About Ayo Ayibiowu

Ayo is a software and hardware guy, a writer, and a prospective farmer. Ayo is passionate about STEM Education and Technology and has worked with over three EdTech startups in the last 5 years. Ayo currently talks and writes about technology especially in the areas of Internet of Things, Open Hardware, Startups, Precision Agriculture, Artificial Intelligence and Smart Cities. Ayo loves to cook and think about abstract ideas, and in his free time enjoys biking, hiking, traveling and playing video games. Reach me - charlesayibiowu@hotmail.com

TinyPi – World Smallest Raspberry Pi Game Boy-Style Retro Console

After the release of Raspberry Pi Zero in 2015 many projects have been built with it. Another exciting project built around the Raspberry Pi Zero is this full-fledged gaming device called the Pocket TinyPi.

RaspberryPi Retro Gaming device
Pocket TinyPi

If you ever wanted to get your hands on some gaming on the go, the Pocket TinyPi maybe your best bet. Based on the Raspberry Pi, you have instant access to a retro gaming system such as RetroPie and Pico-8. The TinyPi is not only good for gaming, it is also tiny and can comfortably fit into your pocket without much of a notice.

Peter Barker is the creator of Pocket TinyPi, and he got inspired by the launch of the Pi Zero where several makers came up with very inspiring projects especially the ones hacking an old Game Boy. Unlike other makers, Barker didn’t tear apart a working Game Boy but instead built a standalone Pi Zero-based gaming device using a cheap 2.2-inch SPI screen flanked by two button arrays. Things progressed from there, and Barker was able to build it using a 1.44-inch display as compared to the earlier 2.2-inch screen to finally make the Pocket TinyPi gaming device.

The Pocket TinyPi comes in an unassembled kit that will have to be fully assembled to get it to work. Aside from the possibility of playing an amazing and classic game with the TinyPi, the kit gives a user the opportunity to put their soldering skills into real test and even some eyesight testing since you will need to solder small parts on a small piece of board. One can also order an entirely built and tested kit, but of course there is no fun in that.

The kit consists of the following parts,

  • 1.44”color screen with a resolution of 128×128 pixels
  • 5-way joystick (4 directions plus a center click)
  • 2 action buttons
  • 3-way nav switch (gives two more buttons and a center click)
  • Stereo sound
  • Raspberry Pi for brains (1GHz CPU, 512MB ram, WiFi, and Bluetooth)
  • 300mah battery giving an hour of play time (in the full kit and full build)

On the front of the PCB are a five-way joystick (with push-in function) and two push buttons. There’s also a three-way navigation switch at the top, which can be mapped to extra functions. The device is powered by a slimline LiPo battery, strapped to the Pi Zero along with a TP4056 charger. Stereo sound is supplied by two piezo transducers situated behind the screen.

TinyPi Rear

The Pocket TinyPi is expected to come in 3 options :

  • The Base Kit – It includes the PCB, Screen, and components to let you build a working TinyPi. This kit doesn’t come with any battery and a case, so you will need to supply your own power to it. A basic Li-Po battery will work here and you can easily 3D print your own custom case for it as well.
  • The Full Kit – This includes everything the basic kit does, plus a 3D printed case, battery, and supporting PCB.
  • Fully Assembled – This is a fully assembled kit. It will be prebuilt and tested.

They were on sale for a while on Tindie, but demand was too high, so they will be available on CrowdSupply soon. Of course, TinyPi is not just limited to gaming, the flexibility of the Raspberry Pi means your imagination the only limits!

RK Clean Air – A Gas, Smoke, and Carbon Monoxide Detector

Rk Clean Air is a gas responded device that is capable of monitoring gas leakage, smoke, and carbon monoxide leakage in the home. According to the National Fire Protection Association, “Three of every five home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms (38%) or no working smoke alarms (21%) and the death rate per 100 reported home fires was more than twice as high in homes that did not have any working smoke alarms compared to the rate in homes with working smoke alarms.” The importance of having smoke and gas detector cannot be overemphasized.

RK Clean Air

Carbon monoxide (CO) has been called the “silent and invisible killer” because it doesn’t has smell, color, or taste. It’s one of the most prevalent causes of death due to poisoning. Smoke and CO detector are readily available and quite common, Nest Protect, one of the most popular household detectors can detect smoke and carbon monoxide in the home. RK Clean Air is offering more than just smoke and carbon monoxide protection by adding extra security of monitoring gas leakage and fan control.

The capability of combined smoke, carbon monoxide, natural gas, and propane detectors seems intuitive but has not been encountered. A detector coupled to an exhaust system to extract and dissipate dangerous flammable gasses as well as carbon monoxide could prevent many deaths and provide a warning to building occupants. For example, the first notice that many people have of a propane or natural gas leak occurs when smelled in another area of a home only after explosive concentration of gas are reached in other isolated home areas. RK Clean air is able to combine all these together to create a powerful detector.

Furnished with powerful sensors, RK Clean Air continually monitors gas, smoke and CO levels in your home, giving its users a peace of mind. Just like Nest and most detectors, RK Clean Air is able to send a notification to a smartphone. When the RK Clean Air detects danger, it alerts you on your smartphone, while simultaneously flashing its light, sounding an alarm and turning on RK Extractor system that is used in clearing out any harmful gas.

RK Clean Air is also equipped with a clock that will always display the time in idle mode. The clock can be set using the Apaxon Home Automation App that is developed for the RK Clean Air detector.

The following are some of the significant features of RK Clean Air:

  • Detect Gas, Smoke and Carbon Monoxide
  • Smartphone Alerts and Control (Apaxon Smart App)
  • Clock Function (clock can be set on the app)
  • Fan Control (RK Extractor Fan can be switch off using the App)
  • WiFi
  • RF connectivity (used in the communication with the RK Extractor Fan)
  • Comes in three colors – White, Blue and Black
  • Easy to Install

 RK Clean Air is developed by Apaxon Ltd Team, a new Startup company based in Manchester, UK. Apaxon is launching a Kickstarter campaign for its RK Clean Air detector very soon.

Compact COM Express-based subsystem packs plenty of DAQs

Zeta is a Single Board Computer (SBC) from Diamond Systems that combines a COM Express Mini Type 10 module based on Apollo Lake or Bay Trail SoCs with a DAQ-rich carrier, and a heat spreader mounted below. The Zeta COM Express Mini Type 10 supports the quad-core Atom E3940 and Pentium N4200 from Intel’s Apollo Lake generation, as well as a dual-core Atom E3825 from the earlier Bay Trail family. Measures 84mm by 55mm, Diamond, Creators of Zeta do not promote their creation as a standalone Computer -on-Module product mostly because of its extra add-ons and functionality.

Diamond Systems Zeta

According to Diamond, the 84 x 55mm Zeta offers functionality and performance equivalent to Diamond’s Bay Trail-based Aries PC/104 SBC, at just 40 percent of its 116 x 102mm size.

The Zeta processor choice can be obtained in two Stock Keeping Units (SKUs), one has 16x DIO lines while the other has an FPGA-driven data acquisition circuit that replaces the 16x DIO with a 27x DIO connector. The second SKU also adds 4x channels of 16-bit digital outputs, eight 32-bit timers, 16x channels of 16-bit analog inputs among other features.

The Zeta offers 2GB, 4GB, or 8GB RAM depending on the type of processor chosen. There’s also a microSD slot, as well as a mini-PCI express slot with mSATA support. Standard features include 2x GbE, VGA, LVDS, USB 3.0, 4x USB 2.0, and 4x RS-232/422/485. It also comes with an optional daughter board to act as an expansion set. The daughter board has a full-size mini-PCI express slot, an M.2 M-key 2242 for an SSD, and audio I/O.

General Specifications for the Zeta Serial Board Controller are:

  • Processor — Intel Apollo Lake or Bay Trail:
    • Atom x5-E3940 — 4x Apollo Lake cores @ 1.6GHz/1.8GHz; 9W TDP
    • Pentium N4200 — 4x Apollo Lake cores @ 1.1GHz/2.5GHz; 6W TDP
    • Atom E3825 — 2x Bay Trail cores @ 1.33GHz; 6W TDP
  • Memory & Storage:
    • 2GB (E3825), 4GB (E3940) or 8GB (N4200) RAM
    • MicroSD slot (bootable for Linux)
    • mSATA via mini-PCIe slot
    • M.2 M-key 2242 for SSD on an optional daughterboard
  • Display — VGA; LVDS
  • Networking — 2x Gigabit Ethernet
  • Expansion Options:
    • Mini-PCIe slot with PCIe, USB, and mSATA support.
  • Expansion daughterboard:
    • Full-size mini-PCIe slot with PCIe and USB
    • HD audio (Realtek ALC892) line-in, mic-in, line-out
    • 16x DIO (via I2C) with configurable 3.3V/ 5V logic levels and Pull-up/down resistors
  • Other I/O:
    • USB 3.0
    • 4x USB 2.0
    • 4x RS-232/422/485 (software-programmable with termination)
    • 16x DIO with selectable 3.3V/5V logic levels
    • Optional DAQ circuit (separate SKU):
    • 27x DIO with selectable 3.3V/5V logic levels (replaces original 16x DIO)
    • 16x 16-bit analog inputs
    • +/-10V, +/-5V, 0-10V, and 0-5V input ranges
    • 100KHz max sample rate with 2048-sample FIFO
    • 8x differential voltage inputs
    • 4x channels of 16-bit analog outputs
    • 8x 32-bit counter/timers.
    • 4x 24-bit PWMs
  • Power — Optional 9-36V input
  • Operating temperature — -40°C to 85°C
  • Dimensions — 84mm x 55mm (COM Express Mini Type 10)
  • Operating system — supports Linux (Ubuntu 16.04) and Windows 10 IoT with optional SDKs
  • Other features — watchdog; heat spreader; dev kit version with cables and SDKs
Block Diagram

Zeta’s small size and high feature density make it an ideal choice for mobile applications. It stands ready to meet the challenges of these environments with a wide range 6-36VDC input voltage, a -40 to +85°C operating temperature range, and fanless heat spreader cooling (heat sink options are available). Zeta is available for order online at an undisclosed price. More information for the Diamond Systems Zeta can be found on the product page.

Octavo Systems Releases OSD3358-SM-RED Beaglebone Black Compatible Board

Octavo Systems back in 2017 released their OSD335x-SM System-In-Package device, a powerful ARM Cortex®-A8 SIP-based package. The OSD335x-SM was a device of its class, measured at just 21mm x 21mm, and the OSD335x-SM is the smallest AM335x processor-based module on the market today that still allows complete access to all the AM335x device I/Os including PRUs. The OSD335x-SM helps in removing the need for DDR routing, power sequencing, complex supply chains and even the need for building larger PCBs to accommodate several components.

Octavo has announced the availability of the OSD3358-SM-RED platform.  The OSD3358-SM-RED platform is the official Reference, Evaluation, and Development platform for the OSD335x-SM SiP family. It is designed by Octavo Systems to allow users to evaluate the OSD335x-SM SiP for their application quickly.

The OSD3358-SM-RED is fully designed around the OSD335x-SM SiP at its core, thus inheriting all the features of the SiP device. The OSD335x-SM integrates a powerful 1GHz Texas Instruments Sitara AM335x processor, DDR3 Memory, two power supplies, and passives into a single easy to use package.  The 256 Ball BGA is 60% smaller than an equivalent design using discrete devices, making it the smallest ARM Cortex-A8 system implementation.

The development board comes included with a Gigabyte Ethernet (10/100/1000 Ethernet), a whopping 5 USB 2.o ports (comes with 4 USB hub ports and 1 micro USB client port), a micro HDMI for display, and two 46 pin expansion headers which makes it compatible with the Beaglebone ecosystem. The OSD3358-SM-RED has a 16GB eMMC on board and a microSD card interface.

The board also adds some onboard sensors providing a possible real-world case study. It comes with a 9-axis IMU that provides acceleration, gyroscope, and magnetometer data; a barometer to provide altitude; and a multi-channel temperature sensor.

Even though the SM-RED shares some compatibility with the BeagleBone it has no onboard WiFi and Bluetooth, but there’s an Ethernet port, and unlike the BB Black and other BeagleBone variants, it’s a GbE port. You also get 16GB eMMC compared to 4GB on the other BeagleBones.

The following are the specifications for the OSD3358-SM-RED:

  • Processor  — TI Sitara AM335x (1x Cortex-A8 @ 1GHz)
    • PowerVR SGX530 GPU
    • 32-bit 200MHz Cortex-M3 based programmable real-time units (PRUs)
  • Memory —  512MB DDR3 RAM
  • Storage — 16GB eMMC
    • microSD slot with card pre-installed with Debian and drivers
  • Display — Micro-HDMI port
  • Networking — 10/100/1000 Ethernet port
  • Other I/O:
    • 4x USB 2.0 host/device ports
    • Micro-USB client port
    • UART and JTAG
    • 2x BeagleBone Black Cape compatible expansion connectors
  • Other features — 9-axis IMU
    • Barometer and temperature sensors
    • 4x LEDs
    • TPM and secure NOR (currently not supported)
  • Power — 5V input
    • LiPo battery connector
    • Power and reset buttons
    • PMIC (via OSD3358 SiP)
  • Dimensions – 108 x 54 x 32mm
  • Operating system — Debian Linux

The OSD3358-SM-RED platform comes pre-loaded with a Debian Linux distribution complete with driver libraries for the different sensors on the board. All of the design files are freely available and can be used as a known good starting point for new designs. The OSD3358-SM-RED is available from Octavo Systems, Digi-Key, and Mouser for $199. More information may be found on Octavo’s OSD3358-SM-RED product and shopping page.

Top Funding Platforms For Hardware Based Projects

In the last few years, we have seen that the Makers’ Movement is growing quite strong, more makers, innovators, and hardware startups are beginning to come up. We saw back in 2015, the most famous hardware prototyping board “The Arduino” is now assembled in the USA as compared to it being manufactured only in Italy, this not only increases the number of Arduinos but also broadens up the whole hardware ecosystems. Remember Pebble Time? The guys that broke the Kickstarter record, they received $1 million in 49 minutes, breaking a current record, and became the most funded Kickstarter to date, reaching $20.4M dollars all the way to its deadline, from over 78,741 backers.

It’s one thing to have an idea, and it’s another thing to get it to people that need it. One of the challenges of getting a crafted idea to users is “Funds,” you need quite some level of funds to mass produce your product and sell it out to users. While the big corporations have the necessary funding and resources, most hardware projects are developed by individuals or small startups and don’t necessarily have such funds available. Projects that are just starting out sometimes need a financial boost to get things going, and most won’t get backing from a VC or angel investor the first time, but perhaps crowdfunding platforms could help here. Crowdfunding is where you get a lot of people to invest in your idea, rather than finding one person to come up with everything you need.

In this post, I will highlight some of the go-to platforms to get funding for your hardware projects and boards easily. Note – I am not affiliated with any of these platforms (at least for now).

Kickstarter

Kickstarter is the most well-known name in crowdfunding and arguably the most active platform, raising over $2 billion since its launch in 2009. Kickstarter is geared more toward creative projects like a new album or writing a book, as well as products and inventions like a personal single-wheel vehicle or a pocket-sized solar charger.

Kickstarter has been one of the significant go-to platforms for hardware-focused products, and we have seen a lot of projects that came to life as a result of there fully funded campaigns on Kickstarter. Kickstarter favors creative project from wearables, smart glasses, drones to robots have been funded on Kickstarter.

Kickstarter isn’t geared towards individuals that have a product they want to release but startups/companies that can manage the whole product cycle and value chain. So, if you have a working product (an MVP preferable and not just a prototype) Kickstarter might be the platform to get the money rolling.

Here’s another vital caveat with Kickstarter: If you don’t raise 100% of your goal, you get none of that cash. Your project needs to be 100% funded for you to collect that money. If you meet your goal? Kickstarter has a 5% fee, and the payment processor will charge an additional 3-5 percent.

IndieGoGo

IndieGoGo is another familiar crowdfunding platform which shares similar traits with Kickstarter. Even though Indiegogo can be used for all sort of projects from profits to non-profits, you can still fund your focused hardware projects on them, and quite many hardware projects have been funded here.

One major difference between Kickstarter and Indiegogo is the funding flexibility. Kickstarter requires you to reach your target to get the funds but IndieGoGo offers flexible funding, which means you get to keep the funds you raised, even if you didn’t reach your goal, of course, this comes at a price of an increased fee. The fee for either is 5% (fixed and flexible), but if you don’t hit your goal with a flexible funding campaign, you’ll pay a higher fee (which is reportedly 9%). There’s no fee for a fixed funding campaign if you don’t hit your goal. And, of course, there will be additional fees (usually around 3%) from payment processors.

IndieGoGo might be your go-to platform if you aren’t sure of getting the exact money you need and feels any funding will do.

CrowdSupply

CrowdSupply is a crowdfunding platform that has a high preference for hardware projects and boasts “over twice the success rate of Kickstarter and Indiegogo.” On crowd supply, you can create a campaign for any hardware projects, from raw IoT board to a full consumer product. CrowdSupply favors creative projects as well as individuals built projects.

CrowdSupply is my recommended go-to platform for makers, tinkers, and innovators out there with the likelihood of getting your creative project funded very high. Get started with CrowdSupply here.

Tindie

Tindie is a marketplace for makers to fund and sell their hardware creations. It is a DIY Hardware MarketPlace and not a crowdfunding platform, unlike others. Tindie pride itself as a hub where hardware makers can quickly sell their products or prototypes without the overhead required in creating a crowdfunding campaign.

Tindie is excellent if you have a customized hardware creation you want to sell out to the hardware community, it could be a new shield you just built or an addon for the raspberry pi that adds some extra functionality.

Final Words

Going by numbers alone, hardware projects should be a win-win proposition for both entrepreneurs and crowdfunding platforms. Seven of the top ten most-funded projects on Indiegogo are hardware projects. Getting your hardware product to markets is now easier than ever before and now could be the best time to get funded. If you have something nice, chances people will fund you are high if you use one of these platforms.

Broadcom AFBR-S50 ToF laser light sensor measures up to 10 meters

The AFBR – S50 is a multipixel distance and motion measurement sensor. It has an integrated 850nm vertical cavity surface emitting laser (VCSEL) which uses a single voltage supply of 5V. It’s measurement rates are quick and as fast as 3 kHz, which is a distinguishing feature. However, this is not the reason why the AFBR – S50 stands out. It is different because unlike other Time of Flight (ToF) ranging sensors, the AFBR – S50 can measure up to 10 meters whereas similar sensors don’t get close to that.

The AFBR-S50

Furthermore, the sensor works on the principle of Optical Time of FlightTime-of-Flight principle (ToF) is a method for measuring the distance between a sensor and an object, based on the time difference between the emission of a signal and its return to the sensor, after being reflected by an object. If you have used the popular HC-SR05 Ultrasonic sensor, then you have seen this principle in action. The AFBR – S50 can be used both inside and outside to cover wide ranges of ambient light. It supports almost 3000 frames every second with an accuracy of less than one percent on diverse types of surfaces.

ToF Principle

The multi-pixel sensor works with up to 16 illuminated pixels out of 32 and with its best-in-class ambient light suppression of up to 200kLx, to ensure smooth usage outside. It uses SPI Interface to communicate with a host device. AFBR – S50 not only works outside but it is also equally effective on colored, white, black and metallic reflection objects.

Broadcom has released two different versions of the sensor:

  • AFBR-S50MV680B
    • 680nm laser light source.
    • One illuminated pixel
    • FOV (Field Of View) 1.55° x 1.55°
    • Single voltage – 5V supply
  • AFBR-S50MV85G
    • 850nm laser light source
    • 9-16 illuminated pixels
    • FOV 6.2° x 6.2°
    • Single voltage – 5V supply

Below are the General Specifications for the Multipixel sensor:

  • Integrated 850nm laser light source.
  • Between 9-16 illuminated pixels.
  • FOV 6.2°x 6.2° (1.55 x 1.55°/pixel).
  • High-speed measurement rates of up to 3 kHz.
  • Variable distance range up to 10m.
  • Operation up to 200k Lux ambient light.
  • Works well on all surface conditions.
  • SPI digital interface (up to 20 MHz).
  • Single voltage supply 5V.
  • Integrated clock source.
  • Laser Class 1.
  • Accuracy < 1 percent.
  • Drop-in compatible with the AFBR-S50 sensor platform

Applications for the ToF sensor can be found in areas of industrial sensing, gesture sensing, distance measurement, robotics, drones, automation, and control. The AFBR-S50 is available, but the price is currently undisclosed. You can contact Broadcom sales for more information. More details can be found on the product page, and the AFBR-S50 datasheet can be found here.

Hardware Acronyms: SiP, SoC, SoM, CoM, SBC – What Are They?

If you are new into hardware or still familiarizing yourself to the hardware ecosystem, you will realize some common terms often appear which could sometimes sound confusing or something out of rocket science, but it’s not. Here’s a quick look at five common terms used in hardware products or boards and what they denote.

Let’s take a look at them –

System-in-a-Package (SiP)

Cross section of a SiP

A system in package (SiP) contains several ICs (chips) including a microprocessor on a single substrate such as ceramic or laminate. An example SiP can comprise several chips—such as a specialized processor, DRAM, flash memory—combined with passive components—resistors and capacitors—all mounted on the same substrate. This means that a complete functional unit can be built in a multi-chip package so that few external components need to be added to make it work.

SiP dies can be stacked vertically or tiled horizontally, unlike slightly less dense multi-chip modules, which place dies horizontally on a carrier. SiP connects the dies with standard off-chip wire bonds or solder bumps.

The appeal of a SiP is that it can be compact an otherwise complex system into a very simple package, making it easier to integrate into larger systems. It also simplifies PCB layouts.

Unlike a SOC that is based on a single silicon die, SiP can be based on multiple dies in a single package. SiP is believed to provide more interconnection in the future and possibly face out SoCs.

Package-on-a-Package (PoP)

Package on a Package

A Package-on-a-Package stacks single-component packages vertically, connected via ball grid arrays. Packages can be discrete components (memory, CPU, other logic) or a System-in-a-Package stacked with another package for added or expanded functionality.

PoP provides more component density and also simplifies PCB design. It can also improve signal propagation since the interconnects between components is much shorter.

System-on-a-Chip (SoC)

A System-on-a-chip (SoC) is a microchip with all the necessary electronic circuits and parts for a  given system, such as a smartphone or wearable computer, into a single integrated circuit (IC).

An SoC integrates a microcontroller (or microprocessor) with advanced peripherals like graphic processing unit (GPU), Wi-Fi module, or coprocessor.

Think of an SoC as a computer package inside a chip. The SoC integrates all components of a system into one. It may contain digital, analog, mixed-signal, and often radio-frequency functions – all on a single substrate. An SoC can be based around either a microcontroller (includes CPU, RAM, ROM, and other peripherals) or a microprocessor (includes only a CPU). It is also possible for SoCs to be customized for a specific application, including whatever components, memory, or peripherals necessary, ranging from digital/analog signal ICs, FPGAs, and IOs.

One of the major advantages of an SoC is that it is usually cheaper, smaller, easy to scale, and even more energy efficient. It is easier to build around a SoC for a product than to add several components individually. Despite its obvious advantages, SoC still has a significant disadvantage – you are going to be locked into that hardware configuration for life. This could be fine for consumer products, since you don’t expect any hardware upgrade or so but would limit hacking for makers related application.

A good example of an SoC is what we have in the Raspberry Pi; The Raspberry Pi uses a system on a chip as an almost fully-contained microcomputer. SoCs can help engineers speed up a product to market and even the adoption of new protocols, such as those Bluetooth 5 SoCs, that make it easier to integrate Bluetooth 5 into new products.

System on Module (SoM) / Computer on Module (CoM)

Computer on a module

A System on a Module (SoM) and Computer on Module usually refers to the same thing. A Computer-on-a-module is a step above an SoC. It means a computer or system packaged in a single module. CoMs usually provide every piece you need to build a complete system; they incorporate an SoC (most of the time), connectivity, multimedia and display, GPIO, operating system, and others into one single module.

SoM based designs are usually scalable. SoMs/CoMs are usually paired with a carrier board. These carrier boards are usually used to extend out the SoMs functionality or parts. A SoM helps system designers realize a fully customized electronics assembly, complete with custom interfaces and form factor without the effort of a ground-up electronics design. Customers can purchase an off-the-shelf SoM and marry it to an easy to develop custom baseboard to create a solution functionally identical to one that is fully custom-engineered.

CoMs provide a plug-and-play type advantage since a CoM can be replaced or upgraded within a carrier, without having to change the carrier. There are some benefits to the SoM approach vs. ground-up development. These include cost savings, reduced risk, a variety of CPU choices, decreased customer design requirements, and a small footprint.

Unlike an SBC, a computer-on-module is a type of single-board computer made to plug into a carrier board, baseboard, or backplane for system expansion.

Single Board Computers (SBCs)

A Raspberry Pi SBC

single-board computer (SBC) is a complete computer built on a single circuit board, with a microprocessor(s), memory, input/output (I/O) and other features required for a functional computer. Single-board computers were made as demonstration or development systems, for educational systems, or for use as embedded computer controllers.

Single-board computer builds on SoC to provide a full-fledged computer on small circuit board. Examples of popular SBCs are Raspberry Pi boards, Nvidia Jetson, Beaglebone, and several others.

Voxos – A Glass That Allows Listening With Your Bones

In the last few years, we have seen an increasing interest in smart glasses. Some analysts believe that in the next few years, smart glasses will be at the center of consumer and business electronics in the same way that smartphones are today. Companies and Startups like Google, Intel, Vue, Vuzix, and many others have all come up with their smart glass initiative, and even Apple has many smart-glasses patents with possibly over hundreds of engineers working on that field. One of the challenges that come with smart glasses is that they usually don’t always look socially acceptable, and most are always geeky like. Voxos is hoping to change that, by building a smart glass that looks like every-day regular glass.

Voxos Smart Glass

Voxos on the surface looks like your typical eyeglasses, but there is more to it. Voxos is a smart glass that allows to listen to music without actually plugging in an earphone or headset. The smartness in Voxos comes from its built-in bone conduction technologyBone conduction uses the natural vibrations of a person’s bones — such as skull, jaw, and cheekbones — to hear a sound. So, the bone conduction technology works by vibrating sound through your skull opposed to straight into your ear like standard earphones. This means you can hear your environment while listening to Music, Podcasts, Map Navigation, Audio Assistant, Google Maps, Audiobooks, Fitness Apps and more at all times without being disconnected from their surroundings.

Friedrich Nietzsche once said, “Without music, life would be a mistake.” Technological advances in mobile technology and improved data streaming have increased access to on-demand streaming music. The number of paying subscribers has highly increased in the last five years. Music lovers are gearing up for better musical experience going for high-quality headphones, noise-canceling headphones, and earplugs. These accessories are becoming more common while offering an all-encompassing musical experience but this might be coming at an extreme price—and that price just might cost one their life. Studies have shown that a number of accidents involving pedestrians wearing headphones are on the rise. Aside from potential accidents that could be caused by putting on an earphone, another concern is ear-infection causing germs from sharing ear-phones or from not changing the headphone sponges. Voxos, on the other hand, has less of these concerns. Voxos takes bone conduction to the next level and creates the safe and convenient alternative to ear plugin headsets, especially for outdoor activities.

Voxos Smart Glass Parts

Voxos are designed to be worn during extensively long periods, and they can last a whopping 10 hours of active playing. Voxos connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth and works with most apps. Voxos is integrated with a touchpad on the right side and will allow the user to interact with the main function of the phone by just swiping or tapping the glass. It also comes with a USB interface for charging the inbuilt battery and two buttons for parring mode, volume up, and volume down activity.

With it’s generic and sporty look Voxos fits with every outfit and it’s waterproof. The perfect fit makes wearing it not only fashionable but also convenient. Voxos is indeed great for drivers, but it is also perfect for others, such as cyclists, pedestrians and anybody on the road!

Even though the bone conducting technology in Voxos is already existing in some other smart glasses, we expect in the near future that Smart glasses will improve to the point of becoming mainstream in both everyday life and in the enterprise. And the direction for smart glasses is already being set in leading-edge smartphones like Apple’s iPhone X.

Voxos smart glasses are currently not available, but you can sign up on the company’s website to know when it will be available and even get a 40% off your purchase. Voxos is expected to launch an Indiegogo campaign very soon and possibly a Kickstarter one as well.

Introduction to DigiSpark – A Smaller, Cheaper and Powerful Arduino board

The Digispark board is one of the smallest Arduino boards ever produced and is copyrighted by Digistump LLC. Although it is tiny, it is also very powerful and powered by an ATTINY85 chip clocked up to 16.5Mhz (about the same speed as Arduino Uno boards). So Digispark is simply a microcontroller board based on an ATTINY85 MCU that can be programmed using the Arduino IDE. The Digispark is similar to the Arduino line mostly in regarding the programming way, it is cheaper, smaller, and quite powerful.

DigiSpark Development Board
DigiSpark Board

Just as most Arduino boards come with a USB port for programming and sometimes as source of power, Digispark comes with an onboard USB connector that can be plugged directly into a computer for programming of the device. The board can be powered via the USB port which will feed 5V to the board or from an external source via its VIN pin that can accept ~7 to 35V which will be regulated down to 5V through an onboard 78M05 voltage regulator.

Digispark is measured at 25mm by 18mm and comes with 6 GPIO pins for input and output. Three of those pins are capable of PWM and 4 of them capable of ADC. It also comes with 2 LED indicators, 1 for indicating power while the other is connected to either pin 0 or pin 1 depending on the type of board purchased. It comes with 8k Flash Memory and about 6k left after the addition of the bootloader, this is relatively small as compared to the 32K on the Arduino UNO but it’s fine for small to medium-sized projects.

DigiSpark PinOuts

One of the great advantages of using the Arduino boards and platform is the ability to use the inbuilt Serial to print out messages to the Arduino Serial monitor, a tool that is very handy for debugging. Unfortunately, the ATTINY85 which is found on the DigiSpark board cannot support the Serial library used in Arduino, but can technically support SoftwareSerial using some hack around. Anyway, engineers at Digispark devised another user interface option which aids as a serial monitor.

Getting Started With DigiSpark

The Digispark runs the “micronucleus tiny85” bootloader version 1.02, an open source project. Of course, you don’t need to worry about burning the bootloader since the Digispark already comes with the bootloader pre-installed, but you will have to burn the bootloader yourself if you want to build your own Attiny85 digispark clone.

Furthermore, DigiSpark uses USB to communicate with the computer, so you should install the DigiSpark USB driver. To do this, you must download Arduino for Digispark which come with USB driver and extract the file (DigisparkArduino-Win32-1.0.4-March29.zip) to any folder, then execute DigisparkArduino– Win32\DigisparkWindowsDriver\InstallDriver.exe to start installing the USB driver.

Digispark is highly recommended to be used with the Arduino IDE 1.6.5+ and the Arduino 1.6.6 or 1.6.7 are not recommended. Make sure you have the Arduino IDE already installed. If you don’t have it already you can download it from the Arduino Website.

To start programming and working with Digispark, watch the full video below. If you are stuck or need some help, you can visit the tutorial page from Digispark here.

Digispark is a great way to jump into electronics, or perfect for when an Arduino is too big or too much. DigiSpark is available for purchase on the DigiStump website at a price of $7.95 and currently sold out and restocking will begin from May 2018. If you are like me that don’t like waiting that long, you can get a DigiSpark board for a relatively lesser price than the $7.95 from Aliexpress at about $1.7 or can be purchased on eBay as well.

Artila M-X6ULL is a Linux-ready Cortex-A7 SoM with a Real Time patch

Artila Electronics, a professional in development and manufacture of ARM-based embedded Linux systems, has released a SODIMM module M-X6ULL based on NXP i.MX6ULL processor family. The new M-X6ULL is designed to meet the needs of many general embedded applications that require power efficient, high performance and cost optimized solution, as well as embedded systems that require high-end multimedia applications in a small form factor.

Artila’s “M-X6ULL
Artila’s M-X6ULL

The i.MX 6ULL is a power efficient and cost-optimized processor family featuring an advanced implementation of a single Arm® Cortex®-A7 core, that can operate at speeds up to 900 MHz. The i.MX 6ULL application processor includes an integrated power management module that reduces the complexity of an external power supply and simplifies power sequencing. Each processor in this family provides various memory interfaces, including 16-bit LPDDR2, DDR3, DDR3L, raw and managed NAND flash, NOR flash, eMMC, Quad SPI and a wide range of other interfaces for connecting peripherals such as WLAN, Bluetooth®, GPS, displays and camera sensors.

The Artila NXP i.MX 6ULL is clocked up to 800MHz and is Linux ready. The module is notable for offering Linux 4.14 with the PREEMPT_RT real-time patch which could make the module find applications in areas that needs real-time interaction. The SODIMM styled ultra-compact module measures only 68 x 42mm. The module provides support for interfaces like CAN, UART, USB, SD, LCD, GPIO, SD, Ethernet, and some others which are accessible through the module’s 200-pin expansion connector. The module ships with 512MB of DDR4 RAM, a 4GB onboard eMMC, and a 16MB NOR flash. It provides one 24bits digital parallel display interface that supports max 85MHz display clock and up to WXGA (1366 x 768) at 60Hz, a touch controller that can support 4-wire and 5-wire resistive touch panel. The module is 5V rated and consumes about 0.75 Watts.

Artila provides software packages such as PHP, Python, Perl, Node.js, and Node-RED which are available for free and the Linux BSP includes GCC 6.2.x + glibc 2.24, U-Boot, X11 GUI engine, and more. These software packages can be updated through the Artila repository by issuing the standard Linux apt-get command. The module can be booted either from the onboard eMMC or an external SD card.

Just like every other SoM board maker, Artila is providing an optional M-X6ULL starter kit to go with the module. The starter kit expands out the module microSD slot, dual Fast Ethernet ports, a USB2.0 host port, and micro-USB ports. The kit is further equipped with a 24-bit LVDS interface with resistive touch support and an audio output jack.

The specification for the starter kit is shown below:

i-MX6ULL Starter Kit Specification

The major target applications of this module are Industrial HMI & Access Control, IOT gateway, Industrial control & automation and Test and measurement. Attila’s M-X6ULL SoM is available for order but the price is not disclosed yet.