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Tuesday, March 07, 2017

High speed Optane memory comes to IoT boards

By Nick Flaherty

congatec in Germany has developed a thin industrial-grade motherboard family featuring the new 7th Generation Kaby Lake Core U processors designed by Intel for IoT connected devices.

The new boards are aimed at space-constrained, high-performance, low-power IoT designs. Besides all the enhancements of the new processor generation, they also offer comprehensive IoT support including a SIM card socket for 3G/4G or Narrow Band connectivity and first versions of the congatec's Cloud-API. The boards also support Intel's high speed non-volatile phase change memory called Optane.

The low profile design targets slim system designs such as industrial GUIs/HMIs, digital signage systems, point-of-sale terminals, and medical tablets. The boards have the option to use Optane memory via an M.2 connector, enabling extremely fast system boots, application starts, video recording and processing, and software updates. The boards further support Hyper-Threading which turns the dual-core design into a 4-in-1 system using the RTS real time hypervisor.

"Our new Thin Mini-ITX motherboards can be universally employed in all the various embedded and IoT applications as the new low-power versions of the high-end 64-bit Intel Core processors offer a highly configurable thermal design power (TDP) of 15W, with the flexibility to scale dissipation from 7.5W cTDP to 25W cTDP for an exceptional balance of power and performance," explains congatec Director Product Management Martin Danzer. Perfectly tailored for the embedded and rugged industrial market, the new flagship motherboard design offers at least 7 years long term availability as well as a comprehensive set of industrial interfaces and drivers. Thanks to congatec's personal integration support, the design-in phase is highly simplified and becomes an easy job for OEM engineers.

The board ships with four different dual-core variants of 7th Gen Intel Core U SoC processors and have a configurable cTDP power envelope from 7.5 W to 25 W. Two SO-DIMM sockets support up to 32GB DDR4-2133 memory. 

For non-volatile memory the boards offer 1x M.2 slot supporting the new Intel Optane memory for significantly lower latency and higher data rates mass storage devices. 2x SATA 3.0 interfaces allow additional HDDs or SSDs to be connected. 

The new boards connect the DirectX 12 capable Intel HD Graphics 620 with up to three independent displays in 4k resolution @ 60 Hz via 2x DP++ plus eDP or dual channel LVDS. The new hardware-accelerated 10-bit encoding/decoding of HEVC and VP9 videos offloads the CPU while HDR support makes videos more vibrant and lifelike. 

The industrial grade I/O set includes 2x Gigabit Ethernet and 1x SIM card socket for 3G/4G or Narrow Band M2M and IoT connectivity, 1x PCIe x4 and 1x mPCIe for generic expansions, 4x USB 3.0, 6x USB 2.0, 8x GPIO, and 2x serial COM ports - one of which can be configured as ccTalk. 

An integrated Board Management Controller, HDA audio including a stereo amplifier, a MIPI CSI-2 interface for direct connection of low-cost CMOS cameras as well as optional TPM 2.0 round off the feature set. The boards support the 64-bit versions of Microsoft Windows 10 and Windows 10 IoT as well as all common Linux operating systems. A comprehensive choice of add-ons for easier design-in, including cooling solutions, I/O shields and cable sets, is also available.

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