Hydrodynamic mechanical creations were the first machines to perform automated and sequential functions. Known in modern terms as Rube Goldberg machines, they could perform timing and mechanical functions using gravity, fluid dynamics, frictions, and angular momentum. While primarily used for comical amusement, this educational lesson paved the way for logic, sequencers, bit slice, microcontrollers, and microprocessors.
The new processing creature that has evolved to tackle today's more complex and autonomous machinery needs is the Compute Element from Intel®. It will change the way sophisticated embedded systems are designed, deployed, and used.
The first 4-bit processor introduced from Intel® was the 4004, and while very simple by today's standards, it paved the way for everything we now take for granted. There were no integrated storage peripherals like disk drives, flash subsystems, communications, displays, etc. It merely fetched an instruction, decoded it, executed it, and continued in this simple fashion as an alternative to logic circuits and sequencers. Modern processors still perform these functions, but the integration of peripherals, memory, mathematical, and communications operations has helped them steadily evolve from the simple organism that once was the microcontroller.
And this has been a steadfast and logical evolution of needs-based functionality. Early on, designers realized that all embedded systems needed more than just a processor engine. Functional blocks like UARTs formed the basis of early communications and are still a de facto peripheral in many of today’s compute engines. But as integrated display controllers, disk controllers, DMA, and floating (and fixed) point numeric processors got added to the ever-shrinking geometries of fabricated integrated circuits, it became clear that higher integration was the key.
Higher integration lets engineers work smarter. No longer do they have to create and re-create basic standard functions needed in their systems. Instead, they can focus on the value-added hardware and software required to make their products stand out and outperform their competitors. But does this higher integration need to be monolithic?
The answer is: No.
Multi-chip modules (MCMs) are not new and have been the internal basis of chips that mirror and are used like monolithics. Single-board computers, too, have been around and demonstrated their effectiveness by allowing a company to standardize the technology used in the families of their products.
Intel® has created generations of Compute Elements that go above and beyond the merely single board computer and multi-chip module. The new generation of the Intel® NUC 11 (H and U series) are prime examples. These compute elements are built on Intel's 9th generation vPRO I7 cores and go above and beyond a simple, lonely computer. Instead, the family harnesses the ever-expanding capabilities of the cloud and higher-level connectivity like high-speed Wi-Fi® and cellular connectivity to bring more advanced features and capabilities to the design engineers and the products they are developing. In addition, the advanced and integrated graphics capabilities also bring a lot to the designer’s palette (Table 1).
Designing with Intel® NUC Compute Elements begins with choosing the proper series for your needs. The NUC Compute Element includes the processor, memory, and wireless capability for basic compute requirements. The U-Series, for example, is powered by the 8th or 11th generation Intel® Core processors and are ideally suited to digital signage, smart screens, edge analytics, and complex and collaborative workstations.
H Series Intel® NUC Compute Elements are powered by the 9th generation Intel® Core™ H series processors or the Intel® Xeon® processors. They are aimed at gaming and content creation applications (Figure 1).
Figure 1: The Intel® NUC 9 Pro and Intel® NUC 9 Extreme Compute Elements also provide core processor choices and feature high-performance and ruggedized solutions. (Source: Mouser Electronics)
The Intel® NUC Board Elements, like the CMB2GB, are modular companion boards that contain peripheral functions you may need and desire (Figure 2). These modular additions house the peripherals and ports driven by the Intel® NUC Compute Element. These also contain drivers and hardware for Gig Ethernet ports and Thunderbolt 3 and 4 DCH drivers for Windows 10. In addition, these Board Elements support the Compute Elements that have supporting processor accommodations (Table 1).
Figure 2: Intel® NUC Board Elements unite with Intel® NUC Compute Elements to provide the peripheral hardware and ports needed to create your semi-custom embedded systems using out-of-the-box functionality. (Source: Intel®)
Table 1: The Intel® NUC Compute Elements provide designers the choice of how much horsepower and memory and which peripherals and I/O are supported right out of the box. (Source: Intel®)
Intel® NUC Compute Element
Intel® NUC 8 Compute Element CM8v7CB
Intel® Core™ i7-8665U Processor (8M Cache, up to 4.80GHz)
Intel® NUC 8 Compute Element CM8PCB
Intel® Pentium® Gold 5405U Processor (2M Cache, 2.30GHz)
Intel® NUC 9 Extreme Compute Element - NUC9i9QNB
Intel® Core™ i9-9980HK Processor (16M Cache, up to 5.00GHz)
Intel® NUC 9 Extreme Compute Element - NUC9i7QNB
Intel® Core™ i7-9750H Processor (12M Cache, up to 4.50GHz)
Intel® NUC 9 Pro Compute Element - NUC9V7QNB
Intel® Core™ i7-9850H Processor (12M Cache, up to 4.60GHz)
Intel® NUC 9 Extreme Compute Element - NUC9i5QNB
Intel® Core™ i5-9300H Processor (8M Cache, up to 4.10GHz)
Intel® NUC 9 Pro Compute Element - NUC9VXQNB
Intel® Xeon® E-2286M Processor (16M Cache, 2.40GHz)
Intel® NUC 8 Compute Element CM8i3CB
Intel® Core™ i3-8145U Processor (4M Cache, up to 3.90GHz)
Intel® NUC 8 Compute Element CM8CCB
Intel® Celeron® Processor 4305U (2M Cache, 2.20GHz)
Intel® NUC 8 Compute Element CM8i7CB
Intel® Core™ i7-8565U Processor (8M Cache, up to 4.60GHz)
Intel® NUC 8 Compute Element CM8v5CB
Intel® Core™ i5-8365U Processor (6M Cache, up to 4.10GHz)
Intel® NUC 8 Compute Element CM8i5CB
Intel® Core™ i5-8265U Processor (6M Cache, up to 3.90GHz)
Intel® NUC 11 Extreme Compute Element - NUC11DBBi7
Intel® Core™ i7-11700B Processor (24M Cache, up to 4.80GHz)
Intel® NUC 11 Extreme Compute Element - NUC11DBBi9
Intel® Core™ i9-11900KB Processor (24M Cache, up to 4.90GHz)
Intel® NUC 11 Compute Element CM11EBv716W
Intel® Core™ i7-1185G7 Processor (12M Cache, up to 4.80GHz, with IPU)
Intel® NUC 11 Compute Element CM11EBi716W
Intel® Core™ i7-1165G7 Processor (12M Cache, up to 4.70GHz)
Intel® NUC 11 Compute Element CM11EBi38W
Intel® Core™ i3-1115G4 Processor (6M Cache, up to 4.10GHz)
Intel® NUC 11 Compute Element CM11EBv58W
Intel® Core™ i5-1145G7 Processor (8M Cache, up to 4.40GHz, with IPU)
Intel® NUC 11 Compute Element CM11EBi58W
Intel® Core™ i5-1135G7 Processor (8M Cache, up to 4.20GHz)
Intel® NUC 11 Compute Element CM11EBC4W
Intel® Celeron® 6305 Processor (4M Cache, 1.80GHz, with IPU)
Designers don't have to stop here. Once they have identified the core NUC Compute Element needed and the bolt on a NUC Board Element that contains feature-rich I/O, ruggedized versions, and up to 6 HDMI ports, they can add the Intel® NUC Chassis Elements to enclose the entire semi-custom compute solution tailored for their needs.
Intel® NUC Chassis Elements products take the designers to the next step by providing high tolerance and ruggedized chassis elements for the Intel® NUC Compute Elements and Intel® NUC Board Elements (Figure 3). Tough and ruggedized chassis round out the modular solutions with precision ports that unite with the ports on the modular boards.The chassis is ready for deployment once QA signs off on the functionality with multiple USB, audio, video, power, reset, and expansion capabilities.
For example, the ruggedized Intel® NUC Rugged Chassis Element CMCR1ABC, in addition to the six high-resolution graphics, contains M.2 storage card slot, USB 3.2, 3.1, and 2.0 ports, a GIG Ethernet LAN port, serial ports, and additional headers for expansion. It supports Windows 10 and has support for two internal drives. It also supports PCI Express, up to 8 dual-channel audio (through one of the multiple HDMI ports), and connects to Intel® Optane™ H10 with Solid State Storage ready configuration. It also supports SATA drives.
Figure 3: Tough and ruggedized chassis round out the modular solutions with precision ports that unite with the ports on the modular boards. (Source: Mouser Electronics)
Chassis options include wireless and dual antenna configurations (Figure 4). An Intel NUC Mini PC offering is also a quick, low-risk way of kicking the tires. In similar fashions, kits are offered that include different configurations you may need for your design.
Figure 4: Wireless support for Intel® NUC Chassis Elements simplify designs and speed time to market issues with wireless needs. (Source: Intel®)
The Intel® NUC Compute Element families, the Intel® NUC Board Elements, and Intel® NUC Chassis Elements are the building blocks of the next-generation compute platforms that can quickly be leveraged and utilized to accommodate a variety of design needs.
By taking the next evolutionary step in embedded systems design, designers can choose higher-level building blocks that seamlessly fit and interface together. This step can lead to quicker product definition time, faster prototype times, quicker test time, and quicker time to market with the easy ability to upgrade and increase performance when necessary.
After completing his studies in electrical engineering, Jon Gabay has worked with defense, commercial, industrial, consumer, energy, and medical companies as a design engineer, firmware coder, system designer, research scientist, and product developer. As an alternative energy researcher and inventor, he has been involved with automation technology since he founded and ran Dedicated Devices Corp. up until 2004. Since then, he has been doing research and development, writing articles, and developing technologies for next-generation engineers and students.
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