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
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TECHNOLOGY FOR SECURITY, SENSORS & THE IoT

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Digital Signage Technologies Gain Momentum

System Solutions

Digital signage ranks among the most dynamic areas of today’s embedded computing space. Vendors involved in this technology continue to roll out new solutions for developing powerful digital signage implementations.

By Jeff Child, Editor-in-Chief

Digital signage is one of those technologies that seemed to breeze into our modern society so quickly and smoothly that it’s hard to image life without it. Today’s technologies provide users with the ability to easily update information on large, high-resolution displays in real-time and in rugged, outdoor environments. And the ability to rotate ads even on billboard-sized displays has multiplied revenue streams for stakeholders using digital signage systems.

At the heart of today’s landscape of modern digital signage are a variety of digital signage players that support advances graphics and multiple streams of connectivity. Also in the mix are general-purpose box-level embedded computing systems that provide solutions for signage applications. Obviously displays make up part of the ecosystem too, but this article focuses strictly on the embedded computing side of digital signage.

Waterproof Design

In March, Ibase Technology launched its latest SW-101-N waterproof digital signage player designed for both indoor and harsh outdoor environments. This rugged fanless signage player is integrated with a 1.91 GHz Intel Atom Processor E3845 Quad-Core Processor and Intel HD graphics (Gen 7-LP) 4EU (Figure 1). The SW-101-N is built to withstand dust, water and extreme temperatures. This ensures the system’s stable operation and reliability in harsh industrial environments.

Figure 1
The SW-101-N is a waterproof, fanless signage player that is integrated with a 1.91 GHz Intel Atom Processor E3845 Quad-Core Processor and Intel HD graphics (Gen 7-LP) 4EU. The SW-101-N is built to withstand dust, water and extreme temperatures in mind.

The SW-101-N meets IP68 standards, allowing it to handle submersion in water for up to 30 minutes at a depth of 1.5 meters. The black-color waterproof enclosure uses a C3 HDMI connector and M12 I/O interface connectors for two USB 2.0, one Gbit LAN, one RS-232, DC power input and digital I/O. Two antenna N-jack type connectors have waterproof designs as well. Aside from being fanless, the unit has a wide operating temperature range of -40°C to 75°C.

The SW-101-N supports Ibase’s iControl and Observer technologies for intelligent control and remote monitoring functions that feature auto power on/off scheduling, power resume, system temperature/voltage remote monitoring and low temperature boot protection. The standard model has 4 GB of DDR3L-1333 system memory, 64 GB mSATA storage, and 12 V DC-in support. Additional features include a watchdog timer, wall mounting and Mini PCIe expansion for optional wireless modules.

Tiny Signage Player

A powerful set of digital signage functionality can be squeezed into a very small form factor these days. In an example along those lines, in September Advantech introduced its USM-110, an ultra-compact digital signage player. This fanless system provides support for Android 6.0 and Advantech’s own WISE-PaaS/SignageCMS digital signage management software. The compact (156 mm x 110 m x 27 mm) device follows earlier Advantech signage computers such as the slim-height, Intel Skylake based DS-081.

The USM-110, which is also available in a less feature rich USM-110 Delight model, ships with 2 GB DDR3L-1333, as well as a microSD slot. It has 16 GB of eMMC on the standard version and 8 GB on the Delight. There’s also a GbE port and an M.2 slot with support for an optional Wi-Fi module with antenna kit.

The USM-110 has two HDMI ports, both with locking ports: an HDMI 2.0 port with H.265-encoded, native 4K at 60 Hz (3840 x 2160) and a 1.4 port with 1080p resolution. The system enables dual simultaneous HD displays. The Delight version lacks the 4K-ready HDMI port, as well as the standard model’s mini-PCIe slot, which is available with an optional 4G module with antenna kit. The Delight is also missing the standard version’s RS232/485/422 port, and it has only one USB 2.0 host port instead of four. Otherwise, the two models are the same, with a micro-USB OTG port, audio jack, reset, dual LEDs and a 12V/3A DC input. The 0.43 kg system has a 0 to 40°C range, and offers VESA, wall, desktop, pole, magnet and DIN-rail mounting (Figure 2).

Figure 2
The USM-110 is a digital signage player that supports Android 6.0 and Advantech’s WISE-PaaS/SignageCMS digital signage management software. The compact unit measures 156 mm x 110 m x 27 mm and features VESA, wall, desktop, pole, magnet and DIN-rail mounting options as shown here.

Advantech’s WISE-PaaS/SignageCMS digital signage management software— also referred to as UShop+ SignageCMS— supports remote, real-time management. It allows users to layout, schedule and dispatch signage contents to the player over the Internet, enabling remote delivery of media and media content switching via interactive APIs. A WISE Agent framework for data acquisition supports RESTful API web services for accessing and controlling applications.

Cable-Free Design

Like many of today’s embedded applications, digital signage has entered the wireless era. Along just those lines, in February Axiomtek launched the DSP300-318, an Intel Apollo Lake based digital signage player promoted for its ultra-slim, 200 mm x 137.8 mm x 20 mm dimensions. The 4K-ready system is designed for space-constrained digital menu boards, self-ordering systems, retail applications, queuing systems, interactive kiosks and video walls.

The system runs Ubuntu or Debian Linux or Windows 10 IoT on Intel’s dual-core, 1.1 GHz Celeron N3350 or quad-core, 2.5 GHz Pentium N4200. Two DDR3L-1600 SO-DIMMs provide up to 8 GB of system memory. And there’s an option for 64 GB eMMC 5.0. The DSP300-318 stands out with its triple M.2 slot design. In addition to an M.2 M-Key 2280 for storage, there’s an M.2 E-Key 2230 for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth and an M.2 B-Key 3042 for 4G LTE. A SIM card slot and 4x antenna mounts are also available (Figure 3).

Figure 3
DSP300-318 is an Intel Apollo Lake based digital signage player with two DDR3L-1600 SO-DIMMs providing up to 8 GB of system memory. There’s an M.2 E-Key 2230 for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth and an M.2 B-Key 3042 for 4G LTE. A SIM card slot and 4x antenna mounts are also available.

The DSP300-318’s 4K-ready HDMI 1.4 and DisplayPort 1.2 ports support dual simultaneous displays. Other features include 2x GbE ports, 3x USB 3.0 ports and single USB 2.0 and RS-232 ports. Dual audio jacks are also available. The DSP300-318 has a 12 VDC terminal screw input, as well as power, reset, and remote switches. There’s also a watchdog timer and a Lithium 3V/220mA-hour battery. The fanless system supports 0 to 50°C temperatures and offers humidity resistance and 3 Grms vibration resistance with M.2 storage (5 to 500 Hz, X, Y, Z).

Players with OPS Support

In 2010, Intel launched the Open Pluggable Specification (OPS) to standardize the system architecture between displays and media players. According to Intel, OPS allows for more cost-effective design, deployment, and management of digital signage and other display solutions that support advanced functionality and emerging use cases, including interactivity and anonymous audience analytics. OPS began appearing in signage systems such as the Axiomtek OPS860 back in 2011. The spec standardizes mounting and power requirements and connects to OPS-compatible displays via an 80-pin JAE Electronics TX24/TX25 blind mate plug and receptacle connector system.

In June 2018, Ibase launched its IOPS- 602 signage player that runs Windows 10 or Ubuntu Linux on Intel’s 6th or 7th Gen. Core QC/DC processors, with a default to dual-core, 7th Gen “Kaby Lake” U-series processors with 15 W TDPs. The standard SKU is a Core i7- 7600U (2.8 GHz/3.9 GHz) with 8 GB RAM and 128 GB of M.2 storage.

The 200 mm x 119 mm x 30 mm IOPS-602 uses an OPS standard 12 V to 19 V DC input and OPS mounting bracket. The JAE connector is mounted on the back of the system. An optional expansion dock with 150 W adapter is available for using the systems with non-OPS displays. Up to 32 GB of DDR4-2133 DRAM can be loaded via dual slots, and there’s an M.2 M-Key slot for 2280 SSD cards. An M.2 E-Key slot is available for 2230-based Wi-Fi/Bluetooth cards.

The IOPS-602 also provides 4x USB 3.0, HDMI 1.4b and Gbit Ethernet ports, as well as an RS232 serial connection provided via an RJ45 port. You also get dual audio jacks, LEDs, a watchdog and iAMT compliance for remote management. The system supports 0°C to 45°C temperatures and resists vibrations to the tune of 5 Grms, 5 to 500 Hz random operation with an SSD.

Moving on to OPS+

Intel developed a follow-on spec called OPS+ that builds on the benefits and powerful functionality of the OPS by enabling a broader range of Intel processors to include the Intel Xeon processor family, a range of Intel desktop processors and Intel FPGAs. OPS+ can also add functionality based on specific industry needs such as supporting simultaneous display and broadcast usages, support for 8K resolution displays and the ability to drive three individual 4K resolution display outputs.

According to Intel, OPS+ defines a 180 mm x 119 mm x 30 mm, fully enclosed digital signage systems with enhanced thermal design supports broader range of Intel processors. The enhanced spec is optimized for interactive white boards (IWBs), commercial digital signage, kiosks, visual data devices, video walls and so on. With OPS+, you can customize a protocol and simultaneously support advanced use cases including real-time analytics and video capture performed on the display itself. The spec also features a second high-speed connector and is backward compatible with previous OPS specifications.

In December Axiomtek released the first OPS+-compliant digital signage player, the OPS700-520. The system is powered by the LGA1151 socket 8th generation Intel Core i7/i5/i3 and Celeron processors (codename: Coffee Lake S) with the Intel Q370 chipset. The player supports Intel Active Management Technology (Intel AMT) 11.0 as well as Intel Unite solution for content sharing and collaboration. It comes with two 260-pin DDR4-2400 SO-DIMM sockets that can provide system memory of up to 32 GB (Figure 4).

Figure 4
The first OPS+-compliant digital signage player, the OPS700-520 is powered by the LGA1151 socket 8th generation Intel Core i7/i5/i3 and Celeron processors. The player supports Intel Active Management Technology (Intel AMT) 11.0 as well as Intel Unite solution for content sharing and collaboration.

The OPS700-520 is compatible with Intel Unite, which allows users to connect and interact with meeting content in real time, thus enhancing seamless meeting experiences and convenience. It also comes with Intel AMT 11.0. Software issues can be repaired wirelessly while failed hardware components can be identified beforehand, thereby lowering maintenance costs and improving efficiency. The signage module is suitable for multi-display solutions such as IWBs in meeting rooms, commercial digital signage, video walls and more.

The digital signage player can be easily connected to an OPS-plus compliant display via two high-speed transmission connector interfaces: JAE TX25A and HRS-FX18. The JAE plug connector interface supports one DisplayPort (4K at 60 Hz), one HDMI 2.0 (4K at 60 Hz), one USB 3.0, two USB 2.0, one audio and UART signals. The HRS plug connector interface supports one DisplayPort (4K at 60 Hz) and one PCI Express x4. These two connector interfaces enhance multimedia performance to meet various requirements. The OPS700-520 also has one PCIe or SATA interface for storage, one M.2 Key E for Wi-Fi modules and one M.2 Key M NVMe SSD slot.

The OPS700-520 maintains the small form factor with dimensions of just 200 mm x 119 mm x 30 mm. It comes with rich I/O connectors including two USB 3.1 Gen2, two USB 2.0, one RS-232 (COM 2), one Gbit LAN with Intel i219-LM Ethernet controller and one HDMI. The unit supports Windows 10 64-bit and Linux operation systems. Also, it supports the TPM 2.0 which can provide security and privacy benefits.

3D Digital Signage

A unique twist on tradition digital signage in the emergence of 3D capability. Feeding that need, in October last year EFCO introduced a development and signage solution for creating advanced 3D slot machine games. The company’s 3D Bare-Eye Content Development Kit and Signage Solution was designed to enable developers of casino slot machine games and digital signage displays to provide 3D content that can be viewed without special glasses (Figure 5).

Figure 5
3D Bare-Eye Content Development Kit and Signage Solution was designed to enable developers of casino slot machine games and digital signage displays to provide 3D content that can be viewed without special glasses.

3D Bare-Eye is based on the Unity software environment, which, according to EFCO, is the defacto standard development toolset among game developers. When used for casino games, instead of simply displaying images of coins on the screen, the coins now appear to be falling out of the slot machine toward the player. But the technology can also be used for any digital signage or progressive display application, says EFCO.

The 3D Bare-Eye Solution is made up of a development kit and a broadcast kit. The content development kit is based on Unity. Because Unity is the most common gaming development environment, it’s easy to adopt. The kit also comes with a monitor, computer system and a proprietary interface card that connects the development system to the playback system. Features of the 3D Content Development kit include: Intel Core i5-6500, 4C/4T with boost to 3.6 GHz, NVIDIA GTX1050Ti (4 GB GDDR5) or GTX1070Ti, 2.5″ SATA SSD 256 GB, an average 190 W power consumption and 3840 x 2160 display support.

The broadcast kit comes with a ready-to-use 55″ and 65″ 3D digital signage 4K display with playback system. A 3D film on the monitor provides the third dimension to viewers. Features of the kit include Intel Pentium CPU, NVIDIA graphics GTX1050Ti (4GB GDDR5), 2.5″ SATA SSD 64 GB storage, power input of AC 100 V to 240 V, 50 Hz to 60 Hz and power consumption averaging 150 W.

Fanless Solution

While dedicated, purpose-built solutions—like the ones discussed so far in this article—are one approach to digital signage applications, another angle is to employ box-level general purpose embedded computers to serve the player functionality. This approach makes sense especially when extreme environmental conditions are an issue. An example along these lines is Logic Supply’s ML100G-31 embedded PC system introduced last August. This system is built around an Intel Dawson Canyon NUC board and employs the company’s Hardshell Fanless Technology to ensure thermal performance. Logic Supply says it’s the smallest fanless and ventless NUC to feature an 8th generation (Kaby Lake) Intel Core i7 processor (Figure 6).

Figure 6
The ML100G-31 embedded PC system is built around an Intel Dawson Canyon NUC board and employs the company’s Hardshell Fanless Technology to ensure thermal performance.

The ML100G-31 provides a fully solid state, passively cooled computing solution, designed for reliability in demanding environments and measures just 142 mm x 62 mm x 107mm. Logic Supply engineers, with support from Intel’s thermal design lab, created a proprietary heatsink for the NUC717DNBE motherboard and Quad-Core i7-8650U Kaby Lake CPU. They also collaborated with Intel to identify a way to ensure that the ML100G-31 features the 5-year lifecycle that will allow their industrial computing clients to standardize on the platform.

The ML100 is able to cool the processor and other internal components by employing Logic Supply’s proven Hardshell Fanless Technology. Through the use of unique exterior fins and specially machined heatsink design, the system is able to maintain an optimal operating temperature without the need for a cooling fan. Removing the fan from the system improves overall reliability. Unlike fanned solutions that are vulnerable to airborne contaminants, this fanless design is able to operate in challenging computing environments across a range of industries including manufacturing and automation, industrial digital signage and others.

The system can be configured with up to 32 GB of memory and 1 TB of M.2 storage. Connectivity includes four USB 3.0 ports, two HDMI ports supporting dual 4K output, Gbit LAN and an optional COM port for legacy equipment connectivity. Operating system options include both Windows and Linux Ubuntu.

System Based on Mini-ITX

In another example of a general-purpose system that’s suited for digital signage, AAEON in September released the ACS-1U01 Series, a range of turnkey solutions that embed three of its bestselling SBCs. By enclosing the boards inside a tough 1U chassis, the unit provides a ready-to-go system for use in a variety of applications including digital signage as well as industrial automation, POS, medical equipment and transportation.

The three models—the ACS-1U01-BT4 (Figure 7), ACS-1U01-H110B, and ACS-1U01-H81B—feature a tough, 44.45 mm-high chassis with a wall mount kit and 2.5″ HDD tray. The low-profile, low-power-consumption systems have full Windows and Linux support, they can be expanded via full- and half-size Mini-Card slots and heatsinks give them operating temperature ranges of 0°C to 50°C.

Figure 7
The ACS-1U01-BT4 houses AAEON’s EMB-BT4 motherboard, which can be fitted with either an Intel Atom J1900 or N2807 processor. The J1900 can be used with a pair of DDR3L SODIMM sockets for up to 8 GB dual-channel memory, while the N2807 can be used with a single DDR3L SODIMM socket.

The ACS-1U01-BT4 houses AAEON’s EMB- BT4 motherboard, which can be fitted with either an Intel Atom J1900 or N2807 processor. The J1900 can be used with a pair of DDR3L SODIMM sockets for up to 8 GB dual-channel memory, while the N2807 can be used with a single DDR3L SODIMM socket. The board’s extensive I/O interface provides the system with a GbE LAN port, dual independent HDMI and VGA displays, a USB3.0 port, up to seven USB 2.0 and up to six COM ports.

The ACS-1U01-H110B contains AAEON’s EMB-H110B, which is built to accommodate up to 65 W 6th/7th Generation Intel Core i Series socket-type processors and supports up to 32 GB dual-channel memory via a pair of DDR4 SODIMM sockets. Dual independent display support is possible through two HDMI ports, or the option of DP connections. The system also features a GbE LAN port, four USB 3.0 ports, four USB 2.0 ports and a COM port.

The ACS-1U01-H81B is built around AAEON’s EMB-H81B, which is designed for 4th Generation Intel Core i Series socket-type processors with TDPs of up to 65 W. Two SODIMM sockets allow for up to 16 GB dual-channel DDR3 memory, and HDMI, DisplayPort and optional VGA ports enable dual independent display. The system has two GbE LAN ports, two USB3.0 ports and six USB 2.0 ports.

There’s no doubt that digital signage is an application that puts high demands on a variety of technology segments—from graphics processing to connectivity to form factor design. To keep pace with demands, makers of digital signage players and embedded PCs continue to innovate by adding more capabilities while also shrinking size, weight and power.

RESOURCES

AAEON | www.aaeon.com
Advantech | www.advantech.com
Axiomtek | us.axiomtek.com
EFCO | www.efcotec.com
Ibase Technology | www.ibase.com.tw
Intel | www.intel.com
Logic Supply | www.logicsupply.com

This article appeared in the May 346 issue of Circuit Cellar

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Intel Core Based Thin Mini-ITX Board Supports Extended Temps

Avalue announced a thin Mini-ITX board for signage, PoS, kiosk, AiO PCs, and industrial applications. Like the company’s EMX-SKLUP thin Mini-ITX board, the new EMX-KBLU2P supports Intel’s 6th Gen Skylake Core and Celeron processors, and it can also load 7th Gen Kaby Lake models. Windows 10 and Linux are on tap — the Kaby Lake configurations require higher than Linux kernel 4.7.

 
EMX-KBLU2P, front and back
(click images to enlarge)
The 170 x 170mm EMX-KBLU2P is equipped with a heatsink and can work without a fan, assuming 0.5 m/s air flow. The system supports a -20 to 70°C range and 0-90% relative humidity, and ships with a wide-range, 12-24V DC input.

The EMX-KBLU2P supports up to 32GB DDR4 RAM via dual sockets and offers 2x SATA III with 2x SATA power interfaces for storage. There’s also an M.2 Key-B 3042/2242/2260/2280 socket with 2x PCIe x1 or 1x PCIe x2 support for various USB 2.0, SATA, or wireless options. An M.2 Key-A socket supports WiFi, and there’s also a SIM card slot and a standalone PCIe interface.


EMX-KBLU2P portside view
(click image to enlarge)
Triple simultaneous displays are available with 4K-ready HDMI 1.4b and 2x DisplayPort 1.2a connections — one with HDMI support and the other with DP++. You also get dual-channel, 18/24-bit LVDS with HD resolution, which can be swapped out for an eDP port. Dual audio jacks are supported with a Realtek ALC892 codec, and you also get dual 6W amplifiers and an S/PDIF audio interface.

 
EMX-KBLU2P block diagram and detail view
(click images to enlarge)
The EMX-KBLU2P is equipped with 2x GbE (Intel I219LM and I211AT) and 4x USB 3.0 ports. Internal I/O includes 4x USB 2.0, 4 x RS232, 2 x RS232/422/485, and 16-bit GPIO. The board ships with a watchdog timer, hardware monitoring, and optional TPM 2.0.

Further information

No pricing or availability information was provided for the EMX-KBLU2P. More information may be found in Avalue’s EMX-KBLU2P announcement and product page.

This article originally appeared on LinuxGizmos.com on April 15.

Avalue Technology | www.avalue.com.tw

Mini-ITX SBC Sports AMD Ryzen APU SoC

WIN Enterprises has announced the MB-73480 which supports the AMD Ryzen Embedded V1000 processor family. The AMD processors combine the performance of the AMD “Zen” CPU and “Vega” GPU architectures in an integrated SoC solution. In addition, the AMD Ryzen processors deliver discrete-GPU caliber graphics and multimedia processing. Compute performance clocks to 3.61 TFLOPS with thermal design power (TDP) as low as 12 W and as high as 54 W.

The advanced AMD Ryzen CPUs and its other features make the MB-73480 well suited for applications requiring high performance graphics and advanced processing power. Applications include: gaming machines, digital signage, medical imaging, industrial control/automation, thin client, office automation and communication infrastructure. WIN Enterprises will customize the PL-81280 based on a customer’s more specific market needs.

MB-73480 Features:

  • AMD embedded components ensure long product life
  • AMD V1000 Socket FP5 BGA Type CPU mounted onboard (Zen Core-4/8 cores with 2 MB L2 Cache) drawing up to 54 W
  • Supports 4x Independent Displays with 4x DP++ Output
  • AMD Radeon™ Vega core, up to 11 Compute Units
  • Dual DDR4 SO-DIMM Socket and supports from DDR4 1333~3200 SO-DIMM (ECC or non-ECC)
  • 2x RJ45 Port with 10/100/1000 Mbps Transfer speed (Intel I211AT)
  • 5x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0, 5x COM, 1x CFast Card, 1x M.2 2280 Socket (B+M key),1x Audio-Jack
  • 2x SATA III Ports with 5 V Power; supports 2x 8G UMLC SATA DOM
  • TPM 2.0
  • 0°C to +60°C operating temperature

WIN Enterprises | www.win-ent.com

 

Low-Profile Mini-ITX System Targets Signage

AAEON has released the ACS-1U01 Series, a range of turnkey solutions that capitalize on the strength of three of its bestselling SBCs. By enclosing the boards inside a tough 1U chassis, the unit provides a ready-to-go system for use in a variety of applications including digital signage as well as industrial automation, POS, medical equipment and transportation.

The three models—the ACS-1U01-BT4, ACS-1U01-H110B, and ACS-1U01-H81B—feature a tough, 44.45 mm-high chassis with a wallmount kit and 2.5” HDD tray. The low-profile, low-power-consumption systems have full Windows and Linux support, they can be expanded via full- and half-size Mini-Card slots, and heatsinks give them operating temperature ranges of 0°C to 50°C.

The ACS-1U01-BT4 houses AAEON’s EMB-BT4 motherboard, which can be fitted with either an Intel Atom J1900 or N2807 processor. The J1900 can be used with a pair of DDR3L SODIMM sockets for up to 8 GB dual-channel memory, while the N2807 can be used with a single DDR3L SODIMM socket. The board’s extensive I/O interface provides the system with a GbE LAN port, dual independent HDMI and VGA displays, a USB3.0 port, up to seven USB2.0, and up to six COM ports.

The ACS-1U01-H110B contains AAEON’s EMB-H110B, which is built to accommodate up to 65W 6th/7th Generation Intel Core i Series socket-type processors and supports up to 32GB dual-channel memory via a pair of DDR4 SODIMM sockets. Dual independent display is possible through two HDMI ports, or the option of DP connections. The system also features a GbE LAN port, four USB3.0 ports, four USB2.0 ports, and a COM port.

The ACS-1U01-H81B is built around AAEON’s EMB-H81B, which is designed for 4th Generation Intel Core i Series socket-type processors with TDPs of up to 65W. Two SODIMM sockets allow for up to 16GB dual-channel DDR3 memory, and HDMI, DP, and optional VGA ports enable dual independent display. The system has two GbE LAN ports, two USB3.0 ports and six USB2.0 ports.

AAEON | www.aaeon.com

Industrial Mini-ITX Board Pumps up with Coffee Lake

By Eric Brown

Commell’s “LV-67X” Mini-ITX board runs on 8th Gen “Coffee Lake” processors, with up to 32GB DDR4, 3x SATA, triple 4K displays, USB 3.1, and PCIe x16 and mini-PCIe expansion. The LV-67X, which shares some of the layout and feature set of its Intel Apollo Lake based LV-67U board, is the first industrial Mini-ITX board we’ve seen with Intel’s 8th Gen Coffee Lake CPUs. (Going forward, we’ll likely use the caffeinated nickname rather than “8th Gen” because Intel also applies the 8th Gen tag to the transitional and similarly 14nm Kaby Lake-G chips as well as the new, 10nm Cannon Lake processors.)


LV-67X
(click image to enlarge)
The LV-67X is called an industrial board, and it provides a relatively wide 0 to 60°C range and a smattering of industrial I/O. However, it has a full-height profile and bridges the gap to consumer applications. The board supports video gaming, virtual reality, medical devices, imaging, machine vision, and digital signage. The product page lists only Windows drivers, but the manual notes that the board also supports Linux.

The 170 x 170mm SBC supports Coffee Lake Core, Celeron, and Pentium CPUs that work with the FCLGA1151 socket (the full name for LGA1151). The board ships with Intel Q370 chipset, one of Intel’s 300-series I/O chips announced with Coffee Lake that supports USB 3.1 Gen2 and extensive PCIe lanes.

No specific models were mentioned, but the SBC is said to support Coffee Lake chips with up to six cores running at up to 4.7GHz Turbo, with Intel 9th-gen graphics and up to 12MB cache. That would be the profile for the top-of-the-line Core i7-8700K, a hexa-core chip with 12 threads and a 95W TDP.

The LV-67X can load up to 32GB of speedy, 2666MHz DDR4 RAM via dual sockets. It provides 2x GbE ports, 3x SATA III interfaces, a full-size mini-PCIe slot with mSATA support, and another half-size mini-PCIe slot accompanied by a SIM card slot. There’s also a PCIe x16 interface.


 
LV-67X block diagram (left) and detail view
(click images to enlarge)

The description of the USB feature set varies depending on the citation, but Commell has clarified matters for us in an email. There are 6x USB 3.1 interfaces, 4x of which are coastline ports. There are also 4x USB 2.0 internal interfaces.

One key difference between earlier Core-based boards is that the LV-67X taps Coffee Lake’s ability to power three independent 4K displays. The board accomplishes this hat trick with coastline HDMI and DVI-I ports and an optional DisplayPort, as well as onboard VGA and 18/24-bit, dual-channel LVDS interfaces. If you don’t want the DisplayPort, you can instead get additional VGA and LVDS connections.

The LV-67X is further equipped with 4x RS232/422/485 or RS-232 interfaces, depending on conflicting citations, with an option to add two RS232/422/485 DB9 ports. Other features include 3x audio jacks (Realtek ALC262), 8-bit DIO, and LPC, SMBus, and PS/2 interfaces. You also get a watchdog, RTC with battery, and 24-pin ATX and 4-pin, 12V inputs.

Further information

No pricing or availability information was provided for the LV-67X. More information may be found on Commell’s announcement and product pages.

This article originally appeared on LinuxGizmos.com on August 17..

Commell | www.commell.com.tw

Low-Power Mini-ITX Motherboard

Habey HB131 mini-ITX motherboard.

Habey HB131 mini-ITX motherboard.

The HB131 mini-ITX motherboard is based on the low-power Intel Atom Cedar Trail platform. The small, 170-mm × 170-mm motherboard is high-performance, reliable, secure, and easy to manage. The platform is well-suited for point-of-sale, self-service terminals, queue machines, and digital signage.

The dual-core Atom D2550 processor is offered with Intel’s NM10 chipset. It features lower power consumption and more enhanced graphics than previous Atom processors.

The motherboard is equipped with dual gigabit LAN ports and rich I/O. Additional features include Wake-on-LAN, a 1-to-~255-level watchdog timer, and shared system memory as video memory.

Contact HABEY for pricing.

HABEY USA, Inc.
www.habeyusa.com