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.
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.
Cypress Semiconductor has announced that Pioneer has 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 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-GHz and 5-GHz 802.11ac Wi-Fi and dual-mode Bluetooth/Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) simultaneously for superior 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.
Ayla Networks has announced new capabilities to its IoT platform that will further simplify the ability to gain business value from IoT. This new Ayla IoT platform release overcomes restrictions on choosing wireless modules to connect to the Ayla IoT cloud and streamlines the creation of enterprise applications that use IoT device data.
A new Ayla portable software agent significantly cuts the time needed to get to market with IoT initiatives, by allowing manufacturers to select essentially any cellular or Wi-Fi module and have it connect easily to the Ayla IoT cloud. For makers of IoT solutions and service providers, the Ayla IoT platform has added new application enablement capabilities that make it faster and easier to build both mobile and web-based enterprise applications that take advantage of IoT data. To connect to an IoT cloud, devices use an embedded cellular or Wi-Fi module, comprising both a hardware chip and a software agent, that provides wireless cloud connectivity. Until now, IoT software agents had to be built and certified to work with a specific chip and module type, an expensive process that could take a year or more and involve significant certification overhead.
The new Ayla portable agent circumvents this problem by enabling connectivity to the Ayla IoT cloud from any cellular or Wi-Fi module—without the lengthy process of certifying a different software agent for each chip or module variation, and without having to generate source code to port the agent to a chosen module. As a result, IoT solution providers that want to connect to the Ayla IoT cloud are no longer restricted to a list of certified cellular or Wi-Fi modules; instead, they can take a bring-your-own (BYO) approach to IoT modules.
The Ayla portable agent includes source code, reference implementation, a porting guide, and a test suite for both cellular and Wi-Fi solutions. In addition, Ayla Networks can recommend development partners able to perform porting work for enterprises that lack in-house IoT firmware development expertise.
The Ayla Web Software Development Kit (SDK) reduces development cycles for applications that leverage IoT device data in conjunction with an enterprise’s other cloud or data integrations. A new product, the Ayla Web SDK makes it easy for developers to create business applications on top of the Ayla IoT platform. It provides pre-packaged functionality for user management, device monitoring, session management and rule-based access control (RBAC) management.
Kontron has introduced the EvoTRAC G103 In-Vehicle Rugged Cellular and Wi-Fi Gateway that provides broad connectivity capabilities that enable a new range of in-vehicle management, remote access and cloud-based applications. Providing the mobile connectivity and onboard recording device storage needed for a new generation of more intelligent systems, the EvoTRAC G103 features a WiFi and 4G Advanced Pro+ LTE module, and includes 64 GB eMMC for onboard storage as well as optionalfixed storage capacity.
The EvoTRAC G103 is a flexible open-architecture building block platform that supports fast access to actionable information from its integrated dual Gigabit Ethernet and dual CAN bus interface that supports 2.0 A and B, along with two USB 2.0 interface. With the explosion of data generated by today’s commercial vehicles, implementing a robust gateway such as the EvoTRAC G103 offloads important information operators can use to keep drivers safe, lower fuel consumption and effectively manage maintenance costs.
Tested to survive extreme temperature (-40° C to +80° C) and other demanding on and off-road vehicle conditions (shock, vibration, humidity, salt fog), the EvoTRAC™ G103 Gateway leverages Kontron’s hardened Type 6 COMe E3845 COM Express® CPU module coupled with a ruggedized Carrier Board, all packaged in a natural convection, sealed IP67 enclosure. Extremely rugged and mechanically compact, this gateway is based on the efficient, low-power Intel Atom processor, and incorporates protection from water and dust ingress, as well as CISPR25 emissions and ISO 11452-2 susceptibility.
One of the critical enabling technologies making the Internet-of-Things possible is the set of well-established wireless standards that allow movement of data to and from low-power edge devices. These standards are being implemented in a variety of chip- and module-based solutions.
By Jeff Child, Editor-in-Chief
Connecting the various nodes of an IoT implementation can involve a number of wired and wireless network technologies. It’s rare that an IoT system can be completely hardwired end to end. That means most IoT systems of any large scale depend on a variety of wireless technologies including everything from device-level technologies to Wi-Fi to cellular networking.
IoT system developers have a rich set of wireless standards to choose from. And these can be implemented from the gateway and the device side using a variety of wireless IoT solutions in both module and chip form. Some of these are available from the leading microcontroller vendors, but a growing number are IoT-specialist chip and module vendors. Many of today’s solutions combine multiple protocols on the same device, such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth LE (BLE) for example. We’ll look at each of the major wireless standards appropriate to IoT, along with representative interface solutions for each.
Managed by the LoRa Alliance, the LoRaWAN specification is a Low Power, Wide Area (LPWA) networking protocol designed to wirelessly connect battery operated ‘things’ to the internet in regional, national or global networks. It meets key IoT requirements such as bi-directional communication, end-to-end security, mobility and localization services.
The networking architecture of LoRaWAN is deployed in a star-of-stars topology in which gateways relay messages between end devices and a central network server. Gateways are connected to the network server via standard IP connections and act as a transparent bridge, simply converting RF packets to IP packets and vice versa. The wireless communication takes advantage of the Long Range characteristics of the LoRa physical layer, allowing a single-hop link between the end-device and one or many gateways. All modes are capable of bi-directional communication, and support is included for multicast addressing groups to make efficient use of spectrum during tasks such as Firmware Over-The-Air (FOTA) upgrades or other mass distribution messages.
In a recent LoRaWAN product example, Cypress Semiconductor in June announced its teaming up with Semtech on a compact, two-chip LoRaWAN-based module deployed by Onethinx. The highly-integrated Onethinx module is well-suited for smart city applications that integrate multiple sensors and are in harsh radio environments (Figure 1). Using Cypress’ PSoC 6 MCU hardware-based Secure Element functionality and Semtech’s LoRa devices and wireless radio frequency technology (LoRa Technology), the solution enables a multi-layer security architecture that isolates trust anchors for highly protected device-to-cloud connectivity. In addition, the PSoC 6 MCU’s integrated Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) connectivity provides a simple, low-power, out-of-band control channel. Cypress claims the PSoC 6 device as the industry’s lowest power, most flexible Arm Cortex-M dual-core MCU with a power slope as low as 22-μA/MHz active power for the Cortex-M4 core. The device works well with Semtech’s latest LoRa radio chip family, which offers 50% power savings in receive mode and 20% longer range over previous-generation devices.
Figure 1 Using Cypress’ PSoC 6 MCU hardware-based Secure Element functionality and Semtech’s LoRa devices and wireless radio frequency technology (LoRa Technology), the Onethinx module enables a multi-layer security architecture that isolates trust anchors for highly protected device-to-cloud connectivity.
The Onethinx module uses the integrated Secure Element functionality in the PSoC 6 MCU to give each LoRaWAN-based device a secret identity to securely boot and deliver data to the cloud application. Using its mutual authentication capabilities, the PSoC 6 MCU-based, LoRa-equipped device can also receive authenticated over-the-air firmware updates. Key provisioning and management services are provided by IoT security provider and member of the Bosch group, ESCRYPT, for a complete end-to-end, secure LoRaWAN solution. The module, offered by Cypress partner Onethinx, connects to Bosch Sensortec’s Cross Domain Development Kit (XDK) for Micro-Electromechanical Systems (MEMS) sensors and to the provisioning system from ESCRYPT to securely connect.
In systems where power is less of a constraint, the ubiquitous standard
Wi-Fi 802.11 is also a good method of IoT connectivity—whether leveraging off of existing Wi-Fi infrastructures or just using Wi-Fi hubs and routers in a purposed-built network implementation. As mentioned earlier, Wi-Fi is often available integrated with other wireless protocols such as Bluetooth. …
Read the full article in the July 336 issue of Circuit Cellar
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Rigado has announced Cascade, its new integrated Edge-as-a-Service solution. Designed for commercial IoT applications like Asset Tracking, Smart Workplaces and Connected Retail, Cascade helps companies save six months of time—or more—in bringing their solutions to market, without the need for upfront hardware investments.
Offered as an integrated monthly subscription starting at $9/month, Cascade gives you the wireless infrastructure, edge computing platform and managed security updates that allow IoT product and project teams to focus on driving maximum value from their IoT apps—and not on the underlying edge infrastructure, security and maintenance.
Rigado’s Cascade Edge-as-a-Service does so with four main components:
Cascade-500 IoT Gateway: Rigado’s newest IoT gateway offers a range of connectivity options including Bluetooth 5, Zigbee, Thread, Wi-Fi & LTE; security features like file system encryption; and 800 MHz of edge computing power.
Edge Protect Service: A managed, automated security service, Edge Protect provides automatic OS and security updates when common vulnerabilities, exposures and exploits are discovered. The service also provides signature authentication to ensure that what your developers publish is exactly what runs.
Edge Direct Tools: Secure edge device orchestration and systems performance monitoring allow your operations teams to set alerts and diagnose issues; provision gateways with secure IDs and encrypted keys; and flexibly schedule, manage and apply application updates. Edge Direct integrates with existing DevOps processes and CI tools and uses a familiar app store deployment model. With Edge Direct, technicians are able to stay out of the field, remotely deploying—and rolling back if necessary—updates for reliable maintenance.
Edge Connect Platform: Gives developers a secure connectivity and computing platform with a fully containerized edge OS. Featuring Ubuntu Core by Canonical with secure boot and an encrypted file system, Edge Connect also leverages Snaps, a simple application packaging system that makes it easier for developers to build and maintain application containers at the edge. With Edge Connect, your developers can work in the programming language of their choice and can easily and securely add multiple apps and functionalities onto a single gateway. Last, EdgeConnect also offers easier connections to IoT sensors and beacons using API calls that do not require device or protocol expertise.
Cascade benefits engineers by shaving months off of their IoT design and build efforts by helping them quickly develop and deploy edge applications. EdgeConnect APIs, with their ‘web-style’ access to devices, greatly simplifies architecture and saves thousands of lines of code and weeks of development and testing time.
Operational teams who are tasked with ongoing edge maintenance can use their same DevOps workflows, dashboards, and tools, such as CI, to monitor their IoT solutions. Edge performance monitoring helps Operations keep a close eye on device health and connectivity to manage successful scaling.
Cascade gives your IoT Support the solutions they need to effectively diagnose and fix client-specific issues. Able to easily integrate into existing support applications, IoT support needs little to no additional team or tools to effectively track device performance, diagnostics and update configurations.
Business teams benefit from the ability to easily scale IoT solutions across the commercial enterprise – all with a solution that mirrors their own SaaS Commercial IoT model. With increased security, a faster time to market and the ability to extend easily to the entire commercial enterprise, Cascade gives your business teams the ability to introduce innovation at the speed of the market.
You can get started with Rigado’s Cascade Evaluation Kit.
Advantech has announced its new generation of wireless connectivity: the Edge Intelligence Server EIS-D210 series. As smart cities and industry 4.0 deployment installs millions of IoT sensors and devices, wireless communications has become the fastest growing sector and wireless networks have been part of every application. As a result, the task of remotely managing distributed devices becomes more complex.
To echo market requirements, Advantech EIS-D210 series is powered by an Intel Celeron processor N3350 and has LoRa/Wi-Fi/Bluetooth and WISE-PaaS/EdgeSense edge intelligence and sensing software built-in. It is also pre-integrated with Microsoft Azure IoT Edge and AWS Greengrass to extend cloud intelligence to edge devices and enable real-time decisions at the edge. Advantech EIS-D210 is an integrated solution from the edge to the cloud and simplifies IoT application deployment. It’s well suited for applications in smart factory, smart energy and intelligent agriculture applications that need wireless sensor network management.
EIS-D210W has a built-in certificated Wi-Fi (IEEE802.11a/b/g/n/ac 2.4GHz/5GHz standard) and Bluetooth 4.1 module, and EIS-D210L incorporates a built-in private LoRa long-range modem. All EIS-D210 series have built-in dual GbE, COM (RS-232/422/485), VGA/HDMI, four USB 3.0 and mPCIe ports. The mPCIe ports can be extended to support 3G/4G LTE. EIS-D210 series provide several connection capabilities and peripheral support for multiple wireless/wired communications.
EIS-D210 series comes with Advantech’s WISE-PaaS/EdgeSense edge intelligence and sensing integration software, which provides an IoT SDK and documents for wireless sensor (LoRa, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth) data integration and supporting field protocols (MQTT/OPC/Modbus) for sensor/device data acquisition. With these, customers can quickly incorporate data integration, data pre-processing, and edge analytics to their applications.
EIS-D210 series is also pre-integrated with Azure IoT Edge and AWS Greengrass, ensuring that IoT devices can respond quickly to local events, interact with local resources, operate with intermittent connections, and minimize the cost of transmitting IoT data to the cloud. Furthermore, after data modeling and machine learning with data, results can be pushed back to edge (IoT Edge/ Greengrass) to provide data prediction for IoT applications.
EIS-D210W (Wi-Fi/Bluetooth) became available at end of April and EIS-D210L (LoRa) will become available in June.
Telit has announced the release of a new module, the WE866C3. A companion to Telit’s LTE LE910Cx family, the new module advances the ability to deliver LTE and Wi-Fi integration for IoT applications including security panels, video bridges, medical devices, telematics and remote sensors.
Telit’s WE866C3 is a low power, high bandwidth 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.2 module with a small footprint that provides an easy and cost-effective way for manufacturers to add wireless connectivity to new and existing products. Advanced LTE, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth coexistence dramatically reduces complexity designing cellular back haul with the LE910Cx 4G LTE module family, making the WE866C3 well suited for a wide range of IoT applications including commercial building automation, OEM telematics, fleet management and video surveillance.
The module shortens time to market with off-the-shelf cloud connectivity through deviceWISE, over-the-air firmware updating, support for WPA/WPA2 personal and enterprise security and more. Developer tools, engineering support and comprehensive global certifications make it easy for integrators and OEMs to upgrade or launch new products.
Moxa has announced the UC-2100 Series of industrial IoT gateways along with its new UC 3100 and UC 5100 Series, but it offered details only on the UC-2100. All three series will offer ruggedization features, compact footprints, and on some models, 4G LTE support. They all run Moxa Industrial Linux and optional ThingsPro Gateway data acquisition software on Arm-based SoCs.
Moxa UC-2111 or UC-2112 (left) and UC-2101 (click image to enlarge)
Based on Debian 9 and a Linux 4.4 kernel, the new Moxa Industrial Linux (MIL) is a “high-performance, industrial-grade Linux distribution” that features a container-based virtual-machine-like middleware abstraction layer between the OS and applications,” says Moxa. Multiple isolated systems can run on a single control host “so that system integrators and engineers can easily change the behavior of an application without worrying about software compatibility,” says the company.
MIL provides 10-year long-term Linux support, and is aimed principally at industries that require long-term software, such as power, water, oil & gas, transportation and building automation industries. In December, Moxa joined the Linux Foundation’s Civil Infrastructure Platform (CIP) project, which is developing a 10-year SLTS Linux kernel for infrastructure industries. MIL appears to be in alignment with CIP standards.
Diagrams of ThingsPro Gateway (top) and the larger ThingsPro eco-system (bottom) (click images to enlarge)
Moxa’s ThingsPro Gateway software enables “fast integration of edge data into cloud services for large-scale IIoT deployments,” says Moxa. The software supports Modbus data acquisition, LTE connectivity, MQTT communication, and cloud client interfaces such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure. C and Python APIs are also available.
Moxa’s UC-3100 (source: Hanser Konstruktion), and at right, the similarly Linux-driven, ThingsPro ready UC-8112 (click images to enlarge)
Although we saw no product pages on the UC-3100 and UC-5100, Hanser Konstruktion posted a short news item on the UC-3100 with a photo (above) and a few details. This larger, rugged system supports WiFi and LTE with two antenna pairs, and offers a USB port in addition to dual LAN and dual serial ports.
The new systems follow several other UC-branded IoT gateways that run Linux on Arm. The only other one to support ThingsPro is the UC-8112, a member of the UC-8100 family. This UC-8100 is similarly ruggedized, and runs Linux on a Cortex-A8 SoC.
The UC-2100 Series gateways runs MIL on an unnamed Cortex-A8 SoC clocked at 600MHz except for the UC-2112, which jumps to 1GHz. There are five different models, all with 9-48 VDC 3-pin terminal blocks and a maximum consumption of 4 Watts when not running cellular modules.
The five UC-2100 models have the following dimensions, weights, and maximum input currents:
UC-2101 — 50 x 80 x 28mm; 190 g; 200 mA
UC-2102 — 50 x 80 x 28mm; 190 g; 330 mA
UC-2104 — 57 x 80 x 30.8mm; 220 g; 800 mA
UC-2111 — 77 x 111 x 25.5mm; 290 g; 350 mA
UC-2112 — 77 x 111 x 25.5mm; 290 g; 450 mA
All five UC-2100 variants default to a -10 to 60°C operating range except for the UC-2104, which moves up to -10 to 70°C. In addition, they are all available in optional -40 to 75°C versions.
Other ruggedization features are the same, including anti-vibration protection per IEC 60068-2-64 and anti-shock per IEC 60068-2-2. A variety of safety, EMC, EMI, EMS, and hazardous environment standards are also listed.
The first three models ship with 256MB DDR3, while the UC-2111 and UC-2112 offer 512MB. These two are also the only ones to offer micro-SD slots. All five systems ship with 8GB eMMC loaded with the MIL distribution.
The UC-2100 systems vary in the number and type of their auto-sensing, 1.5 kV isolated Ethernet ports. The UC-2101 and UC-2104 each have a single 10/100Mbps port, while the UC-2102 and UC-2111 have two. The UC-2112 has one 10/100 and one 10/100/1000 port. The UC-2104 is the only model with a mini-PCIe socket for 4G or WiFi.
The UC-2111 and UC-2112 offer 2x RS-232/422/48 ports while the UC-2101 has one. It would appear that the UC-2102 and UC-2104 lack serial ports altogether except for the RS-232 console port available on all five systems.
The UC-2100 provides push buttons and dip switches, an RTC, a watchdog, and LEDs, the number of which depend on the model. A wall kit is standard, and DIN-rail mounting is optional. TPM 2.0 is also optional. A 5-year hardware warranty is standard.
The UC-2100 Series gateways appear to be available for order, with pricing undisclosed. More information may be found on Moxa’s UC-2100 product page. More information about the UC-2100, as well as the related, upcoming UC-3100 and UC-5100 Series, will be on tap at Hannover Messe 2018, April 23-27, at the Arm Booth at Hall 6, Booth A46.
U‑blox has announced the new NINA‑B2 dual‑mode Bluetooth 4.2 stand‑alone module, enabling industrial IoT applications thanks to its built‑in secure boot and wide temperature ranges. It comes pre‑flashed with U‑blox connectivity software which supports many common use cases such as Beacon, GATT client, GATT server and serial port. NINA‑B2 is configured easily using AT commands over UART, without requiring deep knowledge of the Bluetooth protocol. Because it’s already tested and certified globally, it also reduces development costs and speeds time to market.
NINA‑B2’s built‑in secure boot guarantees that the software is authenticated by U‑blox and has therefore not been tampered with. This provides a secure operating environment for the Bluetooth module. NINA‑B2 is very compact, at 10 mm x 10.6 mm x 2.2mm (without antenna) and 10 mm x 14 mm x 3.8 mm (with antenna).
Most of the Bluetooth modules at this scale are single‑mode Bluetooth low energy or Bluetooth BR/EDR devices. NINA‑B2’s size makes it an easy fit in any IoT device. It is also pin‑compatible with the U‑blox NINA family, allowing it to be easily swapped in or out with other NINA modules, with their different radio technologies such as Bluetooth low energy and Wi‑Fi.
Apart from industrial automation such as machine control devices, industrial terminals and products for remote control, possible applications also include wireless‑connected and configurable equipment, point of sale, telematics and health devices. NINA‑B2 is expected to go into production in summer 2018.
Microsoft has announced an “Azure Sphere” blueprint for for hybrid Cortex-A/Cortex-M SoCs that run a Linux-based Azure Sphere OS and include end-to-end Microsoft security technologies and a cloud service. Products based on a MediaTek MT3620 Azure Sphere chip are due by year’s end.
Just when Google has begun to experiment with leaving Linux behind with its Fuchsia OS —new Fuchsia details emerged late last week— long-time Linux foe Microsoft unveiled an IoT platform that embraces Linux. At RSA 2018, Microsoft Research announced a project called Azure Sphere that it bills as a new class of Azure Sphere microcontrollers that run “a custom Linux kernel” combined with Microsoft security technologies. Initial products are due by the end of the year aimed at industries including whitegoods, agriculture, energy and infrastructure.
Based on the flagship, Azure Sphere based MediaTek MT3620 SoC, which will ship in volume later this year, this is not a new class of MCUs, but rather a fairly standard Cortex-A7 based SoC with a pair of Cortex-M4 MCUs backed up by end to end security. It’s unclear if future Azure Sphere compliant SoCs will feature different combinations of Cortex-A and Cortex-M, but this is clearly an on Arm IP based design. Arm “worked closely with us to incorporate their Cortex-A application processors into Azure Sphere MCUs,” says Microsoft.
Azure Sphere OS architecture (click images to enlarge)
Major chipmakers have signed up to build Azure Sphere system-on-chips including Nordic, NXP, Qualcomm, ST Micro, Silicon Labs, Toshiba, and more (see image below). The software giant has sweetened the pot by “licensing our silicon security technologies to them royalty-free.”
Azure Sphere SoCs “combine both real-time and application processors with built-in Microsoft security technology and connectivity,” says Microsoft. “Each chip includes custom silicon security technology from Microsoft, inspired by 15 years of experience and learnings from Xbox.”
The design “combines the versatility and power of a Cortex-A processor with the low overhead and real-time guarantees of a Cortex-M class processor,” says Microsoft. The MCU includes a Microsoft Pluton Security Subsystem that “creates a hardware root of trust, stores private keys, and executes complex cryptographic operations.”
The IoT oriented Azure Sphere OS provides additional Microsoft security and a security monitor in addition to the Linux kernel. The platform will ship with Visual Studio development tools, and a dev kit will ship in mid-2018.
Azure Sphere security features (click image to enlarge)
The third component is an Azure Sphere Security Service, a turnkey, cloud-based platform. The service brokers trust for device-to-device and device-to-cloud communication through certificate-based authentication. The service also detects “emerging security threats across the entire Azure Sphere ecosystem through online failure reporting, and renewing security through software updates,” says Microsoft.
Azure Sphere eco-system conceptual diagram (top) and list of silicon partners (bottom)
In many ways, Azure Sphere is similar to Samsung’s Artik line of IoT modules, which incorporate super-secure SoCs that are supported by end-to-end security controlled by the Artik Cloud. One difference is that the Artik modules are either Cortex-A applications processors or Cortex-M or -R MCUs, which are designed to be deployed in heterogeneous product designs, rather than a hybrid SoC like the MediaTek MT3620.Hybrid, Linux-driven Cortex-A/Cortex-M SoCs have become common in recent years, led by NXP’s Cortex-A7 based i.MX7 and -A53-based i.MX8, as well as many others including the -A7 based Renesas RZ/N1D and Marvell IAP220.
The MediaTek MT3620 “was designed in close cooperation with Microsoft for its Azure Sphere Secure IoT Platform,” says MediaTek in its announcement. Its 500MHz Cortex-A7 core is accompanied by large L1 and L2 caches and integrated SRAM. Dual Cortex-M4F chips support peripherals including 5x UART/I2C/SPI, 2x I2S, 8x ADC, up to 12 PWM counters, and up to 72x GPIO.
The Cortex-M4F cores are primarily devoted to real-time I/O processing, “but can also be used for general purpose computation and control,” says MediaTek. They “may run any end-user-provided operating system or run a ‘bare metal app’ with no operating system.”
In addition, the MT3620 features an isolated security subsystem with its own Arm Cortex-M4F core that handles secure boot and secure system operation. A separate Andes N9 32-bit RISC core supports 1×1 dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi.
The security features and WiFi networking are “isolated from, and run independently of, end user applications,” says MediaTek. “Only hardware features supported by the Azure Sphere Secure IoT Platform are available to MT3620 end-users. As such, security features and Wi-Fi are only accessible via defined APIs and are robust to programming errors in end-user applications regardless of whether these applications run on the Cortex-A7 or the user-accessible Cortex-M4F cores.” MediaTek adds that a development environment is avaialble based on the gcc compiler, and includes a Visual Studio extension, “allowing this application to be developed in C.”
Microsoft learns to love LinuxIn recent years, we’ve seen Microsoft has increasingly softened its long-time anti-Linux stance by adding Linux support to its Azure service and targeting Windows 10 IoT at the Raspberry Pi, among other experiments. Microsoft is an active contributor to Linux, and has even open-sourced some technologies.
It wasn’t always so. For years, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer took turns deriding Linux and open source while warning about the threat they posed to the tech industry. In 2007, Microsoft fought back against the growth of embedded Linux at the expense of Windows CE and Windows Mobile by suing companies that used embedded Linux, claiming that some of the open source components were based on proprietary Microsoft technologies. By 2009, a Microsoft exec openly acknowledged the threat of embedded Linux and open source software.
That same year, Microsoft was accused of using its marketing muscle to convince PC partners to stop providing Linux as an optional install on netbooks. In 2011, Windows 8 came out with a new UEFI system intended to stop users from replacing Windows with Linux on major PC platforms.
Azure Sphere promo video
Azure Sphere is available as a developer preview to selected partners. The MediaTek MT3620 will be the first Azure Sphere MCU, and products based on it should arrive by the end of the year. More information may be found in Microsoft’s Azure Sphere announcement and product page.
Innocomm announced a 50 mm x 50 mm “WB10” module with an NXP i.MX8M Quad SoC, 8 GB eMMC, Wi-Fi-ac, BT 4.2, GbE, HDMI 2.0 with 4K HDR and audio I/O including SAI, SPDIF and DSD512.Among the many embedded products announced in recent weeks that run NXP’s 1.5 GHz, Cortex-A53-based i.MX8M SoC, Innocomm’s 50 mm x 500 mm WB10 is one of the smallest. The top prize goes to Variscite’s SODIMM-style, 55 mm x 30 mm DART-MX8M. Like Emcraft’s 80 mm x 60mm i.MX 8M SOM, the home entertainment focused WB10 supports only the quad-core i.MX8M instead of the dual-core model. Other i.MX8M modules include Compulab’s 68 mm x 42mm CL-SOM-iMX8.
WB10 (above) and NXP i.MX8M block diagram (below)
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No OS support was listed, but all the other i.MX8M products we’ve seen have either run Linux or Linux and Android. The i.MX8M SoC incorporates a Vivante GC7000Lite GPU and VPU, enabling 4K HEVC/H265, H264, and VP9 video decoding with HDR. It also provides a 266MHz Cortex-M4 core for real-time tasks, as well as a security subsystem.
The WB10 module offers only 2 GB LPDDR4 instead of 4 GB for the other i.MX8M modules, and is also limited to 8GB eMMC. You do, however, get a GbE controller and onboard 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac with MIMO 2×2 and Bluetooth 4.2.
The WB10 is designed for Internet audio, home entertainment, and smart speaker applications, and offers more than the usual audio interfaces. Media I/O expressed via its three 80-pin connectors include HDMI 2.0a with 4K and HDR support, as well as MIPI-DSI, 2x MIPI-CSI, SPDIF Rx/Tx, 4x SAI and the high-end DSD512 audio interface.
WB10 block diagram (above) and WB10 mounted on optional carrier board (below)
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You also get USB 3.0 host, USB 2.0 device, 2x I2C, 3x UART and single GPIO, PWM, SPI, and PCIe interfaces. No power or temperature range details were provided. The WB10 is also available with an optional, unnamed carrier board that is only slightly larger than the module itself. No more details were available. Further information
No pricing or availability information was provided for the WB10. More information may be found on Innocomm’s WB10 product page.
Advantech has joined the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Partner Network (APN) as Standard Technology Partner. As an APN Standard Technology Partner, Advantech provides a comprehensive range of wireless sensors and edge intelligence computers with complete IoT software solutions on AWS. Embedded developers can connect devices to a range of services offered on AWS in order to build scalable, global, and secure IoT applications, bringing computing capabilities to edge devices to several domain-focused vertical markets such as smart city, smart manufacturing and smart energy markets.
Advantech’s WISE-1520 Wireless Sensor Node (shown) is on Amazon FreeRTOS so that customers can easily and securely connect small devices and sensors directly to AWS or to powerful edge devices running AWS Greengrass, thus allowing them to collect data for their IoT applications. As the first wireless sensor node for the M2.COM family, the WISE-1520 comes with an Arm Cortex-M4 processor and low-power Wi-Fi connectivity, providing full compatibility with existing Wi-Fi infrastructure.
Advantech also offers the EIS-D210 Edge Intelligence Server, which is equipped with an Intel Celeron Processor N3350 and is compatible with AWS Greengrass core, thus ensuring that IoT devices can respond quickly to local events, interact with local resources, operate with intermittent connections, and minimize the cost of transmitting IoT data to the cloud. In addition to supporting field protocols(MQTT/OPC/Modbus) for sensor/device data acquisition, the EIS-D210 can be used with the Advantech IoT SDK for wireless sensor (Wi-Fi, LoRa, Zigbee) data integration. Furthermore, the EIS-D210 comes pre-integrated with Advantech’s WISE-PaaS/EdgeSense software solution, allowing users to incorporate sensor data aggregation, edge analytics, and cloud applications for fast and easy real-time operational intelligence. This EIS provides a range of connectivity options with excellent data handling and networking connection capabilities for various IoT applications.
Advantech’s EPC-R4760 IoT gateway, powered by the Qualcomm Arm Cortex-A53 APQ8016 platform, provides a unique combination of power and performance. The system also integrates abundant wireless solutions including Wi-Fi, BT, GPS, and extended 3G/LTE connectivity. For OS support, the EPC-R4760 can run Debian Linux, Yocto Linux, Ubuntu Linux, Android, and Windows 10 IoT Core, and it also supports AWS Greengrass, which gives users tremendous flexibility by allowing them to create AWS Lambda functions that can be validated on AWS and then be easily deployed to devices.
Advantech’s UTX-3117 IoT gateway is compatible with AWS Greengrass and Wind River Pulsar and, in addition to having a small footprint, it offers real-time security and supports various protocols that are needed to run IoT applications seamlessly across both AWS and on local devices or sensor nodes. In addition, by equipping it with a LoRa solution, the UTX-3117 offers a wide range of wireless connection options for controlling and collecting data from devices and sensor nodes. With these solutions, the UTX-3117 IoT gateway is ideal for smart energy applications. For example, it can collect solar panel and solar radiation data in real time via LoRa, and with AWS Greengrass built in, it can analyze the data and adjust the angle of solar panels to follow the sun and thereby maximize the effectiveness of the solar panels. AWS Greengrass can also be employed to analyze weather data so that the panels can be adjusted to prevent damage from elements such as strong wind or hail.
Cypress Semiconductor has announced its Wi-Fi and Bluetooth combo solution is used on the new Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ IoT single board computer. The Cypress CYW43455 single-chip combo provides high-performance 802.11ac Wi-Fi for faster Internet connections, advanced coexistence algorithms for simultaneous Bluetooth and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) operations such as audio and video streaming, and low-power BLE connections to smartphones, sensors and Bluetooth Mesh networks. The combo’s high-speed 802.11ac transmissions enable superior network performance, faster downloads and better range, as well as lower power consumption by quickly exploiting deep sleep modes. The Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ board builds on the success of existing Raspberry Pi solutions using Cypress’ CYW43438 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth combo SoC.
Wi-Fi networks powered by 802.11ac simultaneously deliver low-latency and high-speed with secure device communication, making it the ideal wireless technology for connecting products directly to the cloud. The Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ board with the highly-integrated Cypress CYW43455 combo SoC allows developers to quickly prototype industrial IoT systems and smart home products that leverage the benefits of 802.11ac.
The Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ board features a 64-bit, quad-core processor running at 1.4 GHz, 1 GB RAM, full size HDMI, 4 standard USB ports, Gbit Ethernet over USB2, Power over Ethernet capability, CSI camera connector and a DSI display connector. The platform’s resources, together with its 802.11ac wireless LAN and Bluetooth/BLE wireless connectivity, provide a compact solution for intelligent edge-connected devices.
The Cypress CYW43455 SoC features a dual-band 2.4- and 5-GHz radio with 20-, 40- and 80-MHz channels with up to 433 Mbps performance. This fast 802.11ac throughput allows devices to get on and off of the network more quickly, preventing network congestion and prolonging battery life by letting devices spend more time in deep sleep modes. The SoC includes Linux open source Full Media Access Control (FMAC) driver support with enterprise and industrial features enabled, including security, roaming, voice and locationing.
Cypress’ CYW43455 SoC and other solutions support Bluetooth Mesh networks—low-cost, low-power mesh network of devices that can communicate with each other, and with smartphones, tablets and voice-controlled home assistants, via simple, secure and ubiquitous Bluetooth connectivity. Bluetooth Mesh enables battery-powered devices within the network to communicate with each other to easily provide coverage throughout even the largest homes, allowing a user to conveniently control all of the devices from the palm of their hand. The SoC is also supported in Cypress’ all-inclusive, turnkey Wireless Internet Connectivity for Embedded Devices (WICED) software development kit (SDK), which streamlines the integration of wireless technologies for IoT developers.
Nordic Semiconductor announced that InnoComm Mobile Technology has employed Nordic’s nRF52832 Bluetooth Low Energy (Bluetooth LE) System-on-Chip (SoC) for its CM05 BLE-Wi-Fi Module. The CM05 is a compact module that combines Nordic’s Bluetooth LE solution with Wi-Fi and is designed to ease the development of IoT gateways. By combining these wireless technologies into one device, the developer eliminates the cost and complexity of working with separate Bluetooth LE and Wi-Fi modules.
A CM05-powered IoT gateway enables Bluetooth LE-equipped wireless products to connect to the Internet (via the Wi-Fi technology’s TCP/IP functionality), a key advantage for smart home and smart industry applications. The compact module enables developers to reduce gateway size, decrease production costs and speed time to market.
The Nordic SoC’s powerful 64 MHz, 32-bit Arm Cortex M4F processor provides ample processing power to both the Nordic’s S132 SoftDevice (a Bluetooth 5-certifed RF software protocol (“stack”)) and the Wi-Fi TCP/IP stack, eliminating the cost, space requirements and power demands of an additional processor. In addition, the Nordic SoC’s unique software architecture, which cleanly separates the SoftDevice from the developer’s application code, eases the development process. And when the gateway is deployed in the field, the solution enables rapid, trouble-free Over-the-Air Device Firmware Updates (OTA-DFU).
Nordic’s nRF52832 Bluetooth LE SoC supports Bluetooth 5, ANT and proprietary 2.4GHz RF protocol software and delivers up to 60 per cent more generic processing power, offering 10 times the Floating Point performance and twice the DSP performance compared to competing solutions. The SoC is supplied with the S132 SoftDevice for advanced Bluetooth LE applications. The S132 SoftDevice features Central, Peripheral, Broadcaster and Observer Bluetooth LE roles, supports up to twenty connections, and enables concurrent role operation.