New PICMG Spec Tailored for Edge Computing

By Ken Briodagh

Senior Technology Editor

Embedded Computing Design

October 12, 2023


New PICMG Spec Tailored for Edge Computing

PICMG recently announced its new COM-HPC 1.2 “Mini” specification, which is designed to provide a cost-effective, lower power module for edge applications like autonomous mobile robots, drones, mobile 5G test and measurement equipment.

The COM-HPC Mini is about half the size of next smallest form factor COM-HPC, at only 95 x 70 mm. It has a single, rugged 400-pin connector that supports several communications interfaces, including:

  • 16x PCIe lanes (PCIe 4.0 or PCIe 5.0)
  • 2x 10 Gbps NBASE-T Ethernet ports
  • 8x SuperSpeed lanes (for USB4/ThunderBolt, USB 3.2, or DDI)
  • 8x USB 2.0
  • 2x SATA ports (shared with PCIe lanes)
  • 1x eDP
  • 2x DDI

According to the release, the 1.2 specification defines a separate FFC connector for MIPI CSI, and supports signals like Boot SPI and eSPI, UART, CAN, Audio, FUSA, and power management signals. A signal voltage reduction from 3.3V to 1.8V on most pins is in line with reduced I/O voltage on the latest low-power CPUs. The input power is limited to a maximum of 107W at a wide input voltage of 8V to 20V, leaving plenty of headroom for performance processors.

“The COM-HPC size A started at 95 mm x 120 mm, but the market loves the Mini size as well as the performance you get with COM-HPC,” said Christian Eder, Director of Product Marketing at congatec and Chairman of the COM-HPC Working Group at PICMG, in the release. “The whole trend of making things smaller and more power-saving was a reaction to market trends, and it will continue.”

PICMG said that the Mini’s smaller footprint also provides mechanical advantages thanks to the 15 mm stack height from the top of a carrier board to the top of a heat spreader stacked on the Mini module. This is reportedly a 5 mm reduction compared to other COM-HPC variants, which means Mini modules must use soldered memory, so they’re also more rugged than other specs, more resistant to shock and vibration, and provides direct thermal coupling to heat spreaders.

“The new revision of the specification allows COM-HPC to address additional high-performance applications that require a smaller footprint,” said Doug Sandy, CTO of PICMG. “COM-HPC 1.2 is a great solution that completes the spectrum of solutions of COM Express through COM-HPC Server Modules.”

PICMG members ADLINK, congatec, Samtec, SECO, and others have either already released or plan to release COM-HPC 1.2 product in the near future. The COM-HPC 1.2 specification can be downloaded today for $750 from the PICMG website. A COM-HPC 1.2 Carrier Design Guide is scheduled for release in early 2024.

Ken Briodagh is a writer and editor with two decades of experience under his belt. He is in love with technology and if he had his druthers, he would beta test everything from shoe phones to flying cars. In previous lives, he’s been a short order cook, telemarketer, medical supply technician, mover of the bodies at a funeral home, pirate, poet, partial alliterist, parent, partner and pretender to various thrones. Most of his exploits are either exaggerated or blatantly false.

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