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

Tiny Snapdragon 820E Module Boasts Long Lifecycle Support

By Eric Brown

Intrinsyc’s $259 “Open-Q 820Pro μSOM” module runs Android 9 or Debian Linux on a quad-core, up to 2.34GHz Snapdragon 820E and offers long lifecycles, 4GB LPDDR4, 32GB flash, WiFi-ac, and an optional $499 dev kit.

The Open-Q 820Pro μSOM is a pin-compatible drop-in replacement for the two-year old Open-Q 820 µSOM and offers a similar layout and 50 x 25mm footprint. The biggest difference is an upgrade from Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 820 to the faster, second-gen Snapdragon 820E, an embedded-focused version with long lifecycle support. As a result, the Open-Q 820Pro μSOM has a 9 percent faster CPU and 5 percent faster GPU at the same power consumption, claims Intrinsyc.

 
Open-Q 820Pro μSOM (left) and Open-Q 820Pro µSOM Development Kit 
(click images to enlarge)
The Snapdragon 820E clocks two of its Cortex-A72-like Qualcomm Kryo cores to 2.342GHz, up from 2.0GHz, and the other two at the same 1.593GHz rate. The SoC’s Adreno 530 GPU has bumped up to 652.8MHz and the Hexagon 680 DSP is clocked at 825MHz.

The Open-Q 820Pro μSOM, which supports Debian Linux and Android 9, further improves performance by advancing from 3GB to 4GB LPDDR4 RAM. As before, there’s 32GB UFS 2.0 flash, as well as 2×2 MU-MIMO 802.11a/b/g/n/ac via a Qualcomm QCA6174A chipset. You also get Bluetooth 4.2 BLE, up from 4.1, and the same Qualcomm IZat Gen 8C GNSS location module.

Otherwise, the 820Pro module is pretty much the same as the 820. For displays, you get an HDMI port and dual MIPI-DSI ports for triple display support at up to 4K @ 60fps video. Three MIPI-CSI connectors can drive cameras at up to 28 megapixels.

 
Open-Q 820Pro μSOM, front and back
(click images to enlarge)
The Open-Q 820 µSOM is further equipped with USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 client and host ports, dual PCIe 2.1 expansion interfaces, an SDIO interface, and an 8x BLSP 4-pin port configurable as I2C, SPI, UART, or GPIO.

For audio, the module provides Slimbus and 2x or 3x I2S digital audio connections. There’s no longer any mention of the 3x digital mic connections or the 6x analog in and 6x analog out interfaces. However, the dev kit does offer analog audio I/O. Intrinsyc also lists a sensor interface defined as “SPI, UART, I2C to sensor DSP core.”

The module runs on 3.6V to 4.2V power, and supports extended temperatures of -10 to 70°C. No details were listed for the long lifecycle claims, but the Snapdragon 820E was announced with 10-year support. Software updates are required to achieve the long-term and performance improvements.

Open-Q 820Pro µSOM Development Kit

The Mini-ITX form-factor, open-frame dev kit for the module appears to be similar to the earlier model. The 170 x 170mm Open-Q 820Pro µSOM Development Kit is equipped with an HDMI port and there’s an optional $150 4K touch panel with a smartphone form factor.

 
Open-Q 820Pro µSOM Development Kit, front and back
(click images to enlarge)
The triple MIPI-CSI interfaces are supported with an optional, 13-megapixel camera for $159. Audio features include a 3.5mm headset jack, a 20-pin header with 3x analog in and 3x digital in, and a 20-in audio output with 5x analog out and 1x digital in.

The Open-Q 820Pro µSOM Development Kit offers 2x USB 2.0 host ports and 2x USB 3.0 via an expansion header. There’s also a micro-USB 2.0 client port and a micro-USB based UART debug port. Other features include a microSD slot, 8-bit DIO, and mini-PCIe 1.2 and PCIe x1 2.1 expansion slots.

The dev kit supplies a 12V/3A input but can run on a single-cell Li-ion battery. There’s also a haptic output and LEDs.

Further information

The $259 Open-Q 820Pro μSOM and $499 Open-Q 820Pro µSOM Development Kit are available for order with shipments due in July. More information may be found in Intrinsyc’s announcement, as well as the Open-Q 820Pro μSOM and dev kit product pages, which link to shopping pages.

This article originally appeared on LinuxGizmos.com on June 12.

Intrinsyc | www.intrinsyc.com

Linaro Launches Two 96Boards SOM Specifications

Linaro has launched two SOM specifications for 96Boards—a Compute Module spec and a Wireless spec. It has also released two board designs based on the Compute spec, along with a 96Boards SOM Carrier board compatible with those two boards.

Linaro, the Arm-backed open source collaborative engineering organization, has announced the publication of version 1.0 of 96Boards System-on-Module (SOM) specifications. 96Boards is Linaro’s initiative to build a single software and hardware community across low-cost development boards based on Arm technology. Along with the new specifications, the company has rolled out two board designs: the TB-96AI based on a Rockchip RK3399Pro processor, and the TB-96AIoT based on the newer Rockchip RK1808 processor.

We’ve [Linuxgizmos.com] covered a couple RK3399Pro-based boards just within that last four months, including Geniatech’s DB3399 Pro, Vamrs’ Toybrick RK3399Pro SBC and crowdfunded Khadas Edge-1S SBC from Shenzhen Wesion’s Khadas project. The newer Rockchip RK1808, announced in January at CES, is basically a “lite”, lower power version of the RK3399Pro with the same Network Processing Unti (NPU). See further down for more details on the RK1808.

The launch of the new 96Boards specifications provides developers with a SOM solution that is compatible across SoCs. According to Linaro, SOM solutions today use a variety of different connector solutions including SO-DIMM connectors used in DRAM and Mini Module Plus (MMP) connectors for certain specialist boards. Up until now, there has been no solution offering flexible IO and a robust mounting mechanism, nor a standard form factor, says Linaro. The goal of new 96Boards SOM specifications is to enable plug and play compatibility between a whole range of different SOM solutions.

Two 96Boards SOM specifications have been launched: The Compute Module Specification and the Wireless Specification. Both specifications encourage the development of reliable and cost-effective embedded platforms for building end-products. The specifications have been proposed, created and reviewed by the current 96Boards Steering Committee Members.

The Compute Module Specification defines a SOM with generic module-to-carrier board interface, independent of the specific SoC choice on the module. The Compute module addresses the application requirements of segments including industrial automation, smart devices, gateway systems, automotive, medical, robotics and retail POS systems. Two form factors are defined as SOM-CA and SOM-CB with a maximum of four 100 pin Connectors. The X1 connector is mandatory on all SOMs. The defined interfaces are shown in the table below.


Compute Module Spec — Defined Interfaces
(click image to enlarge)
The Wireless specification designs a SOM for interchangeable wireless module applications, supporting standard and/or proprietary wireless standards such as 802.15.4, BLE, WiFi, LoRa, NB-IoT, LTE-M etc. The specification is designed to enable evolution that will support multiple products and future wireless standards. The two form factors are defined as SOM-WA/SOM-WB with the pinouts to the specification shown in the table below.


Wireless Spec Pinouts
(click image to enlarge)
TB-96AI

The TB-96AI can be combined with the backplane to form a complete industry application motherboard, and be applied to various embedded artificial intelligence fields. The TB-96AI’s RK3399Pro processor has an Arm dual-core Cortex-A72+quad-core Cortex-A53 architecture. The processor has frequencies is up to 1.8 GHz and integrates a Mali-T860 MP4 quad-core graphics processor. The chip’s integrated NPU supports 8Bit/16Bit operation. With computing power of 3.0 Tops, the NPU can meet various AI application needs such as vision, audio and so on.

 
TB-96AI, front and back
(click images to enlarge)
The TB-96AI supports DP1.2, HDMI 2.0, MIPI-DSI, eDP multiple display output interfaces, dual-screen co-display/dual-screen heterodyne, 4K VP9, 4K 10bits H265/H264 and 1080P multi-format (VC-1, MPEG-1/2/4, VP8) video decoding, 1080P (H.264, VP8 format) video coding. The board is compatible with multiple AI frameworks, the design supports TensorFlow Lite/Android NN API, AI software tools support import, mapping and optimization of Caffe / TensorFlow models, allowing developers to easily use AI technology.

TB-96AIoT

The TB-96AIoT meanwhile is equipped with the RK1808 AIoT chip. According to Linaro, the TB-96AIoT also provides rich interfaces and strong scalability. Aside from this, little other detail on the TB-96AIoT is provided in the announcement.

The Rockchip RK1808 processor used on the TB-96AIoT features a dual-core Cortex-A35 CPU architecture, NPU computing performance up to 3.0 Tops, VPU supporting 1080P video codec, microphone array with hardware VAD function, and camera video signal input with built-in ISP. The RK1808 boasts lower power consumption thanks in part to being built on an 22nm FD-SOI process. This shrinks power consumption by about 30%, compared with mainstream 28nm processes under the same performance, according to Rockchip. The device features DDR-free operation of the always-on device with built-in 2MB system-level SRAM. A hardware VAD function provides low-power monitoring and far-field wake-up, features all suited to IoT applications.

Both the TB-96AI and TB-96AIoT SOM designs are available for purchase from Beiqicloud.com—sign in required. A story by cnx-software points out that Vamrs is also involved because of the “ToyBrick” reference on the boards’ silkscreen.

96Boards SOM Carrier Board

The 96Boards SOM Carrier Board is compatible with both the TB-96AI and TB-96AIoT. It is designed to suit different markets and demonstrates how easy it is to support multiple different SOMs.


96Boards SOM carrier board
(click image to enlarge)
There wasn’t much detailed on the carrier board spelled-out in the announcement, although this detail graphic was provided:


96Boards SOM carrier board detail
(click image to enlarge)
 Further information

More information on the new SOM specifications can be found on the announcement page. You can learn more about Linaro’s engineering work on the Linaro and 96Boards websites. Beiqicloud is 96Boards Compute SOM Lead partner. For more information about SOM boards and Carrier board visit Beiqicloud’s products page.

This article originally appeared on LinuxGizmos.com on April 2.

Linaro | www.linaro.org

Firms Collaborate on Edge Gateway and Other IoT Solutions

U-blox and SolidRun have announced a collaboration on a range of connectivity products for the IoT, including turnkey IoT Edge Gateways for indoor and outdoor use, SBCs and System‑on‑Modules (SOMs). Each of the new solutions incorporate a u-blox NINA stand‑alone single-, dual- or multi‑radio module, providing the connectivity required by IoT applications in a small, low power and fully certified format.

During Embedded World 2019, SolidRun formally introduced its latest product: the SolidSense N6 Edge Gateway (shown), an enterprise‑grade IoT M2M gateway designed to manage a local network of IoT endpoints. The N6 Edge Gateway is a fully enclosed fan‑less design in configurations suitable for either indoor or outdoor installation, making it simpler than ever to introduce Internet connectivity in a distributed network of smart sensors and actuators.

The gateways and SBCs from SolidRun feature Wi‑Fi and Bluetooth Personal Area Networking, Wirepas Mesh, cellular connectivity, as well as USB and a 10/100/1000 wired Ethernet interface. They are powered by the NXP’s i.MX6 ARM Cortex-A9 processor in either a single-, dual- or quad‑core configuration (depending on the application’s needs) and also integrate up to 2 GB of DDR3 memory.

U‑blox | www.u‑blox.com

SolidRun | www.solid‑run.com

 

SOMs based on RK3399 and PX30 SoCs target IoT

Arbor Technology has introduced a pair of System-on-Module (SOM) products both based on Rockchip SoCs, the RK3399-based SOM-RK391 and the Rockchip PX30-based SOM-RP301. Both modules run Ubuntu, Buildroot, or Android 9.0. Along with the pair of modules, the company has also released the PBA-9000-A, its SOM-Series, single pin-out design carrier board.

The Rockchip RK3399 SoC has been a favorite among high-end community backed Arm-based boards over the last couple years, and we’ve covered at least one every month over that period. Recent examples include Arbor’s own EmQ-RK390 Qsevenmodule, Geniatech’s DB9 SBC and Vamr’s 96Boards CE-compatible Rock960 Model C. In contrast, the SOM-RP301 appears to be the first module we’ve seen based on Rockchip’s low-power PX30 SoC.

SOM-RK391

Built around the Rockchip RK3399 hexa-core (2x Cortex-A72 + 4x Cortex-A53) SoC, the SOM-RK391 is designed for high-performance applications such as AI computing, edge computing and machine vision, according to Arbor.


SOM-RK391
For memory, the RK391 provides 2GB to 4GB of LPDDR4 DRAM and mass storage via 16GB eMMC flash plus support SD Card boot up. The Mali-T860MP4 GPU supports OpenGL ES1.1/2.0/3.0/3.1, OpenVG1.1, OpenCL and DX11. Display support includes eDP, MIPI DSI and HDMI. The compact 69.6 x 70 mm SOM supports extended operating temperatures from 10 to 70ºC.

The RK391 also provides WiFi /Bluetooth support including 2T2R 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac for WiFi and Bluetooth 5.0 with real simultaneous dual-band (RSDB). You also get 2x MIPI CSI RX camera interfaces with 13MP ISP. For I/O you get 4x USB 2.0, 2x USB 3.0 2 (Type C), 2x 2-wire UART ports and 2x 4-wire UART ports. There’s also support for RTC, 10-bit 1MS/s ADC, SDIO, DIO, GPIO, SPI and I2C.

SOM-RP301

The SOM-RP301 meanwhile is based on the Rockchip PX30 Quad-Core Cortex-A35 processor and measures a compact 70 x 50 mm. Arbor touts the board for its low power consumption, flexible thermal management, cost-efficiency and its suitability for IIoT applications. The combination of its hardware media decoder and processing power makes it a fit to implement in retail kiosks such as electronic restaurant menus, automated currency exchange machines, ticketing kiosks and so on, according to Arbor.



SOM-RP301
The SOM-RP301 offers provides 1GB to 4GB of LPDDR4DRAM and mass storage via 16GB eMMC flash plus support SD Card boot up. The Mali-T860MP4 GPU supports OpenGL ES1.1/2.0/3.0/3.1, OpenVG1.1, OpenCL and DX11. Display support includes LVDS and MIPI DSI, and those interfaces share the same pinout. Like the RK391, this modules also supports extended operating temperatures from 10 to 70ºC.

The RK391 also provides WiFi /Bluetooth support including 1x 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac for WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0. You also get 1x MIPI CSI RX camera interface with 8MP ISP. For I/O the RP301 provides the all the same ports as the RK391 as described above. Despite the fact that Arbor touts the RP301 as a low power solution, its datasheet currently says “TBD” for the board’s power consumption.

PBA-9000-A SOM Carrier Board

Arbor’s PBA-9000-A Carrier Board for its SOM-series features a single pin-out design that enables it to easily support future boards in the Arbor SOM-series CPU Board family. The PBA-9000-A’s I/O configuration supports all of the interfaces on the SOM-series boards.



PBA-9000-A SOM carrier board detail
(click image to enlarge)

Further information

More information on the three boards can be found on the announcement page. No pricing was provided. Links to datasheets for the SOM-RK391, SOM-RP301 and PBA-9000-A boards can be found on Arbor’s ARM-computing product page.

This article originally appeared on LinuxGizmos.com on April 8.

Arbor Technology | www.arbor-technology.com

COMe Type 7 Card Sports AMD EPYC Embedded 3000 Processor

Congatec has introduced its first Server-on-Module (SoM) with AMD embedded server technology. The new conga-B7E3 Server-on-Module with AMD EPYC Embedded 3000 processor offers up to 52% more instructions per clock compared to legacy architectures, according to the company. Use cases include Industry 4.0, smart robot cells with collaborative robotics, autonomous robotic and logistics vehicles, as well as virtualized on-premise equipment in harsh environments to perform functions such as industrial routing, firewall security and VPN technologies—optionally in combination with various real-time controls and neural network computing for Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Also attractive for edge server deployments is the support of the extended temperature range (-40 to 85 °C) for selected versions and the comprehensive RAS (reliability, availability and serviceability) features common to all versions. Edge applications benefit from the hardware-integrated virtualization and comprehensive security package that includes Secure Boot System, Secure Memory Encryption (SME) and Secure Encrypted Virtualization (SEV), as well as a secure migration channel between two SEV-capable platforms. Support is also given for IPsec with integrated crypto acceleration. As a consequence, even the server administrator does not have access to such an encrypted Virtual Machine (VM). This is important for the high security required by many edge server services, which must enable multi-vendor applications in Industry 4.0 automation while effectively warding off sabotage attempts by hackers.

The conga-B7E3 COM Express Type 7 modules are equipped with AMD EPYC Embedded 3000 processors with 4, 8, 12, or 16 high-performance cores, support simultaneous multi-threading (SMT) and up to 96 GB of DDR4 2666 RAM in the COM Express Basic form factor and up to 1TB in full custom designs. Measuring just 125 x 95 mm, the COM Express Basic Type 7 module supports up 4x 10 GbE and up to 32 PCIe Gen 3 lanes. For storage the module even integrates an optional 1 TB NVMe SSD and offers 2x SATA Gen 3.0 ports for conventional drives.

Further interfaces include 4x USB 3.1 Gen 1, 4x USB 2.0 as well as 2x UART, GPIO, I2C, LPC and SPI. Attractive features also include seamless support of dedicated high-end GPUs and improved floating-point performance, which is essential for emerging AI and HPC applications. Congatec also offers advanced cooling solutions for its COM Express Type 7 Server-on-Modules that match the processor, support fanless cooling even beyond 65 W TDP, and can be adapted to customers’ housings, if required. This allows OEMs to integrate maximum processor performance into their designs, as performance is often limited by the system’s cooling capacity. OS support is provided for Linux and Yocto, as well as Microsoft Windows 10 and Windows Server.

Congatec | www.congatec.com

 

Tiny, Octa-Core Arm Module Targets AI on the Edge

By Eric Brown

Qualcomm’s octa-core Snapdragon 660 appeared on Intrinsyc’s Open-Q 660 HDK Mini-ITX dev kit back in 2017 and also showed up on an Inforce 6560 Pico-ITX SBC announced in February. Now Intrinsyc has returned with a tiny compute module implementation. The $225 Open-Q 660 µSOM (micro System on Module) measures only 50 mm x 25mm.


 
Open-Q 660 μSOM, front and back
(click images to enlarge)
Applications for the Open-Q 660 μSOM include on-device artificial intelligence, enhanced gaming, power optimization, device management, security, and advanced photography and image processing jobs such as camera and audio tuning. Intrinysc mentions a development kit that will connect to the module via its 3x 100-pin board to board connectors, but there were no further details.

The module runs Android 9.0 on the Snapdragon 660 (Qualcomm SDA660), which is claimed to offer up to 20 percent higher CPU performance and 30 percent higher graphics performance compared to the similarly octa-core Snapdragon 653. The Snapdragon 660 is also faster than the octa-core Snapdragon 625 and almost identical Snapdragon 626 thanks to its use of Cortex-A73-like “Kryo” cores.

The 14nm fabricated SoC has 4x Kryo cores clocked to 2.2 GHz and 4x clocked to 1.84 GHz, as well as a 650 MHz Adreno 512 GPU. The module’s AI potentiality is unlocked via dual Spectra 160 ISPs and a Hexagon 680 DSP with Hexagon Vector eXtensions (HVX), which supports Caffe2 and Tensorflow for machine learning and image processing.



Open-Q 660 μSOM
(click image to enlarge)
The Open-Q 660 μSOM has the same footprint as the Snapdragon 820 based Open-Q 820 µSOM. The module ships with a combo eMCP chip with 32GB eMMC and 4GB of dual-channel, 1866MHz LPDDR4 SDRAM.

The module integrates a 2.4/5GHz 802.11a/b/g/n/ac 2×2 MU-MIMO WiFi radio via a Qualcomm WCN3990 module supported with 5GHz external PA and U.FL antenna connectors. Bluetooth 5.x is also on board.

The Open-Q 660 μSOM is equipped with 2x 4-lane MIPI-DSI interfaces for up to 2560 x 1600 displays plus DP 1.4 for up to [email protected] or [email protected] The up to 24-megapixel camera support is derived from 3x 4-lane MIPI-CSI connections with I2C controllers for each camera port plus 2x camera flash control signals.

Audio features include a SLIMBus interface for external Qualcomm codecs plus optional Qualcomm Fluence support. You also get 4- and 2-lane MI2S interfaces for external audio devices, a Soundwire link for digital amps, and 2x PDM-based digital mic interfaces.

The Open-Q 660 μSOM supports single USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-C and USB 2.0 host ports plus 4-bit SD 3.0, 8x BLSP (UART, I2C, SPI), and configurable GPIOs. The module provides a PMIC and battery charging circuitry and offers a 3.6V to 4.2V input and a -10 to 70°C operating range.

Further information

The Open-Q 660 µSOM is available for pre-order at $225 in single quantities, with shipments due in April. More information may be found in Intrinsyc’s Open-Q 660 µSOM announcementproduct page, and shopping page

This article originally appeared on LinuxGizmos.com on March 25.

Intrinsyc | www.intrinsyc.com

Variscite Unveils Two i.MX8 QuadMax Modules

By Eric Brown

Variscite announced Linux-powered “VAR-SOM-MX8” and “SPEAR-MX8” modules with an up to an i.MX8 QuadMax SoC plus up to 8GB LPDDR4 and 64GB eMMC. It also previewed a VAR-SOM-6UL COM.

At Embedded World in Nuremberg, Germany, Variscite showcased its Linux and Android driven i.MX8-family computer-on-modules, including new VAR-SOM-MX8 and SPEAR-MX8 modules that feature NXP’s highest-end i.MX8 SoC up to a QuadMax model (see farther below). We have already covered most of the other showcased products, including the 14nm fabricated, quad -A53 i.MX8M Mini based DART-MX8M-Mini. When we covered the DART-MX8M-Mini in September, Variscite didn’t have an image or product page, but both are now available here


 
VAR-SOM-MX8 (left) and previously announced DART-MX8M-Mini
(click images to enlarge)
Other showcased COMs that we covered in recent months include the quad -A35 i.MX8X based VAR-SOM-MX8X and the quad -A53 i.MX8M based DART-MX8M. Variscite also announced a VAR-SOM-6UL module with support for the i.MX6 UL (UltraLite), ULL, and most recent ULZ low-power IoT SoCs. The board has yet to be fully documented, but we’ve listed what’s available farther below.



Variscite’s VAR-SOM and DART families
(click image to enlarge)
 VAR-SOM-MX8

Due to ship with the similar, but more advanced, SPEAR-MX8 (see farther below) in the second quarter, the 67.6 x 51.6mm VAR-SOM-MX8 is pin-to-pin compatible with other VAR-SOM modules, including the new wireless-enabled version of the circa-2014 VAR-SOM-MX6.

The VAR-SOM-MX8 ships with the high-end i.MX8 QuadMax or the mid-range QuadPlus models. The i.MX8 QuadMax features 2x Cortex-A72 cores, 4x Cortex-A53 cores, 2x Vivante GC7000XSVX GPUs, and 2x Cortex-M4F real-time cores. The QuadPlus is identical except that it only has one Cortex-A72 core.


 
VAR-SOM-MX8 rear view and block diagram
(click images to enlarge)
Other i.MX8 SoCs that support both the QuadMax and QuadPlus include Congatec’s Conga-SMX8 SMARC module, which also offers the DualMax variant. The others focus on the QuadMax, including the Toradex Apalis iMX and iWave iW-RainboW-G27M.

The VAR-SOM-MX8 runs Yocto Project based Linux (Sumo release) or Android 9.0 “Pie,” both with Linux kernel 4.14.78. The module ships with 2GB to 8GB LPDDR4 and 4GB to 64GB eMMC. It supports 2x GbE ports and offers a wireless module with certified 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.2 BLE.

Media I/O includes HDMI v2.0a, eDP 1.4, and DP 1.3, all with resolution up to 4Kp60. There are also MIPI-DSI and dual-channel LVDS connections for up to 1920 x 1080 pixels with resistive or capacitive touch support. For audio, you get analog I/O, a headphone driver, digital and analog stereo mic support, and I2S/SAI digital audio.

The module supports USB 3.0 OTG and USB 2.0 host ports, as well as 5x UART, 4x I2C, 4x SPI, and 2x CAN/CAN-FD (FlexibleData-Rate). Other I/O includes PCIe Gen 3.0, SD/MMC, and optional JTAG. The 3.3V module supports 0 to 70°C, -20 to 85°C, and -40 to 85°C temperature ranges. There’s a product longevity guarantee through 2033.

SPEAR-MX8

The SPEAR-MX8 is only slightly larger than the VAR-SOM-MX8, at 68 x 55mm, but it packs in a lot more features. On the other hand, it lacks the pin-to-pin compatibility with other VAR-SOM models. The module offers only the high-end i.MX8 QuadMax.


 
SPEAR-MX8 and block diagram
(click images to enlarge)
The SPEAR-MX8 appears to have all the features of the VAR-SOM-MX8 with several key additions. These include support for SATA III storage, an HDMI 1.4 input, and dual MIPI-CSI2 camera links. It adds a third USB connection, which is variably listed as a second USB 3.0 and a second USB 2.0 OTG. You also get a second PCIe link and a third CAN port. The module has a heftier 3.4-4.5V DC input.

VAR-SOM-6UL

Variscite did not have much to say about the upcoming VAR-SOM-6UL module, which like the smaller, 50 x 25mm DART-6UL, uses a slightly stripped down i.MX6 ULZ SoC in addition to the UL and ULL models. All these single Cortex-A7 SoCs, which are here clocked to 900MHz, are notable for their low power consumption.



VAR-SOM-6UL
The VAR-SOM-6UL will ship with certified dual-band WiFi 802.11ac, Bluetooth/BLE, and support for dual Ethernet ports, dual USB ports, and serial interfaces. Media interfaces include 24-bit Parallel LCD, 18-bit LVDS up to WXGA, audio I/O, and a camera input.

Further information

The VAR-SOM-MX8 and SPEAR-MX8 modules are available in eval kits for “early partners” and will launch in Q2. There’s no ship date for the VAR-SOM-6UL, which is now open for pre-orders for eval kits and samples.

More information may be found in Variscite’s i.MX Embedded World announcement, as well as the VAR-SOM-MX8 product page and wiki and the SPEAR-MX8 product page.

This article originally appeared on LinuxGizmos.com on February 22.

Variscite | www.variscite.com

Congatec Doubles RAM Support for Server-on-Modules

Congatec has announced that its Intel Atom C3000 processor-based conga-B7AC Server-on-Modules now support up to 96 GB DDR4 SO-DIMM memory on 3 sockets. This is twice the previously supported capacity. The company is touting this as a new milestone for COM Express Type 7 based designs, because memory is one of the most important performance levers for embedded edge server technologies. This increase was possible because the Intel Atom C3000 family supports the newly available 32 GB SO-DIMMs. The new Server-on-Modules with a high-speed memory bandwidth of 2400 MT/s are available now and can be ordered with and without ECC support.

High memory capacity is essential for server applications, because the fastest way to read and write values from a database is to fully load them into memory, according to Congatec. The larger the databases, the more memory capacity is needed. There are many database applications in the field of embedded edge computing, such as network appliances for content delivery in video surveillance applications, IoT gateways or OPC UA servers in automation.

A large RAM is also a good intermediate buffer for Big Data analytics on the fly so that only smaller results need to be stored. Servers that host many virtual machines also benefit immensely from the doubled memory capacity. With 96 GB RAM, 12 virtual machines now have 8 GB RAM available on each partition, making them well-suited for standard Linux or Windows installations.

The conga-B7AC Server-on-Modules with up to 96 GB RAM can be ordered in the following configurations and include personal integration support for OEMs off the shelf:

Processor Cores Cache [MB] Clock [GHz] TDP [W]  Temperature range
Intel Atom C3958 16 16 2.0 31 0 to +60 °C
Intel Atom C3858 12 12 2.0 25 0 to +60 °C
Intel Atom C3758 8 16 2.2 25 0 to +60 °C
Intel Atom C3558 4 8 2.2 16 0 to +60 °C
Intel Atom C3538 4 8 2.1 15 0 to +60 °C
Intel Atom C3808 12 12 2.0 25 -40 to +85 °C
Intel Atom C3708 8 16 1.7 17 0 to +60 °C
Intel Atom C3508 4 8 1.6 11.5 -40 to +85 °C
Intel Atom C3308 2 4 1.6 2.1 0 to +60 °C

Congatec | www.congatec.com

SMARC SOMs Used for Walmart Robotic Retrieval System

Axiomtek has announced its ongoing collaboration with Alert Innovation. Alert Innovation has been tapped by Walmart to use its robotics technology to automate their grocery operations. The company has developed the Alphabot system, an Automated Storage and Retrieval System (ASRS) that is also an Automated Each-Picking System (AEPS). Axiomtek’s embedded computers and SMARC System on Modules (SOMs) are used in the system.
For a period of almost two years prior to the announcement of the Alphabot pilot test in a Walmart Supercenter, the Axiomtek team worked alongside Alert Innovation’s engineering team, helping to identify and customize products for Alert’s use, participating in schematic reviews and supporting driver development to ensure seamless integration. Since then, Axiomtek has continued to invest in and support the Alert Innovation Alphabot system’s mission.

A number of products have been tailored to balance performance and cost effectiveness, mitigate the challenges associated with refrigerated and frozen environments by adding conformal coatings and integrate application-specific interfaces. According to Alert Innovation, said Matthew Coady, Senior Director of Electrical Engineering and Controls. “We chose them because their products and team consistently met our stringent project requirements, delivering quality, performance, support, and all the features our applications required,” said Matthew Coady, Alert Innovation’s Senior Director of Electrical Engineering and Controls, “The SMARC SOM that we selected fits in our space-constrained application and helped us come to market quickly. If (and when) our application needs more processing power, memory or storage, Axiomtek has a range of products in their portfolio and roadmap that will help keep our hardware platform viable for many years to come. Axiomtek was quick to provide us with a BSP for our QNX operating system, and carrier integration support.”

Axiomtek | us.axiomtek.com

Zynq SoC SOM Module Enabled With HSR/PRP IP

iWave Systems has partnered with SoC-e for enabling HSR/PRP IP on iWave’s Zynq 7000 SoC SOM Module. iWave has rigorously validated SoC-e’s High-availability Seamless Redundancy (HSR) and Parallel Redundancy Protocol (PRP) IP Protocol on our Zynq 7000 SoC based SOM module. iWave’s Zynq 7000 SoC SOM and SoC-e’s HSR/PRP Switch IP Core reduce the time-to-market and simplifying design complexity. SOC-e develops IP portfolios for leading-edge networking and synchronization technologies for time critical systems.The Zynq-7000 programmable SoC family integrates the software programmability of an Arm-based processor with the hardware programmability of an FPGA, enabling key analytics and hardware acceleration while integrating CPU, DSP, ASSP and mixed signal functionality on a single device. The iW-RainboW-G28M (Zynq 7000 Board) is a featured-full and ready to-operate embedded software and advanced circuit development kit built around the smallest member from the Xilinx Zynq-7000 family, the Z-7010.

The Zynq-7000 SOM / Development Kit is based on the Xilinx All Programmable System-on-Chip architecture, which firmly incorporates a single / Dual Cortex A9 with Xilinx 7-series FPGA logic. At the point when combined with the rich set of media and connectivity peripherals accessible on the Zynq 7000 SOM, the Zynq Z-7007S, Z-7014S, Z-7010, Z-7020, can host an entire design system.

Memories, 512 MB DDR3 (Expandable to 1 GB) or 512 MB NAND Flash (Expandable), that are on-board, video and sound I/O, USB 2.0 OTG, Gigabit Ethernet and SD (4-bit) will have your board up-and-running with no extra hardware required. Moreover, PMIC with RTC bolster connectors is accessible to put any design on a simple development way.

The iW-RainboW-G28M gives an ultra-cost to embedded designers that don’t require the high-thickness I/O of the FMC connector yet at the same time wish to use the enormous preparing force and extensibility of the Zynq AP SoC architecture.

iWave Systems | www.iwavesystems.com

MPU-Based SOM Meets Industrial IoT Linux Needs

Microchip Technology has unveiled a new System on Module (SOM) featuring the SAMA5D2 microprocessor (MPU). The ATSAMA5D27-SOM1 contains the recently released ATSAMA5D27C-D1G-CU System in Package (SiP). The SOM simplifies IoT design by integrating the power management, non-volatile boot memory, Ethernet PHY and high-speed DDR2 memory onto a small, single-sided printed circuit board (PCB). There is a great deal of design effort and complexity associated with creating an industrial-grade MPU-based system running a Linux operating system. Even developers with expertise in the area spend a lot of time on PCB layout to guarantee signal integrity for the high-speed interfaces to DDR memory and PHY while complying with EMC standards.

The SAMA5D2 family of products provides an extremely flexible design experience no matter the level of expertise. For example, the SOM—which integrates multiple external components and eliminates key design challenges around EMI, ESD and signal integrity—can be used to expedite development time. Customers can solder the SOM to their board and take it to production, or it can be used as a reference design along with the free schematics, design and Gerber files and complete bill of materials which are available online. Customers can also transition from the SOM to the SiP or the MPU itself, depending on their design needs. All products are backed by Microchip’s customer-driven obsolescence policy which ensures availability to customers for as long as needed.

The Arm Cortex-A5-based SAMA5D2 SiP, mounted on the SOM PCB or available separately, integrates 1 Gbit of DDR2 memory, further simplifying the design by removing the high- speed memory interface constraints from the PCB. The impedance matching is done in the package, not manually during development, so the system will function properly at normal and low- speed operation. Three DDR2 memory sizes (128 Mb, 512 Mb and 1 Gb) are available for the SAMA5D2 SiP and optimized for bare metal, RTOS and Linux implementations.

Microchip customers developing Linux-based applications have access to the largest set of device drivers, middleware and application layers for the embedded market at no charge. All of Microchip’s Linux development code for the SiP and SOM are mainlined in the Linux communities. This results in solutions where customers can connect external devices, for which drivers are mainlined, to the SOM and SIP with minimal software development.

The SAMA5D2 family features the highest levels of security in the industry, including PCI compliance, providing an excellent platform for customers to create secured designs. With integrated Arm TrustZone and capabilities for tamper detection, secure data and program storage, hardware encryption engine, secure boot and more, customers can work with Microchip’s security experts to evaluate their security needs and implement the level of protection that’s right for their design. The SAMA5D2 SOM also contains Microchip’s QSPI NOR Flash memory, a Power Management Integrated Circuit (PMIC), an Ethernet PHY and serial EEPROM memory with a Media Access Control (MAC) address to expand design options.

The SOM1-EK1 development board provides a convenient evaluation platform for both the SOM and the SiP. A free Board Support Package (BSP) includes the Linux kernel and drivers for the MPU peripherals and integrated circuits on the SOM. Schematics and Gerber files for the SOM are also available.

The ATSAMA5D2 SiP is available in four variants starting with the ATSAMA5D225C-D1M- CU in a 196-lead BGA package for $8.62 each in 10,000 units. The ATSAMA5D27-SOM1 is available now for $39.00 each in 100 units The ATSAMA5D27-SOM1-EK1 development board is available for $245.00.

Microchip Technology | www.microchip.com

Qseven Card Sports Renesas RZ/G1M

iWave has announced a System-On-Module (SOM) based on Renesas RZ/G1M embedded processr. RZ/G1M SOM is Qseven R2.0 compatible industrial grade CPU module. Called the iW-RainboW-G20M, this SOM module supports 1 GB DDR3 RAM, 4 GB eMMC Flash and 2 MB SPI NOR Flash. Expandable memory is optional. The module also includes on SOM Gigabit Ethernet PHY, Micro SD slot and USB HUB.

renesas-rz-g1-mpu-embedded-boardRenesas’s RZG1M processor supports dual cortex A15 core operating at 1.5 GHz core and includes 64-bit DDR3 interface at 800 MHz. These features provide higher performance for applications such as image processing of multiple video streams and video sensing. The high-speed on-chip integrated USB 3.0, PCIe, Gbit Ethernet and SATA peripherals allows easy expansion of functionality without the need for external components. The RZ/G1M processor supports full HD hardware encode and decode processing up to 1,080 at 60 frames/s, dual display and three channel video input ports. The built-in PowerVR SGX544MP2 Graphics core at 520 MHz allows the user to develop highly effective user interfaces.

The RZ/G1M SOM is supported Linux 3.10 LTSI with Android BSP support to come. To enable quick prototyping of RZG1M SOM, iWave systems supports RZ/G1M development kit with comprehensive peripheral support. This will help customers to save up to 60% of new product development cycle using the RZ-G1M MPU.

iWave Systems Technologies | www.iwavesystems.com

Technical Preview of Windows 10 IoT Core on ARM Platform

Toradex recently announced the availability of a technical preview of the Windows 10 IoT Core on an ARM-based System on Module (SOM). The technical preview enables embedded developers to evaluate the new features of Windows 10 IoT Core on an industrial-grade embedded computing platform. According to Toradex, a starter kit—available for a limited time at a promotional price—is available with a Colibri T30 SOM and Iris carrier board with required accessories.

The technical preview is based on Colibri T30 powered by NVIDIA’s Tegra 3 ARM Cortex-A9 Quad Core embedded processor. Part of the Azure IoT Certified Program, the Colibri T30 supports accelerated DirectX graphics and provides low-level hardware access.

Although the technical preview’s has a limited number of features, Toradex announced that it intends to gather customer feedback and later extend features and add Windows 10 IoT Core support for its other ARM-based SOMs.

Source: Toradex

Embedded SOM with Linux-Based RTOS

National Instruments has introduced an embedded system-on-module (SOM) development board with integrated Linux-based real-time operating system (RTOS).NIsom

Processing power in the 2” x 3” SOM comes from a Xilinx Zync-7020 all programmable SOC running a dual core ARM Cortex-A9 at 667 MHz. A built-in, low-power Artix-7 FPGA offers 160 single-ended I/Os and Its dedicated processor I/O include Gigabit Ethernet USB 2.0 host, USB 2.0 host/device, SDHC, RS-232, and Tx/Rx. The SOM’s power requirements are typically 3 to 5 W.

The SOM integrates a validated board support package (BSP) and device drivers together with the National Instruments Linux real-time OS. The SOM board is supplied with a full suite of middleware for developing an embedded OS, custom software drivers, and other common software components.

The LabVIEW FPGA graphical development platform eliminates the need for expertise in the design approach using a hardware description language.

[Via Elektor]