Firefly’s Latest Core-PX3-SEJ COM Runs Ubuntu or Android

Firefly has launched a new SODIMM-style, 67.6 x 40mm Core-PX3-SEJ module that runs Android 5.1 or Ubuntu 15.04 on a Rockchip PX3-SE. It’s a new 1.3GHz, quad-core, Cortex-A7 SoC. The 40 USD module is available in a 1GB RAM/8GB eMMC configuration on a $120, 117 x 85mm Firefly-PX3-SE development board. Other memory configurations may also be available soon.

Firefly Core-PX3-SEJ module
Firefly Core-PX3-SEJ module

The PX3-SE SoC gives the module a sandwich-style dev board and increases the operating temperature to -20 to 80 range. The Core-PX3-SEJ module is praised for its anti-corrosion gold finger expansion connector, and the dev board for its “double stud fixed” design.

Rockchip’s PX3-SE SoC was announced in May 2017. The main target of this SoC is Linux and Android-driven “mobile vehicle interconnect solutions.” The quad-A7 SoC implements a Mali-400 GPU and supports HD video.

The Firefly-PX3-SE board’s 2.4GHz WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0 are supplied separately from the compact Core-PX3-SEJ COM. Despite the lack of 4K support, there are a numerous media interfaces, including a variety of audio features. There are HDMI, CVBS, MIPI-DSI or LVDS, and a DVP camera interface. Analog, SPDIF, and I2S audio connections are available along with an onboard mic and a “phone” I/O port.

The Firefly-PX3-SE board is further provided with a GbE port, 4x USB 2.0 host ports, a micro-USB OTG port, and an 84-pin expansion header. RTC, debug, and IR are also onboard.

Specifications summary for the Firefly-PX3-SE development board with Core-PX3-SEJ module:

  • Processor : Rockchip PX3-SE (4x Cortex-A7 cores @ 1.3GHz); Mali-400 MP2 GPU
  • Memory:
    • 256MB, 512MB, 1GB, or 2GB DDR3 RAM (via Core-PX3-SEJ)
    • 4GB to 64GB eMMC flash (via Core-PX3-SEJ) with 4GB and 8GB default SKUs
    • MicroSD slot
  • Wireless:
    • 2.4GHz 802.11b/g/n with antenna
    • Bluetooth 4.0 with BLE
  • Networking: Gigabit Ethernet port (Realtek RTL8211E)
  • Display & media:
    • HDMI port with audio
    • MIPI-DSI or LVDS LCD interface
    • CVBS with video and audio
    • DVP camera interface for up to 5MP
    • 3.5mm analog audio input jack
    • SPDIF optical output
    • Microphone input
    • I2S audio I/O
    • A phone I/O interface
  • Other I/O:
    • 4x USB 2.0 host ports
    • Micro-USB 2.0 with OTG
    • Serial console debug
    • 84-pin expansion header (MIPI, LVDS, PWM, SPI, UART, ADC, I2C, I2S, GPIO)
  • Other features: RTC with battery; IR receiver; power, reset, recover buttons; acrylic rack kit
  • Power: 5V, 2A (via DC jack); PMU (via Core-PX3-SEJ)
  • Dimensions: 117 x 85mm (with 67.6 x 40mm integrated COM)
  • OS Support: Android 5.1; Ubuntu 15.04; includes Linux Buildroot/Qt

The Core-PX3-SEJ module and Firefly-PX3-SE development board are available for $80 and $140 (including module), respectively, plus shipping. More information may be found at Firefly’s Core-PX3-SEJ and Firefly-PX3-SE shopping pages.

PIC18 Q10 Product Family – PIC® MCUs for Closed-loop Control

Real-time control systems usually are closed-loop control systems where one has a tight time window to gather data, process that data, and update the system. If the time window is missed, then the stability of the system is degraded. This reduced control can be catastrophic to some applications, such as power conversion and advanced motor control. Many semiconductor companies are claiming their MCUs can support real-time control applications, but they don’t usually offer an accurate real-time control system. Microchip has unveiled a new PIC18 Q10 family featuring multiple intelligent Core Independent Peripherals (CIPs) that help designers to simplify development and enable quick response time to system events.

Microchip which in 2016 acquired Atmel, the company famously known for the Atmega 328P, the microcontroller behind the Arduino Uno has launched a set of microcontrollers that are tailored for real-time control system called the PIC18 Q10 Family of Microcontrollers. The new family is designed for a robust system with intelligent analog, configurable peripherals and operates at 5V, making it ideal for noise prone applications because 5V offers more noise immunity as compared to 3.3V MCUs.

The PIC18 Q10 family of MCUs features CIP (Core Independent Peripherals) that provide the ability to accomplish tasks in hardware while freeing up the Central Processing Unit (CPU) to do other tasks or go to sleep to save power. The hardware-based peripherals offload timing-critical and core-intensive functions from the CPU, allowing it to focus on more complex functions within the system. This decreases system complexity by eliminating additional code and external components, reduces power consumption, allowing for deterministic response time as well as decreased validation time.

The family is made up of about seven different MCUs all coming in different package type from DIP to a QFN, making it ideal for space-constrained closed-loop control system while still applicable for hobbyist and enthusiast by leveraging on the DIP package version. The products offer Intelligent Analog peripherals including Zero Cross Detect (ZCD), on-chip comparators and a 10-bit ADC with Computation (ADC2) automating Capacitive Voltage Divider (CVD) techniques for advanced touch sensing, averaging, filtering, oversampling and automatic threshold comparison.

These are some of the PIC18 Q10 Key attributes to take note off:

  • 64 MHz internal oscillator
  • Up to 128 KB Flash program memory
  • Up to 1 KB data EEPROM
  • Up to 3615 B data SRAM
  • 10-bit ADC2 (ADC with Computation), up to 35 channels
  • Four 16-bit timers
  • Complementary Waveform Generator (CWG)
  • Two comparators
  • Zero Cross Detect (ZCD)
  • Windowed Watch Dog Timer (WWDT)
  • Peripheral Pin Select (PPS)
  • Data Signal Modulator (DSM)
  • Up to 8 Configurable Logic Cells (CLC)
  • 5-bit DAC
  • EUSART, SPI, and I2C
  • Available in 28-, 40- and 44-pins

The PIC18 Q10 family can be used with the curiosity development boards which are cost-effective MCU development platforms and can be used to accelerate the development of the MCUs family. The family is also supported by MPLAB® Code Configurator (MCC), a free software plug-in that provides a graphical interface to configure peripherals and functions specific to your application.

Based on its overwhelming featuers, the PIC18 Q10 family is suited for a broad range of applications including industrial control, consumer, automotive, touch sensing, advanced motor control, and the Internet of Things (IoT). More information about the product family can be found on the product page.

Humidity Sensor for Battery-Driven Applications

Sensirion, the expert in environmental sensing, presents the new ultra-low power humidity sensor SHTC3 for mobile and battery-driven applications. The SHTC3 is a digital humidity and temperature sensor optimized for battery-driven applications and high-volume consumer electronics. The sensor has been designed to overcome conventional limits in size and power consumption in order to fulfill current and future requirements, and offers an unmatched performance-price ratio. The SHTC3 improves the performance and flexibility of the SHTC1, while maintaining its proven reliability.

Sensirion’s CMOSens® Technology offers a complete sensor system on a single chip, consisting of a capacitive humidity sensor, a bandgap temperature sensor, analog and digital signal processing, A/D converter, calibration data memory, and a digital communication interface supporting I2C fast mode. The small 2 x 2 x 0.75 mm3 DFN package enables applications in even the most limited space. The sensor covers a humidity measurement range of 0 to 100% RH and a temperature measurement range of -40°C to 125°C with a typical accuracy of ±2% RH and ±0.2°C. The broad supply voltage of 1.62 V to 3.6 V and an energy budget below 1 μJ per measurement make the SHTC3 perfectly suited to mobile or wireless applications powered by battery.

With the industry-proven quality and reliability of Sensirion’s humidity and temperature sensors providing constant accuracy over a large measurement range, the SHTC3 offers the best performance-price ratio. Tape and reel packaging combined with suitability for standard SMD assembly processes make the SHTC3 ideal for high-volume applications.

Bode Analyzer using STM32F407 Discovery board

Debraj shares his project details of a Bode Analyzer using STM32F407. He writes:

Frequency domain analysis is very important to know more about any system/ circuit or transfer function that we deal with. And the first thought comes to our mind about frequency domain analysis is “Bode plot“. Bode plot is a combination plot of magnitude and phase difference of output vs. input of a cosine wave of single frequency, when it is applied to a circuit.

Each of these cosine wave (signal) are applied once at a time and the frequency (in Hz or rad/sec) is increased in linear order (called chirp). All the while the amplitude of sine wave is kept constant (at say 1V_peak). While the frequency can be increased in small steps (1Hz/ sec), the time required to complete the entire frequency range can be quite big. Hence, it is preferred to choose 20 frequencies/ decade. For example, I had chosen 05Hz, 1Hz, 1.5Hz, 2Hz, 2.5Hz… 10Hz.

Bode Analyzer using STM32F407 Discovery board – [Link]

ESP32- Now With Long Range Wi-Fi

Nowadays, Wi-Fi is a word we hear often, and it is a technology that we use all the time. There are around 279 million Wi-Fi hotspots in the world, and in 2021 that number is expected to increase to 542 million hotspots. The wireless nature of this technology allows users to access a network from any convenient location. Wi-Fi chipsets are pieces of hardware designed for wireless communication and they are cheap, and readily available, but the range don’t match the expectations, and configuring its coverage is no easy task.

Support for the 802.11 LR mode in the ESP-IDF was added at the end of 2016. The 802.11 LR mode can achieve a 1 km line of sight range if both the station and the Soft-AP are connected to an ESP32 device.

ESP32 is a low cost, low power system on a chip (SoC) with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities. It was created for mobile devices, wearables electronics, and for Internet of Things applications. The devices have low power consumption. The EPS32 uses Tensilica Xtensa LX6 microprocessor and it was created by Espressif systems.

The mode was included quietly, so there has not been much talk about it, but some people noticed the inclusion, and have been testing the long-range mode in the field. Enabling the mode requires only a function call, making it easy to use. The long-range mode comes with a cost which is the data rate which is significantly reduced. In addition, a lot more can be done if the common router antenna is replaced by directional antenna.

This device has already been tested by some users for drones and long-distance applications, but there is no formal data about the device’s performance, problems, and even the applications are not clear enough. The recent increase in popularity could lead to conclusive data which could make the mode more reliable.

The applications for this includes remote drone video, telemetry (collecting data at remote or inaccessible points and transmitting it for monitoring), wardriving (finding Wi-Fi hotspots from a moving vehicle) etc. There are many possibilities, but we must give makers time to figure this new mode on their own, and to test its capabilities.


ESP8266 (ESP-03) Based Ultra Low Power Weather Logger

Yet another ESP8266 (ESP-03) based ultra low power weather logger with 4 sensors.


  • Working with two AA battery
  • Ultra low power consumption
  • 4 sensors and 6 measurements:
  • HDC1080 – Temperature & Humidity
  • LPS25HB – Pressure
  • VEML6070 – Ultraviolet Index
  • TSL2561 – Ambient & Infrared
  • Built-in 3.3v Boost Converter
  • TPL5111 System Timer (20 mins update interval, can be customized via resistors)
  • Battery voltage monitor
  • UART port for programming & debugging

ESP8266 (ESP-03) Based Ultra Low Power Weather Logger – [Link]

Step-down micro DC/DC converters have integrated coil

Step-down micro DC/DC converters make up the XCL225/XCL226 series from Torex Semiconductor.

The 18V coil-integrated converters contribute to space-saving on the board and a shorter development time because a circuit can be configured by simply adding two external ceramic capacitors, explains Torex. An internal coil lowers EMI and also simplifies the board layout and makes it possible to minimise radiation noise and circuit operation issues.

The package is a small DFN3030-10B, measuring 3.0 x 3.0 x 1.7mm. The maximum input voltage of 18V allows the XCL225/XCL226 to be used for a range of industrial equipment and IoT devices, including refrigerators and air conditioners. Other target applications are electronic devices, point of sale terminals, industrial equipment, and IoT devices that use two or three lithium-ion batteries or four or more dry-cell batteries.

The operating voltage range is 3.0 to 18V, and the maximum output current is 0.5A. The switching frequency is 1.2MHz. The XCL225 uses PWM control to provide minimum output ripple voltage by fixing the operating frequency. The XCL226 uses PWM/PFM auto switching control to lower the operating frequency at light loads which reduces power dissipation and realises high efficiency from light loads to heavy loads. The output voltage can be set within a range of one to 15V using external resistors, adds Torex.

Redefining Signal Processing with Air-T

Artificial intelligence (AI) is an area of computer science that works towards creating machines that could make decisions, react, and interact just like a human would. To be considered AI a computer must be capable of recognizing speech, learn, plan, and solve problems. To do all this a computer must have a way to perceive the world and even interact with it (move). This type of technology has been used for personal assistants such as Siri and Alexa, for customer prediction (Netflix and Pandora), for autonomous vehicles, gaming etc. However, one application that has not been exploited is for signal processing.

Deepwave Digital decided to be pioneers in using AI for signals. The company created the AIR-T (Artificial Intelligence Radio Transceiver) which is a high-power SBC that uses NVIDIA Jetson TX2 for signal processing and deep learning applications.

Nowadays we deal with an increasing number of signals, because of Wi-Fi and cellular communications, and the technology is still human dependent to select the correct frequencies. Because of this, the need for an AI to do the work for us has become increasingly high, and as it turns out the AI can do the work better than us.

The AIR-T board also includes Xilinx Artix 7 FPGA and an Analog Devices 9371 MIMO transceiver with two RX channels of 100 MHz and a couple of TX channels of 250 MHz for connectivity, the device includes Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, HDMI, GPIO/UART, USB 2.0 and 3.0 etc. It uses Ubuntu 16.04, and it can be programmed using Python or C++.

All these characteristics make the device adaptable to many applications which will allow users to create and shape different projects. This project gives users the ability to adapt to software defined radio. Deepwave said:

This versatile system can function as a highly parallel SDR, data recorder, or inference engine for deep learning algorithms. The embedded GPU allows for SDR applications to process bandwidths greater than 200 MHz in real-time.

The device is not yet on sale, and Deepwave is expected to launch a crowdfunding to commercialize the product in the future, so there is still no information about price or sellers.

The idea is to redefine how signal processing is done using machine learning.


NanoPC-T4 – A High-Performance Low Cost Single Board Computer Powered By RK3399

FriendlyElec recently released a pretty exciting hacker board which is super cheap, considering the features of the board and the price it is being sold for. The Single Board Computer (SBC) is based on Rockchip RK3399; a low power, high-performance processor. The board which is called Nano PC – T4 can be regarded as the smallest rock chip based board as it measures 100mm by 64m as compared to other RK3399 SBCs. It is different from other Nano Pi, and Nano PC SBCs produced by FriendlyElec because previous boards run on Samsung of Allwinner System on Chips (SOCs).


The board comes with a default 4GB RAM and a whopping 16G eMMC (embedded Multi Media Card). It also works with Android 7.1 which can be exchanged for the full fledged Lubuntu Desktop version of Ubuntu. Nano PC – T4 uses the same system-on-a-chip (SoC) as Samsung’s Chromebook Plus but at a lesser price. Other features are 16 GB storage onboard bundled with a heatsink, radio antennas, a power adapter, and an acrylic case. The RK3399 SoC supplies two Cortex-A72 cores that are clocked at up to 2.0GHz, and an additional four Cortex-A53 cores clocked to 1.5GHz. There’s also a high-end ARM Mali-T864 Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) included into the device.

The board comes with an M.2 2280 connector, which allows high-speed PCIe SSDs to be used, the M.2 connector supports PCI Express 2.1, that has been wired for x4, making it possible to get I/O speeds at a very fast speed. On the other end, we have the Firefly-RK3399, which is being sold for $149 with a 2GB RAM or $209 with a 4GB RAM. Another board is the Orange Pi which goes for $109 and has a 2GB RAM. Unlike the expensive Orange Pi RK3399, the NanoPC-T4 gives a wider 0 to 80℃ temperature range, ADC interfaces, DDR4 instead of DDR3 RAM, and twice the amount of RAM for the oversight configuration.

Below are some of the device’s specifications:

  • Processor — Rockchip RK3399 (2x Cortex-A72 at up to 2.0GHz, 4x Cortex-A53 @ up to 1.5GHz); Mali-T864 GPU
  • Memory:
    • 4GB LPDDR3 RAM (dual-channel)
    • 16GB eMMC 5.1 flash
    • MicroSD slot
    • Optional NVME SSD via M.2 M-Key (see expansion section below)
  • Media:
    • HDMI 2.0a port (with audio and HDCP 1.4/2.2) for up to 4K at 60Hz
    • DisplayPort 1.2 (via USB Type-C)
    • MIPI-DSI (4-lane)
    • eDP 1.3
    • 2x, 4-lane MIPI-CSI (up to 13MP) with dual ISP support
    • 3.5mm analog audio I/O jack
  • Wireless:
    • 802.11b/g/n/ac 2.4GHz/5GHz dual-band
    • Bluetooth 4.1 dual mode
    • Dual antennas
    • IR receiver
  • Networking — Gigabit Ethernet port
  • Other I/O:
    • USB 3.0 host port
    • USB 3.0 Type-C port (can be used for DP)
    • 2x USB 2.0 host ports
    • Serial debug UART
    • 3x ADC (1.8V)
    • 12V cooling fan interface with PWM
  • Expansion:
    • 40-pin RPi compatible expansion header
    • M.2 M-Key slot with PCIe 2.1, dual operation mode, and M3 PCB nut for mounting M.2 2280
  • Other features — RTC; power, reset, recovery, boot buttons; LEDs; heatsink; acrylic case
  • Power — 12V/2A DC input jack and adapter; PMIC
  • Operating temperature — 0 to 80℃
  • Weight — 63 gm
  • Dimensions — 100 x 64mm; 10-layer PCB
  • Operating system — Android 7.1.2; Lubuntu Desktop 16.04

One major taking point for the NanoPC-T4 is the availability of two MIPI-CSI x2 making it a dual camera interface platform. This simultaneous dual camera data support is going to make the device ideal for VR and AR applications. The NanoPC-T4 has four high-performance display interfaces (DP 1.2 @60fps, HDMI 2.0,  MIPI-DSI @60fps, and eDP 1.3) on a small board and supports dual display output.

Despite the fact that the board does not have an HDMI input port or even built-in sensors, the Nano PC – T4 has a wide range of applications, some of them are advertisement machines, game machines, video conferencing, clusters, surveillance and many more. It also supports certain advanced features such as native GbE and a dual purpose USB Type C port serves as the display port.

The NanoPC-T4 is available for purchase online at a discounted price of $129 and can be bought on the product page here. The board purchase comes in a complete package. Below are some of the items present in the item package:

  • NanoPC-T4
  • Customized Heat Sink (With Screws)
  • 2x Dual-Band antenna
  • 12V 2A Universal Power Adapter
  • Acrylic case For NanoPC-T3 Plus/T4 (with Screws)

Envision a New Future for Factory Automation with AAEON’s NanoCOM-APL

(Taipei, Taiwan – June 12, 2018) – AAEON, a world-leading developer of embedded controllers and industrial solutions, launches the NanoCOM-APL, a machine vision and factory automation-focused Type 10 COM express module with onboard support for dual MIPI CSI interfaces.

The NanoCOM-APL is built around a 6th Generation Intel® Atom™, Celeron®, or Pentium® processor and features onboard LPDDR4 memory with a capacity of up to 8GB. The 7W module’s low power-consumption architecture means it can be used at the heart of hand-held, battery-powered devices and fully enclosed IP67 applications.

“Combined with an FPGA controller and an AI chip, the NanoCOM-APL is being used as the centerpiece of advanced machine vision systems that scan products to create 3D images that can be checked for faults,” noted David Hung, AAEON embedded computing division product specialist. “Because of its size and industrial operating temperature range, these systems can be used on a production line or even on a robotic arm.”

The module also features 1GbE LAN connections, optional onboard eMMC storage of up to 64Gb, a PCIe [x4] expansion slot, an LVDS, DDI, or eDP connections, and support for up to eight USB3.0 and two USB2.0 ports.