TS-4100 – A i.MX6 UL (UltraLite) Bases Hybrid SBC With FPGA And Programmable ZPU Core

Technologic Systems has begun testing its first i.MX6 UL (UltraLite) based board, which is also its first computer-on-module that can work as a single board computer. The footprint of 75 x 55mm TS-4100 module features a microSD slot, onboard eMMC, a micro-USB OTG port with power support, and optional WiFi and Bluetooth. This board offers long-term support and a temperature operating range of -40 to 85°C, and ships with schematics and open source Linux images (Ubuntu 16.04 and Debian Jesse).

Technologic System's Hybrid SBC TS-4100 (front)
Technologic System’s Hybrid SBC TS-4100 (front)

This board contains a low-power (4k LUT) MachX02 FPGA from Lattice Semiconductor. Technologic has improved the FPGA with an open source, programmable ZPU soft core that provides support for offloading CPU tasks as well as harder real-time on I/O interactions. The 32-bit, stack-based ZPU architecture offers a full GCC tool suite. In this implementation, it’s imbued with 8K of BlockRAM, which can be accessed by the i.MX6 UL, and has full access to all FPGA I/O.

The low-power i.MX6 UL and its power management IC are utilized to provide an efficient 300mW typical power usage. The module is equipped with 512MB to 1GB DDR3. The specification list concludes only 4GB MLC eMMC or 2GB of “robust” SLC eMMC as options, but the block diagram suggests you can load up to 64GB eMMC.

The TS-4100 is equipped with a pair of 10/100 Ethernet controllers plus LCD and I2S interfaces for media connectivity. There are also several serial and USB interfaces along with the micro-USB OTG port. Other interfaces are listed as an accelerometer, gyro, SPI, I2C, and PWM and 2 separate CAN buses.

Key specifications for the TS-4100:

  • 512MB to 1GB DDR3 RAM
  • 4GB MLC eMMC or 2GB SLC eMMC (possibly up to 64GB eMMC)
  • MicroSD slot
  • Wireless — 802.11 b/g/n with antenna; Bluetooth 4.0 BLE
  • 2x 10/100 Ethernet controllers
  • Parallel LCD
  • I2S audio
  • Micro-USB OTG port (with power support)
  • USB 2.0 OTG (with power support)
  • 2x RS232
  • RS232 for Linux console
  • SPI, I2C, 2x CAN buses
  • Optional FPGA/ZPU-linked 16-pin expansion header (5x DIO, 1x SPI, 1x I2C) for optional daughter cards
  • 46x DIO (linked to FPGA)
  • 8x PWM
  • Accelerometer/gyro
  • 5V input via USB or via baseboard
  • 0.3W typical consumption
  • Operating temperature — -40 to 85°C
  • Dimensions — 75 x 55mm
  • Operating systems — Linux 3.14.52 (Ubuntu 16.04 and Debian Jessie)

Advantech SOM-5871 Module Introduces The New AMD Ryzen Embedded V1000 SoC

Taiwan based Advantech Co. has posted an introductory product page for a SOM-5871 module that appears to introduce the long-awaited next generation of AMD’s embedded R-Series SoC line. The R-Series is based on the same 14nm Zen Core already used in higher-end Ryzen SoCs. The new SoC is introduced as the “AMD Zen CPU Core” on the product pages and is called the AMD V1000 SoC on this Advantech COM Express teaser page.

Advantech SOM-5871 preliminary photo and specs
Advantech SOM-5871 preliminary photo and specs

According to the Advantech SOM-5871 product page, the AMD V1000 supports a core/thread of “2/4/8”. This obscure listing could mean it supports both dual-core, quad-threaded and quad-core, octa-threaded models, which are the configurations listed for the iBase Mini-ITX SBC. The iBase board also had the same memory support as Advantech’s SOM-5871. They both have up to 32GB of dual-channel DDR4-2400/3200 with optional ECC support.

Advantech also lists the SoC can have 1MB or 2MB cache, a 12-54W TDP, an integrated I/O chipset, and an SPI-based AMI 64MB BIOS. No clock speed information is available yet of this SoC. On the other hand, the Vega GPU embedded in this SoC has 11 compute units clocked at 1.5GHz and supports H.265 decode and encode and VP9 decode. The Vega also supports DirectX 12, EGL 1.4, OpenCL 2.1, OpenGL ES 1.1, 2x, and 3x, as well as OpenGL Next/OpenGL 4.6. The SOM-5871 module supports 4K video as well as four independent symmetrical displays.

SOM-5871 front view
SOM-5871 front view

No OS support information was mentioned for Advantech’s board. Most probably Linux and Windows support are available for SOM-5871, but the module is said to support the company’s iManager, WISE-PaaS/RMM, and Embedded Software APIs. In addition to the specs remarked above, the 125 x 95mm SOM-5871 Type 6 Basic module comes with dual GbE controllers (Intel I210 AT and I210 IT) and dual 6Gbps SATA III interfaces.

No pricing or availability information was provided for Advantech’s introductory SOM-5871 module or the iBase Mini-ITX and embedded signage PC products. More information may be found at Advantech’s SOM-5871 product page.

PacketMonitor32 – An ESP32-Based Packet Monitor with OLED

Wi-Fi Packet Monitors are usually a computer program or sometimes a piece of computer hardware that can be used to intercept and log traffic over a Wi-Fi network. My favorite software tool of all is the popular Wireshark which I have used several times for hacking Wi-Fi based hardware, like integrating the common Wi-Fi smart socket with OpenHAB. Packet monitor tools give the possibility of seeing what type of data is being sent out by a wireless device and provides us with the chance of conjoining that data for our purpose.

ESP32 Packet Monitor

Apart from the use of software for packet capture, we can also leverage hardware for this. The Espressif Systems ESP8266 and the ESP32 modules have been a go-to module for a lot of makers regarding Wi-Fi/IoT applications. Stefan Kremser aka Spacehuhn who first launched an Esp8266 based packet monitor, earlier last year has released an improved opensource ESP32-based packet monitor which is available on Tindie and Aliexpress for purchase.

The original Packet Monitor board put together by Spacehuhn is based around the ESP8266 and allowed you to see data packets flying around you in real-time. It tells how many Wi-Fi packets are sent every second and on which channel. It is also able to display the result on a small OLED Screen. The ESP32 version comes with some new features.

Then new ESP32 Packet monitor includes some new features to the existing ESP8266 Packet monitor. It adds an SD card support for capturing and saving traffic data with the possibility analyzing that data at other time, unlike the ESP8266 which shows only the current packet only, the ESP32 version displays an average RSSI (Received Signal Strength Indicator), and of course offer an improved performance due to the increased power of ESP32. It is built around the ESP32-Wrover module, which has 4MB Flash and 4MB PSRAM.

Like it’s predecessor ESP8266 PacketMonitor, the ESP32 PacketMonitor32 has a 1.3-inch OLED for displaying the traffic data. It can be powered via its micro USB jack or with a Lipo battery that also includes both over-charging and over-discharging protection. The board comes in two different versions, the one with an external (IPEX) antenna support, and one with a PCB antenna support. The one with the IPEX antenna offers increased range but won’t work without the antenna connected. It is possible to run on your code on the board or use the Spacehuhn packet monitoring software.
The PacketMonitor32 board is avaiable now for purhase on Tindie, and on AliExpress, with a price tag of $19.

ESP8266: Monitoring Power Consumption

Dani Eichhorn @ thingpulse.com writes:

In this post I’m going to show you how you can monitor the power consumption of your battery driven (ESP8266/ ESP32) device. Measuring the power consumption over a full activity/ sleep cycle is the precondition to optimize your code for a longer battery runtime. Only with a reliable tool you can decide which code changes lead to less consumption. In a later post we’ll look at some tweaks we can apply to the code to get a few more days out of the battery.

ESP8266: Monitoring Power Consumption – [Link]

Fujitsu Electronics Europe expands its Bluetooth Low Energy portfolio

Adding components from Ambiq Micro and Talent Highland, Fujitsu Electronics Europe has increased its Bluetooth Low Energy portfolio.

The additional products offer customers high integration, low power consumption and flexibility, says Fujitsu Electronics Europe (FEE), and it has produced the ClickBeetle reference platform (pictured) to facilitate the integration of Bluetooth Low Energy products into applications.

Ambiq Micro’s Bluetooth Low Energy components make Bluetooth Low Energy applications more powerful and efficient, claims FEE. The Cortex M4 in Apollo 2 operates at up to 48MHz at only 10-microA/MHz with a deep-sleep current of two micro A. Apollo 1 operates at up to 24MHz at 34-micro A/MHz and has a deep-sleep current of 143-nanoA. Additional components offer the possibility of lowering the deep-sleep current to 22-nanoA. Depending on the requirements, Ambiq Micro offers different bundle packages to combine its Apollo 1 and Apollo 2 microcontrollers or real time clocks with an EM9304 BLE communication chip. Combinations of microcontroller and Bluetooth Low Energy chips are suitable for high-performance applications, while combinations of real time clocks and Bluetooth Low Energy are ideal for cost-sensitive Bluetooth Low Energy beacons. Packages range from BGA, CSP and QFN packages. For very small applications, Ambiq Micro also offers a SoC that combines the Apollo 2 microcontroller and EM9304 BLE in a 4.0 x 4.0mm LGA package with 64 pins.

Customers who would like to integrate Bluetooth Low Energy further can also use a Talent Highland SIP. Components such as a DA14580 with ARM Cortex M0 16 MHz and 42kbyte RAM, 1Mbit SPI flash, crystals, passive components and antenna are bundled in a package measuring only 7.0 x 7.0mm. Thanks to the internal DC/DC converter, the small module also supports three and 1.5V batteries. Depending on the requirements, FEE customers can also create their own package with their own components.

FEE offers its reference platform, ClickBeetle, for application-oriented evaluation and development. It measures just 16 x 26mm and uses a hardware-independent fixed pin layout, making it easy to replace and evaluate Bluetooth Low Energy components, says Fujitsu.


Adafruit RGB Matrix Bonnet – Control RGB Matrix Display Easily with a Raspberry Pi

RGB Matrix displays are a great way adding interactions to a project and displaying objects in a 2D space. RGB LED matrices can be used as a display for playing games, display animations, watch movies, display sensor data, and much more can be the done with these big and beautiful LED displays. Of course, RGB Matric display is best controlled with a high-speed processor like FPGA, but you can still use the Raspberry Pi to control them also. Most of the things (if not everything) the Raspberry Pi can output to a monitor can be displayed on LED matrices display.

Adafruit RGB Matrix Bonnet

Adafruit has announced the arrival of its RGB Matrix control board for the Raspberry Pi called the Adafruit RGB Matrix Bonnet. The Matrix Bonnet allows one to use the popular Raspberry Pi to control RGB Matrics displays to create a colorful scrolling display, view short videos, and for showing animations. The matrix board plugs easily into the Pi and works on any Raspberry Pi with a 40-pin GPIO header – Zero, Zero W/WH, Model A+, B+, Pi 2 and Pi 3. If you still use the old model 26-pin boards like the Model A or Model B, unfortunately, the bonnet can’t plug into them, and you will need the newer boards.

Adafruit RGB Bonnet

The Matrix control board can work with any 16 x 32, 32 x 32 or 32 x 64 RGB LED Matrices with HUB75 connections. It is also possible to use the bonnet board with 64 x 64 matrix display by doing some hardware hacking – soldering a small jumper on the PCB. And yes, you can get more displays by chaining multiple matrices together for a bigger display. Chaining numerous displays together will also cause some extra workload on the Raspberry Pi itself.

The bonnet board is quite rugged and comes with an inbuilt power protection circuitry to protect the board from short circuits, over and under-voltages. It has onboard level shifters to convert the RasPi’s 3.3V to 5.0V logic which will create a glitch-free matrix driving for 5V logic RGB Matrix display. It also comes fully assembled and no need for any extra soldering work.

The main advantage of the Adafruit RGB Matrix bonnet is that it will allow you to interact with RGB matrix display while avoiding the complicated wiring involved with connecting those displays.

Adafruit Bonnet connected to a Pi

The RGB Matrix Bonnet for Raspberry Pi is now available to purchase priced at $14.95 and can be bought on the Adafruit online store. The bonnet works with only HUB75 type RGB matrices and not the likes of NeoPixel, DotStar or other ‘addressable’ LEDs. For more information about using the bonnet, check out the product page on Adafruit.

MC33035 Brushless motor driver breakout board

The board shown here is a breakout board for MC33035 brushless motor controller. It requires an output buffer IPM module or Mosfets to complete the closed loop brushless motor driver. MC33035 IC is the heart of the project; the project provides 6 PWM pulses as well 6 Inverse pulses outputs. On board Jumpers helps to change the Direction, Enable, Brake, and 60/120 phasing Header connector provided to connect the Hall sensors and supply, on board LED for Power and fault, P1 potentiometer helps to change the speed.

The MC33035 is a high performance second generation monolithic brushless DC motor controller containing all of the active functions required to implement a full featured open loop, three or four phase motor control system. This device consists of a rotor position decoder for proper commutation sequencing, temperature compensated reference capable of supplying sensor power, frequency programmable saw tooth oscillator, three open collector top drivers, and three high current totem pole bottom drivers ideally suited for driving power MOSFETs. Also included are protective features consisting of under voltage lockout, cycle−by−cycle current limiting with a selectable time delayed latched shutdown mode, internal thermal shutdown, and a unique fault output that can be interfaced into microprocessor controlled systems. Typical motor control functions include open loop speed, forward or reverse direction, run enable, and dynamic braking. The MC33035 is designed to operate with electrical sensor phasings of 60°/300° or 120°/240°, and can also efficiently control brush DC motors.

MC33035 Brushless motor driver breakout board – [Link]

Arduino distance meter with Ultrasonic Sensor (HC SR04) and Nokia 5110 LCD display

Ultrasonic Sensor

Measuring distance is so important in today’s world that things like driverless cars will be impossible without it, that description is probably enough to describe how important knowing the distance between two objects can be. For that reason, today we will be building a distance meter using the Arduino and the HC-SR04 ultrasonic sensor.

The HC-SR04 ultrasonic sensor is a cheap ranging sensor capable of measuring a distance between 20 – 400cm without contact and at an accuracy of up to 3mm. The sensor is made up of a transmitter and receiver with operating frequency of around 40khz. It uses the echo principle for distance measurement by emitting an ultrasonic wave of 40khz. If there is an object in its path, the emitted wave is reflected and the reflected signal is received via the receiver. The time elapsed between the transmission of the signal and the reception of the echo is then used to determine the distance between the sensor and an object in its path.

Arduino distance meter with Ultrasonic Sensor (HC SR04) and Nokia 5110 LCD display – [Link]

Rohde & Schwarz ZNLE 1MHz – 6GHz Vector Network Analyzer Review, Teardown & Experiments

Rohde & Schwarz ZNLE 1MHz – 6GHz Vector Network Analyzer Review, Teardown & Experiments – [Link]

Adafruit Metro 328 – An Arduino Uno Compatible Development Board

The Adafruit Metro 328 development board is an alternative to the Arduino Uno with an equivalent and compatible board design. It’s designed and manufactured by Adafruit. The Metro 328 just like other Arduino Uno clones is also based on the famous Atmega 328P that has been used in various development boards and projects.

Adafruit Metro 328

The Metro 328 offers an ATmega328 microcontroller with Optiboot (UNO) Bootloader and a ton of other features you won’t find on the Arduino Uno board. The Metro board is equipped with 19 GPIO pins unlike the Arduino Uno 14, analog inputs, UART, SPI, I2C, timers, and PWM. Six of its GPIO pins are for Analog input with two reserved for the USB to Serial Converter. Just like the standard Arduino Uno, it also includes 6 PWM pins on 2x 8bit timers and 1x 16bit timers.

Another significant distinction between the Metro and the Arduino Uno is the USB to Serial converter. The Arduino Uno is based on the Atmega USB-UART bridge (ATMEGA16U2), but the Metro 328 is based on the FTDI FT231X that provides excellent driver support in all operating systems with a more reliable data transfer unlike the former. It comes with four indicator LEDs, on the front edge of the PCB, for easy debugging. One green power LED, two RX/TX LEDs for the UART, and a red LED connected to pin PB5.

The Metro board has an on and off switch for the DC jack so you can turn off your setup easily. It also uses the conventional micro USB connector found around. Even though the Logic level of the Metro is 5V, it can be converted to 3.3v logic by cutting and soldering a closed jumper.

The following are the Metro 328P specifications:

  • ATmega328 microcontroller with Optiboot (UNO) Bootloader
  • USB Programming and debugging via the well-supported genuine FTDI FT231X
  • Input voltage: 7-9V (a 9VDC power supply is recommended)
  • 5V regulator can supply peak ~800mA as long as the die temp of the regulator does not exceed 150*C
  • 3.3V regulator can supply peak ~150mA as long as the die temp of the regulator does not exceed 150*C
  • 5V logic with 3.3V compatible inputs can be converted to 3.3V logic operation
  • 20 Digital I/O Pins: 6 are also PWM outputs, and 6 are also Analog Inputs
  • 6-pin ICSP Header for reprogramming
  • 32KB Flash Memory – 0.5K for bootloader, 31.5KB available after bootloading
  • 16MHz Clock Speed
  • Compatible with “Classic” and “R3” Shields
  • Adafruit Black PCB with gold plate on pads
  • 53mm x 71mm / 2.1″ x 2.8″
  • Height (w/ barrel jack): 13mm / 0.5″
  • Weight: 19g

The Metro 328 board is now available with headers already in place for $19.50 directly from the online Adafruit store. If you don’t want a Metro with the headers attached for super-slimness, check out the Metro without Headers.