ESP32-LyraT – An Open Source Development Board For Smart Audio Applications

Espressif systems has been working on different audio applications including smart speakers. Despite the fact that they have been developing their audio applications, as of February 2018, none of ESP32 software development kits was easily accessible and the hardware kits were not able to take on any new tasks. So, there were no chances to improve or implement new things using the hardware kits. Therefore, it was not surprising when the company released ESP32-LyraT.

ESP32-LyraT

ESP32-LyraT is an open-source development board, supporting Espressif Systems’ ADF (ESP-ADF Audio Development Framework), one-key Wi-Fi configuration, a wake-up button, voice wake-up, voice recognition, cloud platform access, and an audio player.

The goal was to improve the audio applications of the kits being produced, and this was achieved through ESP32-LyraT, the only board released by Espressif Systems with adequate documentationESP32-LyraT has different voice commands and interactive voice functions; it allows the fast development of applications relating to consumer electronics, wearables, smart speakers, smart home applications and automation. The board facilitates the quick and easy development of dual-mode (Bluetooth + Wi-Fi) audio solutions.

The block diagram below presents main components of the ESP32-LyraT and interconnections between components.

Esp32-LyraT Block Diagram

Features of ESP32-LyraT include UART, USB Power Port, a battery charger chip, an audio codec chip; a sound card which is built in the motherboard for providing sound output. There is also a PA chip, a JTAG header, and UART header. Other parts include the two keys which are the function keys and the boot keys. ESP32-LyraT has a micro SD slot available, a green and a red LED and an ESP32 WROVER Module.

Below are some of the device specifications:

  • Wireless module – ESP32-WROVER module with WiFi and Bluetooth LE
  • Audio –
    • Many audio inputs – Wi-Fi, BT-audio, DLNA, 3.5mm audio Line-in
    • 3.5mm headphone jack
    • 2x microphones
    • Speaker connectors
  • Storage – micro SD slot
  • Debugging – JTGA header, USB UART
  • Misc  – Touch sense buttons, function/boot/reset keys,  DIP switch for configuration
  • Power – 5V via micro USB port; battery header + charger chip

Some Key Featuers

  • SoftAP and Station mode.
  • Various mainstream, both lossy and lossless, compressed audio formats, including M4A, AAC, FLAC, OGG, OPUS, MP3, etc.
  • Two microphones for the development of near-field and far-field voice recognition applications.
  • BLE network configuration, and smart network configuration with apps, such as WeChat.

The ESP32-LyraT board is available for purchase and is being sold for just 22 Euros on Olimex. More information about the product can be found here, and the ESP32-LyraT User Guide is available for download here.

CrowPi- A Raspberry Pi Kit to Learn Computer Science, Programming, and Electronics

CrowPi Kit for learning programming

Ever since the first Raspberry Pi was released back in 2012, millions of them have been sold worldwide and have revolutionized the learning industry especially in STEM Education. The Raspberry Pi has not only been used in the classroom but deployed into commercial applications as well.It has seen countless applications, and several projects have been built around it. The Raspberry is a single board computer but can be used for more than your general computer stuff. Just like the popular open-source hardware Arduino, the Raspberry Pi can be used for hardware prototyping. For that reason, the team at Elecrow is launching a new raspberry kit called CrowPi that will help learners, makers, enthusiast learn and apply the Raspberry in an entirely new way.

CrowPi is the brainchild of Elecrow Engineers, a company devoted to the open source hardware industry with the hope of making something that can help instantly solve computer science, programming, and electronics challenges more easily.

CrowPi Development Board

CrowPi is a development kit for learning basic computer science, practice computer programming and complete numerous electronic projects. CrowPi is designed for people that don’t want to do just basic things with the Raspberry Pi but do more. It is intended for people that are interested in electronics, the ones passionate about STEM education, or the ones that one to explore the dark web of the electronics world.

Unlike most development kit out there, the CrowPi is equipped with a 7-segment display which will give you the ability to keep learning, hacking, be building, and experiment anywhere you are. The CrowPi is an all in one kit that embeds everything you will need for doing most Raspberry Pi projects. It is convenient to carry the CrowPi around because of the nice case and compact layout.

The CrowPi is specially designed to help users develop their python programming skills. The kit provides printed user manual and step by step digital tutorial as shown below:

CrowPi Manual Snippet

The kit is compatible with the Raspberry Pi 2/3 and Raspberry Pi Zero, and includes LED indicators to show status of GPIOs and even comes with add-on camera (only available in the Advanced Kit version).

CrowPi comes in 4 kit variations; The CrowPi Basic Kit which comes without a Raspberry Pi and is available for $149, The CrowPi Intermediate Kit with a RPI Zero and is available for $179, The CrowPi Intermediate Kit with RPI 3B+ and is available for $209, and lastly the CrowPi Advanced Kit with RPI 3B+ and is available for $249. These kits are currently available for pre-order on their kickstart campaign at discounted prices and shipping is expected by July 2018.

UP Core – Onboard WiFi, Bluetooth, and Storage Strengthen the World’s Smallest Maker Board

(Taipei, Taiwan – May 15, 2018) – AAEON, a major developer of industrial embedded controllers and IoT solutions, announces the launch of the UP Core, the world’s smallest maker board. The 56.5mm x 66mm board draws on the breakthroughs made by AAEON’s UP and UP2 boards and delivers a combination of high-performance and low-power-consumption specifications that can’t be matched by other maker boards currently on the market.

The UP Core is a complete system and features onboard WiFi and Bluetooth. Powered by an Intel® Atom™ x5 Z8350 processor (codenamed Cherry Trail), the board offers up to 4GB DDR3L memory and up to 64GB eMMC storage, and its Intel Gen 8 HD 400 GPU enables 3D graphics. With a pair of MIPI camera connectors, the board is an excellent fit for facial recognition applications, and it also provides a powerful solution for any IoT system.

The UP Core houses a USB3.0 port, additional USB2.0 pin headers, and HDMI and eDP ports. Expansion is easily achieved through a 100 pin docking connector, and AAEON can help customers develop and manufacture custom carrier boards. The UP Core supports Android 6.0, Windows 10, Windows IoT Core, Linux, Ubuntu, and Yocto, and with an operating temperature range of 0 to 60oC, it can be deployed in a variety of locations.

“UP Core is pushing back the boundaries of what can be achieved with a maker board,” said Irene Lin, AAEON design manufacturing service product manager. “The board is setting new standards and opening up a new range of options for application developers.”

CM3-PANEL – A Panel PC based on the Raspberry Compute Module 3

Early last year, the Raspberry Pi Foundation launched the Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3, a board designed to provide firms with low-cost computer hardware to build into products. The Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3 (CM3) packs the same 1.2GHz, quad-core Broadcom BCM2837 processor and 1GB memory used on the Pi 3 onto a slimmer and smaller board. The CM3’s compact design, the same size as a DDR2 small outline dual in-line memory module, is suited to be built into electronic appliances. The Compute Module already sees some adoption in commercial applications and Acme Systems is an organization building on it with their latest release of the CM3-PANEL.

Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3 Device
Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3

The latest product to leverage Raspberry Pi CM3L SoM is made by Italy based company Acme Systems, and designed for Panel PCs and tablets. Acme Systems isn’t new to developing products based on the Raspberry Pi; they launched the Acme CM3-Home last year, a Raspberry Pi 3 Compatible Board designed for Home Automation.

CM3-Panel
CM3-Panel is a 7-inch thin touch-panel PC based on Raspberry Pi 3 industrial module deemed to be integrated on the front panel of your devices. The device comes with a socket for attaching the Raspberry Compute Module 3 and featuers a MIPI connector for the Raspberry Pi Camera. It extends out 24 GPIO lines from the Raspberry Pi where some are used for; Lcd backlight control (1 GPIO), Camera led and camera shutdown control (2 GPIO), SPI bus (5 GPIO), Hardware PWM lines (2 GPIO), Serial line (2 GPIO), PCM line (4 GPIO), and I2C bus (2 GPIO). The CM3-Panel can operate in temperature range of -20°C to +70° C and is less than 22mm thick.
The device comes in four different models, including two with modules that support Acme’s open source 868MHz Yarm RF radio module spec:
  • CM3-Panel-U — USB 2.0 port — 95 Euros ($113)
    • No WiFi module
    • USB Host port
    • No Yarm radio module
  • CM3-Panel-W — 2.4GHz WiFi — 99 Euros ($118)
    • WiFi @ 2.4GHz
    • No USB Port
    • No Yarm radio module
  • CM3-Panel-UY — USB and 868MHz Yarm ISM — 115 Euros ($137)
  • CM3-Panel-WY — 2.4GHz WiFi and 868MHz Yarm ISM– 119 Euros ($142)

Yarm is a smart and cost-effective solution for system integrators to build their own RF applications at 868 MHz avoiding all the hardware design costs requested to start a new custom RF project. Yarm integrates a low power MCU (35 µA/MHz in active mode and 200nA in sleep mode) and a high sensitivity transceiver.

The 868MHz Yarm module is compatible with Acme’s ISM 868MHz Energy Harvesting radio nodes. The module is equipped with a Cortex-M0+ based, 22 x 14mm Microchip ATA8510 ISM transceiver. The CM3-Panel has a separate array of Yarm GPIO in addition to the main Raspberry Pi GPIO. The optional RaLink RT5370N 2.4GHz WiFi module is based on USB 2.0 and is fully supported by the latest Kernel Linux versions.

CM3-Panel appears to be an open source product because ACME systems have published it’s schematic, mechanical drawing, and a 3D stem model for 3D printing. The product is available for purchase and can be bought online from the product page.

Materials that will bring better Aluminium batteries

Giant Strides have been moving towards research and production of aluminum batteries. Different teams are working hard to ensure the production of sustainable Aluminium batteries. Recently, Standford University scientists released the first high-performance aluminum battery that can last for a long period, charges very fast and is not expensive. The battery makes use of graphite electrodes. However, life is dynamic, and a team of Switzerland scientists who work at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich has identified two major materials that can be used in Aluminium ion batteries. The first is Titanium Nitride also know as Tinite, corrosion-resistant material and the second is an electrically conducting polymer called polyprene.

TITANIUM NITRIDE

Tinite (TiN) is a tough ceramic material used for coating substances like Titanium alloys, Steel, Carbide, and Aluminium to improve their surface properties. It also has high corrosive resistance. Titanium Nitride is needed in the production of Aluminium batteries because the electrolyte needs to make an aluminum battery is exceptionally corrosive, it is dangerous to steel and other materials that can be found in the battery. Since Titanium Nitride can coat aluminum components, it was tested alongside other materials and was discovered to be the only material with the capability to survive prolonged contact with the electrolyte.

Another advantage of Titanium Nitride is that it can be produced anytime without glitches or complaints about lack of materials for production as the elements; Titanium and Nitrogen which are needed to produce it are easily accessible.

POLYPRENE

Another aspect the team took into consideration during their research was energy storage. They knew safety they should be their number one priority and they dealt with that by coating the super corrosive electrolyte with Titanium Nitride. However, the team knew that people not only wanted but also needed long-lasting batteries, so they decided to search for new electrodes. The result of their research was polyprene; an electrically conducting polymer formed from pyrene.

Polyprene can be used to replace graphite as the positive electrode because it has higher energy storage capabilities. Also, the space in polyprene’s molecular chains allows the large ions of the electrolyte to pass through the electrode material easily. Another feature of polyprene that places it above graphite is the ability to control the material’s porosity which can be optimized for specific applications.

Titanium Nitride and Polyprene will increase the production of low cost but high-performance batteries and also ensure the creation of better aluminum batteries.

Newport GW6400/GW6404 SBC features 4x Mini-PCIe Sockets, 5x GbE and USB 3.0

Gateworks is proud to announce the release of the Newport GW6400 single board computer, featuring the Cavium Octeon TX® Dual/Quad Core ARM processor running up to 1.5GHz. The GW6400 is the latest Newport family member with an extensive list of features, including five Gigabit Ethernet ports and two SFP fiber ports.

The GW6400/04 are members of the Gateworks 6th generation Newport family of single board computers targeted for a wide range of indoor and outdoor networking applications. The single board computers feature the Cavium OcteonTX™ ARMv8 SoC processor, five Gigabit Ethernet ports, and four Mini-PCIe expansion sockets for supporting 802.11abgn/ac wireless radios, LTE/4G/3G CDMA/GSM cellular modems, mSATA drives and other PCI Express peripherals. A wide-range DC input power supply provides up to 15W to the Mini-PCIe sockets for supporting the latest high-power radios and up to 10W to the USB 2.0/3.0 ports for powering external devices. Power is applied through a barrel jack or an Ethernet port with either 802.3at or Passive Power over Ethernet.

GW6400 Highlights:

  • Cavium OcteonTX ARMv8 64-bit
  • Dual/Quad CPU up to 1.5GHz
  • DDR4 DRAM up to 4GB
  • eMMC Flash up to 64GB
  • 5x GbE Ethernet Ports (optional SFP fiber ports available)
  • 4x Mini-PCIe Sites
  • 2x USB 3.0
  • PCIe 3.0
  • Optional Maxim DS28C22 Secure Authentication and Encryption
  • Optional Ublox ZOE-MQ8 GNSS GPS Receiver with PPS
  • Optional Microchip MCP25625 2.0B CAN Bus Controller

The GW6400 comes in two standard stocking models, the Dual Core GW6400 and the fully loaded Quad Core GW6404.

WellPCB – A Low Cost PCB Prototyping and PCB Assembly Service

The dream of every maker and innovator out there is to make a product that will be usable by potential users. For hardware-based products and devices, the first step in achieving this is to develop a prototype and then move from there. The prototype will involve making a circuit diagram on a breadboard and then commence to make a PCB (Printed Circuit Board) for the circuit under construction. After checking the PCB quality, PCB Assembly can begin for large-scale manufacturing.

Many makers and engineers want to fabricate PCBs for a custom, prototype, or one of a kind project, but they often can not afford to have them manufactured in volume. WellPCB is a company that offers very “affordable” Printed Circuit Board Fabrication and PCB Assembly Turnkey Services. WellPCB not only offer PCB manufacturing in large scale, but they also offer PCB prototyping starting from $3.99 for a 1 – 2 layers board, unlike most PCB makers that have pricing starting at $5 and above. (more…)

BeagleWire is an Open Source FPGA Board With BeagleBone Compatibility

Beaglebone boards are low power open source single board computers created to teach open source hardware and software to makers. However, BeagleWire is a development platform designed for use with Beaglebone board. BeagleWire is a Beaglebone compatible shield based on the Lattice iCE40HX FPGA and is also an open source FPGA development board, a rare feature for FPGA boards. The BeagleWire’s hardware, software, and FPGA toolchain are completely open source.

 

At the heart of BeagleWire is the Lattice Semiconductor Lattice iCE40Hx FPGA which affords individuals the opportunity to make changes and reprogram. BeagleWire does not require external tools (JTAG), and the whole software stack is Open Source. BeagleWire can be easily expanded by adding external modules such as, modules for high-speed data acquisition, software-defined radio, or advanced control applications. Using common connectors like Pmod and Grove makes it possible to connect various interesting external modules which are widely available in stores. This makes prototyping new imaginative digital designs easier.

Lattice iCEv40Hx is from the Lattice iCE40 family. The latter is simply a family of FPGAs which have a regular structure, and are created to support cheap, high volume system and consumer applications. iCE40 is an energy saving device that enables work with small batteries.

BeagleWire has special features and advantages which are FPGA: Lattice iCE40HX4K – TQFP 144 Package, GPMC port access from the BeagleBone, SPI programming port from the BeagleBone, does not require external tools (JTAG), minimalistic architecture and very regular structure, has an energy saving device which allows it to work with small batteries, it is cheap and easy to use for application development, fully open-source toolchain and many more.

BeagleWire software support is still developing. Some of the useful examples and ready to use answers can be found there. For communication between FPGA and ARM, GPMC can be used. Programming is done by SPI interface. BeagleWire uses second BeagleBone SPI port. SPI frequency should be between 1Mhz and 25Mhz. Also, BeagleWire software repository contains a simple SDRAM controller written in Verilog which supports communication between SDRAM and iCE40.

The following are the specifications of BeagleWire:

  • FPGA: Lattice iCE40HX4K – TQFP 144 Package
  • Memory:
    • 32 MB SDRAM
    • 4 MB SPI Flash for FPGA self-configuration
  • Clock: 100 MHz onboard external clock
  • Extensibility:
    • 4 x Pmod connector
    • 4 x Grove connector
    • GPIO
  • User Interfaces:
    • 4 x LED
    • 2 x push button(with hardware noise debouncing)
    • 2 x DIP switch
  • Compatibility: access via GPMC port and SPI
    • BeagleBone Black
    • BeagleBone Black Wireless
    • element14 BeagleBone Black Industrial
  • Operating Voltage: 3.3 V
  • Input Voltage: 5 V from BeagleBone
  • Fully Open Source:
  • Dimensions: 90 mm x 68 mm x 18 mm
  • Weight: 42.5 g

The BeagleWire puts up a strong comparison with similar FPGA-like boards.

Comparison

Communication between BeagleWire and BeagleBone Black is over the GPMC port. This is a simple and efficient solution. The GPMC port has 16 lines width, and its maximum clock frequency is 100 Mhz. BeagleWire is going to be compatible with BeagleBone Black, BeagleBone Black Wireless, SeeedStudio BeagleBone Green, SeeedStudio BeagleBone Green Wireless, SanCloud BeagleBone Enhanced, and element14 BeagleBone Black Industrial.

BeagleWire is available for pre-order now and is expected to ship by May 31, 2018. BeagleWire goes for $85 for pre-order, and the BeagleWire Deluxe Kit is also available for pre-order for $160 all on CrowdSupply

IR Remote Wand based on ATtiny85

David Johnson-Davies published another great project. It’s an IR remote that supports the most popular control protocols.

The IR Remote Wand is a universal remote control that you can program with up to five codes to control a variety of different products:

It supports some of the most popular IR remote control protocols: Philips RC-5, NEC, Samsung, and Sony. It’s based on an ATtiny85, and the circuit goes to sleep when you’re not using it, to avoid the need for an on-off switch and to prolong the battery life. You can use my earlier IR Remote Control Detective [Updated] to discover the codes for the functions you want to support.

IR Remote Wand based on ATtiny85 – [Link]

LoRa module in DIL form

Mare writes:

Murata produces LoRa module CMWX1ZZABZ-xxx based on SX1276 transceiver and STM32L072CZ microcontroller. The soldering of the LGA module is not very hobby-friendly. I constructed small breakout PCB for this module with additional buck/boost switcher and place for SMA connector. The transceiver features the LoRa®long-range modem, providing ultra-long-range spread spectrum communication and high interference immunity, minimizing current consumption. Since CMWX1ZZABZ-091 is an “open” module, it is possible to access all STM32L072 peripherals such as ADC, 16-bit timer, LP-UART, I2C, SPI and USB 2.0 FS (supporting BCD and LPM), which are not used internally by SX1276.

LoRa module in DIL form – [Link]