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Samsung taps Linux for dual- and octa-core IoT modules

May 13, 2015 — by Eric Brown — 3,553 views

Samsung unveiled a series of IoT-focused “Artik” SoCs and modules, including dual- and octa-core COMs that integrate wireless radios and run Linux.

After Samsung acquired home automation hub vendor SmartThings, we imagined it would quickly convert the RTOS-based system to Tizen Linux. Instead the Gen 2 SmartThings hub announced in January ran another Linux build. The same goes for Samsung’s ambitious new Artik system-on-chip and computer-on-module platform for Internet of Things, which runs Yocto Project-based Linux. There was no mention of Tizen in the Artik announcement. although Samsung revealed new details on its next-gen Tizen-based round-faced Gear watch (see farther below).

Samsung Artik 1, 5, and 10
(click image to enlarge)

Samsung calls its three, cloud-connected Artik devices “modules,” but the name also appears to apply to their SoCs, implying that each SoC integrates multiple chips within a single IC package. What’s not clear is whether these Artik SoCs — MIPS-based for the Artik 1, and ARM for the Artik 5 and 10 — will have a life of their own outside of their Artik module nests. Samsung president Young Sohn told VentureBeat the modules are already being used in some unnamed Samsung mobile devices.

The Artik 1 will start at $10 while the Artik 10 will cost less than $100, although prices could drop given enough volume, Sohn told VentureBeat. The main focus is on IoT and consumer electronics, including Samsung refrigerators, says the story. Somewhat surprisingly, Sohn also mentioned smartphones as a potential application for the Artik 10. In fact, he seemed to suggest that the Artik platform could eventually supplant existing mobile SoC platforms such as Exynos, enabling a unified connectivity platform for all Samsung devices.

The devices have also been adopted for the next generation of Boogio “smart shoes,” Weenat agricultural sensor gear, and Temboo smart water tanks. The Artik modules ship with a Temboo library for generating IoT code, says Samsung. In addition, Samsung has launched an Artik Challenge, with a grand prize of $100,000 for the best use of Artik to reduce excess water consumption.

Boogio smart shoes

The Artik modules, which were unveiled at the IOT World conference in San Francisco, were developed at Samsung’s Strategy and Innovation Center (SSIC). They share a common secure element, development platform, and cloud device management stack designed for IoT aggregation. Samsung was able to achieve impressively small footprints thanks in part to its next generation ePoP (embedded Package-on-Package) technology, which was used on the Artik 1 and Artik 5.

Artik’s cloud-based device management technology will be based on a new version of the SmartThings cloud framework called SmartThings Open Cloud. Samsung is also using this platform for its other non-Artik connected devices.

The SmartThings Open Cloud platform provides SDKs to help connect endpoint devices to the cloud using Java, Android, iOS, PHP, and Python tools. Open Cloud is partially based on Samsung’s SAMI, a “data driven” development platform, which Samsung announced last May. SAMI offers “simple” open APIs and SDKs to send and receive diverse data, regardless of the source, says Samsung. SAMI helps Open Cloud support advanced data analytics, along with Medium One’s IoT analytics platform.

The Artik modules are referred to as “open” platforms, but it’s not clear how truly open they are, beyond the Yocto Project-based Linux software itself. Samsung has already posted extensive documentation, however.

An IoT stack with an application framework development is built in, so developers can avoid working with low-level software libraries, says Samsung. The IoT stack and Artik architecture provide “unique local storage and computational capabilities that in most current IoT environments are generally only addressable by large-scale cloud servers,” says Samsung. Data can be managed locally or in the cloud in encrypted or unencrypted formats.

The Artik modules also offer Arduino compatibility, which has become a must-have feature for IoT. The Arduino certified devices can be programmed using the Arduino Software Development Environment (IDE), says Samsung.

Artik 5 takes on Intel’s Edison

While the tiny, MIPS-based Artik 1 runs on an RTOS (see farther below), the Artik 5 and Artik 10 use a Yocto Project-based Linux stack. The 29 x 25mm, dual-core Artik 5 COM is designed for home automation hubs, drones, and high-end wearables.

Artik 5
(click image to enlarge)

The 29 x 25mm Artik 5 module is smaller than the roughly equivalent, dual-core Atom-based Intel Edison IoT module, which measures 35.5 x 25mm. It features a dual-core Cortex-A7 Artik 5 SoC clocked to 1GHz, paired with a Mali-400 MP2 GPU.

Artik 5 compared to Intel Edison (shown to scale)

The Artik 5 COM ships with 512MB of LPDDR3 RAM and 4GB of eMMC flash, and like the Edison and other IoT-focused modules, offers built in wireless features. The Artik 5 integrates WiFi, Bluetooth with BLE, and ZigBee. There are also plans to support the emerging 6LoWPAN based Thread protocol from Google’s Nest.

Artik 5 block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

The Artik 5 is equipped with a 60-pin connector, a 40-pin debug connector, and 47 GPIOs. Interfaces include USB, I2C, SPI, I2S, UART, ADC, MMC, PWM, and MIPI-CSI and -DSI. The secure element supports ARM TrustZone, and is supported with a machine learning based anomaly detection system that helps identify abnormalities and unusual behavior that may reflect hacking or intrusion activity, says Samsung.

Power consumption on the 3.4V to 5.0V module is said to be T.B.D. The same goes for display interface support, although the module is listed as supporting 720p @30fps video.

Artik 10 COM and reference board

The 39 x 29mm Artik 10 COM is targeted at home servers, media hubs, and smartphones. Like the Artik 5, the Artik 10 runs Yocto Project 1.6-based Linux, but on a more powerful octa-core SoC with four 1.3GHz Cortex-A15 cores, four 1GHz Cortex-A7 cores, and a high-end Mali T628 MP6 GPU. The device supports 5.1 audio, 1080p @ 120fps video encoding, as well as OpenGL ES 1.1/2.0/3.0, OpenCL 1.1, OpenVG 1.0.1, DirectX 11, and Google Renderscript.

Artik 10
(click image to enlarge)

The Artik 10 SoC is embedded in a 39 x 29mm Artik 10 module that features 2GB of LPDDR3 RAM and 16GB of eMMC flash. Wireless features and the secure element are the same as with the Artik 5.

For interfacing with a baseboard, the Artik 10 module has an 80-pin connector, along with what appears to be the same 40-pin debug connector that of the Artik 5. It has a few more GPIOs, with 51 lanes total. The I/O is similar, but there’s additional support for USB 3.0, as well as more (6x) I2C interfaces.

Artik 10 block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

The power consumption on the 3.4 to 5V module is T.B.D., and so is the display I/O. Spec sheets for all three modules can be found via the links at the end of the story, although as noted there are several gaps in terms of display and power details.

A reference board is available for the Artik 10 that features a gigabit Ethernet port, dual USB host ports, and both mini- and micro-USB ports. The board is further equipped with an SD slot, audio jack, camera connector, and an Arduino expansion connector. Several reset buttons and other features are available.

Artik 10 reference board
(click image to enlarge)

The reference board integrates antennas for WiFi, Bluetooth, and ZigBee, as well as other wireless protocols not listed with the modules, including Z-Wave, NFC, and SigFox. A debug daughterboard features a serial port (see image below).

Artik 10 reference board with serial debug board
(click image to enlarge)

Artik 1: a Curie competitor

The insanely small, 12 x 12mm Artik 1 module will compete with Intel’s upcoming, Bluetooth-enabled Curie module, which runs on an Intel Quark chip. It also competes with MIPS or ARM Cortex-M4 MCU based modules. Like all these competitors, the Artik 1 runs on a real-time operating system rather than Linux, in this case Nucleus OS.

Artik 1 block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

The Artik 1 SoC features dual MIPS-based, 32-bit MicroAptiv cores. One is clocked to 80MHz and the other to 250MHz. The SoC integrates 1MB of on-chip RAM.

The Artik 1 module adds 4MB of SPI flash, and like the other Artik COMs, it features a crypto security chip, a PMIC, and support for the SmartThings Open Cloud platform. The device is limited to Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) wireless connectivity, and provides a 9-axis motion sensor with gyroscope, accelerometer, and magnetometer. The Artik 1 lasts three weeks on a single charge even when kept “in always-on mode paired to a smartphone,” claims Samsung.

New Tizen Gear SDK supports round Gear smartwatch

If Tizen didn’t make the cut for the first round of Artik modules, Samsung is apparently sticking to the platform for its smart TVs, as well as its wearables. More information has been released on its previously leaked round-faced version of the Samsung Gear, code-named “Orbis.” This week, Samsung released an updated Tizen SDK for its Gear smartwatches via an early access program.

Diagram of upcoming round-faced Samsung Gear design
(click image to enlarge; source: Samsung via TizenExperts)

The documentation confirms the rumored presence of a rotating bezel as an option on the upcoming Orbis “Next Gear” devices. The bezel control can be used for page navigation and device control as an alternative to swiping and tapping. The above image captured by Tizen Experts shows how the bezel works. There was no word on when the watch might be released.

Further information

Samsung’s Artik modules appear to be sampling now, and developers can apply to join an alpha program through May 31. More information may be found in the Artik announcement, as well as the Artik website.

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4 responses to “Samsung taps Linux for dual- and octa-core IoT modules”

  1. Jim says:

    Oh no, not another one going with Yocto Linux! Seriously, someone kill that dead horse.

  2. jezra says:

    well at least they didn’t go with Tizen

  3. Nonya says:

    We really gotta kill off this IoT nonsense NOW! I will NOT be spied upon by the products that I buy!!

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