Mini-PCIe Modules Offer Cat-M1 and Iridium Modems for IoT

By Eric Brown

Gateworks announced a pair of mini-PCIe modems that have been tested — and offer tech support — only on the company’s Linux-based SBCs. Most recently, these include the Cavium Octeon-based Newport GW6100 and GW6200. The GW16126 with Cat-M1 and BLE 5.0 and the GW16130 satellite modem will likely work with other mini-PCIe equipped computers. The GW16126 requires a Linux host computer, while it appears the GW16130 may also work with other operating systems.

 
GW16126 Cat-M4 modem (left) and GW16130 satellite modem
(click images to enlarge)

GW16126

The GW16126 supports Bluetooth 5.0 LE (BLE), as well as Verizon’s new low-power wide-area (LPWA) Cat-M1 service, which we saw recently on Advantech’s ICR-3211Brouter. Cat-M1 offers 375 Kbps, half duplex up/down speeds for IoT or machine-to-machine (M2M) communications. It’s touted for its low power consumption and exceptional in-building range.

The Cat-M1 modem is based on a U-blox SARA-R410M module. A nano-SIM socket integrates a Hologram IoT starter SIM. The mini-PCIe interface uses USB 2.0 signals to communicate with the host.

The Bluetooth radio is a U-blox NINA-B301 module with a Nordic Semiconductor nRF52840 chipset running Zephyr and a Bluetooth HCI UART host interface. Dual u.Fl antenna connectors are also available.

 
GW16126 and block diagram
(click images to enlarge)
The GW16126 has a networking stack based on a Linux 4.17+ kernel and supports Ubuntu and OpenWrt. The 30 x 60.8 x 6mm card supports -40 to 85°C temperatures. The 3.3V card typically runs on 0.3A.

GW16130

For more remotely deployed IoT sites, Gateworks has also launched a GW16130 mini-PCIe satellite modem with an Iridium 9603N satellite transceiver for two-way communications over Iridium’s global, 66-satellite network. The device supports “cost-effective, short burst satellite connectivity for asset tracking, fleet management, telemetry, oceanographic data, grid monitoring, and IoT applications,” says Gateworks.


GW16130 block diagram
(click image to enlarge)
As with the GW16126, the device uses USB 2.0 signaling to the host. Serial communications are enabled via an FTDI USB-to-UART bridge. The modem operates at 1616 MHz to 1626.5 MHz with 1.6W average transmit power and -117 dBm receiver sensitivity. There’s a single u.Fl antenna connector.

The 30 mm x 50.95 mm x 11.6 mm, 3.3V card typically runs at 0.85W@25 C, with a 7.2W@25C peak transmit rate. It supports -40 to 85°C temperatures. The product requires an Iridium data plan, which typically cost $20 per month with 12 KB of data.

Further information

The GW16126 Cat-M4 modem and GW16130 satellite modem are available now at an undisclosed price, although they should eventually appear on Gateworks’ mini-PCIe shopping page. More information may be found on the GW16126 product page and GW16126 wiki, as well as the GW16130 product page and GW16130 wiki.

This article originally appeared on LinuxGizmos.com on May 10.

Gateworks | www.gateworks.com

Adapter Enables Offline Speech Board to Work with Raspberry Pi

By Eric Brown

Audeme has released a $6.50 “Raspberry Pi MOVI Adapter” board and API to enable a Raspberry Pi pairing with its MOVI Arduino Shield for offline speech recognition and synthesis.

We’re used to seeing Arduino compatible, MCU-driven HATs and other add-ons for the Raspberry Pi, but in 2015 Audeme flipped that combo on its head with a Linux-driven voice shield for the Arduino called the MOVI Arduino Shield Speech Recognizer and Speech Synthesizer. At the recent Maker Faire Bay Area 2019, the company released a $6.50 adapter board that lets the MOVI Arduino Shield work with a Raspberry Pi.

 
MOVI Arduino Shield with Raspberry Pi and new Pi Adapter (left) and the current v1.1 version of the MOVI shield on its own
(click images to enlarge)
The $75 MOVI (My Own Voice Interface) Arduino Shield offers “Internet-free” speech recognition and synthesis for up to 150 customizable English sentences. MOVI offers voice control for applications like turning devices on and off, entering alarm codes, and carrying on programmed conversations. The device is speaker independent, so there’s no voice training involved, and it uses no cloud services, thereby enabling offline applications free from privacy or reliability concerns.

 
Raspberry Pi MOVI Adapter, front and back
(click images to enlarge)
The MOVI board runs Debian Linux on the 1 GHz, Cortex-A8 based Allwinner A13. An SD card stores the Debian build, along with sentence, call sign, and configuration data. The board has a microphone with automatic gain-control to detect speech at up to 10 feet in a quiet environment. An external microphone input is available, and a speaker is optional.

At the time of the Kickstarter launch, Audeme said that Linux hackers could access the board’s low -level serial interfaces to use it with the Raspberry Pi. The new adapter eases the much-requested Pi pairing along with a new Raspberry Pi-friendly version of its open source, Arduino IDE-based library.

Audeme also added an open source Python API for the Pi, and previous Arduino projects can be compiled against the C++ version of the PI library without code change. Community features on the website include a forum.

Further information

The Raspberry Pi MOVI Adapter is available for $6.50 and the MOVI Arduino Shield sells for $74.90. More information may be found at Audeme’s Raspberry Pi MOVI Adapter and MOVI Arduino Shield shopping pages, as well as the MOVI C++ libraryand MOVI Python API GitHub pages.

This article originally appeared on LinuxGizmos.com on May 21.

Audeme | www.audeme.com

Catalog of 125 Open-Spec Hacker Boards: Spring 2019 Edition!

Circuit Cellar’s sister website Linuxgizmos,com has posted its annual Spring edition catalog of hacker-friendly, open-spec SBCs that run Linux or Android.

The catalog includes summaries of 125 community-backed Linux/Android hacker boards under $200 are listed in alpha order.

They list specs and lowest available pricing recorded in the last two weeks of May 2019, with products either shipping or available for pre-order with expected ship date by the end of June.

CHECK IT OUT HERE!

Rugged Computers Run Linux on Jetson TX2 and Xavier

By Eric Brown

Aitech, which has been producing embedded Linux-driven systems for military/aerospace and rugged industrial applications since at least 2004, announced that Concurrent Real-Time’s hardened RedHawk Linux RTOS will be available on two Linux-ready embedded systems based on the Nvidia Jetson TX2 module. With Redhawk Linux standing in for the default Nvidia Linux4Tegra stack, the military-grade A176 Cyclone and recently released, industrial-focused A177 Twister systems can “enhance real-time computing for mission-critical applications,” says Aitech.


MIL/AERO focused A176 Cyclone (left) and new A177 Twister
(click image to enlarge)
Here, we’ll take a closer look at the A177 Twister, which was announced in October as a video capture focused variant of the similar, MIL/AERO targeted A176 Cyclone. Both of these “SWaP-optimized (size, weight and power) supercomputers” are members of Aitech’s family of GPGPU RediBuilt computers, which also include PowerPC and Intel Core based systems.

We’ll also briefly examine an “EV178 Development System” for an Nvidia Xavier based A178 Thunder system that was revealed at Embedded World. The A178 Thunder targets MIL/AERO, as well as autonomous vehicles and other applications (see farther below).

Both the A177 Twister and A176 Cyclone systems deploy the Arm-based Jetson TX2module in a rugged, small form factor (SFF) design. The TX2 module features 2x high-end “Denver 2” cores and 4x Cortex-A57 cores. There’s also a 256-core Pascal GPU with CUDA libraries for running AI and machine learning algorithms.


 
A177 Twister (left) and Jetson TX2
(click images to enlarge)
The TX2 module is further equipped with 8GB LPDDR4 and 32GB eMMC 5.1. Other rugged TX2-based systems include Axiomtek’s eBOX800-900-FL.

The RedHawk Linux RTOS distribution, which was announced in 2005, is based on Red Hat Linux and the security-focused SELinux. RedHawk offers a hardened real-time Linux kernel with ultra-low latency and high determinism. Other features include support for multi-core architectures and x86 and ARM64 target platforms.

The RedHawk BSP also includes “NightStar” GUI debugging and analysis tools, which were announced with the initial RedHawk distro. NightStar supports hot patching “and provides a complete graphical view of multithreaded applications and their interaction with the Linux kernel,” says Concurrent Real-Time.

A177 Twister

The A177 Twister leverages the Jetson TX2 and its “CUDA and deep learning acceleration capabilities to easily handle the complex computational requirements needed in embedded systems that are managing multiple data and video streams,” says Aitech. The system is optimized for video capture, processing, and overlays.


A177 Twister
(click image to enlarge)
The A177 Twister supports applications including robotics, automation and optical inspection systems in industrial facilities, as well as for autonomous aircraft and ground environments,” says Aitech. Other applications include security and surveillance, mining and excavating computers, complex marine and boating applications, and agricultural machinery.

The 148 x 148 x 63mm A177 Twister is protected against ingress per IP67. The fanless system weighs 2.2 lbs. (just under 1Kg) and supports -20 to 65°C temperatures.

The Jetson TX2 module supplies 8GB LPDDR4 and 32GB eMMC 5.1. The A177 Twister adds a microSD slot with optional preconfigured card, as well as an optional “Mini-SATA SSD with Quick Erase and Secure Erase support.”

The system shares many features with the A176 Cyclone, with the major difference being that it adds optional WiFi-ac and Bluetooth 4.1, as well as support for simultaneous capture of up to 8x RS-170A (NTSC/PAL) composite video channels at full frame rates. It also has lower ruggedization levels and a smaller 6-24V input range compared to 11-36V, among other differences.


 
A177 Twister block diagram (left) and I/O specs
(click images to enlarge)
As shown in the spec-sheet above, you can purchase the Twister with and without 8x composite inputs and/or 1x SDI input with up to 1080/60 H.264 encoding. There’s also a choice of composite or SDI frame grabbers, both, or none at all. The one SKU that offers all of the above sacrifices the single USB 3.0 port.

Standard features include USB 2.0, HDMI, Composite input, GbE. 2x RS-232 (one for debug/console), 2x CAN, and 4x single-end discrete I/O. Most of these interfaces are bundled up into rugged military-style composite I/O ports.

Power consumption is typically 8-10W with a maximum of 17W. The system also provides reverse polarity and EMC protections, hardware accelerated AES encryption/decryption, temperature sensors, elapsed time recorder, and dynamic voltage and frequency scaling.

EV178 Development System for A178 Thunder

Aitech revealed an A178 Thunder< at computer at Embedded World. The company recently followed up with a formal announcement and product page for an EV178 Development System that helps unlock the computer for early customers.


 
EV178 Development System for A178 Thunder (left) and Jetson AGX Xavier
Built around Nvidia’s high-end Jetson AGX Xavier module, the compact, Linux-driven A178 Thunder “is the most advanced solution for video and signal processing, deep-learning accelerated, for the next generation of autonomous vehicles, surveillance and targeting systems, EW systems, and many other applications,” says Aitech. The EV178 Development System for A178 Thunder processes at up to 11 TFLOPS (Terra floating point operations per second) and 22 TOPS (Terra operations per second), says Aitech.

The Jetson AGX Xavier has greater than 10x the energy efficiency and more than 20x the performance of the Jetson TX2, claims Nvidia. The 105 x 87 x 16mm Xavier module features 8x ARMv8.2 cores and a high-end, 512-core Nvidia Volta GPU with 64 tensor cores with 2x Nvidia Deep Learning Accelerator (DLA) — also called NVDLA — engines. The module is also equipped with a 7-way VLIW vision chip, as well as 16GB 256-bit LPDDR4 RAM and 32GB eMMC 5.1.
EV178 Development System for A178 Thunder
(click image to enlarge)

Preliminary specs for the EV178 Development System for A178 Thunder include:

  • Nvidia Jetson AGX Xavier module
  • 4x simultaneous SDI (SD/HD) video capture channels
  • 8x simultaneous Composite (RS-170A [NTSC]/PAL) video capture channels
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • HDMI output
  • USB 3.0
  • UART Serial
  • Discretes
  • Pre-installed Linux OS, drivers, and test applications
  • Cables and external power supply

Further information

Concurrent’s RedHawk Linux RTOS appears to be available now as an optional build for the A177 Twister and earlier A176 Cyclone, both of which appear to be available with undisclosed pricing. No ship date was announced for the EV178 Development System for A178 Thunder. More information may be found in Aitech’s RedHawk Linux announcement, as well as the A177 Twister product page. More on the A178 Thunder may be found in the EV178 Development System for A178 Thunder announcementand product page.

This article originally appeared on LinuxGizmos.com on March 18.

Aitech | www.rugged.com

Rugged IoT Gateways are Based on i.MX6 and Raspberry Pi

Kontron has announced two new industrial computers, the KBox A-330-RPI and KBox A-330-MX6, specifically designed for cost-sensitive control and gateway applications. The KBox A-330-RPI is based on the long-term available Raspberry Pi Compute Module CM3+ and can therefore use the huge software pool of the Raspberry Pi community. Equipped with a Broadcom BCM2837 Quad Core Arm processor, the KBox A-330-RPI is compatible with the established Raspberry Pi standards and has been enhanced with industrial features.

The new KBox A-330-MX6 differs from the KBox A-330-RPI primarily by the Dual Core i.MX6 processor from NXP, which is, like the Raspberry Pi Compute Module CM3+, long term available. In addition, the variant based on the NXP processor optionally offers additional industrial protocol stacks such as EtherCAT, PROFINET, Modbus and CANopen to enable customers to easily integrate control software.

Both KBox A-330 variants operate fanless and are designed for industrial control and gateway tasks in control cabinets due to their slim design and the possibility of DIN rail mounting. Two Fast Ethernet ports, RS232, RS485 or CAN and four I/O ports are available as interfaces. A powerful user interface can be operated during commissioning or in the target application via two USB channels and an HDMI connection.

With the KBox A-330 family Kontron offers an industrial grade platform that enables connection to various communication levels, serves as a gateway for IoT applications and can integrate sensors and actuators. As operating system Kontron offers Yocto Linux for the KBox A-330-MX6 and Raspbian for the KBox A-330-RPI. On a project basis, applications are realizable that include advanced security features such as secure authentication and data encryption that go beyond normal security requirements.

In conjunction with the modular IoT software framework SUSiEtec from Kontron’s sister company S&T Technologies, any applications and cloud solutions on the market—from sensors to edge computers to private or public clouds—can also be connected and supported to develop IoT applications or establish new business models.

Kontron | www.kontron.com

Free IoT Security Platform Runs on OpenWrt Routers and the Raspberry Pi

By Eric Brown

At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Minim announced a free spin-off of Minim, its cloud-managed Wi-Fi and security Software as a Service (SaaS) platform. Minim Labs is designed to work with a new open source software agent called Unum that runs on Raspbian and OpenWrt Linux devices. Optimized images are available for the OpenWrt-based Gli.Net GL-B1300 router and Raspberry Pi. The first 50 sign-ups will get the B1300 router for free (see below).


Minim Labs setup screen
(click image to enlarge)
The Minim Labs toolkit “secures and manages all connected devices in the home, such as the Google Home Hub, Sony Smart TV, and FreeRTOS devices,” providing “device fingerprinting, security scans, AI-powered recommendations, router management, analytics, and parental controls,” says Minim. By signing up to a Minim Labs account you receive a MAC address to register an Unum-enabled device.

The GitHub hosted Unum agent runs on the Linux router where it identifies connected devices and securely streams device telemetry to the Minim platform. Users can open a free Minim Labs account to register up to 10 Unum-enabled devices, offering access to Minim WiFi management apps and APIs. Alternately, you can use Unum with your own application server.

The GL-B1300 and Raspberry Pi builds are designed to walk “home network tinkerers” through the process of protecting devices with Unum and Minim Labs. More advanced developers can download a Unum SDK to modify the software for any OpenWrt-based router.

“By open sourcing our agent and giving technologists free access to our platform, we hope to build a global community that’ll contribute valuable product feedback and code,” stated Jeremy Hitchcock, Founder and CEO of Minim.

Gli.Net’s OpenWrt routers

Gli.Net’s GL-B1300 router runs OpenWrt on a quad-core, Cortex-A7 Qualcomm Atheros IPQ4028 SoC clocked to 717 MHz. The SoC is equipped with a DSP, 256MB RAM, 32 MB flash, and dual-band 802.11ac with 2×2 MIMO. The SoC and supports up to 5-port Ethernet routers abd provides Qualcomm TEE, Crypto Engine, and Secure Boot technologies.


 
GL-B1300 (left) and GL-AR750S
(click images to enlarge)
The GL-B1300 router has dual GbE ports, a WAN port, and a USB 3.0 port. The $89 price includes a 12V adapter and Ethernet cable.

The testimonial quote below says that the GL-AR750S Slate router, which is a CES 2019 Innovation Awards Honoree, will also support Unum and Minim Labs out of the box. The $70 GL-AR750S Slate runs on a MIPS-based, 775MHz Qualcomm QCA9563 processor and is equipped with 128MB RAM, 128MB NAND flash, and a microSD slot.

The Slate router provides 3x GbE ports and dual-band 802.11ac with dual external antennas. Other features include USB 2.0 and micro-USB power ports plus a UART and GPIO. The router supports WireGuard, OpenVPN, and Cloudflare DNS over TLS.


Gli.Net router comparison chart, including GL-B1300 and GL-AR750S
(click image to enlarge)
In addition to its routers, Gli.Net also sells the OpenWrt-on-Atheros/MIPS Domino Core computer-on-module. The Domino Core shipped in a Kickstarter launched Domino.IO IoT kit back in 2015.

“We are glad that Minim is going to launch open-source tools for DIY users and increase awareness of personal Internet security,” stated GL.iNet CTO Dr. Alfie Zhao. “This initiative shows shared value and vision with GL.iNet. We are happy to provide support for Minim tools on our GL-AR750S Slate router and GL-B1300 router, both of which have support to the latest OpenWrt.”

Further information

The free Minim Labs security platform is available for signup now, and the open source Unum agent is available for download. Minim is offering the first 50 Minim Labs signups with a free startup kit containing the GL-B1300 router. More information may be found at the Minim Labs product page.

This article originally appeared on LinuxGizmos.com on January 9.

Minim | www.minim.co

 

MCUs Serve Up Solutions for Car Infotainment

Dashboard Dazzle

As automotive dashboard displays get more sophisticated, information and entertainment are merging into so-called infotainment systems. The new systems are driving a need for powerful MCU solutions that support the connectivity, computing and interfacing requirements particular to these designs.

(Caption for lead image Figure 1: The Cypress Wi-Fi and Bluetooth combo solution uses Real Simultaneous Dual Band (RSDB) technology so that Apple CarPlay (shown) and Android Auto can operate concurrently without degradation caused by switching back and forth between bands.).

By Jeff Child, Editor-in-Chief

Microcontroller (MCU) vendors have a rich legacy of providing key technologies for nearly every aspect of an automobile’s electronics—everything from the powertrain to the braking system to dashboard displays. In recent years, they’ve taken on a new set of challenges as demands rise for ever more sophisticated “infotainment” systems. Advanced touchscreen, processing, networking, voice recognition and more are parts of these subsystems tasked with providing drivers with information and entertainment suited to today’s demands—demands that must rival or exceed what’s possible in a modern smartphone or tablet. And, as driverless cars inch toward mainstream reality, that hunger for rich infotainment functionality will only increase.

In order to meet those system design needs, MCU vendors are keeping pace with highly integrated chip-level solutions and embedded software tailored specifically to address various aspects of the automotive infotainment challenge. Over the past 12 months, MCU companies have announced products aimed at everything from advanced dashboard graphics to connectivity solutions to security technologies. At the same time, many have announced milestone design wins that illustrate their engagement with this dynamic sub-segment of automotive system development.

Smartphone Support

Exemplifying these trends, in July Cypress Semiconductor announced that Pioneer integrated Cypress’ Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Combo solution into its flagship in-dash navigation AV receiver. The solution enables passengers to display and use their smartphone’s apps on the receiver’s screen via Apple CarPlay (Figure 1–lead image above) or Android Auto, which provide the ability to use smartphone voice recognition to search for information or respond to text messages. The Cypress Wi-Fi and Bluetooth combo solution uses Real Simultaneous Dual Band (RSDB) technology so that Apple CarPlay and Android Auto can operate concurrently without degradation caused by switching back and forth between bands.

The Pioneer AVH-W8400NEX receiver uses Cypress’ CYW89359 combo solution, which includes an advanced coexistence engine that enables optimal performance for dual-band 2.4- and 5-GHz 802.11ac Wi-Fi and dual-mode Bluetooth/Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) simultaneously for advanced multimedia experiences. The CYW89359’s RSDB architecture enables two unique data streams to run at full throughput simultaneously by integrating two complete Wi-Fi subsystems into a single chip. The CYW89359 is fully automotive qualified with AECQ-100 grade-3 validation and is being designed in by numerous top-tier car OEMs and automotive suppliers as a full in-vehicle connectivity solution, supporting infotainment and telematics applications such as smartphone screen-mirroring, content streaming and Bluetooth voice connectivity in car kits.

In October, Cypress announced another infotainment-related design win with Yazaki North America implementing Cypress’ instrument cluster solution to drive the advanced graphics in Yazaki’s instrument cluster for a leading American car manufacturer. According to Cypress, Yazaki selected the solution based on its unique offering of five chips that combine to drive dual displays and provide instant-on memory performance with automotive-grade, ASIL-B safety compliance. The Cypress solution is based on a Traveo MCU, along with two high-bandwidth HyperBus memories in a multi-chip package (MCP), an analog power management IC (PMIC) for safe electrical operation, and a PSoC MCU for system management support. The Traveo devices in the Yazaki instrument cluster were the industry’s first 3D-capable Arm Cortex-R5 cluster MCUs.

Virtualization Embraced

The complexity of automotive infotainment systems has pushed system developers to embrace advanced operating system approaches such as virtualization. Feeding those needs, last June Renesas Electronics rolled out its “R-Car virtualization support package” designed to enable easier development of hypervisors for the Renesas R-Car automotive system-on-chip (SoC). The R-Car virtualization support package includes, at no charge, both the R-Car hypervisor development guide document and sample software for use as reference in such development for software vendors who develop the embedded hypervisors that are required for integrated cockpits and connected car applications.

A hypervisor is a virtualization operating system (OS) that allows multiple guest OSs— such as Linux, Android and various real-time OSs (RTOS)—to run completely independently on a single chip. Renesas announced the R-Car hypervisor in April of 2017 and the new R-Car virtualization Support Package was developed to help software vendors accelerate their development of R-Car hypervisors.

The company’s third-generation R-Car SoCs were designed assuming that they would be used with a hypervisor. The Arm CPU cores, graphics cores, video/audio IP and other functions include virtualization functions. Originally, for software vendors to make use of these functions, they would have had to understand both the R-Car hardware manuals and the R-Car virtualization functions and start by looking into how to implement a hypervisor. Now, by following development guides in the R-Car virtualization support package, not only can software vendors easily take advantage of these functions, they will be able to take full advantage of the advanced features of R-Car. Also, by providing sample software that can be used as a reference, this package supports rapid development.

Technology partnerships have been playing a key role in automotive infotainment trends. Along just those lines, in September Renesas and OpenSynergy, a supplier of automotive hypervisors, announced that the Renesas’ SoC R-Car H3 and OpenSynergy’s COQOS Hypervisor SDK were adopted on Parrot Faurecia’s automotive safe multi-display cockpit. The latest version of Android is the guest OS of the COQOS Hypervisor, which executes both the instrument cluster functionality, including safety-relevant display elements based on Linux, and the Android-based in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) on a single R-Car H3 SoC chip (Figure 2). The COQOS Hypervisor SDK shares the R-Car H3 GPU with Android and Linux allowing applications to be presented on multiple displays, realizing a powerful and flexible cockpit system.

Figure 2
With Android as the guest OS of the COQOS Hypervisor, it executes both the instrument cluster functionality, including safety-relevant display elements based on Linux, and the Android-based in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) on a single R-Car H3 SoC chip.

According to OpenSynergy’s CEO Stefaan Sonck Thiebaut, the COQOS Hypervisor SDK takes full advantage of the hardware and software virtualization extensions provided by Renesas. The OpenSynergy solution includes key features, such as shared display, which allows several virtual machines to use multiple displays flexibly and safely. The R-Car H3 GPU and video/audio IP incorporates virtualization functions, making virtualization by the hypervisor possible and allowing for multiple OSs to operate independently and safely. OpenSynergy’s COQOS Hypervisor SDK is built around a safe and efficient hypervisor that can run software from multipurpose OSs such as Linux or Android, RTOS and AUTOSAR-compliant software simultaneously on one SoC.

Large Touchscreen Support

As the content provided by automotive infotainment systems gets more sophisticated, so too must the displays and user interface technologies that interact with that content. With that in mind, MCU vendors are offering more advanced touchscreen control solutions. Dashboard screens have unique design challenges. Screens in automobiles need to meet stringent head impact and vibration tests. That means thicker cover lenses that potentially impact the touch interface performance. Meanwhile, as screens get larger, they are also more likely to interfere with other frequencies such as AM radio and car access systems. All of these factors become a major challenge in the design of modern automotive capacitive touch systems.

Along just those lines, Microchip in December announced its maXTouch family of single-chip touchscreen controllers designed to address these issues for screens up to 20 inches in size (Figure 3). The MXT2912TD-A, with nearly 3,000 touch sensing nodes, and MXT2113TD-A, supporting more than 2,000 nodes, bring consumers the touchscreen user experience they expect in vehicles. These new devices build upon Microchip’s existing maXTouch touchscreen technology that is widely adopted by manufacturers worldwide. Microchip’s latest solutions offer superior signal-to-noise capability to address the requirements of thick lenses, even supporting multiple finger touches through thick gloves and in the presence of moisture.

Figure 3
The maXTouch family of single-chip touchscreen controllers is designed for screens up to 20 inches in size, and supports up to 3,000 touch sensing nodes. The devices even support multiple finger touches through thick gloves and in the presence of moisture.

As automakers use screens to replace mechanical switches on the dash for sleeker interior designs, safe and reliable operation becomes even more critical. The MXT2912TD and MXT2113TD devices incorporate self- and sensor-diagnostic functions, which constantly monitor the integrity of the touch system. These smart diagnostic features support the Automotive Safety Integrity Level (ASIL) classification index as defined by the ISO 26262 Functional Safety Specification for Passenger Vehicles.

The new devices feature technology that enables adaptive touch utilizing self-capacitance and mutual-capacitance measurements, so all touches are recognized and false touch detections are avoided. They also feature Microchip’s proprietary new signal shaping technology that significantly lowers emissions to help large touchscreens using maXTouch controllers meet CISPR-25 Level 5 requirements for electromagnetic interference (EMI) in automobiles. The new touch controllers also meet automotive temperature grade 3 (-40°C to +85°C) and grade 2 (-40°C to +105°C) operating ranges and are AEC-Q100 qualified.

3D Gesture Control

Aside from the touchscreen display side of automotive infotainment, Microchip for its part has also put its efforts toward innovations in 3D human interface technology. With that in mind, in July the company announced a new 3D gesture recognition controller that offers the lowest system cost in the automotive industry, providing a durable single-chip solution for advanced automotive HMI designs, according to Microchip. The MGC3140 joins the company’s family of easy-to-use 3D gesture controllers as the first qualified for automotive use (Figure 4).

Figure 4
The MGC3140 3D gesture controller is Microchip’s first qualified for automotive use. It’s suited for a range for applications such as navigating infotainment systems, sun shade operation, interior lighting and more.

Suited for a range for applications that limit driver distraction and add convenience to vehicles, Microchip’s new capacitive technology-based air gesture controller is ideal for navigating infotainment systems, sun shade operation, interior lighting and other applications. The technology also supports the opening of foot-activated rear liftgates and any other features a manufacturer wishes to incorporate with a simple gesture action.

The MGC3140 is Automotive Electronics Council AEC-Q100 qualified with an operating temperature range of -40°C to +125°C, and it meets the strict EMI and electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) requirements of automotive system designs. Each 3D gesture system consists of a sensor that can be constructed from any conductive material, as well as the Microchip gesture controller tuned for each individual application.

While existing solutions such as infrared and time-of-flight technologies can be costly and operate poorly in bright or direct sunlight, the MGC3140 offers reliable sensing in full sunlight and harsh environments. Other solutions on the market also come with physical constraints and require significant infrastructure and space to be integrated in a vehicle. The MGC3140 is compatible with ergonomic interior designs and enables HMI designers to innovate with fewer physical constraints, because the sensor can be any conductive material and hidden from view.

Vehicle Networking

While applicable to areas beyond infotainment, an automobile’s ability to network with the outside world has become ever more important. As critical vehicle powertrain, body, chassis, and infotainment features increasingly become defined by software, securely delivering updates such as fixes and option packs over the air (OTA) enhances cost efficiency and customer convenience. Serving those needs, in October STMicroelectronics released its latest Chorus automotive MCU that provides a gateway/domain-controller solution capable of handling major OTA updates securely.

With three high-performance processor cores, more than 1.2 MB RAM and powerful on-chip peripherals, ST’s new flagship SPC58 H Line joins the Chorus Series of automotive MCUs and can run multiple applications concurrently to allow more flexible and cost-effective vehicle-electronics architectures (Figure 5). Two independent Ethernet ports provide high-speed connectivity between multiple Chorus chips throughout the vehicle and enable responsive in-vehicle diagnostics. Also featuring 16 CAN-FD and 24 LINFlex interfaces, Chorus can act as a gateway for multiple ECUs (electronic control units) and support smart-gateway functionality via the two Ethernet interfaces on-chip.

Figure 5
The SPC58 H Line of MCUs can run multiple applications concurrently to allow more flexible and cost-effective vehicle-electronics architectures. Two independent Ethernet ports provide high-speed connectivity between multiple Chorus chips throughout the vehicle.

To protect connected-car functionalities and allow OTA updates to be applied safely, the new Chorus chip contains a Hardware Security Module (HSM) capable of asymmetric cryptography. Being EVITA Full compliant, it implements industry-leading attack prevention, detection and containment techniques.

Working with its large on-chip 10 MB flash, the SPC58NH92x’s context-swap mechanism allows current application code to run continuously even while an update is downloaded and made ready to be applied later at a safe time. The older software can be retained, giving the option to roll-back to the previous version in an emergency. Hyperbus and eMMC/SDIO high-speed interfaces to off-chip memory are also integrated, enabling further storage expansion if needed.

Single Cable Solution

Today’s automotive infotainment systems comprise mobile services, cross-domain communication and autonomous driving applications as part of in-vehicle networking. As a result, these systems require a more flexible solution for transporting packet, stream and control content. Existing implementations are either costly and cumbersome, or too limited in bandwidth and packet data capabilities to support system updates and internetworking requirements.

To address this need, Microchip Technology in November announced an automotive infotainment networking solution that supports all data types—including audio, video control and Ethernet—over a single cable. Intelligent Network Interface Controller networking (INICnet) technology is a synchronous, scalable solution that significantly simplifies building audio and infotainment systems, offering seamless implementation in vehicles that have Ethernet-oriented system architectures (Figure 6).

Figure 6
INICnet technology is a synchronous, scalable solution that significantly simplifies building audio and infotainment systems, offering seamless implementation in vehicles that have Ethernet-oriented system architectures.

Audio is a key infotainment feature in vehicles, and INICnet technology provides full flexibility through supporting a variety of digital audio formats with multiple sources and sinks. INICnet technology also provides high-speed packet-data communications with support for file transfers, OTA software updates and system diagnostics via standard Ethernet frames. In this way, INICnet technology supports seamless integration of Internet Protocol (IP)-based system management and data communications, along with very efficient transport of stream data. INICnet technology does not require the development and licensing of additional protocols or software stacks, reducing development costs, effort and time.

INICnet technology provides a standardized solution that works with both Unshielded Twisted Pair (UTP) at 50 Mbps and coaxial cable at 150 Mbps. With low and deterministic latency, INICnet technology supports deployment of complex audio and acoustics applications. Integrated network management supports networks ranging from two to 50 nodes, as well as processor-less or slim modules where the node is remotely configured and managed. The solution’s Power over Data Line (PoDL) capability saves costs on power management for microphones and other slim modules. Nodes can be arranged in any order with the same result, and any node in the system can directly communicate with any other node in the system.

Security for Connected Cars

As cars become more network-connected, the issue of security takes on new dimensions. In October, Infineon Technologies announced a key effort in cybersecurity for the connected car by introducing a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) specifically for automotive applications—the first on the market, according to the company. The new OPTIGA TPM 2.0 protects communication between the car manufacturer and the car, which increasingly turns into a computer on wheels. A number of car manufacturers already designed in Infineon’s OPTIGA TPM.

The TPM is a hardware-based security solution that has proven its worth in IT security. By using it, car manufacturers can incorporate sensitive security keys for assigning access rights, authentication and data encryption in the car in a protected way. The TPM can also be updated so that the level of security can be kept up to date throughout the vehicle’s service life.

Cars send real-time traffic information to the cloud or receive updates from the manufacturer “over the air,” for example to update software quickly and in a cost-effective manner. The senders and recipients of that data—whether car makers or individual components in the car—require cryptographic security keys to authenticate themselves. These critical keys are particularly protected against logical and physical attacks in the OPTIGA TPM as if they were in a safe.

Early Phase Critical

Incorporating the first or initial key into the vehicle is a particularly sensitive moment for car makers. When the TPM is used, this step can be carried out in Infineon’s certified production environment. After that, the keys are protected against unauthorized access; there is no need for further special security precautions. The TPM likewise generates, stores and administers further security keys for communication within the vehicle. And it is also used to detect faulty or manipulated software and components in the vehicle and initiate troubleshooting by the manufacturer in such a case.

Figure 7
The SLI 9670 consists of an attack-resistant security chip (shown) and high-performance firmware developed in accordance with the latest security standard. The firmware enables immediate use of security features, such as encryption, decryption, signing and verification.

The SLI 9670 consists of an attack-resistant security chip and high-performance firmware developed in accordance with the latest security standard (Figure 7). The firmware enables immediate use of security features, such as encryption, decryption, signing and verification. The TPM can be integrated quickly and easily in the system thanks to the open source software stack (TSS stack) for the host processor, which is also provided by Infineon. It has an SPI interface, an extended temperature range from -40°C to 105°C and the advanced encryption algorithms RSA-2048, ECC-256 and SHA-256. The new TPM complies with the internationally acknowledged Trusted Computing Group TPM 2.0 standard, is certified for security according to Common Criteria and is qualified in accordance with the automotive standard AEC-Q100.

Side by side with driverless vehicle innovations, there’s no doubt that infotainment systems represent one of the most dynamic subsets of today’s automotive systems design. MCU vendors offer a variety of chip and software solutions addressing all the different pieces of car infotainment requirements from display interfacing to connectivity to security. Circuit Cellar will continue to follow these developments. And later this year, we’ll take a look specifically at MCU solutions aimed at enabling driverless vehicles and assisted driving technologies.

RESOURCES

Cypress Semiconductor | www.cypress.com
Infineon Technologies | www.infineon.com
Microchip | www.microchip.com
OpenSynergy | www.opensynergy.com
Renesas Electronics America | www.renesas.com
STMicroelectronics | www.st.com

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Catalog of 122 Open-Spec Linux Hacker Boards

Circuit Cellar’s sister website Linuxgizmos,com has posted its 2019 New Year’s edition catalog of hacker-friendly, open-spec SBCs that run Linux or Android. The catalog provides recently updated descriptions, specs, pricing, and links to details for all 122 SBCs.

CHECK IT OUT HERE!

Tiny, Single-GbE Arm Networking SBC Runs Linux

By Eric Brown

Gateworks has spun a 100 mm x 35 mm, single-GbE “Newport GW6100” networking SBC, which follows a recent dual-GbE “GW6200” model. Both run Linux on a dual-core Cavium Octeon TX SoC and offer mini-PCIe expansion and -40 to 85°C support.

In Nov. 2017, when Gateworks unveiled its Newport family of Linux-driven, Octeon TX based SBCs with the 105 mm x 100 mm, dual GbE port Newport GW6300, it promised several more models in 2018. The 140 mm x 100 mm, 5-GbE port Newport GW6400 was announced in May along with a GW6404 sibling that swaps two of the GbE ports to SFP ports. Now, the company has launched the single-GbE port GW6100 model, which had been scheduled for a 2018 Q2 arrival. There was no announcement of the GW6100, which was discovered by CNXSoft, nor of the dual-port, 100 mm x 75 mm GW6200, which now has a product page (see farther below).

 
Newport GW6100 (left) and recent Newport GW6200
(click images to enlarge)
Like the other Newport SBCs, the new entries run OpenWrt or Ubuntu on Cavium’s networking focused Octeon TX SoC, which has Cortex-A53 like ”Thunder” cores. The embedded-oriented Octeon TX competes directly with NXP’s QorIQ line. Optimized to run multiple concurrent data and control planes simultaneously, the headless SoC integrates security architecture from Cavium’s Nitrox V security processors.

While the Newport GW6300 and GW6400 both offer a choice of dual- (800MHz) or quad-core (1.5GHz) Octeon TX configurations, the GW6100 and GW6200 are limited to the 800MHz dual-core models. Volume orders are required to switch to the quad-core SoC or make other customizations, including boosting the standard 1GB DDR4 to up to 4GB or the standard 8GB eMMC to up to 64GB.

The Newport GW6100 and GW6200 provide OpenWrt or Ubuntu Linux BSPs with U-Boot. A full development kit is available with a power supply, passive PoE injector, JTAG programmer, and cables.

Newport GW6100

The tiny new GW6100 offers 1GB DDR4, 8GB eMMC, and a GbE port with PoE support. You can also draw power from the USB Type-C port, and there’s a JTAG connection and an I/O connector. The latter offers serial, analog, and digital I/O, as well as I2C, SPI, and power.


Newport GW6100 front detail view
(click image to enlarge)
A single mini-PCIe slot accompanied by a nano-SIM slot supports third-party PCIe, USB 3.0, and mSATA cards. You can also choose from several Gateworks mini-PCIe options, including USB, DIO/analog I/O, microSD/USB/SIM, Femto, and IoT Radio (Sub-1GHz) modules.


GW6100 rear detail view
(click image to enlarge)
Like all the Newport SBCs, the GW6100 provides standard -40 to 85°C support. There’s an 8-60V DC jack in addition to the PoE, Type-C, and power header options. Other features include reverse power protection, programmable wake-up/shutdown, a watchdog, real-time clock, and more. A Ublox GNSS receiver is optional.


GW6100 block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

Specifications listed for the Newport GW6100 include:

  • Processor — Cavium Octeon TX (2x ARMv8 ThunderX cores @ 800MHz); networking and security extensions
  • Memory/storage:
    • 1GB DDR4
    • 8GB eMMC
    • mSATA (SATA III) via mini-PCIe
  • Networking — Gigabit Ethernet port with passive PoE 8-60V input
  • Other I/O:
    • USB 2.0 Type-C port with 1.5A, 7.5W power support
    • Application connector (serial I/O, digital I/O, analog, I2C, SPI, and power)
    • JTAG interface
  • Expansion — Mini-PCIe slot with 8W power for “PCIe, USB 3.0 or mSATA with USB 2.0”; Nano-SIM slot
  • Other features – Watchdog; RTC with battery; LED, tamper switch support; voltage and temp. monitor; serial config EEPROM; programmable fan controller with tach support; Optional Ublox ZOE-MQ8 GNSS GPS Receiver with PPS
  • Operating temperature — -40 to 85°C
  • Power:
    • 8-60V DC jack (or PoE or Type-C)
    • 0.13A @ 24VDC typical operating current
    • Voltage reverse protection
    • Programmable shut-down and wake-up
  • Dimensions — 100 x 35 x 21mm
  • Weight — 85 g
  • Operating system — OpenWrt or Ubuntu BSPs

Newport GW6200

The 100 x 75mm Newport GW6200 adds to the GW6100 feature set with a microSD slot, a second GbE port (both with PoE), plus a second mini-PCIe slot. In place of the Type-C port you get 2x USB 3.0 ports.

 
Newport GW6200 detail view (left) and block diagram
(click images to enlarge)
The CW6200 is further equipped with side-mounted connectors for SPI, DIO, I2C, and either 2x RS232 or a single RS232/422/485 interface. A CAN bus controller is optional.

Further information

The Newport GW6100 and Newport GW6200 appear to be available now at undisclosed prices. More information may be found on Gateworks’ Newport GW6100and Newport GW6200 product pages.

Gateworks | www.gateworks.com

Linux-Driven SMARC Module Supports Up to Five Time-Sensitive GbE Ports

By Eric Brown

Kontron invented the ULP-COM standard that formed the basis of the SMARC form factor, and it has delivered numerous SMARC modules over the years, including Arm products such as the Nvidia Tegra K1 based SMC-NTKE1. Now it has unveiled the first module we’ve seen in any form factor with NXP’s dual-core, Cortex-A72 powered QorIQ Layerscape LS1028 SoC.

The 82 mm x 50 mm SMARC-sAL28 module runs a Yocto Project based Linux stack (with U-Boot) on the LS1028. The module exploits the SoC’s Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) support with up 2x or 5x TSN-capable Gigabit Ethernet ports.



SMARC-sAL28
(click image to enlarge)
The SMARC-sAL28 module is compliant with the IEEE 802.1 TSN standard, which offers guaranteed latency and Quality of Service (QoS) with time synchronization to enable “a timely and highly available delivery of data packets,” says Kontron. TSN Ethernet can replace more expensive, proprietary fieldbus technology while also offering the advantage of being able to “simultaneously communicate seamlessly to the IT level.”

No clock rate was listed for the LS1028 SoC, which NXP refers to as the LS1028A. The SoC integrates a four-port TSN switch and two separate TSN Ethernet controllers. Like NXP’s other networking oriented LSx QorIQ Layerscape SoCs, it supports NXP’s EdgeScale suite of secure edge computing device management tools. It’s the only LSx SoC that features a 3D graphics capable GPU.

 
SMARC-sAL28 (left) and NXP LS1028A block diagrams 
(click images to enlarge)
The SMARC-sAL28 ships with 4GB of soldered DDR3L with optional ECC, as well as 2GB to 64GB eMMC 5.1 storage. The 3V-5.25V module supports -40 to 85°C operation.

Two models are available. One has 2x TSN-capable, switched GbE controllers “that can be directly used by the carrier,” says Kontron. The second version supports 4x switched TSN-capable GbE ports via the QSGMII interface with an additional TSN-capable GbE controller. This second option provides a total of 5x TSN-ready GbE ports ports “using a quad-PHY on the carrier.” This 5x GbE model sacrifices one of the 2x PCIe x1 interfaces, which can also be deployed as a single PCIe x4 connection.

The SMARC-sAL28 provides a dual-channel LVDS interface, one of which can be swapped out for eDP as a BOM option. The second LVDS offers a BOM option swap-out for either an HDMI or DisplayPort.

The module is further equipped with a single USB 3.0, 6x USB 2.0, and 4x RX/TX serial interfaces. Other I/O includes 2x I2C, 2x SPI, 12x GPIO, and single SDIO, CAN, and I2S connections. Options include a Wibu security chip with Kontron Approtect security software, as well as an RTC.

Further information

The SMARC-sAL28 is “coming soon” at an undisclosed price. More information may be found in Kontron’s SMARC-sAL28 announcement and product page.

Kontron | www.kontron.com

Managed Linux and Zephyr Distros for IoT offer OTA and Container Tech

By Eric Brown

A Cambridge, UK based startup called Foundries.io, which is funded by Linaro, has launched a microPlatforms service with managed, subscription-based Linux and Zephyr distributions. The microPlatforms offering will target IoT, edge, and automotive applications, and provide continuous over-the-air (OTA) updates to improve security. Linaro CEO George Grey also serves as CEO of Foundries.io.

The distributions are designed to work with any private or public cloud platform, with the microPlatform cloud service acting as an intermediary. The microPlatforms packages include firmware, kernel, services, and applications, “delivered continuously from initial product design to end-of-life,” says Foundries.io.


Linux microPlatform architecture
(click image to enlarge)
Benefits from microPlatforms include improved security, lower development costs, and “faster time-to-market for products across a wide range of IoT connected devices,” says the company. There’s also a combined Linux/Zephyr offering that bridges both sides of the IoT architectural divide designed for projects that include both a Linux gateway/edge device and Zephyr controlled sensor devices.

Subscriptions range from $10 per month for evaluation and non-commercial use to $10,000 or $25,000 per year for professional Zephyr and Linux packages, respectfully. There are no per unit fees, and Foundries.io notes: “We regularly upstream our open source work; you can end your subscription any time and keep using the software.” There’s also a community website with forums and support services.

Linux microPlatforms

The Linux microPlatform (LmP) supports support Arm, Intel, and RISC-V based devices. The initial targets include the Raspberry Pi and several 96Boards (see farther below). LmP starts with a minimal Linux distro built with OpenEmbedded/Yocto and “a recent stable kernel.” The distribution is designed to be compact and resource efficient, with minimal attack surfaces.


Linux microPlatforms with containers
(click image to enlarge)
The Linux stack includes secure updatable firmware and a Docker container-based application runtime with reference container Dockerfiles and images. Source code is available, and you can also download binaries for supported target boards. The use of containers is optional, as you can also run LmP natively.

LmP also includes a cloud management service, which offers a “continuously tested and stabilized stream of updates,” says Foundries.io. The platform lets you “securely and remotely manage your product’s software” using standard tools such as Ansible and Kubernetes.

DragonBoard 820C

The initial LmP targets include:

Zephyr microPlatforms

The Zephyr microPlatform is the first downstream distribution for the Linux Foundation hosted, open source Zephyr RTOS. ZmP
builds on the Zephyr RTOS foundation with “MCUboot software, services, and reference applications to provide a continuously tested, secure, updatable, cross-architecture solution for microcontroller-based products,” says the startup.

 
Zephyr microPlatform architecture (left) and combined Linux and Zephyr microPlatform 
(click images to enlarge)
The Zephyr stack supports all the hardware listed by the Zephyr Project, including products from Nordic Semiconductor, NXP, and STMicroelectronics. This week, the Zephyr Project announced an expansion of support to 100 boards, including Arduino-compatible HiFive1 and Arduino Cinque boards, and the BBC Microbit and 96Boards Carbon. Supported SBCs that primarily run Linux but can also run Zephyr on their MCU companion chips include the MinnowBoard Max, Udoo Neo, and UP Squared.

Toradex and Linaro partnerships

Foundries.io’s launch partners are Toradex and Linaro — the open source code development organization backed by Arm and several of its major licensees. Linaro will offer microPlatforms support for its 96Boards SBCs. Toradex, whose Colibri iMX7 is a target platform, is “using the Linux microPlatform as a secure and updateable base for its upcoming software offering,” says Foundries.io. Toradex CTO Roman Schnarwiler adds: “Toradex will be announcing exciting news about our upcoming software offerings for our SoMs, based on the Foundries.io Linux microPlatform soon.”

Colibri iMX7

Also today, Toradex announced a software development partnership with The Qt Company. Toradex will provide the Qt development platform on its modules including Qt Device Creation. It will also Boot2Qt with Toradex Easy Installer.

OTA and containers in IoT

Continuous OTA updates are widely seen as one the best ways to improve IoT security. OTA is central to several recent IoT frameworks, including Google’s recently announced Cloud IoT Edge for devices equipped with its new Edge TPU machine learning co-processor chips. OTA is also central to Microsoft’s secure, Linux-based Azure Sphere IoT platform, which was further detailed today at the Hot Chips 2018conference.

Container technology, meanwhile, is seen as a way to ease embedded Linux remote management and automated updates. For example, Resin.io provides an embedded Linux container technology with its OTA-enabled ResinOS. Canonical’s Ubuntu Corealso uses a container-like scheme to provide transactional updates.

Further information

The Foundries.io microPlatforms subscriptions are now available, ranging from $10 per month for evaluation and non-commercial use to $10,000 or $25,000 per year for professional Zephyr and Linux packages, respectfully. Downloads of microPlatforms source code, binaries, and documentation are available at the Foundries.io website.

This article originally appeared on LinuxGizmos.com on August 21.

Foundries.io | foundries.io

Variscite’s Latest DART Module Taps Headless i.MX6 ULZ

By Eric Brown

Variscite is spinning out yet another pin-compatible version of its 50 mm x 25 mm DART-6UL computer-on-module, this time loaded with NXP’s headless new i.MX6 ULZ variant of the single Cortex-A7 core i.MX6 UL. Due for a Q4 launch, the unnamed module lacks display or LAN support. It’s billed as “a native solution for headless Linux-based embedded products such as IoT devices and smart home sensors requiring low power, low size and rich connectivity options.”


DART-6UL with iMX6 ULZ 
(click image to enlarge)
The lack of display and LAN features mirrors the limitations of the i.MX6 ULZ, which NXP refers to as a “cost-effective Linux processor.” The headless, up to 900  MHz Cortex-A7 ULZ SoC offers most of the I/O of the of the i.MX6 UL/ULL, including ESAI, S/PDIF, and 3x I2S audio interfaces, but it lacks features such as the 2D Pixel acceleration engine and Ethernet controllers.


NXP i.MX6 ULZ block diagram
(click image to enlarge)
Last year, Variscite spun the Linux-ready DART-6UL into a faster, 696MHz v1.2 upgrade, which added the option of NXP’s power-efficient i.MX6 ULL SoC in addition to the i.MX6 UL. A few months later, it followed up with a DART-6UL-5G model that boasts an on-board, “certified” WiFi/Bluetooth module with dual-band, 2.4 GHz/ 5 GHz 802.11ac/a/b/g/n.


DART-6UL-5G (left) and DART-6UL v1.2
(click images to enlarge)
The upcoming i.MX6 ULZ based version, which we imagine Variscite will dub the DART-6ULZ, has the same Wi-Fi-ac module with Bluetooth 4.2 BLE. Like the latest versions of the other DART-6UL modules, the module can be clocked to 900 MHz.

The “cost effective” ULZ version differs in that it lacks the other models’ touch-enabled, 24-bit parallel RGB interface and dual 10/100 Ethernet controllers. Other subtracted features compared to earlier models include dual CAN, parallel camera, and “extra security features.”

The new module is also limited to a 0 to 85°C range instead of being available in 0 to 70°C or -40 to 85°C versions. The i.MX6 ULZ SoC itself has a slightly wider range of 0 to 95°C.

The pin compatible DART-6UL with iMX6 ULZ will offer the i.MX6 ULZ SoC with “optional security features,” which include TRNG, AES crypto engine, and secure boot. The 50 mm x 25mm module will ship with 512MB DDR3L, which was the previous maximum of the now up to 1 GB RAM DART-6UL. The storage range is similar, with a choice 512 MB NAND and up to 64 GB eMMC.

The DART-6UL with i.MX6 ULZ will support 2x USB 2.0 OTG host/device ports, audio in and out, and UART, I2C, SPI, PWM, and ADC interfaces. OS support is listed as “Linux Yocto, Linux Debian, Boot2QT.”

The ULZ version of the DART-6UL will support existing development kits, which are based on the VAR-6ULCustomBoard. This 100 mm x 70 mm x 20 mm carrier board offers a microSD slot, a USB host port, and micro-USB OTG and debug ports, as well as features that are inaccessible to the ULZ, including dual GbE, RGB, LVDS, CAN and camera interfaces.

This week Variscite announced another DART module based on another new NXP SoC. The DART-MX8M-Mini module taps a 14nm-fabricated i.MX8M Mini SoC variant of the i.MX8M with one to four 2GHz Cortex-A53 cores and a 400 MHz Cortex-M4, plus scaled down 1080p video via MIPI-DSI.

Further information

The DART-6UL with iMX6 ULZ will be available in the fourth quarter. The DART-6UL/ULL/ULZ product page notes that the lowest, volume-discounted price is $24, which likely pertains to the ULZ part. More information may be found in Variscite’s announcement.

This article originally appeared on LinuxGizmos.com on September 19.

Variscite | www.variscite.com

Raspberry Pi I/O Add-On Targets Aquaponics and Hydroponics

By Eric Brown

We knew it was only a matter of time before we covered a board from Luxembourg, and that time has come. Rodange, Luxembourg based Upsilon Engineering, which is led by embedded engineer Yann Leidwanger, has gone to Kickstarter to launch its BioControle add-on board for the Raspberry Pi 3. The board can be used as a general purpose I/O and DAQ add-on but is specifically designed as a control board for aquaponics and hydroponics gardening.

 
BioControle prototype with Raspberry Pi 3 (left) and bare PCB on its own
(click images to enlarge)
The BioControle, which we spotted on Geeky Gadgets is available for 76 Euros ($89) through Oct. 17. Assuming Upsilon can raise another $7,000, shipments are expected in November.


BioControle controlling aquaponics system
(click image to enlarge)
The BioControle is a more general purpose offering than the recent Autogrow OpenMinder root zone monitor HAT for the Raspberry Pi, which includes software that helps manage water, pH, and nutrient usage in hydroponic farming. The proof of concept was developed for an aquaponics project at the Thilab FabLab based in Thionville, France. Leidwanger then built a prototype with additional features that also supports hydroponics and other projects that need a mix of servos, sensors, relays, and I/Os.

 
BioControle detail views
(click images to enlarge)
Specifications listed for the BioControle include:

  • 4x power relays outputs
  • 2x inputs/outputs for temperature and humidity sensors
  • 2x logical inputs and 2x logical outputs
  • Real Time Clock
  • EEPROM
  • 12-bit ADC
  • 12-bit DAC
  • 2x power servomotor outputs

All interfaces are said to be protected against reverse polarity, undervoltage, and overvoltage. It also offers “full protection between your application and your Raspberry Pi” with the help of buffers, level shifters, protection diodes, and serial protection resistance,” says Upsilon. The board provides 5 V and 3.3 V power supply supervisors “connected on LED and Raspberry Pi input,” and can run on a standard 230VAC adapter.

The design includes a cutout that enables easy access to the Raspberry Pi 3’s MIPI-CSI and DSI headers. The open source BioControle is available with schematics, pinout, and Python example codes

 
BioControle block diagram (left) and upcoming v2.0 design
(click images to enlarge)
The prototype has been thoroughly bug-tested, but Upsilon needs funding to build a v2.0 model that improves the servomotor headers, which are designed to dispense fish food on aquaponics systems. It also removes a second power supply header and several capacitors.

Further information

The BioControle is available on Kickstarter for 76 Euros ($89) through Oct. 17. Volume discounts are available, and assuming the project is funded, shipments are expected in November. More information may be found on the BioControle Kickstarter page and the Upsilon Engineering website.

This article originally appeared on LinuxGizmos.com on September 18.

Upsilon Engineering | www.upsilon-engineering.lu

The Voting Results are in. We Have a Winner!

Circuit Cellar’s sister website LinuxGizmos.com has completed its 2018 hacker board survey, which ran on SurveyMonkey in partnership with Linux.com. Survey participants chose the new Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+, as the favorite board from among 116 community-backed SBCs that run Linux or Android and sell for under $200.
All 116 SBCs are summarized in LinuxGizmos’ recently updated hacker board catalog and feature comparison spreadsheet.

GO HERE TO READ THE SURVEY RESULTS WITH ANALYSIS

Deadline Extended to June 22 — Vote Now!

UPDATE: We’ve extended our 2018 reader survey on open-spec Linux/Android hacker boards through this Friday, June 22.   Vote now!

Circuit Cellar’s sister website LinuxGizmos.com has launched its fourth annual reader survey of open-spec, Linux- or Android-ready single board computers priced under $200. In coordination with Linux.com, LinuxGizmos has identified 116 SBCs that fit its requirements, up from 98 boards in its June 2017 survey.

Vote for your favorites from LG’s freshly updated catalog of 116 sub-$200, hacker-friendly SBCs that run Linux or Android, and you could win one of 15 prizes.

Check out LinuxGizmos’ freshly updated summaries of 116 SBCs, as well as its spreadsheet that compares key features of all the boards.

Explore this great collection of Linux SBC information. To find out how to participate in the survey–and be entered to win a free board–click here:

GO HERE TO TAKE THE SURVEY AND VOTE