SMARC AIOMs Speed and Future-Proof AI-Based Designs Part 2

Modular Embedded System Design Today and Tomorrow

AIOMs: The State of the Art in SMARCs

The past few years have seen an explosive growth in the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) and the market for AI-enabled products continues to grow exponentially.

Examples of AI-enabled systems include robots, predictive maintenance systems, and intelligent surveillance systems. In the case of robots, the latest generation of industrial robots are known as autonomous mobile robots (AMRs). The fusion of technologies like computer vision, GPS, and AI allows AMRs to perform object detection and recognition and navigate their way around an uncontrolled environment in which the landscape may be constantly changing.

With regard to predictive maintenance applications, systems equipped with AI can monitor things like sounds and vibrations to determine the health of machines. When these AI systems detect anomalies and observe undesirable trends, they can alert their human colleagues as to impending problems, thereby allowing maintenance teams to address these issues without disrupting the operations of the factory or facility.

In the case of surveillance and monitoring applications, smart cameras can be used to detect and recognize people and objects in factories, cities, and homes.

Although AI applications can run on a variety of computing platforms – including microprocessor units (MPUs) and graphics processing units (GPUs) — tremendous gains in performance accompanied by dramatic reductions in power can be achieved by employing special neural processing units (NPUs). These 21st century processing engines implement all the necessary control and arithmetic logic necessary to execute AI and ML algorithms in the most efficient manner possibly.

The problem with using traditional SMARC modules with standalone NPUs is that designers also need to create the associated carrier boards in such a way that they can accommodate add-on cards carrying the NPU. In addition to increasing the size, cost, and power of the resulting system, this approach negatively impacts development time, effort, and resources, reduces time-to-market, and increases risk.

The solution is to use a SMARC AIOM (AI-on-Module), which is a SMARC COM that carries both MPU and NPU devices.

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Based on its history of market leadership, it probably comes as no surprise to discover that ADLINK is one of the driving forces behind the SMARC AIOM specification. In fact, ADLINK defined the AIOM concept in 2018. In March 2020, SGET released the 2.1 version of the specifications, which includes a 4-camera interface and gives AIOM the attention it deserves.

A Desperate Need for SMARC AIOMs

The global AI software market is forecast to experience massive growth in the coming years, with revenues predicted to increase from around $10 billion U.S. dollars in 2018 to $126 billion in 2025.

<br />The growth of the AI software market
The growth of the AI software market

The AI market includes a wide array of applications, all of which will benefit from access to NPUs in general and SMARC AIOMs in particular. These applications include object detection and recognition, expression analysis, audio event detection and scene classification, surveillance and monitoring, autonomous robots and vehicles, predictive maintenance, and … the list goes on.

Say Hello to State of the Art SMARC AIOMs

At the time of this writing, ADLINK has three SMARC AIOMs in development — the LEC-IMX8M-PLUS, the LEC-KMB, and the LEC-QRB5165. All of these SMARC AIOMs have their CPU and NPU dice — along with other dice and components — mounted on a single silicon substrate and presented in the same System-in-Package. Having the CPU and NPU in the same package provides the highest levels of performance combined with the lowest power consumption, thereby making SMARC AIOMs ideal solutions for edge computing applications.

<br />LEC-IMX8M-PLUS development kit (Image source: ADLINK)
LEC-IMX8M-PLUS development kit (Image source: ADLINK)

LEC-IMX8M-PLUS development kit (Image source: ADLINK)The LEC-IMX8MP is based on an NXP i.MX 8M Plus (2.3 TOPS, where TOPS refers to “terra operations per second”). ADLINK is a launch partner with NXP for the LEC-IMX8M-PLUS, which means ADLINK will be the first to release products to the market using these next-generation devices.

In the same way that the creators of traditional systems enjoy the benefits offered by SMARC COMs – scalability, fast time-to-market, and upgradability while maintaining low costs, low power, and small physical size — so too will the creators of AI systems enjoy the benefits of SMARC AIOMs

AI is the future of smart embedded systems, SMARC AIOMs are the future of AI, and ADLINK’s AIOMs will allow developers of AI-enabled smart embedded systems to design and deploy cost-effective future-proof products quickly and efficiently. In the next few years, AI will be deployed in a vast array of applications — all designed to make our lives better — and ADLINK will continue to be at the forefront of this exciting technology.

For more information about ADLINK SMARC AIOMs (AI-on-Modules), please visit:

Author: Henri Parmentier
Author: Henri Parmentier

Senior manager EPM-Modules Product Center at ADLINK Technology