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Embedded computing with 8th generation Intel Core Mobile processors Benefits beyond improved performance

The 8th generation of Intel Core Mobile processors offers a mighty 40% increase in performance over that of the predecessor generation. However, there are even more reasons that speak in favor of the new Intel Core Mobile processors, which are a perfect fit for many different embedded industries – including all the various new edge-computing applications requiring virtualization and real-time functionalities not only for local processes but also for virtualized fabrics and tactile Internet appliances.

Whopping increase in performance through more cores

New processor generations are measured above all by the increase in performance they offer. The 8th Intel Core Mobile generation (code name “Whiskey Lake”) with its new high-end Intel Core i7, Core i5, Core i3, and Celeron Embedded processors is no different in that aspect. This time, however, it achieves levels that haven’t been seen for a long time. Thanks to an improved microarchitecture and especially thanks to twice as many cores, it offers a performance increase of up to 40% over that of the previous U-series processors (code name “Kaby Lake”). The memory has also been designed to match the performance boost: two DDR4 SODIMM slots provide up to 2400 MT/s with up to 64 GB.

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CAP1: Maximum performance with minimal design-in efforts: the high-end Intel Core i7, Core i5, Core i3, and Celeron Embedded processors advance the 3.5‑inch SBC form factor with a mighty performance leap in every performance class.

New high-speed interfaces

Apart from providing improved performance, the new processors also impress with other interesting features never offered before. For the first time ever, an Intel U-series processor offers native USB 3.1 Gen 2 support. This USB SuperSpeed+ interface can transfer up to 10 Gbps or 1.25 GB/s so that even uncompressed UHD video can be transferred from an industrial camera. For this, the high-performance Intel UHD Graphics 620 is integrated into the processor to provide for brilliant high-performance graphics on up to three 60-Hz UHD displays with a resolution of up to 4096 x 2304 pixels. Thanks to the faster memory connection of the 8th generation, it performs much better in high-end graphics applications than the graphics of the predecessor model did. Through further functions such as the optional Intel Optane Memory 2 support, everyday tasks such as database requests for MQTT stacks and telemetry can also be completed faster. Beyond that, the processor cores enable efficient task scheduling for additionally optimizing the I/O throughput of the input channels to the processor cores. Further functions of the 8th generation Intel Core Mobile processors can best be explained using concrete board configurations. Before that, however, it should be pointed out that the boards also offer extensive support for features such as real time. This may only partly be attributable to the processor, but it should be highlighted first as an important characteristic.

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CAP2: Comprehensive interfaces and many extension options make extremely compact 3.5-inch SBCs a universal application-ready embedded computing platform suitable for use in numerous applications.

TSN support included

One example of an attractive feature in this context is the integrated TSN support, which, in conjunction with the OPC UA, is predestined to replace proprietary real-time Ethernet with a genuine open source solution.[i] The SBC is consequently interesting for many embedded devices that are expected to be used in IIoT and Industry 4.0 environments and will need to exchange data with neighboring machines and higher-level plant management systems under real-time constraints.

OEMs and users impose the same requirement on data recorders for wireless network monitoring, and on automotive test systems or data loggers for test vehicles, respectively, to store high-speed data streams from external sensors to solid-state or hard drives and analyze them, and to capture and log high-speed data streams to detect 3D objects and perform lidar imaging and mobile mapping.

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Figure 3: Thanks to the extended longevity and increased performance of the 8th generation Intel Core processors, embedded motherboards offer an ideal platform for long-lasting applications, ranging from automation and medical to transportation, with a high ROI.


Real-time hypervisor support

In keeping with these scenarios, OEMs can make full use of the increased quad-core performance when leveraging hypervisor software. And developers can now use multiple virtual machines to consolidate several previously separated functions on a single system, for example, to control two or four robots to be coordinated via TSN on a single hardware platform. However, with virtualization, OEMs can also integrate diverse additional functions such as Industry 4.0 gateways or artificial intelligence into suitable virtual machines, thereby making the application programming easier, more flexible, and even more portable.

Long-term availability of up to 15 years

Yet, there are still other reasons that speak in favor of using the new 8th generation Intel Core Mobile processors in embedded applications. One of them is especially significant, and that is the long-term availability of the processor series, which Intel has pushed up to 15 years.

This promise of high availability is a first in the entire embedded computing sector. It caters to the increased life cycle needs of the transportation and mobility sector, but is also perfect, e.g., for medical devices and industrial controllers, embedded edge clients, and HMIs because it enables extended life cycles at no additional cost to customers. Ultimately, however, the entire market profits from this high availability because naturally no one is excluded from it.

Handling the availability leap pragmatically

However, not all component manufacturers were able to support the leap from 7 to 15 years, which is why only a few embedded board and module manufacturers have been able to follow this extended long-term availability up to now. congatec is one of the few companies to have dealt intensively with this long-term availability promise and now also offers suitable solutions that can be handled pragmatically. While the company offers boards and modules with a standard availability of 10+ years, this can additionally be extended to 15 years on the basis of a specific long-time buy contract. congatec offers its customers standard arrangements for this. With the corresponding agreement, any components that have already been discontinued at the end of this life cycle are stocked through congatec and financed within the scope of the agreed coverage volume.

Author*: Jürgen Jungbauer is SBC Product Line Manager at congatec

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Figure 4: Applications that have special requirements in regards to footprint, scalability and I/Os are best served with Computer-on-Modules, ideally ones based on the most common COM Express standard.

* The author reserves the right to publish this text on the company’s website, in other, non-competing publications, or in other languages. However, parallel second publication on a directly competing platform will not be sought. If necessary, alternative arrangements can be made at any time.

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