May Circuit Cellar: Sneak Preview

The May issue of Circuit Cellar magazine is out next week!. We’ve been hard at work laying the foundation and nailing the beams together with a sturdy selection of  embedded electronics articles just for you. We’ll soon be inviting you inside this 84-page magazine.

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Here’s a sneak preview of May 2019 Circuit Cellar:

EMBEDDED COMPUTING AT WORK

Technologies for Digital Signage
Digital signage ranks among the most dynamic areas of today’s embedded computing space. Makers of digital signage players, board-level products and other technologies continue to roll out new solutions for implementing powerful digital signage systems. Circuit Cellar Chief Editor Jeff Child looks at the latest technology trends and product developments in digital signage.

PC/104 and PC/104 Family Boards
PC/104 has come a long way since its inception over 25 ago. With its roots in ISA-bus PC technology, PC/104 evolved through the era of PCI and PCI Express by spinning off its wider family of follow on versions including PC/104-Plus, PCI-104, PCIe/104 and PCI/104-Express. This Product Focus section updates readers on these technology trends and provides a product gallery of representative PC/104 and PC/104-family boards.

TOOLS & TECHNIQUES FOR EMBEDDED ENGINEERING

Code Analysis Tools
Today it’s not uncommon for embedded devices to have millions of lines of software code. Code analysis tools have kept pace with these demands making it easier for embedded developers to analyze, debug and verify complex embedded software. Circuit Cellar Chief Editor Jeff Child explores the latest technology trends and product developments in code analysis tools.

Transistor Basics
In this day and age of highly integrated ICs, what is the relevance of the lone, discrete transistor? It’s true that most embedded systems can be solved by chip level solutions. But electronic component vendors do still make and sell individual transistors because there’s still a market for them. In this article, Stuart Ball reviews some important basics about transistors and how you can use them in your embedded system design.

Pressure Sensors
Over the years, George Novacek has done articles examining numerous types of sensors that measure various physical aspects of our world. But one measurement type he’s not yet discussed in the past is pressure. Here, George looks at pressure sensors in the context of using them in an electronic monitoring or control system. The story looks at the math, physics and technology associated with pressure sensors.

MICROCONTROLLERS DO IT ALL

Robotic Arm Plays Beer Pong
Simulating human body motion is a key concept in robotics development. With that in mind, learn how these Cornell graduates Daniel Fayad, Justin Choi and Harrison Hyundong Chang accurately simulate the movement of a human arm on a small-sized robotic arm. The Microchip PIC32 MCU-based system enables the motion-controlled, 3-DoF robotic arm to take a user’s throwing motion as a reference to its own throw. In this way, they created a robotic arm that can throw a ping pong ball and thus play beer pong.

Fancy Filtering with the Teensy 3.6
Signal filtering entails some tricky tradeoffs. A fast MCU that provides hardware-based floating-point capability eases some of those tradeoffs. In the past, Brian Millier has used the Arm-based Teensy MCU modules to serve meet those needs. In this article, Brian taps the Teensy 3.6 Arm MCU module to perform real-time audio FFT-convolution filtering.

Real-Time Stock Monitoring Using an MCU
With today’s technology, even very simple microcontroller-based devices can fetch and display data from the Internet. Learn how Cornell graduates David Valley and Saelig Khatta built a system using that can track stock prices in real-time and display them conveniently on an LCD screen. For the design, they used an Espressif Systems ESP8266 Wi-Fi module controlled by a Microchip PIC32 MCU. Our fun little device fetches chosen stock prices in real-time and displays them on a screen.

… AND MORE FROM OUR EXPERT COLUMNISTS

Attacking USB Gear with EMFI
Many products use USB, but have you ever considered there may be a critical security vulnerability lurking in your USB stack? In this article, Colin O’Flynn walks you through on example product that could be broken using electromagnetic fault injection (EMFI) to perform this attack without even removing the device enclosure.

An Itty Bitty Education
There’s no doubt that we’re living in a golden age when it comes to easily available and affordable development kits for fun and education. With that in mind, Jeff Bachiochi shares his experiences programming and playing with the Itty Bitty Buggy from Microduino. Using the product, you can build combine LEGO-compatible building blocks into mobile robots controlled via Bluetooth using your cellphone.

SOMs based on RK3399 and PX30 SoCs target IoT

Arbor Technology has introduced a pair of System-on-Module (SOM) products both based on Rockchip SoCs, the RK3399-based SOM-RK391 and the Rockchip PX30-based SOM-RP301. Both modules run Ubuntu, Buildroot, or Android 9.0. Along with the pair of modules, the company has also released the PBA-9000-A, its SOM-Series, single pin-out design carrier board.

The Rockchip RK3399 SoC has been a favorite among high-end community backed Arm-based boards over the last couple years, and we’ve covered at least one every month over that period. Recent examples include Arbor’s own EmQ-RK390 Qsevenmodule, Geniatech’s DB9 SBC and Vamr’s 96Boards CE-compatible Rock960 Model C. In contrast, the SOM-RP301 appears to be the first module we’ve seen based on Rockchip’s low-power PX30 SoC.

SOM-RK391

Built around the Rockchip RK3399 hexa-core (2x Cortex-A72 + 4x Cortex-A53) SoC, the SOM-RK391 is designed for high-performance applications such as AI computing, edge computing and machine vision, according to Arbor.


SOM-RK391
For memory, the RK391 provides 2GB to 4GB of LPDDR4 DRAM and mass storage via 16GB eMMC flash plus support SD Card boot up. The Mali-T860MP4 GPU supports OpenGL ES1.1/2.0/3.0/3.1, OpenVG1.1, OpenCL and DX11. Display support includes eDP, MIPI DSI and HDMI. The compact 69.6 x 70 mm SOM supports extended operating temperatures from 10 to 70ºC.

The RK391 also provides WiFi /Bluetooth support including 2T2R 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac for WiFi and Bluetooth 5.0 with real simultaneous dual-band (RSDB). You also get 2x MIPI CSI RX camera interfaces with 13MP ISP. For I/O you get 4x USB 2.0, 2x USB 3.0 2 (Type C), 2x 2-wire UART ports and 2x 4-wire UART ports. There’s also support for RTC, 10-bit 1MS/s ADC, SDIO, DIO, GPIO, SPI and I2C.

SOM-RP301

The SOM-RP301 meanwhile is based on the Rockchip PX30 Quad-Core Cortex-A35 processor and measures a compact 70 x 50 mm. Arbor touts the board for its low power consumption, flexible thermal management, cost-efficiency and its suitability for IIoT applications. The combination of its hardware media decoder and processing power makes it a fit to implement in retail kiosks such as electronic restaurant menus, automated currency exchange machines, ticketing kiosks and so on, according to Arbor.



SOM-RP301
The SOM-RP301 offers provides 1GB to 4GB of LPDDR4DRAM and mass storage via 16GB eMMC flash plus support SD Card boot up. The Mali-T860MP4 GPU supports OpenGL ES1.1/2.0/3.0/3.1, OpenVG1.1, OpenCL and DX11. Display support includes LVDS and MIPI DSI, and those interfaces share the same pinout. Like the RK391, this modules also supports extended operating temperatures from 10 to 70ºC.

The RK391 also provides WiFi /Bluetooth support including 1x 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac for WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0. You also get 1x MIPI CSI RX camera interface with 8MP ISP. For I/O the RP301 provides the all the same ports as the RK391 as described above. Despite the fact that Arbor touts the RP301 as a low power solution, its datasheet currently says “TBD” for the board’s power consumption.

PBA-9000-A SOM Carrier Board

Arbor’s PBA-9000-A Carrier Board for its SOM-series features a single pin-out design that enables it to easily support future boards in the Arbor SOM-series CPU Board family. The PBA-9000-A’s I/O configuration supports all of the interfaces on the SOM-series boards.



PBA-9000-A SOM carrier board detail
(click image to enlarge)

Further information

More information on the three boards can be found on the announcement page. No pricing was provided. Links to datasheets for the SOM-RK391, SOM-RP301 and PBA-9000-A boards can be found on Arbor’s ARM-computing product page.

This article originally appeared on LinuxGizmos.com on April 8.

Arbor Technology | www.arbor-technology.com

Tuesday’s Newsletter: IoT Tech Focus

Coming to your inbox tomorrow: Circuit Cellar’s IoT Technology Focus newsletter. Tomorrow’s newsletter covers what’s happening with Internet-of-Things (IoT) technology–-from devices to gateway networks to cloud architectures. This newsletter tackles news and trends about the products and technologies needed to build IoT implementations and devices.

Bonus: We’ve added Drawings for Free Stuff to our weekly newsletters. Make sure you’ve subscribed to the newsletter so you can participate.

Already a Circuit Cellar Newsletter subscriber? Great!
You’ll get your IoT Technology Focus newsletter issue tomorrow.

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Our weekly Circuit Cellar Newsletter will switch its theme each week, so look for these in upcoming weeks:

Embedded Boards.(4/23) The focus here is on both standard and non-standard embedded computer boards that ease prototyping efforts and let you smoothly scale up to production volumes.

April has a 5th Tuesday, so we’re bringing you a bonus newsletter:
Automotive Electronics (4/30)  Automotive dashboard are evolving into so-called infotainment systems at the same time more of the car is being controlled by embedded  computing. That’s driving a need for powerful MCU-based solutions that support these trends. This newsletter looks at the latest technology trends and product developments in automotive electronics.

Analog & Power. (5/7) This newsletter content zeros in on the latest developments in analog and power technologies including DC-DC converters, AD-DC converters, power supplies, op amps, batteries and more.

Microcontroller Watch (5/14) This newsletter keeps you up-to-date on latest microcontroller news. In this section, we examine the microcontrollers along with their associated tools and support products.

COMe Type 7 Card Sports AMD EPYC Embedded 3000 Processor

Congatec has introduced its first Server-on-Module (SoM) with AMD embedded server technology. The new conga-B7E3 Server-on-Module with AMD EPYC Embedded 3000 processor offers up to 52% more instructions per clock compared to legacy architectures, according to the company. Use cases include Industry 4.0, smart robot cells with collaborative robotics, autonomous robotic and logistics vehicles, as well as virtualized on-premise equipment in harsh environments to perform functions such as industrial routing, firewall security and VPN technologies—optionally in combination with various real-time controls and neural network computing for Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Also attractive for edge server deployments is the support of the extended temperature range (-40 to 85 °C) for selected versions and the comprehensive RAS (reliability, availability and serviceability) features common to all versions. Edge applications benefit from the hardware-integrated virtualization and comprehensive security package that includes Secure Boot System, Secure Memory Encryption (SME) and Secure Encrypted Virtualization (SEV), as well as a secure migration channel between two SEV-capable platforms. Support is also given for IPsec with integrated crypto acceleration. As a consequence, even the server administrator does not have access to such an encrypted Virtual Machine (VM). This is important for the high security required by many edge server services, which must enable multi-vendor applications in Industry 4.0 automation while effectively warding off sabotage attempts by hackers.

The conga-B7E3 COM Express Type 7 modules are equipped with AMD EPYC Embedded 3000 processors with 4, 8, 12, or 16 high-performance cores, support simultaneous multi-threading (SMT) and up to 96 GB of DDR4 2666 RAM in the COM Express Basic form factor and up to 1TB in full custom designs. Measuring just 125 x 95 mm, the COM Express Basic Type 7 module supports up 4x 10 GbE and up to 32 PCIe Gen 3 lanes. For storage the module even integrates an optional 1 TB NVMe SSD and offers 2x SATA Gen 3.0 ports for conventional drives.

Further interfaces include 4x USB 3.1 Gen 1, 4x USB 2.0 as well as 2x UART, GPIO, I2C, LPC and SPI. Attractive features also include seamless support of dedicated high-end GPUs and improved floating-point performance, which is essential for emerging AI and HPC applications. Congatec also offers advanced cooling solutions for its COM Express Type 7 Server-on-Modules that match the processor, support fanless cooling even beyond 65 W TDP, and can be adapted to customers’ housings, if required. This allows OEMs to integrate maximum processor performance into their designs, as performance is often limited by the system’s cooling capacity. OS support is provided for Linux and Yocto, as well as Microsoft Windows 10 and Windows Server.

Congatec | www.congatec.com

 

Tuesday’s Newsletter: Microcontroller Watch

Coming to your inbox tomorrow: Circuit Cellar’s Microcontroller Watch newsletter. Tomorrow’s newsletter keeps you up-to-date on latest microcontroller news. In this section, we examine the microcontrollers along with their associated tools and support products.

Bonus: We’ve added Drawings for Free Stuff to our weekly newsletters. Make sure you’ve subscribed to the newsletter so you can participate.

Already a Circuit Cellar Newsletter subscriber? Great!
You’ll get your Microcontroller Watch newsletter issue tomorrow.

Not a Circuit Cellar Newsletter subscriber?
Don’t be left out! Sign up now:

Our weekly Circuit Cellar Newsletter will switch its theme each week, so look for these in upcoming weeks:

IoT Technology Focus. (4/16) Covers what’s happening with Internet-of-Things (IoT) technology–-from devices to gateway networks to cloud architectures. This newsletter tackles news and trends about the products and technologies needed to build IoT implementations and devices.

Embedded Boards.(4/23) The focus here is on both standard and non-standard embedded computer boards that ease prototyping efforts and let you smoothly scale up to production volumes.

April has a 5th Tuesday, so we’re bringing you a bonus newsletter:
Automotive Electronics (4/30)  Automotive dashboard are evolving into so-called infotainment systems at the same time more of the car is being controlled by embedded  computing. That’s driving a need for powerful MCU-based solutions that support these trends. This newsletter looks at the latest technology trends and product developments in automotive electronics.

Analog & Power. (5/7) This newsletter content zeros in on the latest developments in analog and power technologies including DC-DC converters, AD-DC converters, power supplies, op amps, batteries and more.

Drone Video Technologies are Flying High

Cameras, Boards and Kits

The video technologies available for today’s drones continue to advance. New products and solutions are adding new intelligence, features and performance levels to enhance how video is captured and processed aboard both consumer and commercial drones.

By Jeff Child, Editor-in-Chief

While drones can have a variety of sensor types, clearly video ranks the most common capability of today’s consumer and commercial drones. Long gone are the days when placing an ordinary camera on a quadcopter style drone is a big deal. Today, drone cameras are highly sophisticated with designs evolved for drone use. In fact, some cameras embed so much processing, the term camera-computer is gaining steam.

Drone cameras are linked with board-level solutions that support multiple camera video streams and even perform AI-based intelligence functions aboard drones. Add those to the emergence of complete drone design platforms—that include camera and all—and it’s clear that we’re in a golden age for designing and developing powerful drones.
Video technology for drones spans a wide area of subjects including chip-level video processing, 4K HD video capture, image stabilization, complex board-level video processing, drone-mounted cameras, hybrid IR/video cameras and drone development platforms. Over the past 12 months, vendors at the camera-, board- and system-level have been evolving their existing drone video technologies while also creating new innovative solutions.

Complete Reference Platform

Starting at the platform level, drone development has definitely become easier these days, with companies both large and small providing complete drone development kits. One of these on the large company side is Qualcomm. In December, Qualcomm’s partner Intrinsyc Technologies announced it will distribute the Qualcomm Flight Pro reference platform (Figure 1). The platform is Qualcomm’s latest optimized board and development kit targeted specifically for consumer drones.

Figure 1
The Qualcomm Flight Pro reference platform is Qualcomm’s latest optimized board and development kit targeted specifically for consumer drones. 

The Qualcomm Flight Pro reference platform for consumer drones and robotics applications is a follow-on to the Qualcomm Flight platform, which was previously launched under the name Snapdragon Flight. The Qualcomm Flight Pro steps up from a 2.2 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 with 4x Cortex-A53 like Krait cores to a Snapdragon 820 (APQ8096SG) with 4x higher-end Kryo cores—2x at 2.15 GHz and 2x at 1.6 GHz. The Snapdragon 820 also integrates an Adreno 530 GPU and Hexagon 680 DSP.

The system runs on a Linux 3.18 and Yocto/OpenEmbedded based stack with SDK, a Docker container and support for the Robot Operating System (ROS). An optional Qualcomm Navigator SDK supports autonomous, vision-supported Wi-Fi-based flight controls with advanced flight modes, built-in sensor calibration and automatic flight logging.

The Qualcomm Flight Pro is slightly larger than the original at a still very compact 75  mm x 36 mm, making room for 4x cameras driven by MIPI-CSI interfaces. The kit includes a pair of forward-facing stereo-vision cameras using Omnivision OV7251 black and white VGA sensors by way of a Sunny GP161C module, as well as a forward-facing, 13-megapixel, 4K-at-30-fps camera with a Sony IMX214 color sensor in a KLT Module. There’s also a downward-facing camera with a black and white VGA OV7251 sensor via a Sunny MD102A module.

The Pro board includes 4 GB LPDDR4, a microSD slot and 32 GB UFS 2.0 (HS-G3 1-Lane) storage. Other features include a Qualcomm QCA6174 wireless module with 802.11ac 2×2 MIMO and Bluetooth 4.2 (with antenna mounts), as well as a Qualcomm WGR7640 GNSS location chip that supports an optional U-blox GPS module. The SBC is further equipped with an IMU with gyroscope, accelerometer, compass (Dual Invensense MPU9250) and a barometer/pressure sensor (Bosch BMP280).

More recently, in late February, Qualcomm and Thundercomm launched their Robotics RB3 Platform” that includes an octa-core Snapdragon 845 via a new “DragonBoard 845c” 96Boards SBC and tracking cameras. While that platform appears to be marketed toward terrestrial robots, Qualcomm did tell us that it can also be used for developing drones.

Cameras, Cameras, Cameras

Switching to the camera side of drone video, the latest crop of drone-based camera systems includes a wide range of solutions, some focusing on photo and video quality, others on new features and capabilities. For its part, in December, FLIR Systems announced three Neutrino midwave infrared (MWIR) camera cores. These include the small, lightweight FLIR Neutrino LC and two FLIR Neutrino Performance series cores, the SX12 and QX (Figure 2). The latest models expand the FLIR Neutrino cooled camera core family for commercial, industrial and defense OEMs and system integrators.

Figure 2
The Neutrino LC (left) is FLIR’s first High Operating Temperature (HOT) MWIR camera core and the first model in the SWaP+C series. The Neutrino QX, with more than 3.1 megapixels, is FLIR’s highest resolution MWIR camera core.

The Neutrino LC is FLIR’s first High Operating Temperature (HOT) MWIR camera core and the first model in the SWaP+C (Size, Weight, Power and Cost) series. As the smallest, lightest weight and lowest power consuming Neutrino model available, the LC can be integrated with smaller drones and allow drone operators to fly longer. With HOT technology, Neutrino starts imaging two times faster than previous models, allowing optical gas imaging professionals to detect gases faster. Additionally, the Neutrino’s longer operational lifetime allows installation in security applications where maintenance access is restricted, difficult or costly.

The two new Neutrino Performance series products, the Neutrino SX12 and the Neutrino QX, offer the highest-resolution MWIR performance from FLIR. The Neutrino SX12 produces high-definition (HD) thermal imaging video, while Neutrino QX, with more than 3.1 megapixels, is FLIR’s highest resolution MWIR core. Both Neutrino Performance models provide crisp imagery at long distances while maintaining a wide field of view and are well suited for ground-based or airborne intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (ISR) and counter-drone solutions. The Neutrino SX12, QX and LC are dual-use camera cores for commercial, industrial and defense products and are classified under the U.S. Department of Commerce Export Administration Regulations as Export Control Classification Number 6A003.b.4.a.

Intelligent Camera

One area of innovation in drone cameras is adding more intelligence to them. Exemplifying this trend, in August last year Aerialtronics launched a new version of its Pensar camera-computer driven by artificial intelligence. According to te company, Pensar is one of the world’s first platforms with dual spectrum digital vision that allows real-time analysis of images or data (Figure 3). Infinitely customizable, it can be mounted on a professional drone, mobile robot or used as an independent camera. The dual spectrum is provided by a built-in Sony 30x full HD optical zoom camera with 1920 x 1080 resolution and a 30 fps Boson FLIR integrated thermal camera. The Pensar is 112.5 mm x 98.5 mm x 67.5 mm in size and weighs 672 g.

Figure 3
The Pensar is a dual spectrum digital vision platform that does real-time data analysis using a miniaturized Nvidia embedded processor with 1.5 teraflops of power. The dual spectrum is provided by a built-in Sony 30x full HD optical zoom camera with 1920 x 1080 resolution and a 30 fps Boson FLIR integrated thermal camera.

Pensar does real-time data analysis using a miniaturized Nvidia embedded processor with 1.5 teraflops of power. Its computing power, accelerated by the Nvidia Jetson TX1 GPU processor in the Nvidia Jetson module, enables it to detect, recognize, analyze and classify objects or people in real time. Simultaneous data acquisition and processing allows for immediate decision making.

Pensar’s integrated camera with a 30x optical zoom makes it possible to spot very small details. Also embedded in Pensar is a FLIR thermal camera used to identify heat sources and determine their temperature. The streams from these two cameras, recorded simultaneously, help optimize image analysis in day and night time and bad weather conditions.

This camera-computer can be customized and adapted for multiple applications: surveillance, inspection, public security and anti-terrorist operations, search and rescue and so on. It’s equipped with a system for facial recognition, object recognition such as license plates, animal recognition and similar tasks. A digital “privacy mask” can be integrated into the images to guarantee confidentiality and anonymity. The intelligent platform comes with an Ubuntu Linux Open Source operating system that allows system integrators to customize it to suit their needs. Pensar is compatible with open source libraries such as Google’s Tensor Flow.

Fancy Photography

As today’s drone cameras have evolved, they’re now offering many very sophisticated features for high-end photography. Along those lines, Lucint Systems’ Lucint12 camera basically provides a complete aerial image collection system in a small, rugged, low-power box (Figure 4). Lucint12 is a 12-megapixel high-quality color or monochrome

Figure 4
Lucint12 is a 12-megapixel high-quality color or monochrome image sensor with all the controls, metadata, processing and storage needed for a complete system.

image sensor with all the controls, metadata, processing and storage needed for a complete system. The unit also features a powerful built-in GPU processor to handle real time georeferencing, image preprocessing, and custom user algorithms.

Designed for photogrammetry the camera features large pixels that result in excellent dynamic range. It has lightweight, high-quality Micro Four Thirds lenses and captures metadata and precise GPS timestamp with each frame. Lucint12 provides a number of automated functions including auto-exposure designed for aerial capture ensures consistent exposures, auto-focus optimized for aerial, automotive or ground installations, and auto-trigger at fixed rate, percent image overlap, or external trigger.

The Lucint12 is complete system with rugged and reliable design features. Its global electronic shutter has no moving parts and no rolling shutter distortion. Industrial components extend operating temperature range. The unit has a fully sealed housing for harsh operating environments. The Lucint12 integrates an internal GPS to record image capture location, on-board mSATA-based image storage up to 1TB. Users can configure settings over Wi-Fi by phone or tablet.

Camera with V-SLAM Tech

Qualcomm isn’t the only big chip vendor with a hand in drone technology. Intel’s latest drone video offering is its RealSense Tracking Camera T265. Announced in January, the T265 uses proprietary visual inertial odometry simultaneous localization and mapping (V-SLAM) technology and is suited for applications that require a highly accurate and low-latency tracking solution, including robotics, drones, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality. V‑SLAM uses a combination of cameras and Inertial Measurement Units (IMU) to navigate in a similar way, using visual features in the environment to track its way around even unknown spaces with accuracy.

At the heart of the T265 is the Intel Movidius Myriad 2 vision processing unit (VPU), which directly handles all the data processing necessary for tracking on the machine (Figure 5). According to Intel, the T265 is good for applications where tracking the location of a device is important, especially in locations without GPS service, such as warehouses or remote outdoor areas where the camera uses a combination of known and unknown data to accurately navigate to its destination. The T265 is also designed for flexible implementation and can be easily added to small-footprint mobile devices like lightweight robots and drones, as well as for connectivity with mobile phones or AR headsets.

Figure 5
Intel’s RealSense Tracking Camera T265 uses proprietary visual inertial odometry simultaneous localization and V-SLAM technology. V‑SLAM uses a combination of cameras and Inertial Measurement Units (IMU) to navigate in a similar way, using visual features in the environment to track its way around unknown spaces with accuracy.

The T265 uses inside-out tracking, which means the device does not rely on any external sensors to understand the environment. Unlike other inside-out tracking solutions, the T265 delivers 6-degrees-of-freedom (6DoF) inside-out tracking by gathering inputs from two onboard fish-eye cameras, each with an approximate 170-degree range of view. The V-SLAM systems construct and continually update maps of unknown environments and the location of a device within that environment.

Because all position calculations are performed directly on the device, tracking with the T265 is platform independent and allows the T265 to run on very low-compute devices. The only hardware requirements are sufficient non-volatile memory to boot the device and a USB 2.0 or 3.0 connection that provides 1.5 W of power. The camera measures 108 mm x 25 mm x 13 mm in size and weighs only 55 g.

Multi-Camera Support

In August last year, Aetina launched its first carrier board for Nvidia’s Jetson TX1 and TX2 modules that supports up to 6x cameras and offers -40°C to 85°C support. The ACE-N310 enables “360-degree surrounded view application in vehicles, drones, robots, surveillance and automation and intelligent systems at the edge,” says Aetina. With the help of the Jetson modules’ AI-enabled Pascal GPU, the ACE-N310 lets you build multi-visual intelligent systems with advanced on-premises analytics and inference, according to the company (Figure 6).

Figure 6
The ACE-N310 enables 360-degree surrounded view applications in vehicles, drones and robots. With the help of the Jetson modules’ AI-enabled Pascal GPU, the ACE-N310 lets you build multi-visual intelligent systems with advanced on-premises analytics.

The module integrates its iNAVI Linux distribution, which adds customizable security, system recovery and backup features. iNAVI is also available with the ACE-N310 and other Aetina Jetson carrier boards, which similarly support the TX1, TX2 and TX2i. The 87 mm x 70 mm board is most closely comparable to the ACE-N510 carrier, which has an 87 mm x 50 mm footprint that matches that of the TX2 and TX2i modules themselves. Aetina also offers the Nano-ITX (120 mm x 120 mm) form factor ACE-N261 and ACE-N622 boards.

The ACE-N310 can be configured with up to 12x lanes of MIPI-CSI connectors through CSI-II or FPD-LINK III extension modules. This enables the connection of 6x 2-lane, 2-megapixel cameras with 1080p/30fps resolution or 3x 4-lane 4K cameras. Aetina offers a variety of Sony IMX based, HD resolution MIPI-CSI camera modules to choose from, as well as an optional, FPC-connected ACE-CAM6C camera board with 6x CSI-2 cameras. There are also “certified” mini-PCIe based I/O modules including dual isolated GbE and PoE add-ons and a 4x USB 3.0 option, all with 0 to 70°C and -40°C to 85°C support.

Other ACE-N310 features include HDMI, GbE, micro-USB 2.0 and 2x USB 3.0 host ports. Onboard interfaces include RS-232, I2C and 5x GPIO, as well as 2x CAN Bus connections that work only with the Jetson TX2 and TX2i. A mini-PCIe slot supports PCIe and mSATA, and there’s a 9-19 VDC input. Other options include fan and heatsink add-ons, cable kits, and a 100-240 V, 60 W 12V/5A adapter.

Board for Small Drones

Last summer Gumstix released a version of its Aerocore 2 drone control board that runs Linux on Nvidia’s Jetson TX2. The Aerocore 2 drone control board arrived in 2014 and was followed in 2016 by a more advanced version that swapped out the original’s Gumstix Overo module for a DragonBoard 410C SBC. This most recent 2018 board—dubbed Aerocore 2 for Nvidia Jetson—works with Jetson TX1 and Jetson TX2 modules and can be customized in Gumstix’s Geppetto online design service (Figure 7).

Figure 7
Aerocore 2 for Nvidia Jetson works with Nvidia’s Jetson TX1 and Jetson TX2 modules and can be customized in Gumstix’s Geppetto online design service.

The Jetson TX2 is equipped with dual high-end “Denver 2” Arm cores and 4x Arm Cortex-A57 cores. The 256-core Pascal GPU with CUDA libraries for running AI and machine learning algorithms offer the potential for improved image recognition applications in drones and robotics. The Aerocore 2 is best suited for small drones called micro-aerial vehicles (MAVs), but it can also be used for larger drones, robots and other image processing applications.

The Jetson TX2 module provides the Aerocore 2 for Nvidia Jetson with 8 GB of LPDDR4 RAM, 32GB of eMMC 5.1 and 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. The Aerocore 2 carrier board adds an STMicroelectronics STM32F427 Cortex-M4 chip clocked at 168 MHz. This MCU is pre-loaded with the open source NuttX RTOS and APM-based PX4 firmware for real-time drone autopilot operation. It should also work with PX4-compatible projects such as QGroundControl and MAVLink. Because the Jetson boards are modules rather than an SBC, the Aerocore 2 carrier board has added more ports and other features to compensate. The board ships with a microSD slot, as well as micro-HDMI, USB 3.0 host, micro-USB OTG and micro-USB device ports.

There are two separate 4-lane MIPI-CSI-2 interfaces that support Gumstix’s $30 Caspa 4K cameras, which are built on Sony’s 13-megapixel IMX214 AF Camera sensor and support 4208 x 3120-pixel stills and 4K video at 30 fps. In addition, you get a pair of 2-lane CSI-2 connectors for 5-megapixel cameras with 2592 x 1944 resolution. The Aerocore 2 board is capable of driving 4x cameras with HD or higher resolution simultaneously.

Like other Aerocore boards and most other Gumstix boards, the Aerocore 2 for Nvidia Jetson can be customized with the Gumstix Geppetto D2O online development platform. The Geppetto drag-and-drop GUI interface lets developers add network connections or I/O, as well as create multiple projects and compare alternative designs for features and costs. Geppetto supplies free automated documentation on demand with all saved designs. The service lets you develop custom BSPs and go straight from a design to an order in one session, with 15-day manufacturing turnaround.

We’re obviously far past the days when commercial drone video was just a straightforward proposition of mounting a camera on a drone. Today there are many technology options for building drones for a variety of applications and mission types. Camera, board and system vendors are keeping pace with these trends, feeding the demands of this dynamic and growing market.

RESOURCES

Aerialtronics | www.aerialtronics.com
Aetina | www.aetina.com
FLIR Systems | www.flir.com
Gumstix | www.gumstix.com
Intel | www.intel.com
Intrinsyc Technologies | www.intrinsyc.com
Lucint Systems | www.lucintsystems.com
Nvidia | www.nvidia.com
Qualcomm | www.qualcomm.com

 

This article appeared in the April 345 issue of Circuit Cellar

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Tuesday’s Newsletter: Analog & Power

Coming to your inbox on Tuesday: Circuit Cellar’s Analog & Power newsletter. This newsletter content zeros in on the latest developments in analog and power technologies including ADCs, DACs, DC-DC converters, AD-DC converters, power supplies, op amps, batteries and more.

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Our weekly Circuit Cellar Newsletter will switch its theme each week, so look for these in upcoming weeks:

Microcontroller Watch. (4/9) This newsletter keeps you up-to-date on latest microcontroller news. In this section, we examine the microcontrollers along with their associated tools and support products.

IoT Technology Focus. (4/16) Covers what’s happening with Internet-of-Things (IoT) technology–-from devices to gateway networks to cloud architectures. This newsletter tackles news and trends about the products and technologies needed to build IoT implementations and devices.

Embedded Boards.(4/23) The focus here is on both standard and non-standard embedded computer boards that ease prototyping efforts and let you smoothly scale up to production volumes.

Next Newsletter: Embedded Boards

Coming to your inbox tomorrow: Circuit Cellar’s Embedded Boards newsletter. Tomorrow’s newsletter content focuses on both standard and non-standard embedded computer boards that ease prototyping efforts and let you smoothly scale up to production volumes.

Bonus: We’ve added Drawings for Free Stuff to our weekly newsletters. Make sure you’ve subscribed to the newsletter so you can participate.

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Embedded Boards newsletter issue tomorrow.

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Our weekly Circuit Cellar Newsletter will switch its theme each week, so look for these in upcoming weeks:

Analog & Power. (4/2) This newsletter content zeros in on the latest developments in analog and power technologies including DC-DC converters, AD-DC converters, power supplies, op amps, batteries and more.

Microcontroller Watch (4/9) This newsletter keeps you up-to-date on latest microcontroller news. In this section, we examine the microcontrollers along with their associated tools and support products.

IoT Technology Focus. (4/16) Covers what’s happening with Internet-of-Things (IoT) technology–-from devices to gateway networks to cloud architectures. This newsletter tackles news and trends about the products and technologies needed to build IoT implementations and devices.

i.MX8M-Driven Pico-ITX SBC Features Dual-DSP Audio Module

By Eric Brown

Estone is launching an “EMB-2238” Pico-ITX board for audio and voice control applications that runs Linux on an i.MX8M and offers a dual-DSP audio hub and DAC, 40-pin GPIO, and optional PoE and second GbE.

Toledo, Ohio based Estone Technology (known for its former Habey brand) offers a variety of Linux-friendly Pico-ITX boards, including boards based on the i.MX6 (EMB-2230), i.MX6 UL (EMB2200) models, and Intel Cherry Trail EMB-2610. The company recently announced (via Electronics Weekly) an EMB-2238 board with the same 100 x 72mm form factor. The SBC builds on the audio strengths of NXP’s i.MX8M SoC with the help of high-end audio circuitry from Cirrus Logic.


 
EMB-2238
(click images to enlarge)
The EMB-2238 uses the quad-core version of the 1.5GHz, Cortex-A53 equipped i.MX8M, which also includes a GPU and 266MHz Cortex-M4 chip. Estone provides a Yocto Project stack based on Linux kernel 4.9, Qt, and Wayland. It also supports Android 8.1.0.

Other i.MX8M Pico-ITX boards we’ve seen include Kontron’s dual-GbE pITX-iMX8Mand F&S Elektronik Systeme’s up to 8GB LPDDR4 armStone MX8M. There’s also a larger, 136.7 x 87mm Nitrogen8M SBC from Boundary Devices.

All these boards tap the i.MX8M’s extensive digital audio skills to varying degrees, but the EMB-2238 is even more focused on audio and voice control applications. It adds a Cirrus Logic CS47L24 smart codec module with a dual-core, 300-MIPS DSP and audio hub. The triple-DAC device offers a 115 dB dynamic range, an 8-192kHz sample rate, and Enhanced DRE processing (eDRE) for 121dB SNR.


 
EMB-2238 (left) and Cirrus Logic CS47L24 audio module block diagram
(click images to enlarge)
The CS47L24 drives the EMB-2238’s dual digital MEMS microphone header, which features multi-mic noise suppression and acoustic echo cancellation (AEC). A 40-pin expansion header provides omni-directional, spatial 8-channel digital audio/DMIC inputs (SAI5) for the mic array, among other I/O including PCIe. Additional audio features on the SBC include a Class D, 2W mono speaker, an 8-channel digital input and output (SAI1), and SPDIF and QSPI audio interfaces.

The EMB-2238 ships with the Amazon AVS (Alexa Voice Service) Device SDK, as well as Sensory’s TrulyHandsfree wake word engine. It also supports the Snips AI voice control assistant, including support for off-line operation (see video demo farther below).

You can purchase the SBC with 2GB to 4GB LPDDR4, and a microSD slot and 8GB iNAND are also available. For communications there’s a WiFi/BT module and a GbE port with optional an Power-over-Ethernet (IEEE 802.3af) or PoE+ (802.3at) module that can also power an attached LCD panel. A separate option provides a second GbE port via a PCIe add-on card that also integrates a 9-36V DC input, GPIO, an ambient sensor, and an LED control for light bars.


 
Optional PoE (left) and GbE add-ons
(click images to enlarge)
The EMB-2238 is equipped with a 4K-ready micro-HDMI port and HD-ready MIPI-DSI with optional 10.1-inch touch-panel. Other features include a MIPI-CSI camera interface, USB 3.0 OTG Type-C port, dual USB 2.0 host ports, and 2x internal USB interfaces.

The SBC provides a RS-232/RS-485 terminal block, RS-232 header, and the 40-pin header. A 5V DC header offers an alternative to the optional PoE and 9-36V input. The board also provides a watchdog and 0 to 60°C support. As usual with Estone, you get comprehensive documentation.

Specifications listed for the EMB-2238 include:

  • Processor — NXP i.MX8M (4x Cortex-A53 @ 1.5GHz); Vivante GC7000Lite/GC7000VLX for OpenGL/ES 3.1, OpenGL 3.0, Vulkan, OpenCL 1.2 GPU; Cortex-M4 @ 266MHz
  • Memory/storage:
    • 2GB to 4GB LPDDR4 RAM
    • 8GB iNAND flash
    • MicroSD slot
  • Wireless — 802.11 b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.10 module (USB-based)
  • Networking — GbE port with optional PoE; optional second GbE via PCIe add-on with GPIO, 9-36V input, LED control etc.
  • Display/camera I/O:
    • Micro-HDMI port for up to 4096 x 216 0 @60Hz
    • MIPI-DSI (4-lane) for up to 1920 x 1200 and I2C-based support for LCD touchpanels
    • MIPI-CSI (4-lane)
  • Audio/voice control I/O:
    • Class D 2W mono speaker
    • 2x HP out header
    • 8-channel digital in and out (SAI1) with 32-bit @ 384 kHz fs and TDM support
    • SPDIF, QSPI
    • Cirrus CS47L24 smart codec with 2x-core, 300-MIPS DSP with 3x DAC and audio hub with SoundClear Control
    • 2x digital MEMS mic header (via CS47L24) with multi-mic noise supp., AEC
    • Omni-directional spatial 8 ch. digital audio/DMIC inputs (SAI5) for mic array (via 40-pin)
  • Other I/O:
    • USB 3.0 OTG Type-C port
    • 2x USB 2.0 host ports
    • 2x USB 2.0 headers
    • RS-232/RS-485 terminal block
    • RS232 header
    • 4x+ GPIO, 2x I2C for TP and MIPI CSI
  • Expansion — 40-pin connector with PCIe x1, GPIO, font panel control, PoE, 8 ch. audio in etc.
  • Other features — Watchdog timer; 10 to 15-year support longevity
  • Power — 5V DC header or optional PoE or optional 9-36V input (GbE add-on)
  • Operating temperature — 0 to 60°C
  • Dimensions — 100 x 72mm; Pico-ITX form factor
  • Operating system — Yocto Project (Linux kernel 4.9, Qt, Wayland); Android 8.1.0; ships with Amazon AVS and Sensory TrulyHandsfree Wake Word Engine


EMB-2238 Snips and AVS voice control demos

Further information

No pricing or availability information was provided for the EMB-2238 SBC. More information may be found at the Estone Technology EMB-2238 product page.

Estone Technology is demostrating the board at Embedded World in Nuremberg (Feb 26-28) at Hall 1 stand 1-129.

This article originally appeared on LinuxGizmos.com on February 15.

Estone Technology | www.estonetech.com

Tuesday’s Newsletter: IoT Tech Focus

Coming to your inbox tomorrow: Circuit Cellar’s IoT Technology Focus newsletter. Tomorrow’s newsletter covers what’s happening with Internet-of-Things (IoT) technology–-from devices to gateway networks to cloud architectures. This newsletter tackles news and trends about the products and technologies needed to build IoT implementations and devices.

Bonus: We’ve added Drawings for Free Stuff to our weekly newsletters. Make sure you’ve subscribed to the newsletter so you can participate.

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Our weekly Circuit Cellar Newsletter will switch its theme each week, so look for these in upcoming weeks:

Embedded Boards.(3/26) The focus here is on both standard and non-standard embedded computer boards that ease prototyping efforts and let you smoothly scale up to production volumes.

Analog & Power. (4/2) This newsletter content zeros in on the latest developments in analog and power technologies including DC-DC converters, AD-DC converters, power supplies, op amps, batteries and more.

Microcontroller Watch (4/9) This newsletter keeps you up-to-date on latest microcontroller news. In this section, we examine the microcontrollers along with their associated tools and support products.

Variscite Unveils Two i.MX8 QuadMax Modules

By Eric Brown

Variscite announced Linux-powered “VAR-SOM-MX8” and “SPEAR-MX8” modules with an up to an i.MX8 QuadMax SoC plus up to 8GB LPDDR4 and 64GB eMMC. It also previewed a VAR-SOM-6UL COM.

At Embedded World in Nuremberg, Germany, Variscite showcased its Linux and Android driven i.MX8-family computer-on-modules, including new VAR-SOM-MX8 and SPEAR-MX8 modules that feature NXP’s highest-end i.MX8 SoC up to a QuadMax model (see farther below). We have already covered most of the other showcased products, including the 14nm fabricated, quad -A53 i.MX8M Mini based DART-MX8M-Mini. When we covered the DART-MX8M-Mini in September, Variscite didn’t have an image or product page, but both are now available here


 
VAR-SOM-MX8 (left) and previously announced DART-MX8M-Mini
(click images to enlarge)
Other showcased COMs that we covered in recent months include the quad -A35 i.MX8X based VAR-SOM-MX8X and the quad -A53 i.MX8M based DART-MX8M. Variscite also announced a VAR-SOM-6UL module with support for the i.MX6 UL (UltraLite), ULL, and most recent ULZ low-power IoT SoCs. The board has yet to be fully documented, but we’ve listed what’s available farther below.



Variscite’s VAR-SOM and DART families
(click image to enlarge)
 VAR-SOM-MX8

Due to ship with the similar, but more advanced, SPEAR-MX8 (see farther below) in the second quarter, the 67.6 x 51.6mm VAR-SOM-MX8 is pin-to-pin compatible with other VAR-SOM modules, including the new wireless-enabled version of the circa-2014 VAR-SOM-MX6.

The VAR-SOM-MX8 ships with the high-end i.MX8 QuadMax or the mid-range QuadPlus models. The i.MX8 QuadMax features 2x Cortex-A72 cores, 4x Cortex-A53 cores, 2x Vivante GC7000XSVX GPUs, and 2x Cortex-M4F real-time cores. The QuadPlus is identical except that it only has one Cortex-A72 core.


 
VAR-SOM-MX8 rear view and block diagram
(click images to enlarge)
Other i.MX8 SoCs that support both the QuadMax and QuadPlus include Congatec’s Conga-SMX8 SMARC module, which also offers the DualMax variant. The others focus on the QuadMax, including the Toradex Apalis iMX and iWave iW-RainboW-G27M.

The VAR-SOM-MX8 runs Yocto Project based Linux (Sumo release) or Android 9.0 “Pie,” both with Linux kernel 4.14.78. The module ships with 2GB to 8GB LPDDR4 and 4GB to 64GB eMMC. It supports 2x GbE ports and offers a wireless module with certified 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.2 BLE.

Media I/O includes HDMI v2.0a, eDP 1.4, and DP 1.3, all with resolution up to 4Kp60. There are also MIPI-DSI and dual-channel LVDS connections for up to 1920 x 1080 pixels with resistive or capacitive touch support. For audio, you get analog I/O, a headphone driver, digital and analog stereo mic support, and I2S/SAI digital audio.

The module supports USB 3.0 OTG and USB 2.0 host ports, as well as 5x UART, 4x I2C, 4x SPI, and 2x CAN/CAN-FD (FlexibleData-Rate). Other I/O includes PCIe Gen 3.0, SD/MMC, and optional JTAG. The 3.3V module supports 0 to 70°C, -20 to 85°C, and -40 to 85°C temperature ranges. There’s a product longevity guarantee through 2033.

SPEAR-MX8

The SPEAR-MX8 is only slightly larger than the VAR-SOM-MX8, at 68 x 55mm, but it packs in a lot more features. On the other hand, it lacks the pin-to-pin compatibility with other VAR-SOM models. The module offers only the high-end i.MX8 QuadMax.


 
SPEAR-MX8 and block diagram
(click images to enlarge)
The SPEAR-MX8 appears to have all the features of the VAR-SOM-MX8 with several key additions. These include support for SATA III storage, an HDMI 1.4 input, and dual MIPI-CSI2 camera links. It adds a third USB connection, which is variably listed as a second USB 3.0 and a second USB 2.0 OTG. You also get a second PCIe link and a third CAN port. The module has a heftier 3.4-4.5V DC input.

VAR-SOM-6UL

Variscite did not have much to say about the upcoming VAR-SOM-6UL module, which like the smaller, 50 x 25mm DART-6UL, uses a slightly stripped down i.MX6 ULZ SoC in addition to the UL and ULL models. All these single Cortex-A7 SoCs, which are here clocked to 900MHz, are notable for their low power consumption.



VAR-SOM-6UL
The VAR-SOM-6UL will ship with certified dual-band WiFi 802.11ac, Bluetooth/BLE, and support for dual Ethernet ports, dual USB ports, and serial interfaces. Media interfaces include 24-bit Parallel LCD, 18-bit LVDS up to WXGA, audio I/O, and a camera input.

Further information

The VAR-SOM-MX8 and SPEAR-MX8 modules are available in eval kits for “early partners” and will launch in Q2. There’s no ship date for the VAR-SOM-6UL, which is now open for pre-orders for eval kits and samples.

More information may be found in Variscite’s i.MX Embedded World announcement, as well as the VAR-SOM-MX8 product page and wiki and the SPEAR-MX8 product page.

This article originally appeared on LinuxGizmos.com on February 22.

Variscite | www.variscite.com

April Circuit Cellar: Sneak Preview

The April issue of Circuit Cellar magazine is out next week (March 20th)!. We’ve worked hard to cook up a tasty selection of in-depth embedded electronics articles just for you. We’ll be serving them up to in our 84-page magazine.

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Here’s a sneak preview of April 2019 Circuit Cellar:

VIDEO AND DISPLAY TECHNOLOGIES IN ACTION

Video Technology in Drones
Because video is the main mission of the majority of commercial drones, video technology has become a center of gravity in today’s drone design decisions. The topic covers everything including single-chip video processing, 4k HD video capture, image stabilization, complex board-level video processing, drone-mounted cameras, hybrid IR/video camera and mesh-networks. In this article, Circuit Cellar’s Editor-in-Chief, Jeff Child, looks at the technology and trends in video technology for drones.

Building an All-in-One Serial Terminal
Many embedded systems require as least some sort of human interface. While Jeff Bachiochi was researching alternatives to mechanical keypads, he came across the touchscreen display products from 4D Systems. He chose their inexpensive, low-power 2.4-inch, resistive touch screen as the basis for his display subsystem project. He makes use of the display’s Espressif Systems ESP8266 processor and Arduino IDE support to turn the display module into a serial terminal with a serial TTL connection to other equipment.

MICROCONTROLLERS ARE EVERYWHERE

Product Focus: 32-Bit Microcontrollers
As the workhorse of today’s embedded systems, 32-bit microcontrollers serve a wide variety of embedded applications-including the IoT. MCU vendors continue to add more connectivity, security and I/O functionality to their 32-bit product families. This Product Focus section updates readers on these trends and provides a product album of representative 32-bit MCU products.

Build a PIC32-Based Recording Studio
In this project article, learn how Cornell students Radhika Chinni, Brandon Quinlan, Raymond Xu built a miniature recording studio using the Microchip PIC32. It can be used as an electric keyboard with the additional functionality of recording and playing back multiple layers of sounds. There is also a microphone that the user can use to make custom recordings.

WONDERFUL WORLD OF WIRELESS

Low-Power Wireless Comms
The growth in demand for IoT solutions has fueled the need for products and technology to do wireless communication from low-power edge devices. Using technologies including Bluetooth Low-Energy (BLE), wireless radio frequency technology (LoRa) and others, embedded system developers are searching for ways to get efficient IoT connectivity while drawing as little power as possible. Circuit Cellar Chief Editor Jeff Child explores the latest technology trends and product developments in low-power wireless communications.

Bluetooth Mesh (Part 2)
Continuing his article series on Bluetooth mesh, this month Bob Japenga looks at the provisioning process required to get a device onto a Bluetooth mesh network. Then he examines two application examples and evaluates the various options for each example.

Build a Prescription Reminder
Pharmaceuticals prescribed by physicians are important to patients both old and young. But these medications will only do their job if taken according to a proper schedule. In this article, Devlin Gualtieri describes his Raspberry-Rx Prescription Reminder project, a network-accessible, the Wi-Fi connected, Raspberry Pi-based device that alerts a person when a particular medication should be administered. It also keeps a log of the actual times when medications were administered.

ENGINEERING TIPS, TRICKS AND TECHNIQUES

The Art of Current Probing
In his February column, Robert Lacoste talked about oscilloscope probes—or more specifically, voltage measurement probes. He explained how selecting the correct probe for a given measurement, and using it as it properly, is as important as having a good scope. In this article, Robert continues the discussion with another common measurement task: Accurately measuring current using an oscilloscope.

Software Engineering
There’s no doubt that achieving high software quality is human-driven endeavor. No amount of automated code development can substitute for best practices. A great tool for such efforts is the IEEE Computer Society’s Guide to the Software Engineering Body of Knowledge. In this article, George Novacek discusses some highlights of this resource, and why he has frequently consulted this document when preparing development plans.

HV Differential Probe
A high-voltage differential probe is a critical piece of test equipment for anyone who wants to safely examine high voltage signals on a standard oscilloscope. In his article, Andrew Levido describes his design of a high-voltage differential probe with features similar to commercial devices, but at a considerably lower cost. It uses just three op amps in a classic instrumentation amplifier configuration and provides a great exercise in precision analog design.

Tuesday’s Newsletter: Microcontroller Watch

Coming to your inbox tomorrow: Circuit Cellar’s Microcontroller Watch newsletter. Tomorrow’s newsletter keeps you up-to-date on latest microcontroller news. In this section, we examine the microcontrollers along with their associated tools and support products.

Bonus: We’ve added Drawings for Free Stuff to our weekly newsletters. Make sure you’ve subscribed to the newsletter so you can participate.

Already a Circuit Cellar Newsletter subscriber? Great!
You’ll get your Microcontroller Watch newsletter issue tomorrow.

Not a Circuit Cellar Newsletter subscriber?
Don’t be left out! Sign up now:

Our weekly Circuit Cellar Newsletter will switch its theme each week, so look for these in upcoming weeks:

IoT Technology Focus. (3/19) Covers what’s happening with Internet-of-Things (IoT) technology–-from devices to gateway networks to cloud architectures. This newsletter tackles news and trends about the products and technologies needed to build IoT implementations and devices.

Embedded Boards.(3/26) The focus here is on both standard and non-standard embedded computer boards that ease prototyping efforts and let you smoothly scale up to production volumes.

Analog & Power. (4/2) This newsletter content zeros in on the latest developments in analog and power technologies including DC-DC converters, AD-DC converters, power supplies, op amps, batteries and more.

Tuesday’s Newsletter: Analog & Power

Coming to your inbox on Tuesday: Circuit Cellar’s Analog & Power newsletter. This newsletter content zeros in on the latest developments in analog and power technologies including ADCs, DACs, DC-DC converters, AD-DC converters, power supplies, op amps, batteries and more.

Bonus: We’ve added Drawings for Free Stuff to our weekly newsletters. Make sure you’ve subscribed to the newsletter so you can participate.

Already a Circuit Cellar Newsletter subscriber? Great!
You’ll get your Analog & Power newsletter issue tomorrow.

Not a Circuit Cellar Newsletter subscriber?
Don’t be left out! Sign up now:

Our weekly Circuit Cellar Newsletter will switch its theme each week, so look for these in upcoming weeks:

Microcontroller Watch. (4/9) This newsletter keeps you up-to-date on latest microcontroller news. In this section, we examine the microcontrollers along with their associated tools and support products.

IoT Technology Focus. (4/16) Covers what’s happening with Internet-of-Things (IoT) technology–-from devices to gateway networks to cloud architectures. This newsletter tackles news and trends about the products and technologies needed to build IoT implementations and devices.

Embedded Boards.(4/23) The focus here is on both standard and non-standard embedded computer boards that ease prototyping efforts and let you smoothly scale up to production volumes.

Odroid-N2 SBC has Hexa-Core Amlogic S922X and $63 to $79 Price

By Eric Brown

Hardkernel announced an “Odroid-N2” SBC with a Cortex-A73 and -A53 based Amlogic S922X SoC plus 2-4GB DDR4, 4x USB 3.0, HDMI 2.1, an audio DAC, and a 40-pin header.

Hardkernel unveiled its open-spec, Ubuntu-ready Odroid-N1 SBC a year ago with a Rockchip RK3399 SoC. Since it was scheduled for June shipment, we included it our reader survey of 116 hacker boards. Yet, just before we published the results, including a #16 ranking for the N1, Hardkernel announced it was shelving the board due to sourcing problems and switching to a similar new board with an unnamed new SoC. The Odroid-N2 would also switch to DDR4 RAM from the previously announced DDR3, which was in short supply.


 
Odroid-N1 with heatsink (left) and within black case
(click images to enlarge)
The Odroid-N2 will arrive in April about four months later than intended, but with a much lower $63 (2GB RAM) and $79 (4GB) price compared to the original Odroid-N1 goal of “about $110.” The new model has also advanced to a similarly hexa-core, but much faster Amlogic S922X SoC, which was unveiled in September along with the quad-core -A53 Amlogic S905X2 and S905Y2.

Amlogic has yet to post a product page for the 12nm-fabricated S922X, which integrates 4x Cortex-A73 cores instead of the RK3399’s 2x 2.0GHz -A72 cores. The S922X also has 2x -A53 cores that clock to 1.9GHz instead of 4x 1.5GHz -A53 cores on the high-end version of the RK3399 used by the N1. The N2 also moves up to a Mali-G52 GPU with 6x 846MHz execution engines, which the Odroid project benchmarks as 10 percent faster.


 
Odroid-N2 CPU benchmark comparison (left) and block diagram 
(click images to enlarge)
Hardkernel has posted benchmarks that claim around 20 percent faster CPU performance than the RK3399-driven N1. The inclusion of a substantial metal heatsink and the placement of the SoC and RAM on the bottom of the board enable top speeds “without thermal throttling,” says the Odroid project. With the 4GB version (the only configuration announced for the N1), the N2’s 1320MHz DDR4-RAM is claimed to be 35 percent faster than the N1’s 800MHz DDR3.

Although it may not make much sense to compare the Odroid-N2 to a board that never shipped, it should be noted that the Odroid-N1’s PCIe-based SATA connectors (also found on a few other RK3399 boards) have disappeared. However, you get 4x USB 3.0 host ports instead of a split between 3.0 and 2.0.



Odroid-N2 detail view (see legend farther below)
(click image to enlarge)
The USB ports sit next to a faster GbE port (about 1Gbps) and a 4K-ready HDMI port which is variablly listed as 2.0 and 2.1. For wireless, you’ll need to use one of the USB ports.



Legend for detail view above
(click image to enlarge)
The Odroid-N2 is slightly smaller than the N1 at 90 x 90 x 17mm and has a different design. Several ports such as the micro-USB OTG port and new IR sensor and composite A/V jack appear on the opposite coastline. The A/V jack includes a high-quality audio DAC (384Khz/32bit) with dynamic range, near-100dB SNR, and Total-Harmonic-Distortion lower than 0.006 percent, claims the Odroid project.

The 40-pin expansion header provides 25x GPIO, 2x I2C, SPDIF, and other 3.3V interfaces except for the dual 1.8V ADC signals. The pinout is said to be similar to the Amlogic S905 based Odroid-C2. There’s a wide-range 7.5-20V DC jack, and power consumption is listed as 1.8W idle to 5.5W CPU stress. No operating range was listed, but benchmarks suggest it runs run fine at 35°C.

The Odroid-N2 is available with 64-bit Ubuntu 18.04 LTS with Linux 4.9.152 LTS and Android 9 Pie “with full source code BSP and pre-built image together.” There is no X11 GPU driver and the Mali G52 GPU Linux driver currently works only on the framebuffer, but there’s a hardware-accelerated VPU driver. A Linux Wayland driver and Vulkan capable GPU driver for Android are in the works.


 
Odroid-N2 in white case (left) and GPIO pinout
(click images to enlarge)
The board ships with 8MB SPI along with a boot select switch and a Petitboot app. It requires removal of any bootable eMMC while you’re making the switch.

Odroid boards, such as the ever popular Odroid-XU4 have usually scored high in our reader surveys due to solid HW/SW quality, vigorous open source support, and a devoted community. The Odroid project recently branched into x86 territory with its Intel Gemini Lake based Odroid-H2.

Specifications listed for the Odroid-N2 include:

  • Processor — Amlogic S922X (4x Cortex-A73 @ 1.8GHz, 2x Cortex-A53 @ 1.9GHz); 12nm fab; Mali-G52 GPU with 6x 846MHz EEs
  • Memory/storage:
    • 2GB or 4GB DDR4 (1320MHz, 2640MT/s) 32-bit RAM
    • eMMC socket with optional 8GB to 128GB
    • MicroSD slot with UHS-1 SDR104 support
    • 8MB SPI flash with boot select switch and Petitboot app
  • Wireless — Optional USB WiFi adapter
  • Networking — Gigabit Ethernet port (Realtek RTL8211F); about 1Gbps
  • Media I/O:
    • HDMI 2.1 port for up to 4K@60Hz with HDR, CEC, EDID
    • Composite video jack with stereo line-out and 384Khz/32bit audio DAC
    • SPDIF audio via 40-pin
  • Other I/O:
    • 4x USB 3.0 host ports (340MB/s typical)
    • Micro-USB 2.0 OTG port (no power)
    • Serial console interface
    • Fan connector
  • Expansion — 40-pin GPIO header (25x GPIO, 2x i2C, 2x ADC, 6x PWM, SPI, UART, SPDIF, various power signals, etc.)
  • Other features — RTC (NXP PCF8563) with battery connector; IR receiver; metal heatsink; 2x LEDs; optional $4 acrylic case
  • Power — 7.5-20V DC jack; 12V/2A adapter recommended; consumption: 1.8W idle to 5.5W stress
  • Dimensions — 90 x 90 x 17mm
  • Operating system — Ubuntu 18.04 LTS with Kernel 4.9.152 LTS and Android 9 Pie BSPs

Further information

The Odroid-N2 will go on sale in late March with shipments beginning in April. Some engineering samples will head out to a lucky few over the next week. Pricing is $63 (2GB RAM) and $79 (4GB) price. More information may be found on Hardkernel’s Odroid-N1 announcement and product page and wiki.

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

Odroid by Hardkernel | forum.odroid.com