PICMG

March 2, 2022

PICMG Committee to Develop New Modular Box PC Open Specification

Industry NewsNewsPICMG

ModBlox7 introduces an open standard to proprietary multi-billion USD market

PICMG, a leading consortium for developing open embedded computing specifications, announces a technical subcommittee formed to create a new PICMG form factor specification named ModBlox7. This specification will transform the multi-billion dollar Box PC industry by introducing an open standard to what is currently a proprietary market. Box PCs are highly integrated computing solutions, but the lack of interoperability limits the ability for end users to achieve truly cost-effective and sustainable solutions.

The ModBlox7 specification will describe a compact and modular Box PC that is flexibly configurable and can be wall-mounted, snapped onto a DIN rail, or integrated into a 19” subrack. The height and depth are fixed; the width is variable in multiples of 7HP. The maximum length is 84HP. The modular Box PC designs will be very robust, support passive conductive cooling, and be used for demanding applications such as railway, avionics, mobile machines and autonomous mobility as well as machinery in discrete manufacturing and controls in critical process industry infrastructures. The result of the committee’s work will be a basic specification describing the housing mechanics, the modular functional units, and the electrical interconnection of the units. The standard will guarantee interoperability of units for manufacturers as well as interoperability for users of the Box PC, while combining the advantages of modular systems and highly integrated cost-sensitive Box PC solutions.

The open specification will contain the following requirements or specified functions:

  • Cost-efficient design with minimum mechanical effort. No additional backplane or heat sink will be required. Coplanar board-to-board connectors couple each unit to its neighbor and route defined I/O interfaces (PCIe and USB) to the next board. 
  • Modular, functionally encapsulated plug-in units in multiples of 7HP width pitch. Units form functional assemblies such as power supply, CPU, switch and I/O. Units can be multiples of 7HP, e.g., implement more interfaces or functionality in a single building block assembly.
  • This results in a wide range of device combinations in a modular design in increments of 7HP (21HP, 28HP, 42HP to 84HP), making it cost-efficient even in small quantities.
  • Each modular computing unit can host a stack of 1, 2, or 3 PCBs – depending on the complexity. Separation is typically made according to the front I/O and the power and communication requirements between the host unit and its expansion units.
  • Flexible mounting with minimal accessory components for wall, din-rail, and 19″ subrack installations.

“For industrial end users, the advantages of an Box PC open standard lie in the cost-effective design of the dedicated systems and the flexible interchangeability of components to tailor the platform for dedicated tasks. Manufacturers also benefit, as the interoperability between the units strengthens their core competence, and they do not have to develop each unit and its embedded components such as cables and mechanics themselves. For VARs and system integrators, the new ecosystem will provide faster configuration options with components from multiple vendors,” states Mathias Beer, chief product officer at Ci4Rail.

According to Markets and Markets, the global industrial PC market size is estimated to reach USD 6.1 billion by 2026 from USD 4.6 billion in 2021, growing at a CAGR of 5.8%. The market growth is fueled by increasing demand for industrial IoT, a steady shift towards digitalized manufacturing from traditional manufacturing, growing awareness for resource optimization in manufacturing industries, and stringent regulatory compliances.

The goal is to have the specification ratified by the end of 2022. The team has elected Bernd Kleeberg of EKF Elektronik as chairman of the committee. Manfred Schmitz of Ci4Rail is the technical editor, and Johann Klamer of ELTEC Elektronik acts as secretary.

This initiative has over 15 active member companies, including: ADLINK, Ci4Rail, EKF Elektronik, Elma Electronic, ELTEC Elektronik, Embeck, ept, General Micro Systems, HEITEC, Hirose Electric, Intel, Kontron, nVent, Schroff, Samtec, Sealevel Systems and TEWS TECHNOLOGIES. Further vendors are invited to join the committee to actively develop the new modular Box PC open standard.

For more information, visit the PICMG website: https://www.picmg.org/modblox7/

 

October 6, 2021

PICMG Ratifies IoT.1 Firmware Specification for Smart IoT connected Sensors and Effecters

Industry NewsNewsPICMG

PICMG, a leading consortium for the development of open embedded computing specifications, announces the ratification of IoT.1 specification defining a communication standard between sensors / effecters and local IoT controllers such as micro Sensor Adapter Modules (microSAM) already specified by PICMGs IoT.0 specification.

The IoT.1 specification defines a firmware interface and low-level data model that provides for vendor-independent configuration of smart sensors and effecters, as well as plug and play interoperability with higher levels of the installation. IIoT.1 supports both sensing and profiled motion control required by most emerging Industry 4.0 applications.

The IoT.1 specification is the first work product from PICMG based on collaboration with the DMTF organization. PICMG’s IoT.1 specification leverages and extends the Platform Level Data Model (PLDM) specification from Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF) in order to address the needs of industrial automation and control. PLDM is a low level messaging system that supports topologies, eventing and discovery and runs over a variety of system level buses such as I2C/SMBus and PCIeVDM (Vendor-Defined Message) over MCTP (Management Component Transport Protocol) as well as RBT (RMII-Based Transport (RMII = Reduced Media Independent Interface)) over NC-SI (Network Controller Sideband Interface).

IoT.1 was developed in order to benefit the industry in four specific ways:

  1. To enable sensor vendors to create smart sensors without having to manufacture the control circuitry and/or software by purchasing these components from PICMG-compliant suppliers
  2. To enable controller suppliers who wish to create smart sensors or smart-sensor components to do so in a way that is interoperable with other suppliers
  3. To enable sensor/effecter integrators to integrate sensors/effecters from multiple vendors with controllers from multiple vendors
  4. To accelerate the uptake of smart-sensor technology through open-specifications and interoperability

When combined with the PICMG sensor-domain network architecture and data model, sensors connected to MicroSAMs (PICMG IoT.0) or other controller modules will seamlessly integrate into the network with plug-and-play interoperability.

“Nothing like this has ever been done before in Industrial IoT – PICMG IoT.1 brings true multi-vendor plug and play interoperability to the sensor/effecter domain with flexible, open-standards based solutions,” said Doug Sandy, CTO of PICMG.

Jessica Isquith, president of PICMG, adds “this specification has the potential to accelerate the shift to better sensor interoperability and encourage a better and wider range of options.”

IoT.1 was developed in collaboration with the following PICMG members: Arroyo Technology, nVent, Triple Ring Technologies, Sandy Systems, PICMG

For more information, please visit PICMG’s website https://www.picmg.org/industrial-iot-overview/. The specification can be purchased and downloaded here: https://www.picmg.org/product/iiot_firmware.

February 24, 2021

Official Ratification of COM-HPC Specification

Industry NewsNewsPICMG

The open specification for high performance compute modules is approved by the PICMG Consortium

Wakefield, MA., 2021 – PICMG, a leading consortium for the development of open embedded computing specifications, announces that COM-HPC has been approved and ratified, and is now available for public download and distribution.

“Twenty-six industry-leading companies worked together diligently and cohesively over a span of five years”, said Christian Eder, the COM-HPC Working Group Chair. “I owe a big thank you to the team for the dedication and excellence they all brought to the effort. It is a clear proof of the importance of the COM-HPC specification. Now we are well prepared to address current and future technology requirements.”

COM-HPC defines five module sizes to deliver edge server performance for small, rugged data centers. The specification addresses emerging requirements in the embedded and edge computing market. The base specification will be accompanied later this year by a Platform Management Interface Specification, COM-HPC EEEP, and a Carrier Board Design Guide.

“The PICMG organization is proud of the extraordinary collaboration between industry leaders that has led to the completion of the COM-HPC base specification, said Jess Isquith, president of PICMG. “The new open standard will enable multiple AI and Industry 4.0 applications, amongst others, to be realized by bringing server-level computing to the edge. Adopting the specification provides a necessary standard to reduce time to market and stabilize costs for hundreds of solutions providers.”

It is important to note that the specification covers two classes of modules.

The COM-HPC Client Module Type targets use in high end embedded client products that need one or more displays, a full set of low, medium, and extremely high bandwidth I/O, powerful CPUs and modest size. Typical uses are in medical equipment, high end instrumentation, industrial equipment, casino gaming equipment, ruggedized field PCs, transportation and defense systems and much more.
The COM-HPC Server Type targets use in high end headless (no display) embedded servers that require intensive CPU capability, large memory capacity, and lots of high bandwidth I/O including multiple 10Gbps or 25Gbps Ethernet, and up to 65 PCIe lanes, at up to PCIe Gen 5 speeds. Typical uses are in embedded server equipment ruggedized for use in field environments and applications such as autonomous vehicles, cell tower base stations, geophysical field equipment, medical equipment, defense systems and much more. Both client and server modules have a dedicated platform management interface which is the first for a COM standard to include remote administration.

This new specification does not replace COM Express, which will continue to play a crucial role in the COM marketplace for many years.

The specification documents are available for download on the PICMG website at picmg.org/open standards/com-hpc/. Also available is a preview document and additional resources to learn more about the specification.

TECHNICAL HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Two 400-pin BGA mount high-performance connectors
  • Platform Management Interface
  • Not limited to x86 processors
  • Provides for the use of x86 & RISC processors, FPGAs and GPGPUs
  • COM-HPC Client Modules
    • Up to 48 + 1 PCI Express Gen4/5 lanes
    • Up to 4x USB4
    • Up to 4x video interfaces
    • Up to 2x 25 Gb Ethernet interfaces
    • Module sizes:
      • Size A: 95 x 120 mm
      • Size B: 120 x 120 mm
      • Size C: 160 x 120 mm
  • COM-HPC Server Modules
    • Up to 64 + 1 PCI Express Gen4/5 lanes
    • Up to 2x USB4
    • Up to 4 graphic interfaces / headless
    • Up to 8x 25 Gb Ethernet interfaces
    • Module sizes:
      • Size D: 160 x 160 mm
      • Size E: 200 x 160 mm

Members of the PICMG COM-HPC committee include: University of Bielefeld, Acromag, ADLINK, Advantech, Amphenol, AMI, Avnet Integrated (MSC Technologies), Comtel, Duagon (MEN Mikro Elektronik), congatec, Elma Electronic, ept, Eurotech, Fastwel, GE Automation, HEITEC, ICC Intelligent Platforms, Intel, Kontron, N.A.T., nVent, Samtec, SECO, Supermicro, TE Connectivity, Trenz Electronic, and VersaLogic. ADLINK, congatec and Kontron are the committee sponsors. Christian Eder, marketing director of congatec, is the chairman of the COM-HPC committee. He was previously a draft editor of the current COM Express standard. Stefan Milnor from Kontron and Dylan Lang from Samtec support Christian Eder in their respective functions as editor and secretary of the PICMG COM-HPC committee.