Get ready for the new i.MX 8 microprocessors

1280px-NXP_Semiconductors_Logo.svg_-300x108After years in the making at NXP, the first members of the i.MX 8 microprocessor family were introduced to the market with the aim to facilitate the integration of complex systems and offer a complete solution to more and more demanding use cases.

The i.MX 8 is the logical successor of the i.MX 6, leveraging all the benefits (large product line, [partial] pin to pin compatibility, ecosystem, …) that made its success and adding even more features/performances with a renewed longevity.

As NXP’s historical partner, Witekio has been a precursor in the integration of the iMX 8 microprocessors and is currently involved in several board bring-up projects across various verticals such as document verification, vehicle telematics and security kiosks.

While the processor is rather recent, it has already reached the maturity stage for creating industrial products out of it, and Witekio can support you in the design of iMX 8 based products leveraging the ecosystem.

i.MX 8, a step above the rest of the i.MX range.

The i.MX 8 family is a large family which includes several series (i.MX 8, i.MX 8M, i.MX 8M Mini, i.MX 8M Nano, i.MX 8X) each with various feature sets (Quad, Dual, Plus or Max), meaning different combinations of ARM cores, GPUs, interfaces and memory), here are the main things to know:

  • Each series offers a selection of CPU, GPU and DSP, HMI and multimedia support, GPU Libraries and Extensions, Interfaces, Memory types to target specific applications:
FamilyTarget Application
i.MX 8Advanced Graphics, Performance and Virtualization
i.MX 8MAdvanced Audio, Voice and Video
i.MX 8M MiniEmbedded Consumer and Industrial Applications
i.MX 8M NanoEmbedded Consumer and Industrial Applications
i.MX 8XSafety Certifiable and Efficient Performance

Full details available here.

  • Depending on your use case, the i.MX 8 family could offer a powerful alternative to Nvidia Tegra or NXP's own QorIQ for high-end whilst on the low-end, it could compete with the latest MCU.
  • Combined with the eIQ tools, iMX8 platforms can target Deep learning application for inference.
  • The large selection of HMI and Multimedia support (GPU, 4K and 1080p Display Resolution, MIPI-DSI/Parallel/HDMI Interfaces, multiple MIPI-CSI/Parallel/HDMI camera Interfaces, major video codecs support h.264/h.265/VP8/VP9, etc.) makes the iMX 8 a very versatile platform to build upon.
  • Building on the success of the i.MX 6, NXP is re-using many of the existing IP blocks (eg.PCI, SATA, VPU) but is also introducing new complementary IP blocks too (eg. USB3, CAN FD).
  • Although the i.MX 8 series are not all pin compatible, single board computer and SOM manufacturers (eg. Variscite) have developed pin compatible solutions for customers looking to move from i.MX 6 to iMX 8, or to extend the product life of an i.MX 8 with another i.MX 8 family member.
  • i.MX 8 implements a Hardware root of trust. A specific piece of Hardware enforces that only the software signed with your own private key can be executed on such a processor.
  • The main differences for customers moving from i.MX 6 to i.MX 8 will be around the ARMv8 related aspects:
    • Boot uses the ATF, this may impact the boot phases (like the BIOS / ACPI on Intel)
    • Memory management, 64-bit and large physical address space, SMMU
    • Improved security features may be more complex to implement (with the SECO on the high-end i.MX 8 devices)
    • Management of the Cortex-M4F if needed (probably similar to the i.MX 7 if experienced with)

i.MX 8 Family Block Diagram

i.MX 8 family block diagram

Advantages of the i.MX 8 series: 

  • A broad range of industrial microprocessors, the reference with advanced support and culture around it
  • The incremental continuation of the i.MX 6
  • Machine learning (Training and Inference) support
  • Really robust multimedia feature set
  • Hardware root of trust
  • Complete solution easy to integrate
  • Scalability on features and prices

Witekio, your software partner for a successful i.MX 8 project

Witekio is a Linux expert with years of system and application experience working on NXP processors. We started 15 years ago, supporting our customers on i.MX technologies, from i.MX 2X, to i.MX 7 and with various software environments (QNX, Linux, Android, etc).

Our teams of engineers across Europe and the US have developed BSP’s for the i.MX 6 and i.MX 7, have successfully brought up the kernel and drivers on i.MX 8 platforms already, provide Linux training applied to embedded systems and can bring your time to market down significantly. Our customers excel in their market, we excel at embedded systems.

As the i.MX 8 is gaining in popularity, the early adopters of the i.MX 8 are those Witekio customers previously working with i.MX 6 and looking to address some of its limitations. As a result, Witekio is currently involved in several POC to evaluate security features, investigate the GPU or ARMv8 architecture. The i.MX 8 is a truly exciting technology step forward keeping all stakeholders excited and keen to see more announcements!