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Sensor oriented Marvell Cortex-A7 SoC targets IoT

Jun 3, 2016 — by Eric Brown — 811 views

Marvell’s dual-core Cortex-A7 “IAP220” SoC for low-power IoT and wearables runs Linux, Android, or Brillo, and offers an integrated sensor hub.

The latest in Marvell’s IoT Application Processor (IAP) family of processors, the IAP220 is the little sister to Marvell’s IAP140 SoC. The newly shipping IAP140, which runs Brillo on Marvell’s Andromeda Box Edge hacker board, features four, 1.2GHz Cortex-A53 cores. By comparison, the now-sampling IAP220 has dual, 1GHz Cortex-A7 cores. Like the IAP140, it also has an integrated MCU, in this case a Cortex-M4F rather than a Cortex-M3.


The IAP220 can run Linux, Android, and the lightweight, Android-based Brillo, and supports IoT applications like home and industrial automation, smart appliances, and wearables. The SoC is available in both ePOP and discrete packages, which are said to be “small footprint.” The SoC supports DDR3 and LP-DDR2/3 RAM, SDIO, and eMMC.

Designed primarily for battery-powered devices, the IAP220 offers an “ultra-low-power” architecture that includes low voltage operation, multiple power domains, and “a small always-on region,” says Marvell. The Cortex-M4 is implemented on a “separate power island for low-power sensor fusion,” says the company.

The IAP220’s integrated sensor hub “enables rapid and low-power sensor input processing” with the help of customized APIs and CPU-independent and modular I/O management, says Marvell. The sensor hub is said to wake up the CPU only when needed for input. The sensor hub makes the IAP220 “ideal for context-aware IoT devices in industrial automation and smart energy management,” says the company.

IAP220 block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

Surprisingly, the multimedia capabilities are more powerful than that of the higher-end IAP140, which is limited to 720p video encode and 1080p playback. The dual Cortex-A7 cores are accompanied by an unnamed GPU that provides a 3D graphics engine with OpenGL ES 1.1/2.0 support. Also available are display controllers, full HD video encoders and decoders, and dual 2-lane MIPI-CSI digital video camera interfaces.

The IAP220 also provides LCD touchscreen support and a MIPI-DSI video and command mode. For audio, there are I2S and TDM interfaces, and the ability to hook up multiple PDM microphones and speakers.

Other interfaces include SPI, GPIO PWD, UART, 1-wire, and I2C. Secure boot and secure provisioning are also available. The IAP220 can be paired with Marvell’s Avaster wireless single-chip solutions for WiFi, Bluetooth, and GPS functions.

Marvell offers development boards that support both the IAP220 and IAP140. These include a generic Linux board and a generic Linux board with Marvell’s Kinoma application development framework. There will also be a “selectively available” Android board, as well as a Marvell Sensor Board, says the company.

This is the second Linux-ready, MCU-enabled dual-core Cortex-A7 SoC for IoT announced this week at Computex. Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Wear 1100, however, is strictly focused on low-end wearables.

“Marvell’s highly integrated IAP processors and software stack provide OEMs with a comprehensive solution for IoT systems, allowing them to quickly develop innovative products while minimizing the number of components,” stated Linley Gwennap, principal analyst of The Linley Group.

Further information

The Marvell IAP220 is sampling now. More information may be found in Marvell’s announcement and its IAP220 and IAP440 product page.

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