging the modules. This significantly reduce the efforts and cost connected for upgrades.

All in all, Computer-on-Modules are an ideal and easy way to equip machines and devices with the latest processor technology. So anyone who wants to use converged system platforms as part of their closed-loop engineering, will find that Computer-on-Modules are a perfect platform for performance upgrades. However, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t implement a full custom design when it comes to mass production. But here too, getting the module supplier to implement a fusion of modules and carrier board works significantly better than the OEM developing everything from scratch.

congatec | www.congatec.com/us

 

Sponsored by: congatec

Using Small PCs in New Ways

Innovative Interfacing

Even simple MCU-based projects often require some sort of front panel interface. Traditionally such systems had to rely on LEDs and switches for such simple interfaces. These days however, you can buy small, inexpensive computing devices such as mini PCs and tablet computers and adapt them to fill those interfacing roles. In this article, Wolfgang steps you through the options and issues involved in connecting such PC-based devices to an MCU-based environment.

By Wolfgang Matthes

More often than not, even a humble project—done for educational, tinkering or just for fun—needs some way to display something and to allow for operator interaction. That means contemplating how best to craft an operator console, a control panel, a display assembly or how to set up a testbed and the like. Solderless breadboards, jumper wire and the ubiquitous small modules were the traditional tools for such efforts—in the past there was no other way than to build real hardware from scratch.

It goes without saying that today’s state-of-the-art technology is characterized by computers with touchscreens and the like. Simply run your favorite flight simulator and compare the cockpits of an old Super Constellation or F-86 aircraft to the cockpits of a Boeing 777 or an F-22. In down-to- earth projects, it is quite natural to think of industrial-grade hardware—industrial PCs, embedded PCs and so on. But those can be way too expensive for our low-budget projects. That’s why we think about using small, inexpensive personal computers (PCs). This topic is best clarified through photos. With that in mind, besides what’s in this article, more photos can be found on Circuit Cellar’s article materials webpage.

Figure 1
Shown here are some jerry-built display and control panels

Figure 1 shows some devices that are essentially basic display and control panels. In most educational, tinkering or fun projects, it’s not practical to spend a lot of time and money to design and build impressive assemblies and panels. More often than not, the problem is solved by more or less sloppy tinkering. In contrast, the devices shown here are somewhat more advanced. They are still jerry-built, but they are crafted with sturdiness as a main objective.

Figure 2
Each of these basic control panels support eight digital outputs operated via toggle switches, and eight inputs whose levels are indicated by LEDs or on an LCD display.

Figure 2 shows three boxes that are basic control panels, each supporting eight inputs and eight outputs. While the device to the left is clearly jerry-built, the two other devices are the result of meticulous mechanical design—they were conducted as experiments (and student assignments) with an intentional disregard of cost. Figure 3 shows the interior of the most sophisticated of the control panels. It supports signal levels between 2.5 V and 24 V, remote operation via the USB and an LCD display. Under program control, it can be operated as a small quasi-static digital tester. When you need more than eight inputs or outputs, attach two or more panels via a USB or serial hub.

Figure 3
The interior of the somewhat more advanced (and expensive) control panel—the result of an exercise in mechanical and PCB design. The ribbon cables connect only the pin headers in the front panel. The PCBs are stacked one above the other, thereby avoiding cables or wiring harnesses.

It goes without saying that such a device is not that cheap. The bill-of-materials (BOM) cost alone could pay for more than one small tablet PC running Windows. Figure 4 shows an 8″ tablet in a purpose-built frame, attached to a test rig and two 7″ tablets in a 19″, 3U subrack. In contrast, those devices are considerably less expensive than the apparatus shown in Figure 3.

Figure 4
These are examples of small Windows tablets adapted to serve as operator consoles, diagnostic displays and testbed controllers.

Employing a PC requires programming skills, but no special craftsmanship or a workshop full of tools. Yes, writing and debugging programs may be challenging. But it’s a lot more forgiving than a mechanical interface where you could accidently turn a front panel into scrap metal, simply due to a misplaced hole or dealing with mismatched connections that only show up when you’re fitting the parts together. …

Read the full article in the September 350 issue of Circuit Cellar
(Full article word count: 4678 words; Figure count: 18 Figures. plus supplemental Figures here.)

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Industrial Embedded Computing Technology for Smart Robots

Modules for Cooperative Robotics

The Service Robotics Research Center of Ulm University of Applied Sciences is developing a modular software framework to make it easier to program robots. The goal is to provide software components that can be used universally, for instance to swap robotic gripping arms from different manufacturers as required to generate new robotics solutions via plug and play. The team at Ulm University relies on congatec to address the need for highly scalable and standardized embedded computing hardware.

By
Zeljko Loncaric

Marketing Engineer, congatec

Prof. Dr. Christian Schlegel
Service Robotics Research Group’ Ulm University of Applied Sciences

Today’s modern robots are highly complex constructions with numerous subsystems. They use manipulators with various axis and drive units, at the ends of which specific tools, gripper systems or measuring instruments are installed. Additional sensor systems are needed for controlling the kinematics as well as for object and position recognition, for example in pick-and-place applications. With the advent of autonomous and collaborative robots—sharing the same workspace with humans—many more tasks and building blocks are added. Examples include localizing and navigating mobile robots in industrial settings and safe man-machine interaction. In Industry 4.0 environments, an M2M interface to the surrounding machines and systems is also required. The goal is mutual task coordination. All of these different robot types—from autonomous to cooperative to collaborative—require enormously powerful software components and high-performance embedded systems.

Collaborative robotics needs hardware and software components that can be modularly assembled to suit their task. There should be minimal to no programming effort—it should be enough for the modules to be parameterized. (Source: Zentilia |
Dreamstime.com (ID 18864362)

High market demand for smart robots

Market demand for smart robots will grow rapidly in the coming years. For example, the market for autonomous robot systems is expected to grow at a CAGR of 23.7% until 2023, while the new market segment of collaborative robots is due to grow twice as much at an average 59% per annum. OEMs are under immense pressure to develop and to bring such new systems to market maturity as quickly as possible in order to participate in this high market growth. But the software development is a particularly great challenge for OEMs, system integrators and users: More subsystems have to be integrated into the already complex autonomous robotics solutions if they are to become collaborative and/or cooperative.

The Software Challenge

Today, the software for robots is frequently still implemented as a closed system— usually with individually tailored x86 or Arm hardware including ASICs or FPGAs. Often, the software is even individually tailored for each robot making reuse difficult. All tasks such as manipulator control, navigation, machine vision, task coordination and HMI are programmed as a unit. It is therefore currently nearly impossible to exchange software components even for the most frequently required functions or to use them on another hardware platform. This means that for every new design, the robotics software has to be re-implemented. This is both error-prone and time-consuming, and can significantly delay the rollout of much-needed innovative solutions—not to mention the hassle this causes operators who have to program each robot initially for its specific task.

Modular and Reusable

The development team of the Service Robotics Research Center of Ulm University of Applied Sciences under Professor Schlegel is now replacing this closed system approach, which perpetually creates new software projects for the system integrator and user, with a modular software approach that divides the complex overall robot system into several independent functional units, and then in a second step specifies the interaction between the individual units via fully and transparently defined interfaces. This concept, which is called SmartSoft, is now being expanded and widely marketed at the European level (EU H2020 project “RobMoSys – Composable Models and Software for Robotic Systems”) and national level (BMWi PAiCE project “SeRoNet – a platform for the joint development of service robot solutions”) in cooperation with partners from industry and research.

Essentially, this approach aims to make it possible to assemble robotic systems from fully developed and tested modular software building blocks. This allows software developers to focus on individual function modules without having to consider the internals of the other components. More importantly, it makes it possible to combine functions such as the cooperative or collaborative elements as well as the logic for specific manipulators and a lot more in a modular way – even across manufacturers. Ultimately, this also reduces the effort required for system integrators and end users to make customer-specific adaptations, and will significantly drive the widespread adoption of robotics.

So, let’s assume you have a manipulator from company A, combined with a chassis from manufacturer B, and a stereoscopic machine vision system from manufacturer C. The dedicated control software, for instance for use in intralogistics applications, is then easily assembled from the ready-made software components thanks to the high level of abstraction and requires only minor adjustments. This application is by no means a dream of the future, but already being tested in the real world. For example, the Ulm team has already implemented the service robotics duo Larry and Robotino, which, in a pharmaceutical intralogistics application for Transpharm Logistik GmbH, assembles drug packages from individual trays completely autonomously and takes them to a specified delivery point. In a slightly different configuration, the two robots have autonomously taken coffee orders and delivered them to the customer’s table. Thanks to the ready-made, freely combinable software components, the redesign took only a few hours. The video to see the two robots in action is posted here:

Containers with Clearly-Defined Interfaces

To enable virtually any assembly of elements, the team from the Service Robotics Research Center of Ulm University of Applied Sciences has developed a software model with individual service-oriented components and a model-driven open-source software toolchain for the Eclipse development environment. This environment provides component developers with tools that they can use to build their own code for each functional unit and then secure those algorithms by automatically generated component containers. These containers communicate with other containers based on uniform communication interfaces. In addition, the wrapping also protects the component developer’s IP. The team has already developed several such functional modules and makes them available for use in own projects. These include navigation modules, machine vision, HMI, manipulator control and task coordination, to name just a few examples. As a unifying communication interface, SmartSoft also relies on OPC UA. This allows manufacturers to focus on specific containers and build their core competencies here. Customers benefit from a much more flexible offer.

The SmartMDSD Toolchain allows component developers to develop software components for individual functional units that can be combined as required and reused in new robot designs. The underlying hardware should therefore be flexibly scalable.

Generic Embedded Hardware Instead of
Proprietary Designs

For the logic hardware, the Ulm team uses x86 technology to decouple the software development as far as possible from any specific hardware. With the appropriate glue logic, such an approach is particularly easy to implement with x86 technology also as far as the later migration of such systems is concerned.

Embedded x86 hardware is also particularly apt in this context because of the high standardization and comprehensive documentation. The form factors are standardized not only as regards dimensions but also in terms of the application programming interface. This facilitates replacement of hardware – provided the boards comply with the eAPI specification of the PICMG or SGET’s UIC standard. Under those circumstances, it is even possible to vary freely between different form factors such as motherboards and Computer-on-Modules depending on the requirements of the application without having to significantly change the way of accessing the hardware during the migration. One supplier who attaches great importance to this standardization and its documentation as well as the simplest possible hardware integration is congatec, whose products the Service Robotics Research Center of Ulm University of Applied Sciences uses in its projects.

“Next to basic requirements such as maximum computing power, energy efficiency and reliability, we also attach great importance to high standardization and the capability to migrate universally,” explains Matthias Lutz from Ulm University of Applied Sciences. “Every additional abstraction level in the software requires additional computing performance, so we’re currently working with powerful dual-core technology. A standardized approach to board components and GPIOs to control the robotics modules also gives us the abstraction required for independence at the embedded computing level.”

The autonomous picking robot Larry with congatec conga-IC175 Mini-ITX carrier board: High computing power, little heat waste, small form factor and highest reliability are the key factors here.

The choice ultimately fell on the fully industrial Mini-ITX carrier board conga-IC175. That’s because the standardized Mini-ITX form factor offers many advantages for developing the prototypes of the innovative software components into real systems: It already integrates all interfaces on a standardized board, and congatec lets you realize the power supply via standard ATX power supplies, industrial 12 V feed-in, or SMART batteries, which is essential for mobile robots such as Robotino and Larry. Extensions can also be implemented quickly and efficiently via PCIe expansion cards. The board is highly energy efficient and uses robust embedded components, so it can be operated without expensive cooling.

Evolution of embedded computing hardware from congatec for smart robots: Depending on the design concept and lot sizes in the series, OEMs can choose either embedded Mini-ITX motherboards (1), standardized carrier boards (here Mini-ITX) with Computer-on-Modules (2), customized carrier boards with Computer-on-Modules (3), or full custom designs (4), which congatec can implement comparatively quickly and easily on the basis of module upgrades.

Future commercial robot designs from Ulm will be implemented on Computer-on-Modules. But regardless of whether it’s a Mini-ITX motherboard, module with standard Mini-ITX carrier, module and individual carrier, or full-custom design: It is the Total cost of Ownership (TCO) that ultimately matters to OEMs, and when using modular software this is also determined by the software support of the hardware. To make it even easier to integrate more functionalities in the future, comprehensive support for real-time hypervisor technology can bring added benefits. This will give customers the option to integrate additional functionalities, such as their own IoT gateway, without having to use a dedicated hardware platform, which saves hardware costs.

“We see clear benefits in such modular approaches as they mirror the modular approach of our software. In this respect, it is very interesting to see that with the acquisition of Real-Time Systems congatec now has virtually direct access to the hypervisor technology of these robotics and automation experts,” concludes Lutz.

Coupled with the Technical Solution Center (TSC), in which congatec consolidates all its OEM services, this results in a complete package for customers such as the Service Robotics Research Center of Ulm University of Applied Sciences or Transpharm Logistik GmbH.

SIDEBAR:

Intralogistics Application at Transpharm Logistik GmbH
Picking tasks are performed by a heterogeneous robot fleet in an intralogistics application at congatec’s industrial partner Transpharm Logistik GmbH. The autonomous picking robot Larry is equipped with a UR5 manipulator module and uses a Segway chassis. The transport robot Robotino has a conveyor belt instead of a manipulator to take the picking robot to any point. Orders are received directly from the warehouse management system via WLAN. The fleet management system selects two picking robots, which then execute the order. The application is based on results from the BMBF project “LogiRob – Multi-Robot Transport System in a Shared Human-Machine Workspace” and “ZAFH Intralogistics – Collaborative Systems to Increase Intralogistics Flexibility”
(Baden-Württemberg and EU ERDF 2014-2020).

About the Authors
Zeljko Loncaric is Marketing Engineer, congatec. Prior to joining congatec mid-2010, he held various positions with international companies in product management, marketing and sales marketing in Germany and Australia. Zeljko holds an MBA in business management and a degree in Media Technology from the University of Deggendorf.

Prof. Dr. Christian Schlegel is in the ,Service Robotics Research Group’ Ulm University of Applied Sciences. Christian Schlegel (45) has been a professor at the Faculty of Computer Science at Ulm University of Applied Sciences since 2004. Schlegel, who received the Science Prize of the City of Ulm in 2010, is the coordinator of the “Service Robotics” joint project.

THIS ARTICLE IS SPONSORED CONTENT BROUGHT TO YOU BY:
congatec is a leading supplier of industrial computer modules using the standard form factors COM Express, Qseven and SMARC as well as single board computers and EDM services.                  www.congatec.com

This article appeared in the September 350 issue of Circuit Cellar
Don’t miss out on upcoming issues of Circuit Cellar. Subscribe today!

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Tuesday’s Newsletter: IoT Tech Focus

Coming to your inbox tomorrow: Circuit Cellar’s IoT Technology Focus newsletter. Tomorrow’s newsletter covers what’s happening with Internet-of-Things (IoT) technology–-from devices to gateway networks to cloud architectures. This newsletter tackles news and trends about the products and technologies needed to build IoT implementations and devices.

Bonus: We’ve added Drawings for Free Stuff to our weekly newsletters. Make sure you’ve subscribed to the newsletter so you can participate

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You’ll get your IoT Technology Focus newsletter issue tomorrow.

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Don’t be left out! Sign up now:

Our weekly Circuit Cellar Newsletter will switch its theme each week, so look for these in upcoming weeks:

Embedded Boards.(8/27) The focus here is on both standard and non-standard embedded computer boards that ease prototyping efforts and let you smoothly scale up to production volumes.

Analog & Power. (9/3) This newsletter content zeros in on the latest developments in analog and power technologies including DC-DC converters, AC-DC converters, power supplies, op amps, batteries and more.

Microcontroller Watch (9/10) This newsletter keeps you up-to-date on latest microcontroller news. In this section, we examine the microcontrollers along with their associated tools and support products.

Low-Profile SDM Signage Board Features Whiskey Lake-U

By Eric Brown

Axiomtek has launched an SDM form-factor “SDM500L” signage board with an 8th Gen Whiskey Lake-U processor with triple 4K display support, up to 32 GB RAM, 3x M.2 sockets, and extended temperature support.

Like the 6th Gen Skylake-based Nexcom NDiS S538 that we covered earlier this week, Axiomtek’s new SDM500L signage computer conforms to Intel’s Smart Display Module-Large (SDM-L) form factor, a sleeker version of its OPS (Open Pluggable Specification). It’s similarly designed to be integrated with SDM compliant displays via a PCIe x8 edge interface in special cabinetry aimed at locations with space constraints. Like OPS, SDM also supports remote management.


 
SDM500L, front and back
(click images to enlarge)


Like the Nexcom product, the 175 x 100 x 1.6mm SDM500L board lacks external housing and offers a mounting bracket and panel for the coastline ports. This would appear to boost the width to the SDM-L standard 20mm. The product lacks the fan and top covering of the NDiS S538.

Axiomtek offers an optional SDB100 peripheral interface board (PIB) per the SDM spec to house the board for testing before placing it into a custom enclosure. It offered no further details on the SDB100, however.

The SDM500L is designed for digital signage, interactive flat panel displays, interactive touch computers, video walls, bedside terminals for hospital patients, and factory automation solutions. The system is equipped with a choice of Intel’s 8th Gen Core i7/i5/i3 Whiskey Lake U-series processors with Intel AMT 12 support. No OS support was listed.


 
SDM500L with I/O panel mounting and detail view
(click images to enlarge)


Triple independent 4K displays are available via a coastline HDMI 1.4 port (4096 x 2160 @ 30p) plus HDMI 2.0 (4096 x 2160 @ 60p) and DP 1.2 (4096 x 2304 @ 60p) interfaces expressed via the PCIe x8 connector. There’s also an audio mic/headphone combo jack.

The board supports up to 32GB DDR4-2400 via dual sockets. There are 4x USB 3.0 host ports and single USB Type-C and GbE ports. The latter offers Wake-on-LAN, and it supports Intel vPro when using a Core i5 or i7 CPU model.

An M.2 E-key slot can load a WiFi/Bluetooth module, and there are M.2 M-key and B-key slots for SSD storage. The PCIe golden finger expresses a fifth USB 3.0 interface, as well as 2x I2C, a serial interface, and +12V & +3.3VBS power input, in addition to the HDMI and DP connections.

The SDM500L is further equipped with a watchdog, a Lithium 3V/220mAH battery, a reset button, and dual antenna mounts. There’s humidity resistance and a 0 to 60ºC operating range.

 
Further information

The SDM500L will be available this month at an undisclosed price. More information may be found in Axiomtek’s SDM500L announcement and product page.

This article originally appeared on LinuxGizmos.com on July 5.

Axiomtek | www.axiomtek.com

Ryzen Embedded V1000 Module Supports Four USB 3.1 Ports

By Eric Brown

Ibase has announced a COM Express Type 6 module equipped with AMD’s Ryzen Embedded V1000 system-on-chip. The announcement refers to the ET876 as a Compact module (95 x 95mm) like Ibase’s earlier, Intel 7th Gen “Kaby Lake” ET975, but the spec sheet and the photo indicate it’s a larger 125 x 95mm Basic module like Ibase’s 7th Gen ET970.


 
ET976, front and back
(click images to enlarge)

The ET976 follows other V1000-based COM Express Type 6 modules including Seco’s Compact COMe-B75-CT6, Kontron’s Compact COMe-cVR6, Advantech’s Basic SOM-5871, and MEN Micro’s Basic CB71C. The Kontron and MEN Micro modules also support the new stripped-down Ryzen Embedded R1000.

Ibase listed no OS support for the ET976, but all the other V1000-based modules either ship with Linux as the default or support Linux and Windows. The module supports the dual-core V1202B and the quad-core V1605B, V1807B, and V1807B SoCs at up to 3.8GHz. Applications include graphics-intensive devices used in industrial automation, medical imaging, transportation, gaming, payment systems, and ATM machines.

Claimed to be up to twice as fast as AMD’s earlier R-Series SoCs, the Ryzen Embedded V1000 competes with Intel’s similarly 14nm-fabricated Kaby Lake and Coffee Lake Core processors. The SoC offers up to four dual-threaded Zen CPU cores for 8x threads total, as well as high-end Radeon Vega 3 graphics with up to 11 compute units.



ET976 
(click image to enlarge)


The ET976 supports up to 8GB of DDR4, including ECC RAM. It integrates an Intel I210IT GbE controller a watchdog, hardware monitoring functionality, and support for TPM 2.0.

The announcement mentions triple independent displays, but the product page says there are only dual displays. In any case, they are enabled with 2x DDI and either an LVDS or optional eDP interface. No resolution was mentioned, but some of the other modules support 4K video.

This is the first V1000-based module we’ve seen with USB 3.1 support as opposed to USB 3.0. The ET976 expresses I/O including 4x USB 3.1, 8x USB 2.0, 2x SATA III, 2x UART, HD audio, and 4-in/4-out DIO. The module provides a single PEG x8 connection and 8x PCIe expansion interfaces, and there’s support for 0 to 60°C temperatures.

 
Further information

No pricing or availability information was provided for the ET976. More information may be found in Ibase’s ET976 announcement and product page.

This article originally appeared on LinuxGizmos.com on July 16.

Ibase | www.ibase.com.tw

Tuesday’s Newsletter: Microcontroller Watch

Coming to your inbox tomorrow: Circuit Cellar’s Microcontroller Watch newsletter. Tomorrow’s newsletter keeps you up-to-date on latest microcontroller news. In this section, we examine microcontrollers along with their associated tools and support products.

Bonus: We’ve added Drawings for Free Stuff to our weekly newsletters. Make sure you’ve subscribed to the newsletter so you can participate.

Already a Circuit Cellar Newsletter subscriber? Great!
You’ll get your Microcontroller Watch newsletter issue tomorrow.

Not a Circuit Cellar Newsletter subscriber?
Don’t be left out! Sign up now:

Our weekly Circuit Cellar Newsletter will switch its theme each week, so look for these in upcoming weeks:

IoT Technology Focus. (8/20) Covers what’s happening with Internet-of-Things (IoT) technology–-from devices to gateway networks to cloud architectures. This newsletter tackles news and trends about the products and technologies needed to build IoT implementations and devices.

Embedded Boards.(8/27) The focus here is on both standard and non-standard embedded computer boards that ease prototyping efforts and let you smoothly scale up to production volumes.

Analog & Power. (9/3) This newsletter content zeros in on the latest developments in analog and power technologies including DC-DC converters, AC-DC converters, power supplies, op amps, batteries and more.

Arm-based SBC has PoE, Wi-Fi/BT and More

By Eric Brown

Gateworks’ headless “Ventana GW5910” SBC runs OpenWrt or Ubuntu on a dual-core i.MX6 and provides GbE with PoE, WiFi/BT, optional GPS, Sub-1 GHz, and 2.4 GHz radios, and dual mini-PCIe slots for further wireless expansion.

Freescale’s i.MX6 was ahead of its time when it launched in 2011, and in the NXP era it it has continued to hold on in the embedded Linux market far longer and with greater dominance than any other processor. It’s only a matter of time before i.MX6-focused embedded vendors like Gateworks move on to the i.MX8 or other SoCs, but in the meantime there’s something to be said for working with a consistent SoC and platform/software platform rather than starting from scratch every few years.

Gateworks has just added to its i.MX6 collection by posting a product page for a new member of its Linux-supported, i.MX6-driven Ventana SBC family. Like other Ventana boards, the headless, wireless-oriented Ventana GW5910 supports -40 to 85°C temperatures.


 
Ventana GW5910 and block diagram
(click images to enlarge)


The Ventana GW5910 has the same 100 x 70mm form factor as the Ventana GW5220. Other Ventana boards include the 140 x 100mm Ventana GW5400, 100 x 35mm Ventana GW5530, and 70 x 35mm Ventana GW5510. The complete family of Ventana boards are compared here.

This is the first Ventana board to offer built-in WiFi/BT, via a Laird Sterling module with 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.2 LE. There’s also an optional Ti CC1352P module with dual-band sub-1GHz and 2.4GHz RF support, enabling 802.15.4g wireless protocols like 6LoWPAN, Thread, and Zigbee. There’s also an option for a u-blox ZOE-M8 GNSS Receiver.

Like the Ventana GW5530, the Ventana GW5910 offers mini-PCIe expansion, and this time there are two slots instead of one. One of them supports mSATA storage and the other is accompanied by a nano-SIM slot with LTE support.

The 802.15.4g and GPS modules do not use the mini-PCIe slots, so you could conceivably have five different wireless technologies onboard at once, as well as a GbE port with both passive and active 802.3af Power-over-Ethernet support.

Like most of the Ventana boards, the GW5910 uses the dual Cortex-A9 version of NXP’s i.MX6. The board defaults to an OpenWrt BSP with U-Boot, and there’s also an Ubuntu BSP available. It lacks the Yocto, Debian, and Android support found on the other boards.


 
Ventana GW5910 detail views
(click images to enlarge)


The Ventana GW5910 ships with the usual 512MB DDR3 and 256MB flash, but you can bump those up to 2GB for volume customization orders. There’s also a microSD slot and connectors for 2x serial, SPI, and DIO. There are no USB or display ports, but you get JTAG, an accelerometer, an RTC with battery, an 8-60VDC input, and the Gateworks System Controller.

The Gateworks boards are extensively documented for both software and hardware. However, as noted in the CNXSoft post that alerted us to the GW5910, the software wiki has yet to post details specific to the SBC.

Specifications listed for the Ventana GW5910 SBC include:

  • Processor — NXP i.MX6 Dual (2x ARM Cortex-A9 cores @ 800MHz); Vivante GPU
  • Memory/storage:
    • 512MB DDR3-800 RAM (up to 2GB with volume customization)
    • 256MB flash (up to 2GB with volume customization)
    • MicroSD slot
  • Networking:
    • Gigabit Ethernet port with Passive or 802.3af (36-60VDC) PoE
    • 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.2 LE (Laird Sterling) with ant. connector
    • Optional Ti CC1352P module with dual-band sub-1GHz (+20dBm TX Power) and 2.4GHz RF, supporting 802.15.4g protocols like 6LoWPAN, Thread, Zigbee, Wi-Sun, BLE 5
    • Optional u-blox ZOE-M8 GNSS Receiver with GPS/Galileo/GLONASS/BeiDou (72-ch., -167dBm)
  • Other I/O:
    • 2x serial interfaces
    • DIO and SPI connectors
    • JTAG interface
  • Expansion:
    • 2x mini-PCIe Gen 2 slots (1x with PCIe/USB 2.0 and mSATA, 1x USB 2.0) with 16W power
    • Nano-SIM slot with LTE and CATM1 support
  • Other features:
    • 3-axis accelerometer/magnetometer
    • Gateworks System Controller with watchdog, etc.
    • RTC with coin cell battery holder
    • Optional dev kit with PoE injector, power adapter, JTAG-USB programmer, pre-loaded BSP, and Ventana Wire Terminal Breakout Adapter
  • Power — 8-60VDC; 3W ([email protected]) typical consumption; reverse voltage and transient protection
  • Operating temperature — -40 to 85°C; humidity resistance (20% to 90% non-condensing)
  • Dimensions — 100 x 70 x 21mm
  • Operating system — OpenWrt and Ubuntu BSPs with U-boot

 
Further information

The Ventana GW5910 appears to be available now at an undisclosed price. More information may be found on Gateworks’ Ventana GW5910 product page.

This article originally appeared on LinuxGizmos.com on July 10.

Gateworks | www.gateworks.com

Congatec Rolls Out Ten Modules Based on Coffee Lake H Processors

Congatec has announced 10 new COM Express Type 6 modules featuring the latest Intel embedded processor technology. The four Intel Xeon, three Intel Core, two Intel Celeron and one Intel Pentium processors are all based on the same Intel microarchitecture (codenamed Coffee Lake H). This enables Congatec to provide all 10 new processors on one COM Express module design: the conga-TS370. A total of 14 processor module variants are now available on this single microarchitecture, offering extremely wide scalability.

The spearhead in terms of computing power is the 45 W 6-core module with 2.8 GHz Intel Xeon E-2276ME processor. It provides the highest embedded computing performance with integrated high-performance processor graphics currently available worldwide, while the 2.4 GHz Intel Celeron G4930E processor module with 35 watts sets the new price-performance benchmark.

Particularly noteworthy are the two 6-core Congatec modules with a TDP of 25 W offered on Intel Xeon E-2276ML and Intel Core i7-9850HL processors. They enable developers to create completely passively cooled embedded edge computing systems that can run up to 12 standalone virtual machines in parallel thanks to hyperthreading. This allows operation even in fully sealed systems, under the harshest environmental conditions and with the highest IP protection. The same applies to the two quad-core modules with Intel Xeon E-2254ML or Intel Core i3-9100HL processor as well as the Intel Celeron G4932E processor-based module, all featuring a–partly configurable –TDP of 25 W.

Other applications besides embedded edge computing including classic high-end medical imaging systems and HMIs as well as high-end gaming, infotainment and digital signage systems that require best-in-class computing power and throughput on a single die in tandem with the Intel graphics technology.

Congatec | www.congatec.com

Tuesday’s Newsletter: Analog & Power

Coming to your inbox on Tuesday: Circuit Cellar’s Analog & Power newsletter. This newsletter content zeros in on the latest developments in analog and power technologies including ADCs, DACs, DC-DC converters, AC-DC converters, power supplies, op amps, batteries and more.

Bonus: We’ve added Drawings for Free Stuff to our weekly newsletters. Make sure you’ve subscribed to the newsletter so you can participate.

Already a Circuit Cellar Newsletter subscriber? Great!
You’ll get your Analog & Power newsletter issue tomorrow.

Not a Circuit Cellar Newsletter subscriber?
Don’t be left out! Sign up now:

Our weekly Circuit Cellar Newsletter will switch its theme each week, so look for these in upcoming weeks:

Microcontroller Watch. (8/13) This newsletter keeps you up-to-date on latest microcontroller news. In this section, we examine the microcontrollers along with their associated tools and support products.

IoT Technology Focus. (8/20) Covers what’s happening with Internet-of-Things (IoT) technology–-from devices to gateway networks to cloud architectures. This newsletter tackles news and trends about the products and technologies needed to build IoT implementations and devices.

Embedded Boards.(8/27) The focus here is on both standard and non-standard embedded computer boards that ease prototyping efforts and let you smoothly scale up to production volumes.

Bonus Newsletter: PCB Design Tools

We have a BONUS newsletter for you this week: PCB Design Tools! The process of PCB design is always facing new complexities. Rules-based autorouting, chips with higher lead counts and higher speed interconnections are just a few of the challenges forcing PCB design software to keep pace. This newsletter updates you on the latest happenings in this area.

Bonus: We’ve added Drawings for Free Stuff to our weekly newsletters. Make sure you’ve subscribed to the newsletter so you can participate.

Already a Circuit Cellar Newsletter subscriber? Great!
You’ll get your
Embedded Boards newsletter issue tomorrow.

Not a Circuit Cellar Newsletter subscriber?
Don’t be left out! Sign up now:

Our weekly Circuit Cellar Newsletter will switch its theme each week, so look for these in upcoming weeks:

Analog & Power. (8/6) This newsletter content zeros in on the latest developments in analog and power technologies including DC-DC converters, AC-DC converters, power supplies, op amps, batteries and more.

Microcontroller Watch (8/13) This newsletter keeps you up-to-date on latest microcontroller news. In this section, we examine the microcontrollers along with their associated tools and support products.

IoT Technology Focus. (8/20) Covers what’s happening with Internet-of-Things (IoT) technology–-from devices to gateway networks to cloud architectures. This newsletter tackles news and trends about the products and technologies needed to build IoT implementations and devices.

Embedded Boards.(8/27) The focus here is on both standard and non-standard embedded computer boards that ease prototyping efforts and let you smoothly scale up to production volumes

PICMG to Develop COM Open Spec for Server-Level Edge Computing

PICMG has announced that it has recently formed the COM-HPC technical subcommittee. It is actively developing a new COM (Computer-On-Module) specification to meet the increasing requirements of edge computing applications. Well suited for a wide range of applications, PICMG’s popular COM Express has been adopted worldwide and is anticipated to grow and thrive over the next decade.

According to multiple research reports, the computer-on-module (COM) market is expanding rapidly and is expected to reach over $1 billion by 2022. The technical requirements to bring server-level computing to the edge have driven the need to create new open specifications to complement COM Express. PICMG members have long been at the forefront of designing and supplying edge computing solutions and are collaborating to meet the requirements of applications well into the future.

PICMG says the new COM specification under development is in parallel to existing COM Express efforts. This effort is intended to complement rather than be a replacement for COM Express The subcommittee will develop a next-generation COM standard and an accompanying Carrier Design Guide. The new specification is expected to support two different module types: one for high-performance computing, the other for embedded computing. Initial plans include incorporating a new high-speed connector able to support existing and future interfaces such as PCI Express Gen 5, and 100/200 Gbit Ethernet. The specification will target medium to high-performance server-class processors.

Key COM-HPC Goals:

  • Support for PCIe Gen 5.0 (32 Gb/s)
  • 64 PCIe Lanes
  • 25 Gbit Ethernet per signal pair to support 100 Gbit Ethernet
  • Update of other interfaces to latest technology levels

The goal is to have specifications ratified in early 2020. The team has elected Christian Eder of congatec as committee chair. Kontron’s Stefan Milnor is the technical editor and Dylan Lang of Samtec is the secretary.

“COM-HPC will become a very high-performance module specification,” said committee chair Christian Eder. “It is not a replacement for COM Express; it extends the computer modules to a completely new level. It will serve as a transition from Computer-On-Module to Server-On-Module.”

So far, this initiative includes twenty active member participating companies: ADLINK, Advantech, Amphenol, Bielefeld University, congatec, Elma, Emerson, ept, FASTWEL, HEITEC, Intel, Kontron, MEN Mikro, MSC Technologies, N.A.T., Samtec, SECO, TE Connectivity, Trenz Electronic and VersaLogic.

PICMG | www.picmg.org

 

Next Newsletter: Embedded Boards

Coming to your inbox tomorrow: Circuit Cellar’s Embedded Boards newsletter. Tomorrow’s newsletter content focuses on both standard and non-standard embedded computer boards that ease prototyping efforts and let you smoothly scale up to production volumes.

Bonus: We’ve added Drawings for Free Stuff to our weekly newsletters. Make sure you’ve subscribed to the newsletter so you can participate.

Already a Circuit Cellar Newsletter subscriber? Great!
You’ll get your
Embedded Boards newsletter issue tomorrow.

Not a Circuit Cellar Newsletter subscriber?
Don’t be left out! Sign up now:

Our weekly Circuit Cellar Newsletter will switch its theme each week, so look for these in upcoming weeks:

July has a 5th Tuesday . That’s means we’re giving you an extra Newsletter: PCB Design! (7/30) The process of PCB design is always facing new complexities. Rules-based autorouting, chips with higher lead counts and higher speed interconnections are just a few of the challenges forcing PCB design software to keep pace. This newsletter updates you on the latest happenings in this area.

Analog & Power. (8/6) This newsletter content zeros in on the latest developments in analog and power technologies including DC-DC converters, AC-DC converters, power supplies, op amps, batteries and more.

Microcontroller Watch (8/13) This newsletter keeps you up-to-date on latest microcontroller news. In this section, we examine the microcontrollers along with their associated tools and support products.

IoT Technology Focus. (8/20) Covers what’s happening with Internet-of-Things (IoT) technology–-from devices to gateway networks to cloud architectures. This newsletter tackles news and trends about the products and technologies needed to build IoT implementations and devices.

Updated COMe Board Sports 9th Gen Intel Processors, 128 GB RAM

Kontron is providing the its COMe-bCL6 COM Express basic Type 6 form factor (125 mm x 95 mm) board equipped with Intel 9th Gen processors. With up to four memory sockets it enables a maximum memory expansion of up to 128 GB. The board is available in different processor versions. All versions can be equipped with up to 128 GB non-ECC/ECC DDR4 memory.

The Intel Optane system accelerator ensures fast data transfer from and to high-capacity mass storage devices. NVMe SSD also supports what is currently the fastest storage technology in a very compact package. Thanks to USB 3.1 support with up to 10 Gbps and USB Type-C support, twice the bandwidth (compared to USB 3.0) can be achieved for fast data transfers.

The COMe-bCL6 is well suited as a successor for existing solutions, because it takes over their pin out and feature implementation. Typical applications include communication, digital signage, professional gaming and entertainment, medical imaging, surveillance and security, industrial edge or server applications, as well as industrial plant, machine and robot control, both at shop floor level and from the control room. The rugged variants of the COMe-bCL6 meet the particular demands of the defense, transportation and avionics sectors by offering an extended feature set and industrial temperature range from -40°C to +85°C.

The COMe-bCL6 supports the Kontron APPROTECT security solution based on Wibu-Systems CodeMeter. In addition, Kontron APPROTECT Licensing enables the realization of new business models such as pay-per-use or time-based test versions.

Kontron | www.kontron.com

3.5-Inch SBC Serves up Coffee Lake-H Processors

COMMELL has unveiled its LE-37M 3.5-inch SBC based on Intel 8th generation Coffee Lake-H Core processor family. The Coffee Lake-H 8th generation Intel Core i7/i5/i3 processors provides higher computing and graphics performance but at a similar power dissipation level to the previous 7th generation. The LE-37M SBC will be offered with two processor variants: LE-37M5 comprised of Core i5-8400H Max Turbo up to 4.2 GHz with 4 CPU cores, 8-thread and 45 W TDP, LE-37M7 comprise of Core i7-8850H Max Turbo up to 4.3 GHz with 6 CPU cores, 12-thread and 45 W TDP.

The LE-37M 3.5-inch SBC is designed for the 8th generation Intel Core H-series processors in the FCBGA1440 and accompany with Intel QM370 Chipset. DDR4 memory is supported up to a total of 32 GB (DDR4 SO-DIMM 2,666 MHz). The SBC is based on powerful Intel UHD Graphics that provides high-end media and graphics capabilities, allows triple independent display with 4k resolution each, and comes with hardware-based video encoding and decoding up to 4k. The LE-37M features VGA, LVDS, HDMI and one DisplayPort outputs to provide its advanced solutions for imaging, machine vision and infotainment applications, medical and gaming machine applications.

The SBC provides lots of features including high-speed data transfer interfaces such as 4 x USB3.1 Gen2 and 2 x SATAIII, equipped with dual Gbit Ethernet Intel I210 and I219-LM (iAMT 11.0 support), and comes with PS/2 port, 2 x RS232 and 2 x RS232/422/485, 4 x USB 2.0, Realtek High Definition Audio, 1 x SMBus, 1 x 8 bit GPIO, 1 x MiniPCIe (support mSATA), 1 x M.2 (Key E). The operating voltage of LE-37M is from 9 V to 35 V DC power supply.

COMMELL | www.commell.com.tw