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Wireless-crazed, customizable IoT gateway uses ARM or x86 COMs

Aug 23, 2016 — by Eric Brown — 827 views

Congatec’s modular, Linux-ready IoT Gateway builds on its x86 and ARM Qseven COMs, providing up to 2x GbE, 6x USB, and 3x mini-PCIe connectivity links.

Unlike some of Congatec’s computer-on-module competitors such as Adlink or Advantech, Congatec has never offered its own Internet of Things gateway, instead referring customers to the same Intel Gateway System reference design used by Adlink, Advantech, and others. The German embedded giant is now offering its own, unique customizable “Conga IoT Gateway System” that features an unprecedented number of wireless interfaces and supports both ARM and x86 processors.

Conga IoT Gateway System (left) and exploded view
(click images to enlarge)

The “Conga IoT Gateway System” is aimed at OEMs developing Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) applications for smart cities, smart agriculture, connected homes and vehicles, digital signage systems, and more. The system was showcased at a booth at last week’s Intel Developer Conference in San Francisco where we were able to snap a few pictures.

Unlike most gateways, which tend to use custom-made boards, Congatec’s design can tap any of Congatec’s eight Qseven form-factor COMs, ranging from its ARM/i.MX6-based Conga-QMX6 to the Conga-QA4 module based on Intel “Braswell” Pentium, Celeron, and Atom x5-E8000 SoCs. The gateway will also support an upcoming Congatec Qseven COM based on Intel’s next-generation, Goldmont-based Apollo Lake system-on-chips.

Conga IoT Gateway System PCB
(click images to enlarge)

Congatec doesn’t use the word “reference design” in its description of the Conga IoT Gateway System its although it’s clearly aimed at OEMs. Customers can customize this preconfigured, precertified gateway product on their own, or tap the company’s design, manufacturing, customization, and certification services.

Congatec’s first customer for its system is MyOmega System Technologies, which has launched a “MyNXG” gateway running Android with a hardened, real-time Linux kernel on an Intel Atom-based Congatec Qseven module (see farther below). Congatec’s platform supports all major OSes, including Windows 10 IoT, says the company. All of its Qseven COMs support Linux.

Bottom views of Conga IoT Gateway System
(click images to enlarge)

The gateway’s compact, 230 x 200 x 40mm, IP53-protected housing is passively cooled. It’s equipped with mounting for up to eight antennas supporting multiple wireless standards in parallel, “while enhancing signal quality by utilizing antenna diversity,” says Congatec.

The gateway offers up to six internal USB ports and three mini-PCIe slots, for interfacing wired and wireless options. Wireless modules include LTE 3GPP modems, dual WiFi connections, Bluetooth LE (BLE), and 6LoWPAN. Other low power, wide area “capillary” wireless networks can be supported on customer request via USB, including LORA, 3GPP, LTE-MTC, Sigfox, UNB, or other 3GPP modems. There’s also support for wired networking available via a pair of Ethernet ports with PoE and PROFINET support.

Side views of Conga IoT Gateway System
(click images to enlarge)

The Conga gateway provides security features, and supports Congatec’s embedded board controller. The controller provides features such as secure boot, management of multi-master I2C bus, multi-stage watchdog, non-volatile user data storage, manufacturing and board information, board statistics, and power loss control.

MyOmega MyNXG

Congatec’s first customer for its IoT Gateway is MyOmega System Technologies, whose product is called the MYNXG IC2 Controller.

MyOmega MYNXG IC2 Controller, with and without antennas
(click images to enlarge)

No specific Congatec Qseven module was listed, but MyOmega lists the quad-core, 1.8GHz Atom E3845 from the 22nm Bay Trail generation in its spec list, which would point to Congatec’s Conga-QA3. Congatec showed an image of its newer, Braswell-based Conga-QA4 at the end of its MyNXG case study, but this was likely intended to refer readers to its most recent Qseven COM.

MYNXG IC2 Controller bottom view, with and without heat dissipating cover
(click images to enlarge)

The highly modular, Android 4.4.2/Linux based MyNXG includes dual Gigabit Ethernet ports with PROFINET and PoE. There’s also an Intel 7160 LTE modem, and two WiFi radios. The gateway supplies six USB-based capillary network extension cards for 6LoWPAN, LoRa, EnOcean, KNX RF, ZigBee, and Z-Wave. The MyNXG uses the same IP53-protected hexagonal casing as the Congatec gateway, and supports -10 to 70°C temperature operation.

The MyNXG offers “end-to-end security,” with TPM 2.0, intrusion protection, and Android security features, says Congatec. The gateway also supports IPv6, MQTT, and CoAP, which is used in the IoTivity IoT framework. The Android SDK sits on top of a hardened Linux kernel optimized for real-time IoT interactions, says MyOmega.

As explored in the case study, MyOmega offers a wide variety of vertical-application modifications of the device, called “scenarios,” featuring different radios and Android apps. These include an agricultural scenario in which a 3000-meter wireless link connects the IoT gateway and field sensors. A logistics application is “designed to measure the fill levels of kanban containers via image recognition executed on the gateway, where 3,000 bins are connected per node,” says Congatec. Another scenario “records and documents cycle times as short as 30ms in order to verify that a product has been calibrated by the ODM and to transmit this data to the OEM,” says the company.

Further information

No availability or pricing information was provided for Congatec’s Conga IoT Gateway System. More information may be found in Congatec’s IoT Gateway announcement. The MyOmega MyNXG IC2 Controller appears to be available now.

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