Intel woos the Internet of Things with firmware factory for Atom, Quark

Auto-generated UEFI images to get gadgets up and running fast


Intel has released a new GUI tool that allows developers to generate custom firmware images for Intel-powered gizmos without touching any source code.

The Intel Firmware Engine, which debuted on Tuesday at the Intel Developer Forum conference in Shenzhen, China, automatically builds firmware binaries for Intel chips based on the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) standard.

The idea is that by making it as easy as possible for developers to get their hardware projects up and running, with a little luck Intel may not be left behind in the Internet of Things race, the way it was with smartphones.

Firmware Engine lets developers start with an Intel-validated reference firmware image and add or subtract components depending on the actual features available on the hardware. Everything is done via a Windows-based GUI and the final firmware image is assembled from a catalog of validated binary components. No programming expertise is necessary.

Intel Firmware Engine screenshot

Intel Firmware Engine lets hardware devs slap images together by choosing from a catalog of binary parts (click to enlarge)

To be fair, Intel said the tool targets device makers with "minimal firmware requirements." But according to Intel software and services veep Michael Greene, that describes most hardware developers.

"In reality, most device manufacturers just need firmware to do one basic job … boot their system," Greene said in a blog post. "The value they see in the platform is the ability to run a variety of operating systems, middle-ware and user applications. Firmware is essential to the boot process, but it's not what device manufacturers want to spend most of their time working on."

The images produced by Firmware Engine are also robust enough to support booting multiple operating systems – including Windows, Linux, and Android – something that homebrewed firmware often can't handle.

Developers who do need something more than the tool can provide will be able to extend its functionality using the Firmware Engine SDK, which is currently in a closed beta-test phase.

Firmware Engine supports reference boards based on both Atom and Intel's IoT-friendly Quark chips. The first boards to be supported are the Intel Galileo Gen 2 and the MinnowBoard, with more to be added later. Repositories for these and other platforms will be made available at Intel's Firmware Resource Center.

The tool itself and its 150-page documentation are available for download from Intel's site, here. ®

Similar topics

Broader topics


Other stories you might like

  • Intel freezes hiring for PC chip team, cites 'macroeconomic uncertainty'
    Inflation, Apple M2, PC market shrink: Could the timing have been worse?

    Intel's PC chip division is the latest team caught in the current tide of economic uncertainty, as the company freezes hiring in the group. 

    In an internal memo obtained by Reuters, Intel told employees all hiring and job requisitions in the client computing group were on hold for at least two weeks. During that time, the chipmaker will reportedly be reevaluating its priorities with "increased focus and prioritization in our spending [to] help us weather macroeconomic uncertainty," Intel said. 

    The client computing group, which designs end-user hardware, is Intel's largest by sales, having generated $9.3 billion of the $18.4 billion Intel made last quarter. Despite its place at the top, the CCG's Q1 takings were still down 13 percent compared to the same time in 2021. It was also the only Intel division to lose money compared to Q1 2021, another potential reason for the hiring freeze in the sector. 

    Continue reading
  • Apple gets lawsuit over Meltdown and Spectre dismissed
    Judge finds security is not a central feature of iDevices

    A California District Court judge has dismissed a proposed class action complaint against Apple for allegedly selling iPhones and iPads containing Arm-based chips with known flaws.

    The lawsuit was initially filed on January 8, 2018, six days after The Register revealed the Intel CPU architecture vulnerabilities that would later come to be known as Meltdown and Spectre and would affect Arm and AMD chips, among others, to varying degrees.

    Amended in June, 2018 the complaint [PDF] charges that the Arm-based Apple processors in Cupertino's devices at the time suffered from a design defect that exposed sensitive data and that customers "paid more for their iDevices than they were worth because Apple knowingly omitted the defect."

    Continue reading
  • Intel to get $7.3b for Germany fab site as TSMC dismisses Europe plans
    x86 giant giddy about making chips on the continent, its foundry rival not so much

    Intel is reportedly set to receive €6.8 billion ($7.3 billion) in subsidies for a massive chip manufacturing campus it's planning in Germany, and the x86 giant apparently won't have to worry about foundry rival TSMC setting up shop anywhere nearby for the time being.

    The German subsidies for Intel's planned fab site in Magdeburg was disclosed last week by Martin Kröber, the city's representative in the Bundestag, according to local media. The federal government has already allocated €2.7 billion in its 2022 budget [PDF] for the project, according to Kröber.

    Germany's Deutsche Presse-Agentur said the government is discussing the possibility of subsidies for other projects in the microelectronics industry.

    Continue reading
  • Nvidia taps Intel’s Sapphire Rapids CPU for Hopper-powered DGX H100
    A win against AMD as a much bigger war over AI compute plays out

    Nvidia has chosen Intel's next-generation Xeon Scalable processor, known as Sapphire Rapids, to go inside its upcoming DGX H100 AI system to showcase its flagship H100 GPU.

    Jensen Huang, co-founder and CEO of Nvidia, confirmed the CPU choice during a fireside chat Tuesday at the BofA Securities 2022 Global Technology Conference. Nvidia positions the DGX family as the premier vehicle for its datacenter GPUs, pre-loading the machines with its software and optimizing them to provide the fastest AI performance as individual systems or in large supercomputer clusters.

    Huang's confirmation answers a question we and other observers have had about which next-generation x86 server CPU the new DGX system would use since it was announced in March.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022