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Fieldbus ready edge controller runs hardened Linux on Xeon-E3

May 8, 2018 — by Eric Brown — 596 views

B&R’s “Edge Controller” is built on its “Automation PC 910” embedded computer with modular PCIe expansion. It features a hardened Linux stack on a Xeon E3 with a hypervisor for enabling an RTOS to run fieldbus controller applications.

Austrian embedded firm B&R has unveiled a version of its Automation PC 910 embedded computer called the Edge Controller. This “single device to acquire data, evaluate it and send it to the cloud” can be used for general industrial applications, as well as for “big data analysis and machine learning,” says B&R.

The system is tricked out with a commercial hardened Linux distribution with long-term support. This would appear to be the Debian 8 based B&R Linux 8, which is supported on the Automation PC 910 along with a variety of Windows versions. Cloud communications are based on MQTT.

Edge Controller (left) and 5PC900.TS17-03 mainboard

The Edge Controller also features a hypervisor that supports an RTOS implementation. As a result, in addition to edge controller operation, the system can act as a “full-fledged industrial controller with cycle times in the sub-millisecond range” that supports “an unlimited number of I/O modules or controllers,” says B&R. Supported fieldbus protocols include the POWERLINK Industrial Ethernet and OPC UA, with potential future support for OPC UA TSN.

The underlying Automation PC 910 is designed primarily as a maritime computer that has been certified in accordance with DNV GL, GL 2010, and IACS UR E10 standards. No mention of maritime applications was mentioned in the announcement, however. The system is said to support the EN 61131-2 degree 2 pollution standard.

Automation PC 910 in its various sizes

The Edge Controller is built on the sole Xeon-E3 model among the long list of Intel Core “Skylake” chip options available for the Automation PC 910. This model uses a 5PC900.TS17-03 mainboard featuring the 2.8GHz/3.7GHz, quad-core Xeon E3-1515MV5 processor with Intel Iris Pro Graphics P580 and an Intel CM236 chipset.

The Edge Controller’s 5PC900.TS17-03 board can be equipped with up to 32GB DDR4 via dual slots. The system offers 4x SATA interfaces with optional HDDs and SSDs. There’s an up to 4K DisplayPort plus lower resolution DVI and RGB display connections. ACPI 5.0, TPM 2.0, and an RTC are standard.

Automation PC 910 rear view (left) and airflow design

Other standard features listed for the Automation PC 910 in general include 2x GbE ports, 4x USB 3.0 ports and a single USB 2.0 port. There’s also an RS232 interface, a CFast slot, and a 24VDC power supply.


The Edge Controller would appear to support all of the Automation PC 910’s PCI expansion options, which range from a single PCI or PCIe x8 slot all the way up to 5x PCI slots and various combinations of PCI and PCIe in between. The different PCI/PCIe expansion options fit into one of three sizes of chassis. The Automation PC 910 also provides a variety of I/O options including CAN, RS232/422/485, audio, POWERLINK, and up to 4x GbE ports.

The Automation PC 910 supports fanless operation through an optimized airflow design along with optional heatsinks. Various fans are optional along with UPS options.

Further information

The Edge Controller appears to be available now at an undisclosed price. More information may be found in B&R’s Edge Controller announcement, as well as the Automation PC 910 and 5PC900.TS17-03 mainboard product pages.

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