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Rugged SBC runs Debian on i.MX286, offers supercap backup

Apr 18, 2016 — by Eric Brown — 1,334 views

Technologic’s open-spec “TS-7680” SBC runs Debian on an ARM9 i.MX286, and offers up to 4GB eMMC, WiFi, BT, wide-range power, and -40 to 85°C.

Technologic’s TS-7680 single board computer uses the same NXP/Freescale i.MX286 system-on-chip found on last year’s TS-7670 and the TS-7400-V2 SBC that came out in 2014.

The power-sipping i.MX286 has an ARM926EJ-S core clocked from 261MHz to 454MHz, which can be adjusted on the fly on the TS-7680. There’s also a modest onboard FPGA. Like the TS7670 and TS-7400-V2, the TS-7680 is an open spec board with voluminous posted schematics and pre-installed Debian Linux.

TS-7680, front and back
(click images to enlarge)

Somewhat commendably, Technologic does not exploit the Internet of Things buzzword, although the board is far more deserving of that label than many other SBCs hyped for IoT. The TS-7680 is said to be ideal for HVAC, building automation, and control systems, and it can be used in any application that demands high reliability, fast bootup/startup, and consistent connectivity, says Technologic. The company plans to add BACnet protocol support in order to better serve the building automation market.

TS-7680 angle views, with right image showing optional daughtercard
(click images to enlarge)

Just as the TS-7670 was more feature-rich than the smaller TS-7400-V2, the TS-7680 adds a number of new features to the TS-7670 feature set. While the TS-7670 has a wide-range, 8-28 VDC input, the TS-7680 offers even more power-handling flexibility with an 8-40 VDC input that can be optionally reconfigured as 10-28 VAC. Slightly smaller than the TS-7670 at 112 x 112mm, the board is designed for fanless operation, and offers standard, instead of optional, industrial -40 to 85°C support.

TS-7680 side views
(click images to enlarge)

The TS-7680 Technologic’s first board to offer its “TS-SILO” technology, which is powered by two onboard supercapacitors. The optional TS-SILO provides protection from brownouts, spikes, and gaps, along with 20 to 60 seconds of reserve power in the event of a power failure. This is said to provide enough time to “gracefully power down and ensure file system integrity.” TS-SILO is especially useful for small, remote, unmanned stations where it isn’t feasible to have a generator or other backup, says the company.

TS-7680 block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

The TS-7680 SBC is available with 128MB or 256MB of RAM. There’s only one microSD compared to two on the TS-7670, but instead of 2GB of NAND you get faster eMMC flash. You can choose between 2GB of higher reliability SLC or 4GB of MLC eMMC. This was apparently a last minute addition, as the manual still shows 2GB NAND, and the MLC/SLC configurations are incorrectly flipped on the product page spec sheet. You can boot from a pre-installed Debian Jessie distribution with Linux kernel 3.14.28 from either microSD or flash.

The board ships with WiFi and Bluetooth, as well as two Fast Ethernet ports instead of the TS-7670’s one. A connector supports an optional cellular modem or PoE daughtercard.

There are two USB 2.0 host ports, as well as a USB device console port. As before, dual RS-485 ports are available, but instead of 4x DIOs you get 18x 30V-tolerant DIOs. Technologic has added a 24-position industrial screw terminal connector for 4x ADCs and 4x DACs. There’s also a pair of relays, a watchdog, a battery-backed RTC, and a temperature sensor.

TS-7680 enclosure views
(click images to enlarge)

A 38-pin GPIO expansion header connected to the FPGA opens up additional interfaces. These include a transformer driver that enables an isolated power supply to support RS­485 and CAN expansion cards.

Specifications listed for the TS-7680 include:

  • Processor — NXP/Freescale i.MX286 (1x ARM926EJ-S core @ 450MHz); FPGA
  • Memory:
    • 128MB to 256MB RAM
    • 1MB NOR flash
    • 2GB (SLC) or 4GB (MLC) eMMC
    • MicroSD slot with 2-sec. boot (power to UBoot)
  • Networking/wireless:
    • 2x 10/100 Ethernet ports
    • 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0+EDR
    • 16 pin header for optional cellular or PoE daughtercard
  • Other I/O:
    • 2x USB host ports (1x on DC Interface)
    • USB serial device console port
    • 2x RS-485 (ModBus) ports
    • 2x CANBus ports
    • 18x DIO (30V-tolerant)
    • 2x 3A relays
    • 4x analog-to-digital (0-10V)
    • 4x digital-to-analog (0-10V)
    • 38-pin GPIO expansion header (via FPGA crossbar):
      • 4­20mA transmitters
      • Precision RTD differential A/D for PT1000 temp sensors
      • Isolated RS-485 with optional daughter card
      • 2x isolated CAN with optional daughter card
      • Transformer driver for an isolated power supply
      • “Special” analog options
  • Other features:
    • Watchdog
    • RTC with battery
    • Temperature sensor
    • Optional plastic enclosure with optional DIN mount
    • Optional accelerometer
  • Power:
    • 8-40 VDC (or 10-28 VAC)
    • 0.6W to 1.3W max consumption
    • 10mW sleep mode with 1-sec. reset timeout wakeup
    • Optional TS-SILO via 2x supercapacitors for brownout protection and 20-40 sec. reserve power
  • Operating temperature — -40 to 85°C
  • Dimensions — 112 x 112mm
  • Operating system — Debian Jessie with Linux kernel 3.14.28; GNU toolchain utilities

Further information

The TS-7680 became available last week with pricing starting at $203 with 128MB RAM in single quantities and $159 in 100+ volume. Much more information may be found on Technologic’s TS-7680 product page.

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