NXP i.MX6-Based Boards Boast Extended Temp Operation

Versalogic has announced the Zebra, its latest in their new line of production-ready ARM-based embedded computers. Featuring models with either the NXP i.MX6 Solo (single core), or the i.MX6 DualLite (dual core) processors, the Zebra is rated for full industrial temperature operation (-40°C to +85°C). The compact 95 mm x 95 mm computer board typically consumes less than 3 W of power when operating.

Unlike many ARM-based “modules,” Versalogic’s new ARM-based products are complete board-level computers. They do not require additional carrier cards, companion boards, connector break-out boards or other add-ons to function. For ease of mounting and future upgrades, the Zebra product conforms to the size and mounting points of the industry standard COM Compact format. Unlike proprietary-format ARM products, Versalogic ARM boards provide a standardized mounting pattern for simplified upgrading in the future.
The Zebra embedded computer board is ready for off-the-shelf deployment into demanding industrial, defense and aerospace applications requiring rugged, long-life, power efficient, industrial temperature rated (-40°C to +85°C) solutions.

Both Zebra models include soldered-on memory, and a variety of I/O. The on-board I/O includes a Gigabit Ethernet port with network boot capability, two USB 2.0 Ports, serial I/O (RS-232), CAN Bus, I2C, and SPI. An on-board 6-axis e-compass is optional.

Many applications that require lower power or lower heat dissipation still need very high levels of reliability. Designed and tested for industrial temperature (-40° to +85°C) operation, VersaLogic’s Zebra also meets MIL-STD-202G specifications to withstand high impact and vibration.

ARM-based Zebra products, part numbers VL-EPC-2701, are in stock at both Versalogic and Digi-Key. with OEM pricing starting at $168.

Versalogic | www.versalogic.com

Linux-Driven Modules and SBC Tap i.MX8, i.MX8M and iMX8X

By Eric Brown

Phytec has posted product pages for three PhyCore modules, all of which support Linux and offer a -40°C to 85°C temperature range. The three modules, which employ three different flavors of i.MX8, include a phyCORE-i.MX 8X COM, which is the first product we’ve seen that uses the dual- or quad-core Cortex-A35 i.MX8X.

phyCORE-i.MX 8X (top) and phyCORE-i.MX 8M (bottom – not to scale) (click images to enlarge)

The phyCORE-i.MX 8 taps the high-end, hexa-core -A72 and -A53 i.MX8, including the i.MX8 QuadMax. The phyCORE-i.MX 8M, which uses the more widely deployed dual- or quad-core i.MX8M, is the only module that appears as part of an announced SBC: the sandwich-style phyBoard-Polaris SBC (shown). The phyCORE-i.MX 8 will also eventually appear on an unnamed, crowd-sourced Pico-ITX SBC.

phyCORE-i.MX 8 (left) and NXP i.MX8 block diagram (bottom)
(click images to enlarge)

Development-only carrier boards will be available for the phyCORE-i.MX 8X and phyCORE-i.MX 8. Evaluation kits based on the carrier boards and the phyBoard-Polaris will include BSPs with a Yocto Project based Linux distribution “with pre-installed and configured packages such as QT-Libs, OpenGL and Python.” Android is also available, and QNX, FreeRTOS and other OSes are available on request. BSP documentation will include a hardware manual, quickstart instructions, application guides, and software and application examples.

 

i.MX8M, i.MX8X, and i.MX8 compared (click image to enlarge)

The three modules are here presented in order of ascending processing power.

phyCore-i.MX 8X

The i.MX8X SoC found on the petite phyCORE-i.MX 8X module was announced with other i.MX8 processors in Oct. 2016 and was more fully revealed in Mar. 2017. The industrial IoT focused i.MX8X includes up to 4x cores that comply with Arm’s rarely used Cortex-A35 successor to the Cortex-A7 design.

phyCore-i.MX 8X (top) and block diagram (bottom)
(click images to enlarge)

The 28 nm fabricated, ARMv8 Cortex-A35 cores are claimed to draw about 33 percent less power per core and occupy 25 percent less silicon area than Cortex-A53. Phytec’s comparison chart shows the i.MX8X with 5,040 to 10,800 DMIPS performance, which is surprisingly similar to the 3,450 to 13,800 range provided by the Cortex-A53 based i.MX8M (see above).The i.MX8X SoC is further equipped with a single Cortex-M4 microcontroller, a Tensilica HiFi 4 DSP, and a multi-format VPU that supports up to 4K playback and HD encode. It uses the same Vivante GC7000Lite GPU found on the i.MX8M, with up to 28 GFLOPS.

i.MX8X block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

The i.MX8X features ECC memory support, reduced soft-error-rate (SER) technology, hardware virtualization, and other industrial and automotive safety related features. Crypto features listed for the phyCore-i.MX 8X COM include AES, 3DES, RSA, ECC Ciphers, SHA1/256, and TRNG.

PhyCore-i.MX7

Phytec’s 52 mm x 42 mm phyCore-i.MX 8X is only slightly larger than the i.MX7-based PhyCore-i.MX7, but the layout is different. The module supports all three i.MX8X models: the quad-core i.MX8 QuadXPlus and the dual-core i.MX8 DualXPlus and i.MX8 DualX, all of which can clock up to 1.2 GHz. The DualX model differs in that it has a 2-shader instead of 4-shader Vivante GPU.

The phyCore-i.MX 8X offers a smorgasbord of memories. In addition to the “128 kB multimedia,” and “64 kB Secure” found on the i.MX8X itself, the module can be ordered with 512 MB to 4 GB of LPDDR4 RAM and 64 MB to 256 MB of Micron Octal SPI/DualSPI flash. (Phytec notes that it is an official member of Micron’s Xccela consortium.) You can choose between 128 MB to 1 GB NAND flash or  4GB to 128 GB eMMC.

There’s no onboard wireless, but you get dual GbE controllers (1x onboard, 1x RGMII). You can choose between 2x LVDS and 2x MIPI-DSI. There are MIPI-CSI and parallel camera interfaces, as well as ESAI based audio.

Other I/O available through the 280 pins found on its two banks of dual 70-pin connectors include USB 3.0, USB OTG, PCI/PCIe, and up to 10x I2C. You also get 2x UART, 3x CAN, 6x A/D, and single PWM, keypad, or MMC/SD/SDIO (but only if you choose the eMMC over NAND). For SPI you get a choice of a single Octal connection or 2x “Quad SPI + 3 SPI” interfaces.

 

phyCore-i.MX 8X carrier board
(click image to enlarge)

The 3.3 V module supports an RTC, and offers watchdog and tamper features. Like all the new Phytec modules, you get -40°C to 85°C support. No details were available on the carrier shown in the image above.

phyCORE-i.MX 8M

The 55 mm x 40 mm phyCORE-i.MX 8M joins a growing number of Linux-driven i.MX8M modules including Compulab’s CL-SOM-iMX8, Emcraft’s i.MX 8M SOM, Innocom’s WB10, Seco’s SM-C12, SolidRun’s i.MX8 SOM, and the smallest of the lot to date: Variscite’s 55 x 30mm DART-MX8M. There are also plenty of SBCs to compete with the phyCORE-i.MX 8M-equipped phyBoard-Polaris SBC (see farther below), but like most of the COMs, most have yet to ship.

phyCORE-i.MX 8M top) and block diagram (bottom) (click images to enlarge)

The phyCORE-i.MX 8M supports the NXP i.MX8M Quad and QuadLite, both with 4x Cortex-A53 cores, as well as the dual-core Dual. All are clocked to 1.5 GHz. They all have 266MHz Cortex-M4F cores and Vivante GC7000Lite GPUs, but only the Quad and Dual models support 4Kp60, H.265, and VP9 video capabilities. (NXP also has a Solo model that we have yet to see, which offers a single -A53 core, a Cortex-M4F, and a GC7000nanoUltra GPU.)In addition to the i.MX8M SoC, which offers “128 KB + 32 KB” RAM and the same crypto features found on the i.MX8X, the module ships with the same memory features as the phyCore-i.MX 8X except that it lacks the SPI flash. Once again, you get 512 MB to  4 GB of LPDDR4 RAM and either 128 MB to 1 GB NAND flash or 4 GB to 128 GB eMMC. There is also SPI driven “Nand/QSPI” flash.

There’s a single GbE controller, and although not listed in the spec list, the product page says that precertified WiFi and Bluetooth BLE 4.2 are onboard and accompanied by antennas.

Multimedia support includes MIPI-DSI, HDMI 2.0, 2x MIPI-CSI, and up to 5x SAI audio. The block diagram also lists eDP, possibly as a replacement for HDMI.

Other interfaces expressed via the dual 200-pin connectors include 2x USB 3.0, 4x UART, 4x I2C, 4x PWM, and single SDIO and PCI/PCIe connections. SPI support includes 2x SPI and the aforementioned Nand/QSPI. The 3.3V module supports an RTC, watchdog, and tamper protections.

phyBoard-Polaris SBC

The phyCORE-i.MX 8M is also available soldered onto a carrier board that will be sold as a monolithic phyBoard-Polaris SBC. The 100 mm x 100 mm phyBoard-Polaris SBC features the Quad version of the phyCORE-i.MX 8M clocked to 1.3 GHz, loaded with 1 GB KPDDR4 and 8 GB eMMC. The SBC also adds a microSD slot.

phyBoard-Polaris SBC
(click image to enlarge)

The phyBoard-Polaris SBC is further equipped with single GbE, USB 3.0 and USB OTG ports. There’s also an RS-232 port and MIPI-DSI and SAID audio interfaces made available via A/V connectors. Dual MIPI-CSI interfaces are also onboard.A mini-PCIe slot and GPIO slot are available for expansion. The latter includes SPI, UART, JTAG, NAND, USB, SPDIF and DIO.

Other features include a reset button, RTC with coin cell, and JTAG via a debug adapter (PEB-EVAL). There’s a 12 V – 24 V input and adapter, and the board offers the same industrial temperature support as all the new Phytec modules.

phyCORE-i.MX 8

The phyCORE-i.MX 8, which is said to be “ideal for image and speech recognition,” is the third module we’ve seen to support NXP’s top-of-the-line, 64-bit i.MX8 series. The module supports all three flavors of i.MX8 while the other two COMs we’ve seen have been limited to the high-end QuadMax: Toradex’s Apalis iMX8 and iWave’s iW-RainboW-G27M.

phyCORE-i.MX 8 (top) and block diagram (bottom)
(click images to enlarge)

Like Rockchip’s RK3399, NXP’s hexa-core i.MX8 QuadMax features dual high-end Cortex-A72 cores clocked to up to 1.6 GHz plus four Cortex-A53 cores. The i.MX8 QuadPlus design is the same, but with only one Cortex-A72 core, and the quad has no -A72 cores.All three i.MX8 models provide two Cortex-M4F cores for real-time processing, a Tensilica HiFi 4 DSP, and two Vivante GC7000LiteXS/VX GPUs. The SoC’s “full-chip hardware-based virtualization, resource partitioning and split GPU and display architecture enable safe and isolated execution of multiple systems on one processor,” says Phytec.

The 73 mm x 45 mm phyCORE-i.MX 8 supports up to 8 GB LPDDR4 RAM, according to the product page highlights list, while the spec list itself says 1 GB to 64 GB. Like the phyCORE-i.MX 8X, the module provides 64 MB to 256 MB of Micron Octal SPI/DualSPI flash. There’s no NAND option, but you get 4 GB to 128 GB eMMC.

The phyCORE-i.MX 8 lacks WiFi, but you get dual GbE controllers. Other features expressed via the 480 connection pins include single USB 3.0, USB OTG, and PCIe 2.0 based SATA interfaces. Dual PCIe interfaces are also available

The module provides a 4K-ready HDMI output, 2x LVDS, and 2x MIPI-DSI for up 4x simultaneous HD screens. For image capture you get 2x MIPI-CSI and an HDMI input. Audio features are listed as “2x ESAI up to 4 SAI.”

The phyCORE-i.MX 8 is further equipped with I/O including 2x UART, 2x CAN, 2x MMC/SD/SDIO, 8x A/D, up to 19x I2C, and a PWM interface. For SPI, you get “up to 4x + 1x QSPI.” The module supports an RTC and offers industrial temperature support.

phyCORE-i.MX 8 carrier board (click image to enlarge)

In addition to the unnamed carrier board for the phyCORE-i.MX 8 module shown above, Phytec plans to produce a “Machine Vision and Camera kit” to exploit i.MX8 multimedia features including the VPU, the Vivante GPU’s Vulkan and OGL support, and interfaces including MIPI-DSI, MIPI-CSI, HDMI, and LVDS. In addition, the company will offer rapid prototyping services for customizing customer-specific hardware I/O platforms.Finally, Phytec is planning to develop a smaller, Pico-ITX form factor SBC based on the i.MX8 SoC, and it’s taking a novel approach to do so. The company has launched a Cre-8 community which intends to crowdsource the SBC. The company is seeking developers to join this alpha-stage project to contribute ideas. We saw no promises of open source hardware support, however.

Further information

[As of March 29] No availability information was provided for the phyCORE-i.MX 8X, phyCORE-i.MX 8M, or phyCORE-i.MX 8 modules, but the phyCORE-i.MX 8M-based phyBoard-Polaris is due in the third quarter. More information may be found in Phytec’s phyCORE-i.MX 8X, phyCORE-i.MX 8M, and phyCORE-i.MX 8 product pages as well as the phyBoard-Polaris SBC product page. More on development kits for all these boards may be found here.

This article originally appeared on LinuxGizmos.com on March 29.

Phytec issue a Press Release announcing these products on April 19.
UPDATE: “Early access program sampling for the phyCORE-i.MX8 and phyCORE-i.MX8M is planned for Q3 2018, with general availability expected in Q4 2018.”

Phytec | www.phytec.eu

SMARC Module Features Hexa-Core i.MX8 QuadMax

By Eric Brown

iWave has unveiled a rugged, wireless enabled SMARC module with 4 GB LPDDR4 and dual GbE controllers that runs Linux or Android on NXP’s i.MX8 QuadMax SoC with 2x Cortex-A72, 4x -A53, 2x -M4F and 2x GPU cores.

iW-RainboW-G27M (front)

iWave has posted specs for an 82 mm x 50 mm, industrial temperature “iW-RainboW-G27M” SMARC 2.0 module that builds on NXP’s i.MX8 QuadMax system-on-chip. The i.MX8 QuadMax was announced in Oct. 2016 as the higher end model of an automotive focused i.MX8 Quad family.

Although the lower-end, quad-core, Cortex-A53 i.MX8M SoC was not fully announced until after the hexa-core Quad, we’ve seen far more embedded boards based on the
i.MX8M , including a recent Seco SM-C12

iW-RainboW-G27M (back)

SMARC module. The only other i.MX8 Quad based product we’ve seen is Toradex’s QuadMax driven Apalis iMX8 module. The Apalis iMX8 was announced a year ago, but is still listed as “coming soon.”

 

 

i.MX8 Quad block diagram (dashed lines indicate model-specific features) (click image to enlarge)

 

Like Rockchip’s RK3399, NXP’s i.MX8 QuadMax features dual high-end Cortex-A72 cores and four Cortex-A53 cores. NXP also offers a similar i.MX8 QuadPlus design with only one Cortex-A72 core.

The QuadMax clock rates are lower than on the RK3399, which clocks to 1.8 GHz (A72) and 1.2 GHz (A53). Toradex says the Apalis iMX8’s -A72 and -A53 cores will clock to 1.6 GHz and 1.2 GHz, respectively.

Close-up of i.MX8 QuadMax on iW-RainboW-G27M

Whereas the i.MX8M has one 266 MHz Cortex-M4F microcontroller, the Quad SoCs have two. A HIFI4 DSP is also onboard, along with a dual-core Vivante GC7000LiteXS/VX GPU, which is alternately referred to as being two GPUs in one or having a split GPU design.

iWave doesn’t specifically name these coprocessors except to list features including a “4K H.265 decode and 1080p H.264 enc/dec capable VPU, 16-Shader 3D (Vec4), and Enhanced Vision Capabilities (via GPU).” The SoC is also said to offer a “dual failover-ready display controller.” The CPUs, meanwhile, are touted for their “full chip hardware virtualization capabilities.”

Inside the iW-RainboW-G27M

Like iWave’s SMARC 2.0 form factor Snapdragon 820 SOM, the iW-RainboW-G27M supports Linux and Android, in this case running Android Nougat (7.0) or higher. (Toradex’s Apalis iMX8 supports Linux, and also supports FreeRTOS running on the Cortex-M4F MCUs.)

Like Toradex, iWave is not promoting the automotive angle that was originally pushed by NXP. iWave’s module is designed to “offer maximum performance with higher efficiency for complex embedded application of consumer, medical and industrial embedded computing applications,” says iWave.

Like the QuadMax based Apalis iMX8, as well as most of the i.MX8M products we’ve seen, the iW-RainboW-G27M supports up to 4 GB LPDDR4 RAM and up to 16 GB eMMC. iWave notes that the RAM and eMMC are “expandable,” but does not say to what capacities. There’s also a microSD slot and 256 MB of optional QSPI flash.

Whereas Apalis iMX8 has a single GbE controller, iWave’s COM has two. It similarly offers onboard 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth (4.1). The Microchip ATWILC3000-MR110CA module, which juts out a bit on one side, is listed by Digi-Key as 802.11b/g/n, but iWave has it as 802.11ac.

Interfaces expressed via the SMARC edge connector include 2x GbE, 2x USB 3.0 host (4-port hub), 4x USB 2.0 host, and USB 2.0 OTG. Additional SMARC I/O includes 3x UART (2x with CTS & RTS), 2x CAN, 2x I2C, 12x GPIO, and single PCIe, SATA, debug UART, SD, SPI and QSPI

Media features include an HDMI/DP transmitter, dual-channel LVDS or MIPI-DSI, and an SSI/I2S audio interface. iWave also lists HDMI, 2x LVDS, SPDIF, and ESAI separately under “expansion connector interfaces.” Other expansion I/O is said to include MLB, CAN and GPIO.

The 5 V module supports -40 to 80°C temperatures. There is no mention of a carrier board.

Further information

No pricing or availability was listed for the iW-RainboW-G27M, but a form is available for requesting a quote. More information may be found on iWave’s iW-RainboW-G27M product page.

iWave | www.iwavesystems.com

This article originally appeared on LinuxGizmos.com on March 13.

Commell Launches its First ARM-Based Pico-ITX

By Eric Brown

Commell has announced the LP-150, a Rockchip RK3128 based Pico-ITX SBC that appears to be its first ARM-based embedded board of any kind. The 100 mm x 72 mm LP-150 is the only ARM-based SBC out of the many dozens of mostly Intel-based boards listed on Commell’s SBC page.

Shipping with Android 4.4.4, but also supporting Linux, the LP-150 is intended primarily for imaging, machine vision and digital signage applications. Other Commell Pico-ITX SBCs include its Intel Braswell based LP-176.

Commell LP-150

Rockchip’s quad-core, Cortex-A7 RK3128 hasn’t seen as much uptake in the embedded world as the quad -A17 RK3288, which is found on hacker boards such as the Firefly-RK3288 Reload or the high-end, hexa-core RK3399, which has appeared on numerous recent products such as OpenEmbed’s em3399 module or Aaeon’s RICO-3399 PICO-ITX SBC. The only RK3128-based SBC we can recall is the open spec Firefly-FirePrime S.

The LP-150 SBC has a fairly modest feature set, with only 512 MB DDR3. Yet, it offers a few features you don’t typically find on x86 Pico-ITX SBCs like eMMC storage (8GB) and built-in Wi-Fi. Media features include an HDMI 1.4 port limited to HD resolution and an LVDS interface with capacitive touchscreen support. You also get CVBS inputs and outputs and audio I/O headers.

The LP-150 is further equipped with a GbE port and USB 2.0 host and OTG ports. There is also an RTC with battery, and a smattering of RS-232, UART, and GPIO interfaces.

Specifications listed for the Commell LP-150 include:

  • Processor — Rockchip RK3128 (4x Cortex-A7 @ 1.3 GHz); Mali-400 MP2 GPU with OpenGL ES1.1 and 2.0, OpenVG1.1
  • Memory — 512 MB DDR3
  • Storage — 8 GB eMMC; microSD slot
  • Display:
    • HDMI 1.4 port for up to 1080p
    • Single-channel 18/24-bit LVDS for up to 1280 x 720 displays or up to 1024 x 600 cap. touchscreens
    • LCD/LVDS panel and inverter connectors
    • CVBS in/out
  • Wireless — Wi-Fi with SMA antenna
  • Networking — Gigabit Ethernet port (RTL8211E)
  • Other I/O:
    • USB 2.0 host port with support for 4-port hub
    • USB 2.0 OTG port
    • 2x RS232 interfaces
    • 3x UART
    • Audio line-out, mic-in headers (Rockchip codec)
    • GPIO header
  • Other features — Power, recovery, reset buttons; RTC with lithium battery; LED
  • Operating temperature — 0 to 70°C
  • Power — DC input 5 V
  • Dimensions — 100 mm x 72 mm (Pico-ITX)
  • Operating system — Android 4.4.4; Linux also supported

Further information

No pricing or availability information was provided for the LP-150. More information may be found on Commell’s LP-150 product page.

Commell |  www.commell.com.tw

This article originally appeared on LinuxGizmos.com on March 6.

NXP IoT Platform Links ARM/Linux Layerscape SoCs to Cloud

By Eric Brown

NXP’s “EdgeScale” suite of secure edge computing device management tools help deploy and manage Linux devices running on LSx QorIQ Layerscape SoCs, and connects them to cloud services.

NXP has added an EdgeScale suite of secure edge computing tools and services to its Linux-based Layerscape SDK for six of its networking oriented LSx QorIQ Layerscape SoCs. These include the quad-core, 1.6 GHz Cortex-A53 QorIQ LS1043A, which last year received Ubuntu Core support, as well as the octa-core, Cortex-A72 LS2088a (see farther below).



Simplified EdgeScale architecture
(click image to enlarge)
The cloud-based IoT suite is designed to remotely deploy, manage, and update edge computing devices built on Layerscape SoCs. EdgeScale bridges edge nodes, sensors, and other IoT devices to cloud frameworks, automating the provisioning of software and updates to remote embedded equipment. EdgeScale can be used to deploy container applications and firmware updates, as well as build containers and generate firmware.

The technology leverages the NXP Trust Architecture already built into Layerscape SoCs, which offers Hardware Root of Trust features. These include secure boot, secure key storage, manufacturing protection, hardware resource isolation, and runtime tamper detection.

The EdgeScale suite provides three levels of management: a “point-and-click” dashboard, a Command-Line-Interface (CLI), and the RESTful API, which enables “integration with any cloud computing framework,” as well as greater UI customization. The platform supports Ubuntu, Yocto, OpenWrt, or “any custom Linux distribution.”


Detailed EdgeScale architecture (above) and feature list (below)
(click images to enlarge)
EdgeScale supports cloud frameworks including Amazon’s AWS Greengrass, Alibaba’s Aliyun, Google Cloud, and Microsoft’s Azure IoT Edge. The latter was part of a separate announcement released in conjunction with the EdgeScale release that said that all Layerscape SoCs were being enabled with “secure execution for Azure IoT Edge computing running networking, data analytics, and compute-intensive machine learning applications.”

A year ago, NXP announced a Modular IoT Framework, which was described as a set of pre-integrated NXP hardware and software for IoT, letting customers mix and match technologies with greater assurance of interoperability. When asked how this was related to EdgeScale, Sam Fuller, head of system solutions for NXP’s digital networking group, replied: “EdgeScale is designed to manage higher level software that could have a role of processing the data and managing the communication to/from devices built from the Modular IoT Framework.”


LS102A block diagram
(click image to enlarge)
The EdgeScale suite supports the following QorIQ Layerscape processors:

  • LS102A — 80 0MHz single-core, Cortex-A53 with 1 W power consumption found on F&S’ efus A53LS module
  • LS1028A — dual-core ARMv8 with Time-Sensitive Networking (TSN)
  • LS1043A — 1.6 GHz quad-core, Cortex-A53 with 1 0GbE support, found on the QorIQ LS1043A 10G Residential Gateway Reference Design and the X-ES XPedite6401 XMC/PrPMC mezzanine module
  • LS1046A — quad-core, Cortex-A72 with dual 10 GbE support (also available in dual-core LS1026A model)
  • LS1088a — 1.5 GHz octa-core, Cortex-A53 with dual 10 GbE support, which is also supported on the XPedite6401
  • LS2088a — 2.0 GHz octa-core, Cortex-A72 with 128-bit NEON-based SIMD engine for each core, plus a 10GbE XAUI Fat Pipe interface or 4x 10GBASE-KR — found on X-ES XPedite6370 SBC.

Further information

NXP’s EdgeScale will be available by the end of the month. More information may be found on its EdgeScale product page.

NXP Semiconductors | www.nxp.com

This article originally appeared on LinuxGizmos.com on March 16.

Rugged IoT Gateway Facilitates Quick Deployment

Axiomtek has introduced its latest RISC-based, DIN-rail industrial IoT gateway, the IFB125. It is powered by the Freescale i.MX6UL processor with the ARM Cortex-A7 microarchitecture. This compact IoT gateway is designed for versatility of use and quick deployment. The IFB125 is suitable for a variety of applications including applications that require remote control and monitoring management functions such as unmanned control, industrial automation, automatic parking lot control, traffic light control and more.

The IFB125 comes with multiple I/O connections including one RS-232/422/485 port, two 10/100 Mbps LAN ports, one USB 2.0 port, one 2-IN/1-OUT DIO, one I2C and one SPI. This embedded IoT gateway platform is equipped with one PCI Express Mini Card slot and one SIM card slot for wireless connectivity. It has a 256 MB onboard memory that features a fast data transfer rate of DDR3-1600. The robust IFB125 has an extended operating temperature range from -40°C to 70°C and can withstand vibration up to 5G. Its wide voltage range of 9V  to 48 V DC power input with a lockable terminal block-type connector makes it suitable for use in harsh environments. The IFB125 comes with an embedded Linux operating system (Yocto) to provide an open standard OS for software program development.

Features:

  • Fanless and compact gateway with a RISC-based (i.MX6UltraLite) processor at 528 MHz
  • 256 MB DDR3 SDRAM and 8 GB eMMC Flash onboard
  • SPI and I2C function with 3.3 V power
  • Multiple I/O options include one wireless socket for Wi-Fi or 3G/4G, two digital inputs, one digital output and two LAN ports
  • Wide operating temperature range of -40°C to +70°C
  • Power input range of 9V to 48V DC with terminal block
  • Ready-to-run embedded Linux operating system (Yocto)

Axiomtek | www.us.axiomtek.com

Engineering Samples Roll for Low Power NXP i.MX 6 UL COM

Technologic Systems has announced that their latest Computer-on-Module, the TS-4100, has entered into their engineering sampling program. The TS-4100 is the first Technologic Systems Computer-on-Module to with the NXP i.MX 6 UltraLite processor, featuring a single ARM Cortex A7 core, operating at speeds up to 695 MHz. The NXP i.MX 6UL processors offer scalable performance and multimedia support, along with low power consumption. The board takes full advantage of the integrated power management module to optimize power sequencing throughout the board design. This enables it to achieve 300 mW typical power usage, making this COM well suited for embedded applications with strict power requirements. The TS-4100 is design for industrial embedded applications for medical, automotive, industrial automation, smart energy and more.

The TS-4100 is Technologic Systems’ first COM module that can also be a standalone micro Single Board Computer. When powered from the on-board micro USB connector, the TS-4100 does not require a baseboard to operate. The system could be a processing node on a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth network, or with the optional daughter card expansion connector it could interact with other devices directly.
The TS-4100 FPGA includes a ZPU core implementation. The ZPU allows for offloading CPU tasks as well as harder real-time on I/O interactions. The ZPU is an open-source, 32-bit, stack-based CPU architecture that offers a full GCC tool suite. Inside of the TS-4100 FPGA it is given 8 kbytes of BlockRAM and has full access to all FPGA I/O. Additionally, the CPU has shared access to the ZPU BlockRAM. This allows for a larger bi-directional communication channel between the ZPU and main CPU TS-4100, and can be used to reprogram the ZPU on the fly for dynamic applications.

 

The TS-4100 can be paired with the TS-8551 development baseboard for development. The TS-8551 brings out all of the TS-4100 connectivity options for engineers to use in developing their custom applications. Additionally the TS-8551 includes the example circuit for the TS-SILO technology, an optional feature which will provide up to 30 seconds of reserve power in the event of a power failure. The TS-8551 can also be used as a reference design board for engineers creating an application specific custom design. Technologic Systems offers free schematic reviews for TS-4100 baseboard designs.

The TS-4100 starts at $157 in single units, with volume discounts reaching $119. The TS-8551-4100 Evaluation Kit is also available now and includes the TS-8551 development board along with all of the accessories needed to start development.

Technologic Systems | www.embeddedarm.com

MPU-Based SOM Meets Industrial IoT Linux Needs

Microchip Technology has unveiled a new System on Module (SOM) featuring the SAMA5D2 microprocessor (MPU). The ATSAMA5D27-SOM1 contains the recently released ATSAMA5D27C-D1G-CU System in Package (SiP). The SOM simplifies IoT design by integrating the power management, non-volatile boot memory, Ethernet PHY and high-speed DDR2 memory onto a small, single-sided printed circuit board (PCB). There is a great deal of design effort and complexity associated with creating an industrial-grade MPU-based system running a Linux operating system. Even developers with expertise in the area spend a lot of time on PCB layout to guarantee signal integrity for the high-speed interfaces to DDR memory and PHY while complying with EMC standards.

The SAMA5D2 family of products provides an extremely flexible design experience no matter the level of expertise. For example, the SOM—which integrates multiple external components and eliminates key design challenges around EMI, ESD and signal integrity—can be used to expedite development time. Customers can solder the SOM to their board and take it to production, or it can be used as a reference design along with the free schematics, design and Gerber files and complete bill of materials which are available online. Customers can also transition from the SOM to the SiP or the MPU itself, depending on their design needs. All products are backed by Microchip’s customer-driven obsolescence policy which ensures availability to customers for as long as needed.

The Arm Cortex-A5-based SAMA5D2 SiP, mounted on the SOM PCB or available separately, integrates 1 Gbit of DDR2 memory, further simplifying the design by removing the high- speed memory interface constraints from the PCB. The impedance matching is done in the package, not manually during development, so the system will function properly at normal and low- speed operation. Three DDR2 memory sizes (128 Mb, 512 Mb and 1 Gb) are available for the SAMA5D2 SiP and optimized for bare metal, RTOS and Linux implementations.

Microchip customers developing Linux-based applications have access to the largest set of device drivers, middleware and application layers for the embedded market at no charge. All of Microchip’s Linux development code for the SiP and SOM are mainlined in the Linux communities. This results in solutions where customers can connect external devices, for which drivers are mainlined, to the SOM and SIP with minimal software development.

The SAMA5D2 family features the highest levels of security in the industry, including PCI compliance, providing an excellent platform for customers to create secured designs. With integrated Arm TrustZone and capabilities for tamper detection, secure data and program storage, hardware encryption engine, secure boot and more, customers can work with Microchip’s security experts to evaluate their security needs and implement the level of protection that’s right for their design. The SAMA5D2 SOM also contains Microchip’s QSPI NOR Flash memory, a Power Management Integrated Circuit (PMIC), an Ethernet PHY and serial EEPROM memory with a Media Access Control (MAC) address to expand design options.

The SOM1-EK1 development board provides a convenient evaluation platform for both the SOM and the SiP. A free Board Support Package (BSP) includes the Linux kernel and drivers for the MPU peripherals and integrated circuits on the SOM. Schematics and Gerber files for the SOM are also available.

The ATSAMA5D2 SiP is available in four variants starting with the ATSAMA5D225C-D1M- CU in a 196-lead BGA package for $8.62 each in 10,000 units. The ATSAMA5D27-SOM1 is available now for $39.00 each in 100 units The ATSAMA5D27-SOM1-EK1 development board is available for $245.00.

Microchip Technology | www.microchip.com

SBC Serves Up MX6 ARM Cortex-A9 Processor

Versalogic has announced a new line of production-ready, ARM-based embedded computers starting with the Tetra. The Tetra is a power-efficient, quad-core SBC. Featuring a quad-core i.MX6 Cortex-A9 32-bit processor, a Tetra typically consumes about 4 W of power when operating (not idle). It is ready for off-the-shelf deployment into demanding industrial applications requiring rugged, long-life, power-efficient, industrial temperature rated (-40° to +85°C) solutions.

Unlike many ARM-based modules, Versalogic’s new line of ARM-based EPC (Embedded Processing Card) products are complete board-level computers. They do not require carrier cards, companion boards, connector break-out boards or other add-ons to function. For ease of mounting, and future upgrades, Versalogic’s ARM products are designed around the size and mounting points of COM Express products. Unlike proprietary-format ARM products, Versalogic ARM boards provide a standardized mounting pattern now, and simplified upgrading in the future.

The Tetra is COM Express Basic size (125 x 95 mm) and offers a variety of I/O options for rugged, industrial applications. The three quad-core Tetra models feature a wide (8 to 17-volt) power input, making it ideal for 12-volt automotive applications. Many applications that require lower power or lower heat dissipation still need very high levels of reliability. Versalogic’s 10+ year formal life-extension program ensures long production cycles free from expensive changes and upgrades that come from short, disposable lifecycles.

A variety of on-board I/O includes a Gigabit Ethernet port with network boot capability, HDMI and LVDS video outputs, and two USB 2.0 Ports. Serial I/O (RS-232) and a SATA II interface or mSATA, support high-capacity rotating or solid-state drives. CAN Bus, I2C and SPI are also included along with a 6-axis e-compass, and MIPI camera input. The on-board Mini PCIe socket provides flexible expansion using plug-in Wi-Fi modems, GPS receivers, Ethernet, Firewire, and other mini cards.

Designed and tested for Industrial temperature (-40° to +85°C ) operation, Versalogic’s rugged Tetra meets MIL-STD 202G specifications to withstand high impact and vibration. It is engineered and validated to excel in unforgiving environments. Each component is carefully selected to ensure reliable operation in the field.

The Tetra, part number VL-EPC-2700, is in stock at both Versalogic Corp. and Digi-Key Corp. OEM quantity pricing starts at $318.

Versalogic| www.versalogic.com

Online Course Covers IoT-Enabled Embedded Systems

STMicroelectronics has announced the availability to all–including students, makers, and budding engineers and computer scientists–of the online “Introduction to Embedded Systems with SensorTile” course. With a curriculum developed by Professor William Kaiser at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and used to teach his freshman engineering class, the online course resources provide a foundation to understand the fundamentals of a sensor-based Internet of Things (IoT)-enabled embedded system. Professors at other universities are also encouraged to adapt and contribute to the course.

The introductory course of 8 self-paced tutorials is designed around ST’s SensorTile, a unique real-time IoT-enabled embedded system on a postage-stamp-sized module. The tiny 13.5 mm x 13.5 mm module combines a high-performance, low-power STM32 Arm-Cortex-M-core microcontroller, 5 valuable MEMS (Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems) sensors—an inertial sensor containing an accelerometer and gyroscope, an eCompass, a pressure sensor, and a microphone—and a Bluetooth network processor. A kit with the module, cables, cradle and a battery is available from major resellers for about $80.

The joint effort with ST makes the 8 tutorials freely available online, with a full complement of documentation, open-source algorithms and development solutions, and unfettered access to a growing user forum. Anyone interested in learning more about the tutorial or purchasing a SensorTile kit should visit the web site www.st.com/sensortile-edu). Additional information is available, as well, on the ST blog: blog.st.com/introduction-embedded-systems-sensortile-online-course/

STMicroelectronics | www.st.com

Non-Standard SBCs Put Function Over Form

Compact, Low-Power Solutions

A rich set of single board computer products fall into the non-standards-based category. These SBCs offer complete embedded computing solutions suited for applications were reducing size, weight and power are the priorities.

By Jeff Child,  Editor-in-Chief

While standard form factor embedded computers provide a lot of value, many applications demand that form take priority over function. The majority of non-standard boards tend to be extremely compact, and well suited for size-constrained system designs. Although there’s little doubt that standard open-architecture board form factors continue to thrive across numerous embedded system applications, non-standard form factors free designers from the size and cost overheads associated with including a standard bus or interconnect architecture.

In very small systems, often the size and volume of the board takes precedence over the need for standards. Instead the priority is on cramming as much functionality and compute density onto a single board solution. And because they tend to be literately “single board” solutions, there’s often no need to be compatible with multiple companion I/O boards. These non-standard boards seem to be targeting very different applications areas—areas where slot-card backplane or PC/104 stacks wouldn’t be practical.

Non-standard boards come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some follow de facto industry standard sizes like 3.5 inches, while others take a twist on existing standards—such as ATX, ITX or PC/104—to produce a “one off” implementation that takes some of the benefits of a standard form factor. There are also some company-specific “standard” form factors that offer an innovative new approach. The focus in this article is on commercial SBCs for professional applications, not modules for hobbyist projects.

ARM-Based Boards

In terms of sheer numbers of SBC products, Intel processor-based solutions tend to dominate. But in recent years, non-standard SBCs based on ARM embedded processors are increasing mindshare in the industry. In a recent example of an ARM-based solution, Technologic Systems in December starting shipping its newest SBC, the TS-7553-V2 (Photo 1). The board is developed around the NXP i.MX6 UltraLite, a high-performance processor family featuring an advanced implementation of a single ARM Cortex-A7 core, which operates at speeds up to  696 MHz. While able to support a wide range of embedded applications, the TS-7553-V2 was specifically designed to target the industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) sector.

Photo 1
TS-7553-V2 is developed around the NXP i.MX6 UltraLite, an advanced implementation of a single ARM Cortex-A7 core, which operates at speeds up to 696 MHz. The board specifically targets the industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) sector.

The TS-7553-V2 was designed with connectivity in mind. An on-board Xbee interface, capable of supporting Xbee or NimbleLink, provides a simple path to adding a variety of wireless interfaces. An Xbee radio can be used to link in with a local
2.4 GHz or sub 1 GHz mesh networks, allowing for gateway or node deployments. Both Digi and NimbleLink offer cellular radios for this socket, providing cellular connectivity for applications such as remote equipment monitoring and control. There is also the option for a cellular modem via a daughter card. This allows transmission of serial data via TCP, UDP or SMS over the cellular network. The TS-7553-V2 also includes an on board WiFi b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0 option, providing even more connectivity.

Design-To-Order SBCs

As a provider of design-to-order embedded boards, Gumstix comes at non-standard SBCs from a different perspective than traditional off-the-shelf SBC vendors. Gumstix’s latest ARM-related focus was its announcement in October about its adding the NXP Semiconductor SCM-i.MX 6Quad/6Dual Single Chip System Module (SCM) to the Geppetto D2O design library and the Gumstix Cobalt MC (Media Center) development board (Photo 2). The NXP SCM-i.MX 6D/Q [Dual, Quad] Core SCM combines the i.MX 6 quad- or dual-core applications processor, NXP MMPF0100 power management system, integrated flash memory, over 100 passives and up to 2 GB DDR2 Package-on-Package RAM into a single-chip solution.

Photo 2 — The Gumstix Cobalt MC single board computer shows off some of the best multimedia features of the NXP SCM with CSI2 camera, native HDMI, and audio, and connects over Gbit Ethernet, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

Using Gumstix’s services, embedded systems developers can, in minutes, design and order SCM-powered hardware combining their choices of network connection, communication bus, and hardware features. During the design process, users can compare alternatives for features and costs, create multiple projects and receive complete custom BSPs and free automated documentation. Designers can go straight from a design to an order in one session with no engineering required.

Read the full article in the February 331 issue of Circuit Cellar

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BLE ICs Boast -105 dBm Sensitivity

Toshiba Electronic Devices & Storage has added two new devices to its lineup of ICs that are compliant with the Bluetooth low energy standard. The new TC35680FSG (featuring built-in flash memory) and TC35681FSG are well-suited to applications requiring long-range communication, including beacon tags, IoT devices and industrial equipment. Sample shipments will begin later this month.

The new communication ICs support the full spectrum of data rates required for the high-speed features—2M PHY and Coded PHY (500 kbps and 125 kbps)—found in the Bluetooth 5.0 standard. The new devices also deliver an industry-leading receiver sensitivity level of -105 dBm (at125k bps ) and a built-in high efficiency power amplifier in the transmission block that provides up to +8 dBm transmission power.

Bluetooth technology continues to evolve to meet wireless connectivity needs, and recent enhancements to the standard have been designed to increase Bluetooth’s functionality with the IoT. By adding Bluetooth 5.0-compliant ICs to its extensive lineup, Toshiba helps companies integrate Bluetooth low energy products into IoT devices and addresses the growing demand for high-throughput, long-range communications.

Based on an ARM Cortex-M0 processor, the new ICs incorporate a 256 KB Mask ROM to support the Bluetooth baseband process, and 144 KB of RAM for processing Bluetooth baseband, stack and data. Toshiba’s TC35680FSG and TC35681FSG also feature 18-port GPIOs as interfaces, which can be set to 2 channels each for SPIs, I2C, and UART. This allows for the structuring of systems that connect to various peripheral devices. These GPIOs can be set for a wakeup function, 4-channel PWM, 5-channel AD converter interfaces, an external amplifier control interface for long-range communication and more.

The TC35680FSG includes 128 KB of flash memory for storing user programs and various data in stand-alone operations, making it well-suited to a wide range of applications and removing the need for external non-volatile memory. This also lowers the part count, which reduces both the cost and mounting area.

The TC35681FSG, which does not include a built-in flash memory, operates in conjunction with an external non-volatile memory or host processor. A wide operating range of -40° to +125°C makes it suitable for applications exposed to high temperatures.

Toshiba Electronic Devices & Storage | www.toshiba.semicon-storage.com

MCU Leverages New ARM Security Scheme

STMicroelectronics supports ARM’s new Platform Security Architecture (PSA) in ST’s STM32H7 high-performing microcontrollers. People and organizations are increasingly dependent on connected electronic devices to manage time, monitor health, handle social interactions, consume or deliver services, maximize productivity, and many other activities. Preventing unauthorized interactions with these devices is essential to protecting identity, personal information, physical assets, and intellectual property. As device manufacturers must always innovate to beat new and inventive hacking exploits, PSA helps them implement state-of-the-art security cost-effectively in small, resource-constrained devices.

en.STM32H7_Support_Arm_Security_T3989S_bigST’s STM32H7 MCU devices integrate hardware-based security features including a True Random-Number Generator (TRNG) and advanced cryptographic processor, which will simplify protecting embedded applications and global IoT systems against attacks like eavesdropping, spoofing, or man-in-the-middle interception. In addition, secure firmware loading facilities help OEMs ensure their products can be programmed safely and securely, even off-site at a contract manufacturer or programming house.

To enable secure loading, security keys and software services already on-board the MCU permit OEMs to provide manufacturing partners with already-encrypted firmware, making intercepting, copying, or tampering with the code impossible. This enables programming and authenticating the device to establish the root-of-trust mechanism needed for the device to be connected to the end-user’s network and remotely updated over the air (OTA) to apply security patches or feature upgrades throughout the lifetime of the device.

A member of the STM32H7 series supporting the PSA, the STM32H753 MCU with ARM’s highest-performing embedded core (Cortex-M7) delivers a record performance of 2020 CoreMark/856 DMIPS running at 400MHz, executing code from embedded Flash memory. Additional innovations and features implemented by ST further boost performance. These include the Chrom-ART Accelerator for fast and efficient graphical user-interfaces, a hardware JPEG codec that allows high-speed image manipulation, highly efficient Direct Memory Access (DMA) controllers, up to 2 MB of on-chip dual-bank Flash memory with read-while-write capability, and the L1 cache allowing full-speed interaction with off-chip memory.

Multiple power domains allow developers to minimize the energy consumed by their applications, while plentiful I/Os, communication interfaces, and audio and analog peripherals can address a wide range of entertainment, remote-monitoring and control applications. The STM32H753 is in production now, priced $8.90 for orders or 10,000 pieces.

STMicroelectronics | www.st.com

STMicro and Objenious Collaborate on IoT LoRa Network Deal

STMicroelectronics and Objenious are working together to accelerate the connection of IoT nodes to LoRa networks. ST’s development kits certified on the Objenious network are available now, greatly reducing R&D effort and time to market in the creation of new LoRa devices.

STM32 Nucleo LoRa kits are now certified and available to developers through ST sales channels.

STM32 Nucleo LoRa kits are now certified and available to developers through ST sales channels.

LoRAWAN is a Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) based on LoRa technology that is opening up a world of possibilities to create networks of connected devices ideal to address a broad range of IoT applications. The benefits of LoRa especially suit applications where nodes have limited power capability, can be difficult to access, and data transfers don’t require high bandwidth. LoRa can target a wide spectrum of applications such as tracking, proactive maintenance, and many others. Industry analysts estimate there will be tens of billions of connected devices deployed in the world by 2020.

Objenious launched and operates the first LoRa network in France, with more than 4,200 antennas deployed around the country. Leveraging the network know-how inherited from Bouygues Telecom, Objenious now proposes its LoRa network, platform, and services for LPWAN IoT to partners and customers locally and internationally thanks to roaming agreements.

STMicro helps developers by providing tools and software libraries that aid the STM32 MCU-based embedded design as part of its freely available STM32 Open Development Environment (ODE). By integrating Objenious’ network access software on top of the STM32 ODE, developing connected devices is even easier. STM32 Nucleo LoRa kits are now certified and available to developers through ST sales channels.

STMicroelectronics | www.st.com

Sensor Node Gets LoRaWAN Certification

Advantech offers its standardized M2.COM IoT LoRaWAN certified sensor node WISE-1510 with integrated ARM Cortex-M4 processor and LoRa transceiver. The module the  is able to provide multi-interfaces for sensors and I/O control such as UART, I2C, SPI, GPIO, PWM and ADC. The WISE-1510 sensor node is well suited for for smart cities, WISE-1510_3D _S20170602171747agriculture, metering, street lighting and environment monitoring. With power consumption optimization and wide area reception, LoRa  sensors or applications with low data rate requirements can achieve years of battery life and kilometers of long distance connection.

WISE-1510 has has received LoRaWAN certification from the LoRa Alliance. Depending on deployment requirements, developers can select to use Public LoRaWAN network services or build a private LoRa system with WISE-3610 LoRa IoT gateway. Advantech’s WISE-3610  is a Qualcomm ARM Cortex A7 based hardware platform with private LoRa ecosystem solution that can connect up to 500 WISE-1510 sensor node devices. Powered by Advantech’s WISE-PaaS IoT Software Platform, WISE-3610 features automatic cloud connection through its WISE-PaaS/WISE Agent service, manages wireless nodes and data via WSN management APIs, and helps customers streamline their IoT data acquisition development through sensor service APIs, and WSN drivers.

Developers can leverage microprocessors on WISE-1510 to build their own applications. WISE-1510 offers unified software—ARM Mbed OS and SDK for easy development with APIs and related documents. Developers can also find extensive resources from Github such as code review, library integration and free core tools. WISE-1510 also offers worldwide certification which allow developers to leverage their IoT devices anywhere. Using Advantech’s WISE-3610 LoRa IoT Gateway, WISE-1510 can be connected to WISE-  PaaS/RMM or  ARM Mbed Cloud service with IoT communication protocols including LWM2M, CoAP, and MQTT. End-to-end integration assists system integrators to overcome complex challenges and helps them build IoT applications quickly and easily.

WISE-1510 features and specifications:

  • ARM Cortex-M4 core processor
  • Compatible support for public LoRaWAN or private LoRa networks
  • Great for low power/wide range applications
  • Multiple I/O interfaces for sensor and control
  • Supports wide temperatures  -40 °C to 85 °C

Advantech | www.advantech.com