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DAQ box runs Linux on Core i7, packs Spartan-6 FPGA

Mar 20, 2015 — by Eric Brown 1,929 views

Innovative Integration’s Linux-friendly “ePC-Duo” data acquisition box offers an Intel Core i7 CPU, a Spartan-6 FPGA, dual XMC slots, and dual 10GbE ports.

Like Innovative Integration’s Mini-K7 from 2013, the Linux-ready ePC-Duo is a turnkey instrumentation computer for distributed data acquisition (DAQ). The computer similarly combines a user-programmable Xilinx FPGA with an off-the-shelf COM Express Type 6 module integrating an x86 processor. However, instead of offering both a Kintex-7 and lower end Spartan-6 FPGA, it provides only the Spartan-6, and instead of loading the COM Express with an AMD G-Series processor, it uses an Intel Core i7.

ePC-Duo, front and back
(click images to enlarge)

The 9.8 x 7.7 x 3.3-inch ePC-Duo also similarly supports VITA-compliant PCI Express mezzanine expansion boards, but in place of the VITA 57 FMC sites, the ePC-Duo supplies dual VITA 42.3 compliant XMC slots. Other Linux-ready data acquisition computers with Xilinx FPGAs include NI’s CompactRIO systems.

The ePC-Duo contains an embedded “SBC-Duo” baseboard that’s equipped with a COM Express Type 6 module running a quad-core, 2.4GHz Intel Core i7 with 16GB of RAM. It’s unclear which generation the Intel processor is, but its specs match up with the 4th Gen “Haswell” Core i7-4700EQ, which runs on a wide variety of COM Express Type 6 modules, including this MSC C6B-8S. It appears there may be some options here, as the company notes that the data rate of the dual PCIe XMC sites (up to 3400MB/s) is dependent on the COM Express module capabilities.

ePC-Duo angle views
(click images to enlarge)

In addition to the 16GB of RAM on the COM Express, there appears to be an unspecified quantity of ROM available via an I2C connection. The Spartan-6 has its own DDR3 RAM and flash memory.


The ePC-Duo can fit up to four 2.5-inch, SATA 3.0 solid state drives for data logging, and offers SSD boot support. Remote or local operation is said to be available. The dual 10GbE ports support continuous data streaming up to 2000MB/s, and a standard gigabit Ethernet port is available as well.

“SBC-Duo” board stack (left), along with its block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

The ePC-Duo is further equipped with two USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, a DisplayPort, an HD audio jack, and a “VGA debug port.” Other features include a battery backup, temperature sensor, and a fan control. The computer offers a wide-range 8-36V DC power supply that is said to be well-suited for portable or automotive data loggers or waveform generators. AC power is also supported.

The computer supports Innovative Integration’s X3, X5, and X6 expansion modules for GPS-synchronized timing, IEEE 1588 timing, triggering, and sample control module for remote I/O. This interface is separate from the expansion modules available from the dual XMC slots. Innovative offers a variety of XMC modules, including RF receivers and industrial control modules.

The ePC-Duo supports Linux, Windows, or an RTOS. Device drivers, example software, and support applets are supplied for all peripherals, says Innovative. A C++ Developers Kit supports I/O integration and customization.

Further information

The ePC-Duo is available now at an unstated price. More information may be found at the ePC-Duo product page.

(advertise here)

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