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What do Medical Devices, Facial Recognition, Genivi, and Clustering Processors have in Common?

All of these very cool technologies – showcased by Intel’s ECA partners at IDF2011 – provide a clear direction for future trends in medical, consumer and automotive electronics.

Let’s start with the cluster controller and backplane technology.

Designers that require blazingly fast backplane buses are happy to see the development of PCI Express, Generation 3 products.  The latest version of the popular interface will provide an impressive eight gigabits per second (Gbits/s) per lane and 128 Gbit/s in designs using x16 port widths. Such performance will be welcomed in the enterprise computing, storage and communications spaces.

IDT demonstrated its latest high-performance PCIe switches alongside  re-timing devices for longer distance application. Ken Curt, Sr. Product Marketing Manager of Enterprise Computing Division at IDT, gave me the one-minute demonstration tour:

“Here are our newly announced Gen3 packet-switch devices. In this demonstration (see Figure 1), we are using a Gen2 server since we can not get a Gen3 server. The Gen2 signal comes out over cable to go into our packet switch which does a rates conversion from 5Gbits to 8Gbits per sec. The 8Gbit/sec signal – 8 lanes in parallel – is sent to a Gen3 Sata-SAS controller card from LSI logic.”

“Also, we are tapping off to a LeCroy bus analyzer (not shown) to verify that we are running 8Gb/s across 8 lanes. Further, we are showing our Eye-diagram capability to see the waveform inside of our chip and optimize the signal configuration.

“For longer traces and longer cables, we also provide PCI Express Gen3 re-timing devices, which will easily extend across 30 inches of trace or backplane.”

Short, sweet and too the point. Great demo, Ken!  

Figure 1: Ken Curt from IDT demonstrations a PCI Express Gen3 (converted from Gen2) data storage application at IDF2011.


Turning from data storage and cloud computing backplane technology, let’s now take a brief look at the medical space.

Embedded and mobile software vendor Wind River introduced a new platform for medical device development at the show. The platform, built on the company’s real-time operating system (RTOS), includes a collection of embedded software development tools, networking and middleware run-time technologies, such as IPsec, SSL, IPv6 and USB.

Having a platform is great, but experiencing the end-product is even better (see Figure 2). Automated “cuff” blood pressuring measuring devices are nothing new. What is new is having such automated devices meet stringent vendor qualification summary (VQS) processes – which is part of the company’s development platform.

Equally important to accurate monitoring of ones’ blood pressure is displaying the information in a user-friendly format (see Figure 3). This is accomplished through a collection of development tools known as the Tilcon Graphics Suite. Products such as these are sure to find a place in the booming home-care market, as well as in hospitals and the like.

Figure 2: The Wind River folks have a great bedside manner.

Figure 3: Apparently, I’m a somewhat overweight woman with higher than normal blood pressure. Well, that’s good to know.


Moving on – Let’s look at the world of intelligent displays.

Emerson Networks had a great demonstration of facial recognition applications for intelligent kiosks. I believe this kiosk was running the KR8-315, a fanless embedded computer based on the Atom E640 processor running at 1.0 GHz with 1GB DDR2 and a 64GB Solid State Drive.

Figure 4: Note the “Viewer Count” and “Majority Gender” in the bottom part of the display panel. The next figure shows how these numbers are derived via facial recognition technology.


Figure 5: Facial recognition is used to determine “Viewer Count” and “Majority Gender.” That is Connie Schultejans from Emerson in the background.


Changing direction – Let’s now move to the automotive market.

Mentor Graphics is a member of the GENIVI alliance , a non-profit industry alliance for the adoption of an In-Vehicle Infotainment (IVI) reference platform. After the recent relationship cool-off with mobile phone giant Nokia, Intel has repositioned (or re-emphasized) it MeeGo operating system platform within GENIVI. (see, “ATOM Leader Leaves Intel”)

In addition to MeeGo, Mentor also offers a complete Android-platform development environment. All of these operating systems, including Mentor’s Embedded Linux, run on Atom processors – among others. A tool suite known as Inflexion is used to create the impressive user interfaces (see Figure 6).

Figure 6: Supporting the GENINI In-Vehicle Infotainment market, Mentor Graphics offers user interface development tools that operate on MeeGo, Android and Linux system running on Intel Atom processors.

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