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Intel releases tool to allow developers to generate custom firmware images

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April 9, 2015

Intel said earlier today it has released a new tool that allows developers to generate custom firmware images for Intel-powered devices without touching any source code. The tool has a GUI look and feel.

Dubbed 'The Intel Firmware Engine' which debuted April 7 at the Intel Developer Forum conference in Shenzhen, China, the new tool automatically builds firmware binaries for Intel chips based on the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) standard.

The concept is that by making it as easy as possible for developers to get their hardware projects up and running smoothly, Intel may not be left behind in the Internet of Things race, the way it was with smartphones in 2007.

The Intel Firmware Engine lets developers start with an Intel-validated reference firmware image and then adds or subtracts components depending on the actual features available on the hardware.

Everything is done using a Windows-based GUI and the final firmware image is assembled from a catalog of validated binary components. Additionally, and this will please some, no programming expertise is necessary.

Intel said the tool targets device makers with "minimal firmware requirements." But according to Intel software and services vice president Michael Greene, that describes most hardware developers today.

"In reality, most device manufacturers these days just need some firmware to do one basic job: boot their systems and make them run the way they originally intended to," Greene said.

He added-- "The real value they see in the new tool 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 various images produced by the Firmware Engine are also robust enough to support booting multiple operating systems, including Windows, Linux, Unix and Android, something that homebrewed firmware often can't handle all at the same time.

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

Intel's new Firmware Engine also supports reference boards based on both Atom and Intel's IoT-friendly Quark chips.

The first boards to be supported are the Intel Galileo Generation 2 and the so-called Minnow Board, with more to be added later.

Various repositories for these and other similar platforms will be made available at Intel's Firmware Resource Center.

Source: Intel.

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