New Embedded SBC Standard a Bridge to Future?

Jun 30, 2004

 

Five embedded single-board computer (SBC) manufacturers announced at the electronicaUSA/Embedded Systems Conference the publication of a new industry standard for small-form-factor embedded computer boards. Known as Embedded Platform for Industrial Computing (EPIC), the standard purports to provide a platform on which to build the next-generation of feature-rich, embedded systems for industrial, medical, military, transportation and commercial applications.

The specification is published as an open standard by Micro/sys, Octagon Systems, VersaLogic Corp., WinSystems, and Ampro Computers, all developers of standards-based embedded computing. The specification can be downloaded free-of-charge at http://www.epic-sbc.org/.

Embedded systems manufacturers that require faster CPUs and/or more I/O than found on a PC/104 board can now design, say the group members, in a broadly-supported, standardized platform. This is important for applications that cannot accommodate larger EBX-sized boards.

Phase one of the EPIC standard supports more than 1,000 PC/104 and PC/104-Plus compliant I/O expansion modules. This might assure interested embedded systems designers of long-term availability, expansion and support.

Future phases of the EPIC standard will support new bus technologies such as PCI Express, while maintaining consistency in footprint and mounting hole placement.

The 4.5x6.5-in. size is optimal for including full PC/104-Plus compliance (ISA and PCI buses) and a rich set of I/O implemented as either pin-headers or PC-style connectors. The standard provides specific I/O zones to implement, for example, multiple Ethernet ports, four or more serial ports, general-purpose I/O, video, and application-specific I/O such as 802.11x wireless and IEEE 1394 Firewire.

The standard is designed to reduce the confusion caused by the introduction in the last few years of various mid-sized cards displaying inconsistent connector and expansion schemes, and with no real governing specifications.

The creators of EPIC made provisions for long-term technology support. Ample board space has been reserved to support the broad base of PC/104 and PC/104-Plus I/O modules as well as emerging high-speed bus technologies such as PCI Express without sacrificing I/O capacity. The developers say with this architecture, users can smoothly migrate legacy ISA-based systems to the fast serial interfaces of the future.

EPIC is the only mid-sized embedded motherboard form factor for which a governing specification is published. Solutions are now in development by Octagon, VersaLogic, WinSystems, Ampro and Micro/sys.

A supplier of industrial computers since 1976, VersaLogic (http://www.versalogic.com) focuses on high-quality board-level products for embedded OEM applications. Product lines include PC/104, PC/104-Plus, EBX and STD 32 Bus.

Founded in 1981, WinSystems (www.winsystems.com) is a supplier of embedded computers. Their selection of PC/104, EBX and STD Bus SBCs and I/O modules include features such as extended temperature operation.

Ampro Computers is the global provider of modular embedded computing solutions for OEM applications. Ampro pioneered the embedded PC industry creating the popular PC/104 and EBX standards.

Micro/sys (http://www.embeddedsys.com) has been manufacturing OEM industrial microcomputer products since 1976, including board-level products and integrated computers. Micro/sys embedded computers are specified by OEMs in semiconductor processing, medical, pharmaceutical, process control and other industries.

Octagon Systems (www.octagonsystems.com) , manufacturer of embedded PC computers for the ,40-85 C environment, has produced products for rugged applications since 1981.

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