NXP Releases New Processor Family to Support Linux-based Edge Devices

June 08, 2023 by Aaron Carman

The latest NXP edge processor has built-in support for a familiar development tool.

Aiming to bring the flexibility of Linux to edge computing hardware, NXP Semiconductors has released the i.MX 91 family of processors. The i.MX 91 family is the latest release in the i.MX 9 series of applications processors that provide higher performance and improved security to bolster the extensibility at the edge.

i.MX 91 family

The latest applications processor from NXP offers scalable hardware compatibility and Linux integration, making it a valuable tool for the future of edge computing. Image used courtesy of NXP Semiconductors


While the i.MX 91 family boasts several helpful features for designers, perhaps the biggest change is the incorporation of Linux-based programming, opening the doors for dynamic and flexible applications to be developed. This addition will support the latest IoT and industrial protocols without sacrificing security.

This article dives into the technical details of the i.MX 91 family and discusses the greater implications of integrating Linux into edge computing.


Scalable Processing at the Edge

The i.MX 91 family is designed to offer a new, scalable, low-cost applications processing solution for designers working at the network edge. The low cost pertains not only to the price of the processor (the i.MX 91 features a simpler design compared to other i.MX 9 processors) but also to the technical requirements of moving edge processors to the i.MX 91.

The i.MX 91 shares both package and software commonalities with the rest of the i.MX 9 series, allowing designers to rapidly transition from legacy designs using the i.MX 93. In addition, the new family supports features such as the NXP EdgeLock Secure Enclave and the EdgeVerse Portfolio Platform, making scaling and security less of a concern.


The block diagram for the i.MX 91 family

The block diagram for the i.MX 91 family highlights key specifications for the new products, including its compatibility with EdgeLock software for turnkey security. Image used courtesy of NXP Semiconductors


Under the hood, the i.MX 91 series includes a 1.4-GHz Arm Cortex-A55, LPDDR4 memory support, camera compatibility, and an abundance of connectivity solutions that make the i.MX 91 a valuable solution for IoT and edge solutions. NXP has identified IoT home controllers, industrial scanning and printing, EV charging, and several other applications as ones that will benefit from the i.MX 91; with the level of flexibility afforded by Linux integration, however, this list may be considerably longer.


Bringing Linux Flexibility to Edge Processing

A key feature of the i.MX 91 family is its support for Linux in edge processing applications, providing designers with a familiar programming experience and affording new levels of flexibility thanks to the relatively wide adoption of the operating system. This will allow designers to develop and integrate devices supporting protocols such as Matter for the IoT or Wi-SUN for smart cities without requiring a major technical investment from the developer.


Edge computing

Edge computing relies on devices outside a central server to perform noncomplex but repetitive computing tasks to offload the computational requirements from the server level. Image used courtesy of IBM


In addition, the high level of Linux integration in both cloud and edge-based computing applications makes the integration of Linux into edge processors a valuable solution for scalable products that can be rapidly modified to meet the needs of designers.


Edge-Cloud Compatibility

A system’s flexibility is generally limited by the smallest value of its components. Software cannot accomplish more than what the hardware is physically capable of. The same principle, but in reverse, applies to edge computing, where extremely powerful hardware can be limited by software compatibility or the technical requirements of programming for all cases.


The integration of Linux in edge devices

The integration of Linux in edge devices may allow for increased collaboration between edge levels for smarter and more efficient computing. Image used courtesy of IBM


In light of this fact, the continued integration of Linux into edge devices is certainly positive news for designers. With the increased flexibility of Linux compatibility, the hardware and software requirements for the design of a new connected widget can be reduced. Furthermore, as edge and cloud-based devices begin to share more software commonalities, opportunities for dynamic scalability may be introduced.

So, while it may still be some time before we see complete integration with standards such as Matter, the i.MX 91 family has brought flexible edge computing one step closer to reality.