General Micro Systems (GMS) Creates Multi-Function Rugged, Daisy-Chained, High-Definition Thunderbolt 4 Portable Rugged Displays with Touch, NVIS, Storage and PCI Express I/O

Using Apple’s Thunderbolt™ 4 technology® and Intel®GMS reinvents the rugged display

WASHINGTON, 09 October 2023—(BUSINESS WIRE)–STEAM 2023 — General Micro Systems (GMS) this week will showcase an innovation that reinvents the rugged display using open standard Thunderbolt™ 4 technology. The X9 Spider Rugged Thunderbolt Display, the market’s lightest 1-inch thin, mobile-ready multi-touch display, is available today in 12-, 17-, 24- or 36-inch sizes, in standard and high definition. Using Thunderbolt 4 technology developed by Apple® and Intel® allows the display to be connected via an ultra-thin single copper or fiber optic cable of up to 50m, which also powers the display and all its functions. The display can be daisy-chained to expand to multiple independent displays, while acting as an additional peripheral to the main host computer by adding COTS M.2 add-on I/O such as a Software Defined Radio (SDR) or GPS, or replaceable SSD storage device.

The X9 Spider Rugged Thunderbolt Display allows military and commercial system designers to reimagine the display as more than just an output device. For the 12- and 17-inch versions, the displays can function as portable “manpack” tablets that can be used by dismounted Soldiers/Marines or first responders. Patented GMS LightBolt™ cables using Thunderbolt 4 technology provide incredible freedom to use the display separately, but remotely connected to the host computer, which can be in a hand-held Molle backpack or on a stationary vehicle. Mobile features include an optional wide-angle camera for F2F conferencing between front-line troops and the Forward Operating Base (FOB) and versions with lightweight carbon fiber frames for easy hand-holding. Carbon fiber provides superior and even cooling and is one-fifth (80 percent less) the weight of metal displays. Additionally, the X9 Spider Rugged Thunderbolt Display costs about $10,000, less than a third of the price of competing displays.

When is a display more than just a visual output device?
“GMS’s military-grade LCD technology gives us the lightest, brightest and most feature-rich display anywhere on the market,” said Ben Sharfi, CEO and Chief Architect of GMS. “But what makes our display truly innovative is how Thunderbolt 4 technology allows us to daisy-chain multiple displays together—each with its own video stream; adding internal I/O as MIL-STD-1553; providing the user with a convenient 8TB removable disk right on the display itself; include a wide-angle camera for F2F interaction and power the entire display with the same cable that powers it with video.”

Never before integrated into a rugged display, Thunderbolt also includes PCI Express, the “data bus” used internally in the host computer. This puts any I/O or storage devices installed in the display’s two M.2 sites right into the bus as if they were in the host computer. Placing them in the display simplifies wiring, allows convenient cable disassembly for additional peripherals such as audio headsets and push-to-talk, and brings the radio electronics to the fore and away from possible sources of electromagnetic interference, while allowing the antennas to be conveniently mounted right on display. The presence of local storage on the display simplifies the user interface by allowing mission profile changes, data removal and system declassification using a removable M.2 2280 storage device.

By comparison, competing smart displays without Thunderbolt connectivity rely on networks such as 1 Gigabit/s Ethernet over copper cable. Thunderbolt technology is 40 Gigabits/s — 40 times faster — and has no network overhead. With a thinner copper or optical cable, data between the display and the host is 40 times faster with lower latency. The cable is also lighter – a huge weight saving over long distances on planes or ships.

The X9 Rugged Thunderbolt Display also reduces wiring and wiring with up to 100W of power sent to the display using the same data cable, eliminating a separate power source and cable. GMS’s patented LightBolt cable even provides power over a fiber optic cable up to 50 meters. Other features include a glove-compatible resistive touchscreen, resolutions from standard to high definition, each supported by GMS’s “boot kick” glass, anti-glare / anti-reflective coatings, water-resistant coating, and NVIS night vision support with special GMS backlight controls . GMS customizable 10-button keyboard allows program-specific functions.

“Aside from all the amazing specs built into these displays, there are really only a few key takeaways,” Sharfi said. “First, Thunderbolt gives us unprecedented capabilities in rugged displays – and we’re making the most of them. Second, this display allows designers to rethink their system architecture where the display does much more. And finally: only GMS has this—we continue to seek the best COTS technology and will always bring it to the battlefield first.”

The display integrates seamlessly with the rest of the GMS X9 Spider family of rugged, open distributed computing architecture (DCA) small form factor systems designed to lower development barriers to robust high-performance computing, high-definition video, sensor processing, AI, processing, storage, display and intelligent I/O on the battlefield.

Much more than an average robust panel
Beyond exceptional ruggedness with MIL-SPEC specifications – the hallmarks of all GMS displays – the X9 Spider Rugged Thunderbolt Display brings unmatched value to systems with:

  • Multiple displays can be daisy-chained by a single cable

  • Portable handheld (12-, 17-inch) or panel mount

  • 1 inch thick, with carbon fiber option for up to 80% weight savings

  • Lower price point compared to smart displays: up to 60% less

  • High-resolution, dual-mode backlight options for daylight readability and superior low-light NVIS viewing

  • A variety of filters and coatings for all environments: anti-sunlight anti-glare to rain spillage

  • Resistive touch screen, with PCAP option

  • Add-on Thunderbolt 4 I/O on M.2 modules

  • Removable M.2 NVMe SSD up to 8TB

  • USB 3.2 ports, plus audio and push function

  • Single cable for video, data and power, copper or optical

  • Built-in ultra-low-light wide-angle camera for F2F video

  • GMS custom keyboard for user-defined capabilities

  • Fully EMI shielded resistive touch screen for glove and/or stylus operation

  • Ultra-tough “boot kick” glass for a virtually unbreakable screen

  • GMS SecureDNA™ cybersecurity disinfection including host BIOS and storage

The display supports mounting options ranging from VESA and panel/surface to portable/handheld, including full customization options to meet any need. Plus, the lightweight version with a 12-inch display expands the capabilities to suit the operations of a deployed Soldier/Marine. Carbon fiber is lighter than metals such as aluminum. In the X9 display, it can also save up to 80% of weight while providing superior cooling by spreading heat through the microscopic carbon filaments.

Dual Thunderbolt 4 ports support daisy chaining of up to 4 displays, such as three 4K 60Hz monitors, two 4K 120Hz monitors, or four HD 1080p monitors. By connecting to an X9 Spider Mission PC, Thunderbolt 4 provides power plus 40 Gbps of data, including PCIe Gen 3, DisplayPort video, 10 Gbps Thunderbolt networking and USB. The display can be powered directly from the host up to 50 meters away or powered by an external +20 VDC power supply via a Smart Power™ connector (patent pending) for safe, ultra-low EMI and IP67 waterproof operation. An optional MIL-STD-1275 power supply is available with an optional 50ms hold.

The built-in, removable M.2 2280 storage device is suitable for mission planning, tactical maps, data recording applications and declassification of the entire X9 distributed computing architecture (DCA) system, including the host. The add-on I/O on a separate M.2 3042 module brings local features like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and APNT. I/O connectors (such as for antennas) can be placed in the display chassis.

Displays built for harsh, high-performance environments
All X9 Rugged Display products support optional display coatings to maximize screen readability and clarity in humid, bright or multi-light environments. Coatings include anti-reflective (AR), anti-reflective (AG), polarizing and water-repellent options. The X9 Spider Rugged Thunderbolt Display optionally supports a MIL-STD-3009 Night Vision System (NVIS) to reduce eye strain in applications where night vision goggles are used. GMS created dual backlight matrices, one for ultra brightness and a second for superior NVIS stealth. A unique “COV” (Cover) button instantly dims the LCD and key backlight to a pre-programmed, ultra-low level for surveillance environments.

About General Micro Systems:
For more than 45 years, General Micro Systems (GMS) has built a reputation as an industry expert in modular, compute-intensive and rugged small-form-factor embedded computing systems, servers and switches. These powerful systems, all built in America, are ideal for demanding C5ISR defense, space, medical, industrial and energy applications. GMS is an IEC, ISO, AS9100, NIST-800-171, and MIL-SPEC provider of infrastructure and operations for long-life, specification-controlled, configuration-driven programs. For more information visit

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