Corvalent Arm Systems: Low Power and Durable Design

Aug 18, 2020 | blog, IoT, iiot, ARM

History

You wouldn’t know it back then, but the Motorola sales engineer who went on to become the Strategy Manager in Europe had tried to give his company, Motorola (the inventors of mobile phones!), the keys to the kingdom, so to speak. As a sales person, Rob Saxby tried and tried to sell his friend Herman Hauser, who was the head of Acorn Computers, to buy Motorola MC68000 for Acorn’s computers. While a wonderful, rich, complex microprocessor with a linear address space and powerful, complex instructions (CISC architecture, after all), it was power-hungry and it cost a lot back in the day. But really, after all, both Apple and Sun Microsystems were using it, shouldn’t Acorn?

Herman was very clear and explicit: it was powerful, yes, but it consumed too much power (which meant heat, which meant more fans, and more cost) and it cost a premium American dollar (Acorn was British and Motorola was on top of the world). Rob decided to listen to his customer. Motorola had taught him sales, marketing, segment marketing – you know, all that good old-fashioned American business know-how.

But when Rob pitched Motorola on the idea of making a smaller, less powerful, and much less expensive chip, The Guys That Owned The Fabs recoiled. Real men not only owned fabs back then, as AMD Founder Jerry Sanders used to say, but according to Motorola they designed powerful, complex, elegant, microprocessors. They declined.

The rest is history: the man they called “Rob” at Motorola spun a little company called ARM (Advanced RISC Machines, Ltd.) out of Acorn with Herman’s help and £1.5 million of Apple’s capital (having convinced Apple that there was a place for a smaller, leaner, much less energy-consuming, and much cheaper part). With 12 great people from Acorn and a new business model in mind (Rob correctly predicted that chips would become more like commodities, like steel, and only the largest of them could make money by making chips). ARM would license the chip design to new companies that would only concentrate on manufacturing, not designing, computer chips).

And that is how “Rob” became Sir Robin Saxby, one of the greatest engineers and business leaders in the computer industry and Founder and first CEO of ARM, Ltd. The “Sir” part came of course much later, after he had built ARM into a £10 billion company and created an entire revolution in the computer processor industry.

[Motorola went on to share design and marketing duties with IBM and Apple on PowerPC, but that’s a related and deeply sad story on its own. They tried to spin up a variant of PowerPC to address the cellular, low-power market, not the least being their own Motorola cell phones, but MCore was just not as power-efficient as ARM. Even their own mobile phone Division wanted ARM, after all].


Present Day

To this day, we see Apple continue their interest in Arm (now temporarily owned by SoftBank). The Apple Newton was ahead of its time (nothing more lethal than that), but the Apple iPhone created the modern mobile phone architecture, since copied by everyone else. Arm chips are in almost every cell phone made, and quite a few other applications and market segments.


Our Announcement!

Corvalent Corporation, for 27 years, has offered consistent, long-lived, and reliable industrial PC’s and motherboards mostly made out of Intel chips, and Intel’s roadmap in the embedded space is one of the few that can be trusted to deliver features, performance, value, and longevity. We are now proud to announce a historic new set of industrial computers and motherboards based on Arm architecture.

The value propositions of Arm carry forward into our new industrial CorEdge i.MX 6 systems. They are much more power-thrifty than their Intel counterparts, meaning much less heat, no need for fans, and extended temperature ranges. They are indeed lower performance than Intel’s mighty x86/x64 architecture, but they can be run on batteries and they cost slightly less. Moreover, they open up new opportunities for our OEM customers to design in using one of the most pervasive architectures in history, with great software developer tools, a rich ecosystem from which to choose technologies, and the capability to open up new use cases.

But because Corvalent Corporation’s CAT-APM (Connected Assets Technologies-Asset Performance Monitoring) software is created to be able to run on Edge computers as well as on-premises servers and in the Cloud, we are also pleased to announce that these Corvalent Arm-based products are suitable for filtering data on the Edge at lower cost, saving customers money by only sending the most critical data to the on premises server, and/or to the Cloud for heavy duty analytical processing.

Intel vs Arm

Our CorEdge Arm systems come with Linux pre-installed (Ubuntu, a recognized leader in Linux distros, or Yocto, another popular software distribution). From a configuration standpoint, an excellent use case is this:

configuration use case

This is a configuration that really takes advantage of the Cloud, and the Arm-based CorEdge in this case is mostly just doing data acquisition, filtering, and light analytics before sending the data on to the Cloud. While the user can access the Arm-based CorEdge, it can’t be used for running the underlying CAT-APM platform or application software. The advantage? Extremely low power on the Arm-based CorEdge, fanless, quiet, and extremely energy-efficient. Because it is Arm and Linux based, it’s truly a “set it and forget it” set-up where the edge device can spend much of its time asleep, wake up, take samples from the sensor devices, do a little filtering (or none at all, as you wish), send the data to the Cloud, and then go back to sleep until its needed again. Low sample rate applications are ideal for this.


The Details

Here is one CorEdge Arm system:

Freescale imx6 CPU

 

Features in this particular machine include:

  • High performance NXP iMX6 (ARM Cortex A9 Quad core) computer @ 1Ghz
  • Rich interfaces, supports USB, Gb Ethernet, RS232/RS485, I2C, GPIO
  • On board 4GB Flash (eMMC)
  • OS: Yocto Linux. Ask about Android if interested!
  • 9V~36V wide range power input
  • Over voltage protection (optional)
  • Analog Video Input (optional)
  • 3 models are available:
    • NO LCD
    • 7-inch LCD with touch screen
    • 10.1-inch LCD with touch screen

Comparison

Intel ARM Comparison Chart

 

If you’re interested in learning more about how this configuration can help save you money and expand the places where Edge computers can be used at much lower power and heat, give us a shout out and schedule some time with our highly-trained and capable sales people.

 

Featured Products:

ARM i.MX 6 SBC 3.5″

ARM i.MX 6 SBC 3.5″

CorEdge ARM i.MX 6

CorEdge ARM i.mx6

About the Author

Alan R. Weiss
Alan R. Weiss has Fortune 500, International, and Start-up experience in IoT, including semiconductors, computers, networking, software, and enterprise IT applications. With hardware and software experience designing advanced IoT Healthcare (telehealth) systems to Industrial IoT dashboards and applications, Alan is the Senior Product Manager for IoT and Industrial Computing at Corvalent Corporation. Contact: alan.weiss@corvalent.com

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