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Congatec proposes API and middleware spec for COMs

May 10, 2017 — by Eric Brown 456 views

Congatec has launched a “ComX” standard for computer-on-module API and middleware spanning COM Express, Qseven, and SMARC form-factors.

At the Embedded Systems Expo & Conference (ESEC) in Japan this week (May 10-12), Congatec announced an “extended standardization initiative” called ComX. The proposed standard builds upon existing computer-on-module hardware standards such as COM Express, Qseven, and SMARC to standardize APIs and middleware, including its new Cloud API. The spec also includes some hardware standardization for COM integration with carrier boards.

No other COM vendor has yet endorsed the ARM and x86 compatible standard, which Congatec plans to advance through the PICMG (COM Express) and SGET (SMARC, Qseven) standards organizations. Without third-party support or even a published spec or white paper, it appears the ComX standard will be at least initially be deployed as an API/middleware standard for Congatec’s own COMs.

ComX architecture
(click image to enlarge)

ComX will establish “additional design-in and API standardization on top of the core standards to further simplify the development of customers’ dedicated applications based on standardized embedded computing building blocks,” says Congatec in its rather vague press release. ComX will standardize APIs IoT, cloud, and EAPI, with specific support for “IoT gateways or embedded features of COM Express Type 7 server-on-modules,” says the company.


The ComX standard will also include “approved circuit diagrams and logic for demanded carrier board implementations.” These are said to include “FPGA integration, switching logic for USB-C, or for SMART battery logic.” The standard covers both ARM and x86 based COMs, and presumably it’s also cross platform in terms of operating systems.


At ESEC this week, Congatec is demonstrating several of its COMs that tap early components of the ComX spec. Principal among these is a quick boot demo running on its NXP i.MX6-based, µQseven form-factor Conga-UMX6 module. The demo taps an i.MX6 quick-boot function that boots systems “in less than a second from power off to full operation including running applications,” says Congatec.

“ComX standardization includes the CPU technology independent implementation of a carrier board,” stated Christian Eder, director marketing at Congatec, in relation to the quick-boot demo. “A clever designed carrier board can utilize I2S for ARM and HDA for x86 sound implementation.”


In another demo, the Intel Atom E3900 (“Apollo Lake”) based Conga-SA5 SMARC 2.0 module is used to demonstrate “fully featured USB Type C connectivity with USB 3.1 Gen1, power and graphics.” The demo appears to use a ComX API detailing a standard way to interface with Type-C connectors. “System engineers don’t need to think about the interface setup anymore,” stated Eder.


Congatec is also demonstrating its Intel 5th Gen Core Xeon D based Conga-B7XD COM Express Type 7 “server-on-module” supporting dual 10 GbE and 32 PCIe lanes. “Now we need to extend the EAPI standardization for server type functionality”, stated Eder in reference to the Type 7 standard.

Finally, Congatec is showing its Cloud API running on its Linux-ready Conga-IoT gateway, a commercial version of the OEM-focused Conga IoT Gateway System reference design that was announced last August. The gateway is powered by an Intel “Bay Trail” Conga-QA3 Qseven module.

Conga-IoT gateway (left) and Conga-QA3 module
(click images to enlarge)

The Cloud API, which is “a proposed element of SGETs API standardization, is intended as a “universal hub between local sensor networks and the IoT clouds. The API is said to offer “secure bidirectional data exchange with any suitable clouds,” using “the TLS secured MQTT protocol,” says Congatec.

Other embedded API and middleware stacks

Congatec is not the only hardware vendor attempting to unify a diverse set of embedded boards with similarly standardized APIs, middleware, and IoT cloud connectivity. So far, most are focusing on their own products and/or hardware from ecosystem partners designed to work with them.

Eurotech was an early leader in this area with its Everyware Software Framework (ESF), an IoT framework based on the Java/OSGi Eclipse Kura project. Adlink has its Smart Embedded Management Agent (SEMA) device management and SEMA Cloud solutions for its embedded boards. Just this week, Portwell announced a line of RS4U industrial computers that all share a Portwell API stack for remote monitoring and control.

Advantech’s ELAA architecutre
(click image to enlarge)

Advantech appears to be after something more universal with its recently announced Embedded Linux & Android Alliance (ELAA) consortium, which hopes to standardize board adoption of an “open and unified architecture for embedded Linux and Android OS for industrial embedded and IoT application.” No other major hardware vendors have joined, however, so it appears to be mostly about Advantech gear.

Dell is the force behind a new Linux Foundation hosted EdgeX Foundry project for standardizing middleware on IoT gateways around its FUSE project. EdgeX Foundry will establish an ecosystem of companies that offer interoperable, open source plug-and-play components.

Further information

Congatec’s ComX announcement may be found here.

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