Decoding SMARC Modules: Insights for the Modern Engineer

Helping you decide if SMARC™ is the smartest choice for your next project…


The current SMARC 2.1 module specification ensures small form factor COMs can take full advantage of the latest functionality, flexibility, and high-speed I/O performance provided by microprocessor manufacturers such as NXP and Intel. It also assures easier implementation into Cloud applications and accommodates AI-on-Module (AIoM) solutions, which need enhanced multimedia capabilities.


Who uses SMARC? 

SMARC is ideal for manufacturers of carrier boards and system developers requiring SoC-based ultra-low power Computer-on-Modules in miniature format. Furthermore, thanks to the user-interface options previously only available to mobile devices, OEMs, developers, and SIs can enjoy easy access to the smaller, low-cost display modules in smartphones, tablets, and advanced human-machine interfaces.


What’s it for?

The application area for SMARC modules continually expands with the myriad of possibilities IoT and AI technology presents, from manufacturing automation and industrial control solutions to AR, image processing, multimedia, and many more. Smart cities, surveillance, autonomous agricultural and construction equipment, and visual inspection on production lines are just a few examples.


The current version, SMARC 2.1, is ideally in step with the needs of developers and SIs. The additional features and revision enhancements made to the previous 2.0 specification were vital.


  • SerDes signal support for increased Ethernet connectivity
  • Additional MDIO interface
  • Further GPIOs
  • New power and sleep domains 
  • PCI Express Clock Request Signals
  • Additional Camera Interfaces 
  • JTAG connector refinement 
  • MIPI CSI Fill order changes
  • Improved documentation

SerDes signal support for providing additional Ethernet connectivity was a notable new feature, enabling two of the four supported PCIe lanes to be used as Ethernet ports. PCIe clock request signals for switching off unused PCIe lanes to save power and 14 GPIO instead of the previous 12 were further essential initiatives.


All of the above features are backward compatible with SMARC 2.0. This allows 2.1 modules to be integrated into 2.0 carriers. SMARC 2.0 modules are also compatible with SMARC 2.1 via optional extensions.


The bottom line

These low-power embedded architecture COMs excel as building blocks for very small portable handheld devices where power consumption must not exceed a few watts and the computing power needs to be particularly high. They are ideal for creating mobile, embedded, connected solutions addressing IoT/AI-driven customer requirements.


  • Optimized pin-out definition for versatile architectures
  • Ultra-low-power, low-profile solutions
  • Withstand harsh industrial environments and extreme temperatures 
  • Support powerful processors/ High speed I/Os
  • Removable connection: Simple and easy in service and development   
  • Shorter time to market 
  • Improved lifecycle/ROI
  • Scalability from ARM to Atom using a single carrier  
  • Long term availability


To learn more about Kontron’s comprehensive range of SMARC products, visit Kontron.

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