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Nexcom launches four Linux-driven in-vehicle edge-AI PCs with Google’s Edge TPU

Aug 26, 2020 — by Eric Brown 1,772 views

Nexcom announced two Coffee Lake and three Apollo Lake in-vehicle systems that ship with Google’s Coral Edge TPU mini-PCIe cards and 4x to 8x PoE ports. Google recently released an open source runtime for the Edge TPU.

Google’s Coral AI family of Linux-driven products built around its 4TOPS @ 2W Edge TPU neural accelerator has yet to seriously challenge Nvidia’s Jetson modules in edge AI. Yet, we’re starting to see some third-party products supporting the Edge TPU, including Asus’ Tinker Edge T variant of Google’s Coral Dev Board, which similarly runs on its i.MX8M and Edge TPU equipped Coral SOM. Yesterday, Nexcom announced four variations of existing Intel Apollo Lake and Coffee Lake based vehicular computers plus one upcoming model that ship with the Edge TPU equipped Coral PCI-E Accelerator mini-PCIe card. (See farther below for brief summaries.)

Nexcom’s VTC 7251-GCIoT with Coffee Lake
(click image to enlarge)

Last month Google made several Coral-related announcements, led by the availability of an open source Edge TPU runtime available on GitHub. The source code is supported with scripts and instructions for building a library in Linux and Windows. The runtime targets developers who want to experiment with the Edge TPU on platforms that are not officially supported by Coral AI, including ARMv7 and RISC-V. The software supports the creation of images based on Yocto and other Linux distributions.

Google also announced version 5.0 of Mendel Linux for running on the Coral SOM and Coral Dev Board, featuring a more stable package repository among other enhancements. There are several new Coral models, including a BodyPix person-segmentation model, as well as some additions to the Coral ML software stack including an updated compiler and Model Pipelining API.


Finally, Google released some Windows drivers for its mini-PCIe and M.2 Coral accelerators and announced Coral AI support on the container-based Balena fleet management platform. There was no update on a ship date for Google’s Coral Dev Board Mini SBC or solderable LGA form-factor Coral Accelerator Module, both of which were announced in January.

Nexcom’s Edge TPU systems

Nexcom announced an Intel Coffee Lake system and three Apollo Lake based systems aimed at in-vehicle and rolling stock applications that support the Coral PCI-E Accelerator module with built in Edge TPU. They are all Coral equipped versions of computers with slightly different names, most of which have been announced over the last year and all but one which we have previously reported on here at LinuxGizmos. The new Coral-based models are all equipped with Linux, although the systems they are based on also support Windows.

Four new Coral AI equipped Nexcom systems
(click image to enlarge)

The one new model not shown on the chart above is the nROK 7252-GCIoT, which has yet to be formally announced. The vehicular computer is built on an 8th or 9th Gen Coffee Lake CPU and offers 2x LAN, 8x PoE LAN, 4x USB 3.1, 2x USB 2.0, 2x RS-232, and an RS-232/422/485 port. Other features include 2x HDMI, VGA, and 8x GPIO.

The upcoming nROK 7252-GCIoT provides expansion features including 3x mini-PCIe, 2x M.2, and 6x SIM slots. You also get 2x HDMI, a VGA port, and a 24V/36V power input.

Like the nROK 7252-GCIoT, the four other Nexcom systems covered below offer varying numbers of PoE ports for IP cameras that are integrated with the Edge TPU or the connected, cloud-based Google Cloud TPU for image analysis. Applications include accident avoidance, surveillance, optical character recognition (OCR) for automatic number-plate recognition (ANPR), and people counting and tracking integrated with GPS.

VTC 7251-GCIoT

The VTC 7251-GCIoT is the only system listed as “new” on the chart above. This appears to be essentially same as the VTC 7251-7C4 system that we covered in February, but with the addition of a Coral PCI-E Accelerator. The Linux-powered VTC 7251-GCIoT defaults to a hexa-core, up to 4GHz 8th Gen Core i7-8700T with 35W TDP. Equipped with an Intel Q370 chipset, the system also supports other 8th Gen and 9th Gen Coffee Lake parts.

VTC 7251-GCIoT rear view
(click image to enlarge)

The VTC 7251-GCIoT provides 4x GbE ports with PoE and 4x mini-PCIe slots plus GPS, HDMI, USB, serial, and isolated CAN, among other I/O. The rugged system supports -30 to 60°C temperatures and offers shock and vibration resistance. (For more details see our earlier VTC 7251-7C4 report.)

VTC 6222-GCIoT and nROK 6222-GCIoT

The VTC 6222-GCIoT and nROK 6222-GCIoT are Edge TPU equipped variants of the VTC 6222 and nROK 6222 models we covered in January. Both models run Debian and other Linux distributions on an up to 2GHz, quad-core Atom E3950 from the Apollo Lake generation.

VTC 6222-GCIoT front view (left) and rear view of similar nROK 6222-GCIoT
(click images to enlarge)

Both systems provide 5x GbE (4x with PoE), 3x mini-PCIe, 2x SATA, 2x HDMI, and CAN, serial, VGA, USB 3.0, and GPS, among other features. The nROK 6222 adds EN50155 railway compliance and offers a train-friendly DC 24/36V input with a rugged, M12-style port and ignition support. It also supplies M12 connectors for the 5x GbE ports (including one standard GbE) and a combo port with dual USB 2.0 interfaces. The audio I/O port has a rugged M8 connector.

By comparison, the VTC 6222 has standard RJ45 Ethernet (4x PoE, 1x standard) ports and USB ports plus a 9-48V DC input. It also adds a second audio line-out in addition to mic-in and line-out jacks. Otherwise, these rugged systems are almost identical.

MVS 2623-GCIoT

The MVS 2623-GCIoT is based on an earlier MVS 2623-C6SMK system. Along with adding the Coral accelerator, the new model offers 8x GbE ports with 802.3af PoE instead of 6x ports. It uses RJ45 instead of the earlier M12 connectors and similarly provides 2x standard GbE ports.

MVS 2623-GCIoT, front and back
(click images to enlarge)

Like the VTC 6222-GCIoT and nROK 6222-GCIoT, the MVS 2623-GCIoT runs Debian on an Atom E3950 with 4GB to 8GB DDR3L. Unlike the C6SMK model, it is limited to 3x mini-PCIe instead of 4x and it lacks that model’s M.2 slot. Two SIM slots and antenna holes are available.

Similar features for both include 2x USB 3.0, 2x RS-232, and single USB 2.0, RS-232/422/485, HDMI, and VGA ports. There are 2x removable SATA trays, onboard GNSS, 8-bit GPIO, audio jacks, an iButton, and a terminal block connector with 2x CAN and optional OBDII.

The 260 x 196 x 79.6mm MVS 2623-GCIoT runs on a 9~36VDC input with ignition control, power management, and a 12V output plus an optional rechargeable battery. The system offers -30 to 60°C support and MIL-STD-810G compliant shock and vibration resistance.

Further information

The four new Nexcom Coral AI systems appear to be available now with pricing undisclosed. More information may be found in Nexcom’s announcement, as well as its product pages for the VTC 7251-GCIoT, VTC 6222-GCIoT, nROK 6222-GCIoT, and MVS 2623-GCIoT.

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