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$5 Linux-equipped Omega2 IoT module launches on Kickstarter

Jul 19, 2016 — by Rick Lehrbaum — 6,977 views

[Updated: July 21] — Onion launched an “Omega2” module on Kickstarter, featuring a faster CPU, options for double the RAM and flash, and lower pricing than last year’s Omega.

Last year, Onion launched an extremely successful Kickstarter campaign for the original Omega module, with packages starting at $25. That campaign won $267,851 from 4,459 backers. Today, the company returned to the Kickstarter well seeking support for a version 2 follow-on to the Omega, appropriately dubbed Omega2. The new project has already reached more than 90 percent of its $15,000 funding goal — a modest feat, in light of the quarter of a million dollars last year’s project earned.

Omega2 (left) compared to the original Omega

Omega2 has the same form-factor as the original Omega module and “is backward compatible with all existing Omega Docks and Expansions,” according to Onion. Other than having lower prices — pledge packages start at $5 and $9 for the Omega2 and Omega2 Plus, respectively — there are a handful of differences in specs. These are summarized in the table below.
Comparison of Omega, Omega2, and Omega2 Plus

Omega Omega2 Omega2 Plus
CPU 400MHz Atheros AR9331 580MHz MediaTek MT7688 580MHz MediaTek MT7688
RAM 64MB 64MB 128MB
Flash 16MB 16MB 32MB
USB 1x USB 2.0 1x USB 2.0 1x USB 2.0
MicroSD slot yes
WiFi 802.11b/g/n 802.11b/g/n 802.11b/g/n
GPIO 18x 15x 15x
PWM 2x 2x
UART 1x 2x 2x
I2C 1x 1x
SPI 1x 1x
I2S 1x 1x
Price $19 $5 $9

Linkit Smart

Significantly, the Omega2 steps up to the 580MHz, MIPS-based Mediatek MT7688 system-on-chip, as seen recently on Mediatek’s $13 Linkit Smart module, rather than the 400MHz Qualcomm Atheros AR9331 SoC of the original Omega. Like the Atheros AR9331, the home automation focused MT7688 is available in a tiny 12 x 12mm package, offers built-in WiFi (2.4GHz “1T1R” 802.11n), and a MIPS24 core. In this case, it’s a MIPS 24KEc design, however.

MT7688 block diagrams for IoT Device Mode (left) and IoT Gateway Mode
(click images to enlarge)

Other changes include a “Plus” option, which doubles RAM and flash to 128MB and 32MB, respectively. Additionally, the Plus module adds a new microSD slot. Both Omega 2 models revise the GPIO complement slightly, resulting in two new PWM lines, and one each of I2C, SPI, and I2S.

Omega2, plugged into the Arduino Dock R2 along with an Arduino shield

With lots of Omega modules under its belt from last year’s launch, Onion has by now developed a plethora of expansion boards for the original model, as well as an active ecosystem of Linux apps that support the module and its peripherals. Regarding the latter, Onion says: “We’ve built simple and intuitive apps for you to interact with the Omega2. We also have an App Store where you can discover even more apps!” There’s also an SDK that lets you build new apps publish them on the Onion App Store.

The new gen-2 modules also benefit from the Onion Cloud that gives users the ability to remotely control their Omega2 over the web. The service provides “intuitive Web UI or RESTful APIs,” says Onion. “You can also view the status of your Omega2 in real-time, and deploy software updates to it when it is in the field.”

Omega2 docks, left to right: Expansion Dock, Mini Dock, Power Dock, Arduino Dock R2
(click images to enlarge)

Accessories, docks, and expansion boards available through the Omega2’s Kickstarter campaign include:
  • Expansion Dock — provides power for the Omega2; breaks out all GPIOs; adds USB connectors; and includes USB-to-serial converter for serial terminal access
  • Mini Dock — similar to the Expansion dock, but smaller; provides power for the Omega2, adds USB connectors; includes USB-to-serial converter for serial terminal access
  • Power Dock — provides a lithium polymer battery and includes a charging circuit for charging the battery; breaks out all GPIOs; adds USB connectors (does not include USB-to-serial function)
  • Arduino Dock R2 — “a full Arduino Uno” that can be controlled from the Omega2 via a serial connection; provides Arduino expansion headers that let you “make use of all your existing Arduino Shields”; can be programmed with the Arduino IDE; also breaks out the Omega2’s GPIOs.
  • Relay Expansion — includes a pair of relays capable of controlling lights or other electrical signals; rated for 2A @ 240V
  • OLED Expansion — adds 128×64 monochrome OLED screen for text or image display
  • PWM Expansion — Adds 16 PWM output channels
  • Ethernet Expansion — exposes the Ethernet port on the Omega2; useful for flashing the Omega2’s firmware or implementing router functionality
  • Bluetooth Expansion — an Omega2-compatible Bluetooth 4.0 USB dongle
  • GPS Expansion — adds GPS functionality
  • Proto Expansion — perf-board expansion for custom projects >Cellular radio — adds 3G cellular connectivity — note: this expansion module is not offered as part of the Kickstarter packages, but is an a-la-carte option costing $45.

Omega2 expansion adapters — upper row (left to right): Relay, OLED, PWM, Ethernet; lower row (left to right): GPS, Proto, 3G Cellular
(click images to enlarge)

In addition to the options listed above, the following add-ons are also available through the campaign as “a-la-carte” options (i.e. not covered by the pledge packages): I2C Shield, Current Monitoring Controller, Temperature Sensor, Humidity Sensor, Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Light Sensor, Pressure Sensor, Gas Sensor, Buzzer, 3-Character 7 Segment Display, Potentiometer, Channel Relay Controller, A-to-D Converter, and D-to-A Converter. Consult the Kickstarter page for pricing of these a-la-carte options.

Further information

A wide range of pledge packages are available from the Omega2’s Kickstarter campaign, which closes on Aug. 22. They range from $5 and $9 for the Omega2 and Omega2 Plus, up to $499 for eight Omega2 Plus modules plus 40 dock or expansion boards of your choice. Shipping is extra, and is estimated to range from “around $2.00 for the lower tiers and work its way up to around $15.00 for the highest tiers,” says the campaign. Additionally, as mentioned, there are a wide range of a-la-carte options that are available for purchase through the Kickstarter project, but are not included in the pledge packages.

For further details and to get on-board the Omega2 bandwagon, head over to the new module’s Omega2 Kickstarter page.

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2 responses to “$5 Linux-equipped Omega2 IoT module launches on Kickstarter”

  1. Lukas Zeller says:

    The Omega2 does *not* use the AR9331 SoC, but the MediaTek MT7688, which is more suited for IoT. The AR9331 is a WiFi router chip, and has a built-in 5-port switch, but lacks PWMs, hardware i2c, second UART etc. These are important features for hardware interfacing, so using the MT7688 is an important step forward for the Omega!

    • HackerBoards says:

      Thanks for letting us know about that! I see, now, that the comments at the Kickstarter post now mention the faster, and more capable MediaTek SoC.

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