Open Standards

February 7, 2024

PICMG ModBlox7 Specification Standardizes Box PCs for Scalable, Interoperable Rugged Edge Computing

Industry NewsModBlox7NewsOpen Standards

  • CPU, Power Supply, and I/O units can be configured as redundant or non-redundant systems in transportation, automation, avionics, defense, and other markets
  • 1.4” horizontal pitch (7 HP) per unit supports mounting on walls, DIN rails or side-by-side in a 19” sub-rack
  • Modular, scalable architecture removes backplane for configurable, cost-effective low-, medium-, and high-volume production runs

WAKEFIELD, MA. PICMG, a leading consortium for the development of open embedded computing specifications, has ratified the ModBlox7 base specification. The first-of-its-kind specification addresses industry’s need for modular and interoperable embedded box PCs by defining a flexible mechanical architecture and “units” that fit a 1.4-inch horizontal pitch (7 HP) form factor.

The ModBlox7 architecture removes expensive components like backplanes and shelf controllers to enable the creation of price-competitive systems even at low volumes. Up to 12 of the 7 HP units can be interconnected and mounted on walls, DIN rails, or inserted in a 19” sub-rack.

“With ModBlox7, we combine the advantages of modular standards like CompactPCI and CompactPCI Serial with the demands we see from box PC customers like cost sensitivity, small form factor, and low weight,” explains Mathias Beer, CEO of Ci4Rail GmbH and member of the PICMG ModBlox7 working group. “By combining all of this in a PICMG specification, ModBlox7 addresses the design requirements of our clients and avoids vendor lock in.”

The Building Block Architecture of ModBlox7

A typical ModBlox7 system consists of Power Units, Processing Units, and PCIe or USB 2.0/3.0 Input and Output Units (IOUs), each of which measures 1.4” or 7 HP wide. Units can also be extended in 7HP increments to 14 HP, 21 HP, and so on and remain compatible with the specification.

Power Unit blocks convert external supply voltage into a 12V internal voltage and connect to Processing Units via terminal wire-to-board or board-to-board connectors. Processing Units support an overall thermal design power (TDP) of up to 150W and interface with IOUs over high-speed board-to-board connectors.

While a minimum ModBlox7 system consists of just one Processing Unit and one Power Unit, they can support as many as four PCI Express-based or eight USB-based IOUs. For high-availability or safety applications, ModBlox7 systems can also be configured with redundant Processing Units or Power Units. The maximum number of slots supported in any ModBlox7 is 12.

The ModBlox7 standard defines a direct board-to-board interconnect in a box format to realize cost-effective system solutions,” says Bernd Kleeberg, CEO and Head of Sales at EKF Elektronik GmbH and chair of the PICMG ModBlox7 working group. “Thanks to native support for redundancy, ModBlox7 is also recommended for high-availability solutions.”

Getting Started with ModBlox7

ModBlox7 is designed for edge computing, data acquisition, communication, and control use cases in transportation, automation, avionics, defense, medical, agriculture, and other demanding markets. A multi-vendor supplier ecosystem helps control cost and ensures product availability over the long lifecycles of deployments in these domains.

Members of the PICMG ModBlox7 subcommittee include Ci4Rail GmbH, EKF Elektronik GmbH, ELTEC Elektronik AG, Elma Electronic, Embeck Co., Ltd., ept GmbH, HEITEC AG, Hirose Electric Europe B.V., nVent/Schroff GmbH, Phoenix Contact GmbH & Co. KG, Samtec, Inc., Sealevel Systems, Inc., UBER Co. Ltd., FASTWEL Group Co. Ltd, and Tews Technologies GmbH.

Products based on the ModBlox7 base specification are available now. The specification is also available for purchase and download at www.picmg.org/product/modblox7.

For more information on ModBlox7, visit:

About PICMG
Founded in 1994, PICMG is a not-for-profit 501(c) consortium of companies and organizations that collaboratively develop open standards for high performance industrial, Industrial IoT, military & aerospace, telecommunications, test & measurement, medical, and general-purpose embedded computing applications. There are more than 140 member companies that specialize in a wide range of technical disciplines, including mechanical and thermal design, single board computer design, high-speed signaling design and analysis, networking expertise, backplane, and packaging design, power management, high availability software and comprehensive system management.

Key standards families developed by PICMG include COM-HPC, COM Express, CompactPCI, AdvancedTCA, MicroTCA, AdvancedMC, CompactPCI Serial, InterEdge, ModBlox7, SHB Express, MicroSAM, and HPM (Hardware Platform Management). For more information, visit www.picmg.org.

December 20, 2023

congatec launches COM Express Compact module with brand new Intel® Core™ Ultra processors

COM-HPCCongatecIndustry NewsMember NewsNews

Next-generation AI computing for the edge 

Deggendorf, Germany, 20 December 2023 * * * congatec – a leading vendor of embedded and edge computing technology – is introducing its latest range of COM Express Compact modules based on the Intel® Core™ Ultra processors. Providing a unique combination of heterogeneous compute engines, including CPU, GPU and NPU, the new modules are an ideal fit to run demanding AI workloads at the edge.

Next to the powerful P-cores and efficient E-cores for general computing and the high-performance Intel® Arc™ GPU for graphics-intensive tasks, the integrated Neural Processing Unit (NPU) called Intel® AI Boost contributes advanced neural processing capabilities to the overall computational architecture. The integrated NPU enables highly efficient integration of advanced artificial intelligence workloads at lower system complexity and costs than discrete accelerators. This makes the new Intel Core Ultra processor-based Computer-on-Modules especially beneficial for combining high-performance real-time computing with powerful AI capabilities in surgery robots and medical imaging and diagnostic systems, where automatically generated critical findings can support medical personnel. Other application targets are situational awareness in industrial applications such as inspection systems, stationary robotic arms, autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), and autonomous guided vehicles (AGVs), to name just a few.

“The new conga-TC700 COM Express Compact Computer-on-Modules provide application-ready AI capabilities in a plug-and-play form factor. Its ecosystem of customer solution-focused products and services significantly improves the time-to-market for implementing the latest state-of-the-art x86 with powerful AI capabilities as required in industrial process control, microgrid controller, medical ultrasound and x-ray, automated check-out terminals, powerful AMRs, and many more,” says Tim Henrichs, VP Global Marketing & Business Development at congatec. “OEMs can simply upgrade existing applications by exchanging the module and instantly gain access to cutting-edge AI technologies. It has never been easier to integrate artificial intelligence in x86-based systems.”

 

The feature set at a glance

The new conga-TC700 COM Express Compact Computer-on-Modules with Intel Core Ultra processors (code named Meteor Lake) are among the most power-efficient x86 client SoCs available on the market. Up to 6 P-Cores, up to 8 E-Cores, and 2 Low Power E-Cores support up to 22 threads, making it possible to consolidate distributed devices onto a single platform for the lowest total cost of ownership. The SoC-integrated Intel Arc GPU with up to 8 Xe Cores and up to 128 EUs can handle stunning graphics up to 2x 8K resolution and ultra-fast GPGPU-based vision data (pre)processing. The integrated NPU Intel AI Boost executes machine learning algorithms and AI inferences particularly efficient. Up to 96 GB DDR SO-DIMM with in-band ECC at 5600 MT/s contributes to power-efficient high data throughput and low latency.

The modules are supported by congatec’s OEM solution-focused high-performance ecosystem, including highly efficient active and passive cooling solutions and ready-to-use evaluation carrier boards. Customers can order the modules with pre-evaluated real-time hypervisor technology from Real-Time Systems for virtual machine deployments and workload consolidation in edge computing scenarios. Service offerings include shock and vibration tests for custom system designs, temperature screening, and high-speed signal compliance testing, along with design-in services and all required training sessions to simplify the use of congatec’s embedded computer technologies to round off the ecosystem.

The new conga-TC700 COM Express Compact Type 6 modules support the embedded temperature range from 0 °C to 60 °C and are available in the following standard configurations:

Processor P-cores /
E-cores / Threads
Max. Turbo Freq. [GHz]
P-cores /
E-cores
Base Freq. [GHz]
P-cores /
E-cores
Intel Smart Cache [MB] Graphics [Execution Units] CPU Base Power [W]
             
Intel Core Ultra 7 155H processor 6/10/22 4.8 / 3.8 1.4 / 0.9 24 128 28
Intel Core Ultra 7 155U processor 2/10/14 4.8 / 3.8 1.7 / 1.2 12 64 15
Intel Core Ultra 5 125H processor 4/10/18 4.5 / 3.6 1.7 / 1.2 18 112 28
Intel Core Ultra 5 125U processor 2/10/14 4.3 / 3.6 1.3 / 0.8 12 64 15

 

All features of the new Intel Core Ultra processor-based conga-TC700 COM Express Compact modules can be found here: https://www.congatec.com/en/products/com-express-type-6/conga-tc700/

For more information on the innovative Intel Core Ultra processor platform please visit https://www.congatec.com/en/technologies/intel-meteor-lake-h-based-computer-on-modules/

You can experience these and other innovations at embedded world from 9-11 April 2024: https://www.congatec.com/en/congatec/events/congatec-at-embedded-world-2024/

Visit congatec in Hall 3 at Stand 241

* * *

About congatec 

congatec is a rapidly growing technology company focusing on embedded and edge computing products and services. The high-performance computer modules are used in a wide range of applications and devices in industrial automation, medical technology, robotics, telecommunications and many other verticals. Backed by controlling shareholder DBAG Fund VIII, a German midmarket fund focusing on growing industrial businesses, congatec has the financing and M&A experience to take advantage of these expanding market opportunities. congatec is the global market leader in the computer-on-modules segment with an excellent customer base from start-ups to international blue chip companies. More information is available on our website at www.congatec.com or via LinkedIn, X (Twitter) and YouTube.

November 29, 2023

PICMG 2023 in Review: Specs, Specs and More Specs

COM ExpressCOM-HPCJess IsquithMicroTCAMicroTCAOpen Standards

By Jessica Isquith, President, PICMG

The end of every calendar year provides an opportunity to reflect on our achievements and shortcomings. But as 2023 draws to a close, I’m nothing short of astonished with what our membership has accomplished.

Seven specifications have reached significant milestones this year alone:

  1. COM-HPC 1.2. The latest and most advanced COM on the market was upgraded (to a smaller size) with the release of the COM-HPC 1.2 spec revision. Dubbed COM-HPC “Mini”, the 95 mm x 60 mm platform loses a connector compared to its fellow COM-HPC form factors, but still delivers 400 pins for carrying high-speed signals from the processor module to carrier boards.
  2. COM Express 3.1. The established leader in the computer-on-module (COM) market upgraded interfaces to provide increased speed and bandwidth over the previous generation. This will keep the specification compatible with leading-edge processor technologies.
  3. MicroTCA R3.0. MicroTCA continues its 15-year evolution, as Revision 3.0 of the specification add 100 GbE and PCIe Gen 5 interfaces to cement the open platform in high-energy physics and scientific research, communications, and medical applications for years to come. MicroTCA is also a favorite of Quantum Computing startups, many of whom have already adopted the standard in their R&D efforts.
  4. ModBlox7. The first open standard Box PC, ModBlox7, is in its final review phase and expected to be ratified by Q1 2024. It’s modularity, flexibility, and scalability is poised to address the demands of today’s industrial and transportation use cases.
  5. IoT Specs. PICMG’s IoT specification efforts continue to expand as work with Redfish APIs was formally adopted by the DMTF. With continued effort and adoption, the IoT.x family of specifications will enable sensor-to-controller-and-beyond data transparency that will drive the need for and application of compute intelligence at the edge.
  6. CompactPCI Serial Extension. CompactPCI, one of the original PICMG specifications, lives on in the form of CompactPCI Serial. A specification extension adds PCI Express Gen 4, 100 GbE, and support for other modern serial signals. The upgraded performance will allow CompactPCI Serial Extensions to keep targeting industry and transportation platforms where it has been successful for decades.
  7. InterEdge. InterEdge defines a set of specifications for process and automation control for the rugged far edge. This effort is a collaboration between PICMG and OPAF of the OpenGroup and backed by leaders in the energy and industrial markets. It is scheduled for release in early Q1.

All these accomplishments set PICMG up for an exciting 2024, which also happens to be the consortiums 30th anniversary of developing open embedded computing standards. With multiple new specifications primed to enter the industry, we’re looking forward to keeping up the momentum we’ve built over the last calendar year thanks to the hard work and determination of our member companies.

In addition to thanking existing members for their consistent contributions, we invite non-member companies to become part of the specification development process by joining and participating in PICMG. Through collaboration, significant problems are being solved that are reshaping multiple industries with open, interoperable solutions that enable thousands of embedded solutions to reach the market in an efficient and timely fashion.