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Open IoT gateway SBCs run Linux on NXP QorIQ and i.mX6 SoCs

Oct 3, 2016 — by Eric Brown — 828 views

ArgonBoards has launched two Linux-driven SBCs for IoT gateways: an i.MX6 SoloLite reference board and an open source QorIQ LS1021A SBC.

India-based embedded manufacturer VVDN Technogies, which owns RadiumBoards, the makers of products such as the HD Camera Cape for the BeagleBone Black and MIPI Camera Board for the Wandboard, has also launched a single-board computer subsidiary. The ArgonBoards SBC division recently announced a $499, open source LS1021A Community Board and a $199 i.MX6SL IoT gateway reference board based on the SoloLite SoC, both running Linux. (VVDN is a member of NXP’s partner ecosystem.)

In addition to the two new boards, ArgonBoards previously released a $799 “LS1021A Time Sensitive Network Switch Board” based on the QorIQ LS1021A SoC. This Linux-equipped SBC is similar to the LS1021A Community Board, but features a four-port TSN switch (see farther below).

 
LS1021A Community Board

The LS1021A Community Board is aimed at Internet of Things applications including building/home management, smart cities and networked industrial services. At $499, it’s rather expensive for a community-backed board, but it does offer an extensive feature set, including an Arduino shield expansion connector.



LS1021A Community Board
(click image to enlarge)

This is the first open-spec board we’ve seen based on NXP’s QoriQ SoCs, which NXP inherited from Freescale along with its i.MX6 SoCs in the recent acquisition. (Now, NXP is rumored to be an acquisition target of Qualcomm.)


NXP QorIQ LS1021A block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

The board runs Linux on a dual-core, Cortex-A7 QorIQ LS1021A, which is clocked here to 2GHz. This was among the first non-PowerPC based QorIQs that shipped back in 2014, and the only one with an LCD controller. Typical power consumption is said to be less than 3 Watts.


LS1021A Community Board detail view
(click image to enlarge)

The LS1021A Community Board is equipped with 1GB DDR3, and you can expand upon that, although no limits were listed. You boot from the microSD slot or the onboard QSPI flash. There’s also a SATA interface, a mini-PCIe slot, HDMI and USB 3.0 ports, and dual Gigabit Ethernet ports.

The board features standard and Arduino-specific expansion connectors. The standard connector has I/O including SPI, USB, UART, CAN, audio, I2C, and GPIO. Other features include an accelerometer, gyroscope, and temperature sensor, as well as various switches, resets, and LEDs, and a JTAG connector.

A 12V jack and a micro-USB port are available for power. There’s also a micro-USB based console connector, and a CPLD with connector. The board is said to offer an open source framework and cloud based mobile apps for video streaming.

The fully open-spec board appears to be well documented, with schematics and PCB design docs available for download following free registration. However, despite the SBC’s name as well as a statement on the ArbonBoards website that “Makers, educators, explorers, professional engineers and corporations seeking to build upon a rich ecosystem are all encouraged to participate in Argonboards community discussion,” there currently does not appear to be any evidence of a community discussion forum or other collaborative aspects.

 
i.MX6SL IoT

The i.MX6SL IoT is a reference board for wireless gateways, supporting
WiFi, Bluetooth, BLE, and ZigBee. Unlike the LS1021A Community Board, it’s not promoted as an open source hacker board, although it has similar wording at the end of the datasheet saying “the complete board design files including schematics, bill of materials and GERBER files at no charge.”



i.MX6SL IoT
(click image to enlarge)

The i.MX6SL IoT taps the rarely seen, 1GHz, single-core SoloLite (SL), the most lowly of the original i.MX6 SoCs. The SoloLite lacks the CAN and PCIe interfaces of the Solo, and is limited to 10/100 Ethernet instead of GbE, but it has a much smaller 13 x 13mm footprint. Both the SoloLite and Solo have largely been superseded by the similarly Cortex-A9, 14 x 14mm SoloX, which adds a Cortex-M4 chip.


i.MX6SL IoT detail view
(click image to enlarge)

The 105.6 x 60.42mm i.MX6SL IoT ships with 512MB DDR3 and 64MB SPI NOR flash, and has dual USB 2.0 ports, which appear to provide the only avenue for storage. In addition to the 10/100 Ethernet port, there’s a “WL1831” wireless module that includes 2.4GHz 802.11 b/g/n with AP and Client mode support, and Bluetooth 4.0 with BLE support. A separate “CC2530” 802.15.4 chip supports ZigBee and 6LoWPAN. WiFi and ZigBee antennas are also available.

The i.MX6SL IoT is further equipped with GPIO and I2C connectors, as well as UART and JTAG interfaces. The 5V system also has various LEDs.

 
LS1021A TSN Switch Board

Like the LS1021A Community Board, this previously announced, $799 network switching model runs Linux on a QorIQ LS1021A with 1GB of greater DDR3 RAM. It also similarly offers an Arduino shield connector, and targets IoT gateways.



LS1021A TSN Switch Board
(click image to enlarge)

In addition to two standard SGMII GbE switches, the board provides NXP’s Time Sensitive Network (TSN) switch with 4x RGMII ports for AVB (audio video bridging) and TSN applications. Otherwise, the feature set is almost identical except that you get a second USB 3.0 port.


LS1021A Time Sensitive Network Switch Board detail view (left) and block diagram
(click images to enlarge)

 
Further information

The LS1021A Community Board is available for $499, and the i.MX6SL IoT is available for $199. The LS1021A Time Sensitive Network Switch Board goes for $799. More information may be found at ArgonBoards.com.
 

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