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Compact, Linux-based computer extends I/O of networked systems

Apr 3, 2020 — by Eric Brown 1,875 views

Aitech’s compact, rugged “A174” computer can extend the I/O of multiple network-connected computers. The avionics focused A174 runs Linux on a Cyclone V SoC and provides I/O including serial, analog, discrete, ARINC-429, and more.

Aitech’s FPGA-enabled A174 I/O expansion subsystem is designed as a companion computer for one or more avionics computers, but it can be used with any rugged embedded system to extend I/O and offload I/O processing. The system’s multiple-client/multiple-server architecture enables multiple A174 devices to act as I/O servers to multiple clients.

A174 and block diagram
(click images to enlarge)

Multiple client computers, which can run any OS on x86, ARM, and PowerPC architecture, can simultaneously access and control the I/O resources on any networked A174. All I/O interfaces are implemented within the FPGA on the unit’s Intel Cyclone V SoC, “with only the physical layers being dedicated devices,” says Aitech. This approach is said to minimize power consumption and enable easier customization.

The A174 is pre-installed with an embedded Linux stack that runs on the Cyclone V SoC’s dual 800MHz Cortex-A9 cores. The stack includes drivers, server software, and client example applications. There are also “extensive” Built-in Test (BIT) capabilities.


The A174 is loaded with up to 1GB DDR3L and 128MB QuadSPI flash. The system is also equipped with temperature sensors and an elapsed time recorder.

Like Aitech’s Jetson TX2-based A177 Twister and AGX Xavier based A178 Thunder, the A174 uses rugged avionics connectors. The Ethernet port can be configured as a single Gigabit Ethernet port or dual 10/100Mbps “Fast” Ethernet ports.

Interfaces include 8x 12-bit analog inputs, 6x 16-bit analog outputs, and a variety of isolated discrete inputs and outputs with various voltage configurations. There’s also a MIL-STD-1553B (BC/RT/MT) port, a reference voltage output, a serial debug port, and 4x ARINC-429 Tx interfaces.

You can choose between two SKUs that share all the above features. The 00 model has 2x RS-232/422/485 and 4x ARINC-429 Rx interfaces while the 01 model has 8x ARINC-429 Rx link but no serial I/O.

The 180 x 180 x 52mm, under 1 kg computer has a 28V input with a 16-32 VDC range, reverse polarity protection, EMI/RFI filtering of I/O signals, and a 50-msec power holdup time. It runs at 13W under typical load with a maximum of 18W. An isolated external power supply and power and I/O cables are optional.

The IP67-protected A174 has a -40 to 71°C operating range, as well as shock (OS2 per VITA 47) and vibration (V2 per VITA 47) resistance. It also provides altitude and humidity protections and MIL-STD-810F certifications for rain, dusty, salt fog, and bench handling.

Further information

The A174 appears to be available now at an undisclosed price. More information may be found in Aitech’s announcement and product page.


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