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Universal ARM/x86 COM standard gets a boost

Aug 29, 2013 — by Rick Lehrbaum 4,913 views

Electronics distributor Avnet has added Taiwan-based TechNexion’s computer-on-modules to its board-level embedded products portfolio. The deal raises the profile of TechNexion’s open EDM (Embedded Design Modules) standard that defines three COM sizes usable with both ARM and x86 CPUs, and which incidentally forms the computing core of the open hardware Wandboard SBC.

The EDM COM standard first popped up on our radar screen in March, when the open hardware Wandboard project announced first shipments of its Wandboard SBC. As it turns out, a close inspection of the Freescale i.MX6 Cortex-A9 SoC-based Wandboard “SBC” shows it to be a two-board sandwich whose upper layer appears to be none other than TechNexion’s EDM1-CF-iMX6 COM (shown below-left).

Top row: EDM1-CF-iMX6 and EDM2-CF-iMX6; bottom: EDM2-XI-QM77
(click images to enlarge)


Seen above are TechNexion’s three current EDM COM products. The smaller EDM1-CF-iMX6 and EDM2-CF-iMX6 COMs integrate Freescale’s single-, dual-, and quad-core ARM Cortex-A9-based i.MX6 SoC, while the larger EDM2-XI-QM77 is available with a choice of Intel 3rd generation Core i3/i7 processors.


About the Embedded Design Modules standard

As shown below, the TechNexion-pioneered EDM standard defines three module formats: EDM Compact, at 60 x 82mm; EDM Standard, at 95 x 82mm; and EDM Extended, at 145 x 82mm.

EDM’s Compact, Standard, and Extended board sizes
(click image to enlarge)

In addition to its three board sizes, EDM also defines two signal assignment styles, dubbed Type 1 and Type 2, for allocating the 314 gold fingers of its SODIMM/MXM-like edgecard connector. As seen in the illustration below, EDM Compact generally uses the Type 1 pinout, while EDM Standard and EDM Extended go with Type 2. However, there appears to be more flexibility than the illustration implies, given that TechNexion’s EDM2-CF-iMX6 COM is listed as being built in “EDM Type 2 Compact” format.

EDM’s Type 1 and Type 2 connector signal assignments
(click image to enlarge)

More about TechNexion’s EDM COMs

Full details regarding TechNexion’s EDM modules are available from the product page links at the end of the story, as is information regarding a pair of baseboards for use with Type 1 and Type 2 EDM COMs.

Here, we provide a brief summary of each of the company’s three EDM COMs:

    EDM1-CF-iMX6 — This module is based on Freescale’s i.MX6 SoC with one, two, or four ARM Cortex-A9 cores, and constructed in the EDM Type 1 Compact form-factor. Communications is available via gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n WiFi, and Bluetooth 4.0, and its multimedia ports include LVDS, TTL, and HDMI display interfaces, S/PDIF and I2S audio, and a MIPI camera input. For more details, click the block diagram image at the right for a larger version.
    EDM2-CF-iMX6 — Like the EDM1-CF-iMX6, this module is built in EDM Compact format; however, it substitutes a Type 2 connector signal assignment, resulting in the presence of a slightly different set of I/O signals on its 314-pin connector. This module’s key features include the same set of wired and wireless communications interfaces as the similar Type 1 COM, but its display interface feature-set forgoes the Type 1 model’s TTL display interface in favor of a dual-channel LVDS interface. For more details on this module’s features, click the block diagram at the right to view an enlarged version.
    EDM2-XI-QM77 — This EDM Extended module is built around Intel’s 3rd Generation i3/i7 Core ULV processor backed by the chipmaker’s QM77 chipset. Among this module’s key features are a pair of SODIMM slots, HDMI, LVDS, and DP/eDP display interfaces, and dual CAN bus interfaces. Once again, for more details click the image at the right to view a larger block diagram.

And then there’s SMARC

SMARC formats
(click to enlarge)

Earlier this year, the Standardization Group for Embedded Technologies (SGET) ratified a standard for highly compact ARM-based COMs. Formerly known as ULP-COM, the “SMARC” (Smart Mobility ARChitecture) specification defines 82 × 50mm and 82 × 80mm formats using 314-pin MXM3 connectors, and is designed for low-power mobile and embedded device applications.

At last count, the standard had been endorsed by 34 SGET members, including top embedded competitors like Adlink, Advantech, and MSC. SMARC was the first multivendor COM standard to be built specifically for modern ARM-Cortex SoCs, aiming to efficiently pass along ARM benefits such as low power consumption to COTS designs. Despite this focus, however, SGET hopes to have SMARC also support the use of low-power x86 and other RISC processors. Further details on SMARC are available at SGET’s website.

Further info on TechNexion’s EDM COMs

All of the TechNexion EDM COMs described above appear to be in current production, and both Freescale models show up in Avnet’s online catalog (currently with 7-week lead times). For lots more information, visit the EDM System-on-Modules and EDM Carrier Boards product pages of TechNexion’s website.

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