PC/104 Embedded Consortium: Supporting growth of small form factors

The PC/104 Embedded Consortium is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization of about 100 companies engaged directly or indirectly in the manufacture of PC/104 and related products. Established in 1992, our original objective was to provide member companies with an open standard that captured the power and flexibility of a desktop PC in a size ideally suited for embedded applications. The result was the PC/104 specification – a robust standard for embedded PCs that offers full hardware and software compatibility with the standard PC/XT and PC/AT architectures in an ultra-compact, 3.6" x 3.8", self-stacking modular format.

Five standards, one consortium
PC/104, PC/104-Plus, PCI-104, EBX, and EPIC

Over the course of years the consortium has expanded the standards to meet end-user demand and to incorporate new technologies. At the consortium’s annual strategic planning session held in January 2006, we revised our mission statement to anticipate continued evolution of our small form factor offerings while ensuring support for our legacy heritage. Our updated mission/vision statement now reads: Promote the use of PC/104 and other small form factor CPUs with PC/104 stackable I/O expansion capability. We now govern five unique standards: PC/104, PC/104-Plus, PCI-104, EBX, and EPIC.

PC/104 supports 8- and 16-bit cards; PC/104-Plus added 32- bit PCI functionality to the basic architecture, and PCI-104 defines a PCI-only version of PC/104. The EBX specification added a larger size footprint, measuring 5.75" x 8.00", while continuing to support PC/104, PC/104-Plus, and PCI-104 expansion modules. EPIC, approved in Fall 2004, allows additional space to support advanced processors or complex I/O functions. Our focus will continue to broaden as we consider new technologies and explore alternative small form factors suited to our mission.

In addition to the five standards the consortium currently manages, the organization is in the process of adopting EPIC Express – an EPIC platform incorporating PCI Express technology (see Figure 1).

[fiigure 1 | ]

Visit www.pc104.org to download any of the above specifications.

Benefits of membership
Any interested company or individual can join the consortium. Manufacturers, suppliers, and end users of PC/104, EBX, EPIC, or other small form factor products are encouraged to join the PC/104 Embedded Consortium and actively participate in charting our future. The consortium maintains a flexible and accessible dues structure and offers several levels of membership. Participants help shape the future of embedded market standards and gain early access to new developments in the industry. Membership in the consortium has proven an effective way to reach end users of embedded technology. In addition, members enjoy recognition as a major player in the embedded market by virtue of their participation.

Organization and structure
The consortium is based in San Francisco, California, and is led by a group of directors appointed by their participation at the executive level. Beyond the executive level, there are multiple membership levels with differing dues structures, which enable participation from both small and large companies. The result is wide participation from a broad cross section of the embedded marketplace. Our technical subcommittee evaluates new developments impacting our specifications, considers new form factors that might be appropriately governed by the consortium, and reviews the suitability of incorporating new technologies into platforms under our control.

Our marketing committee is engaged in public relations activities on behalf of the consortium and promotes our technologies at trade shows such as Embedded World in Nuremburg and the Embedded Systems Conference in Silicon Valley and Boston, and in press releases, through “design contests” via the web, and by regular e-mail newsletters sent to members and end users.