Often times, increased complexity of the embedded processor and time to market are inversely related. Customers are exposed to overabundance of innovative proofs of concepts (POCs) that utilize artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies, and they are seeking ways to immediately implement the POC. How can one shorten the development duration in this market environment to take the advantage as the first mover? How does adding a complex new embedded processor impact your resources?
Satisfying the Requirements with i.MX 8M Plus Applications Processor
As highlighted by Jeff Steinheider in his blog, the NXP i.MX 8M Plus applications processor enables machine learning and intelligent vision for the industrial edge and a wide range of other applications. Highlighted features include the integrated neural processing unit (NPU), two integrated MIPI CSI camera interfaces, dual camera image signal processors (ISPs) and other multimedia capabilities.
Perhaps the performance of NPU, multimedia capabilities and the graphics performance satisfies the given requirements for one project. Or, an easy implementation of machine learning frameworks using the eIQ™ machine learning software development environment, an extended temperature range, the NXP 15-year longevity program, and the Arm® Cortex®-A53 cores are required for another project. Whatever the case may be, once the main processor is chosen for the embedded system, the project constraints must also be evaluated.
Tapping Into the Capabilities of i.MX 8M Plus
The new IPs integrated in i.MX 8M Plus applications processors, such as the NPU and ISP, can pose a challenge. And these new IPs are critical in exploiting the full capabilities of the i.MX 8M Plus for the accelerated vision-based machine learning applications. While many engineers are capable of solving these difficulties, the added complexity certainly puts pressure on the project timeline. We partnered with 11 embedded board systems companies on the i.MX 8M Plus to help enable faster time to market for our customers.
Many of the partners provide both standard form factor boards and System-on-Modules that you can purchase off the shelf, as well as design services that cater to your specific hardware requirements. By utilizing these boards or the design services, customers can significantly reduce time spent on schematics designs and component layout.
Partners can also help you with vision-oriented applications. Partners like Variscite and PHYTEC have camera solutions that utilize the integrated ISP. Using USB or Ethernet-connected camera modules with a built-in ISP can be a solution for some applications. However, in the applications where the higher resolution is required, most image sensors need to rely on an external ISP—this is where the integrated ISP on i.MX 8M Plus and verified vision solutions from these partners can be a significant advantage.
Furthermore the partners support many popular operating systems, such as Yocto Linux®, Android™, Debian and FreeRTOS, to help customers with software development while providing software solutions that fully enable the eIQ Toolkit for implementing ML frameworks.
Some partners go further by providing a complete ecosystem of their own. Toradex is partnering with Vision Components and Au-Zone to create a vision kit containing a camera module and fully integrated software stack, Torizon™, eIQ Toolkit and eIQ inference with DeepViewRTTM. Customers can test the capabilities of the i.MX 8M Plus by bringing own data and model to an intuitive graphical user interface and workflow environment.
i.MX 8MPlus Partners and Solutions
Variscite, NXP Platinum partner, has the VAR-SOM-MX8M-PLUS System on Module that is Pin-2-Pin compatible with other VAR-SOM products from Variscite. This module targets industrial, IoT and smart home applications. They are also offering the DART-MX8M-PLUS, packed in a small 55 x 30 mm form factor. It is a member of the DART Pin2Pin product family, which includes modules based on i.MX 8M and i.MX 8M Mini applications processors. Variscite can provide board design services, including schematic and layout design, BOM selection, complete PCB production files, board bring-up, testing and validation. Variscite’s VCAM-5640S-1ST camera board is compatible with VAR-SOM products.
Advantech is offering RSB-3720, a 2.5” UIO40-Express SBC. Additionally, they are also launching EPC-R3720, which they call an “Edge AI Box,” running Yocto Linux and Android. Advantech provides global design and manufacturing services, and their experiences cover a wide range of verticals, including medical, automation, transportation, smart display and tablet. They can help software development with Allied Industrial Modular Linux (AIM-Linux) and Android (AIM-Android).
ADLINK Technology Inc. is offering a SMARC™ 2.1 module board with the i.MX 8M Plus applications processor, LEC-IMX8MP. It is suited for applications such as smart home, city, multimedia and industry 4.0 applications. The starter kit, I-PiSMARC IMX8M Plus, includes AC/DC power adapter and USB cable for debugging. Their standard BSP support for Debian, Yocto and Android allows many to port code written in other boards, such as Raspberry Pi or Arduino.
Avnet Integrated developed a SMARC™ 2.1 module called MSC SM2S-IMX8PLUS. Avnet Integrated provides a large portfolio and innovative roadmap of open standard SOM. They also offer custom development of carrier boards, SBCs and non-standard modules. For evaluation, the SM2S-IMX8PLUS module, Avnet Integrated /MSC provides a development platform and a starter kit. They also provide Linux support, as well as Android support on request.
Boundary Devices’s Nitrogen8M Plus SOM offers industrial temperature and conformal coating options. This board is designed for mass production use with a guaranteed 10-year lifespan and FCC pre-scan results. The evaluation kits include a camera, a 7’’ display, a 5V power supply, a serial console cable and the carrier board. Altium design files and design reviews are provided at no cost to customers who make volume purchase.
Karo is offering the QSXP series, a QFN Style Solder-Down Computer-on-Module. The module is a square size of 29 x 29 mm, with a height of 2.6 mm, and is single-sided assembled. Because there are no components on the module's bottom side, the base board does not need any cut-outs. This is the smallest solder-down COM with i.MX 8M Plus applications processor. Karo also has a development kit with schematics and a bill of materials for a quick evaluation.
PHYTEC’s phyCORE®-i.MX 8M Plus is one of the smaller SOMs on the market. The 37×40 mm module includes an interconnect of 300 pins, including dual MIPI CSI-2 camera, USB 3.0, dual Gigabit Ethernet, PCIe and options for display, including MIPI-DSI, LVDS and HDMI. The development kit includes a carrier board. PHYTEC also offers VM-016 and VM-017 camera modules.
SECO is offering a SMARC™ Rel. 2.1.1 compliant module—SM-D18. The development kit includes a main power adapter cable, a carrier board, serial adapter cables, an HDMI cable and other necessary components to enable your evaluation. SECO can help with manufacturing and design services, as well as software customization. As for the OS, EDGEHOG OS is available—a proprietary OS based on Yocto. With EDGEHOG OS, SECO provides a single point of contact for both hardware and software systems.
SolidRun’s i.MX 8M Plus computer-on-module enables OEMs and integrators to create and deploy advances and power-efficient solutions at the edge. They are also offering CuBox-M Micro Desktop PC based on the module. The starter kit includes HummingBoard Pulse Carrier Board, i.MX 8M Plus SOM and all the relevant accessories for checking connectivity features and performance.
TechNexion offers EDM-G-IMX8M-PLUS, an EDM Type G form factor board and AXON-E-IMX8M-PLUS, a smaller form factor (37 x 58 mm) for more space-constrained applications. The form factor utilizes a 260 pin LPDDR4 SO-DIMM connector, which enables a wide variety of interfaces with highly reliable shock- and vibration-resistant connections. Machine vision camera modules are also available from TechNexion.
Toradex is offering the Verdin iMX8M Plus module in modern system-on-module form factor. The module is pin-compatible with the other COMs in the Verdin family. Also available is the Modular Vision Kit with Advanced AI hardware acceleration to streamline your development from prototype to production. Toradex has partnered with Vision Components and Au-Zone to create a complete ecosystem to evaluate the machine learning capabilities.
Your selection of the list of aforementioned partners will depend on your form factor requirements, production capacity or the level of technical assistance you would like to receive. Whatever your needs are, if you desire to expedite the development cycle, NXP is providing the ecosystem that can make your decision easier.
At the end of the day, we can’t do all of it on our own. We need somebody to lean on.
For product information please visit nxp.com/imx8mplus.
To explore more NXP intelligent solutions for the empowered edge please visit our EdgeVerse page.