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SMARC COM and IoT gateway SBC are buzzing with wireless

Mar 30, 2016 — by Eric Brown — 887 views

Shiratech’s Linux-based “SparkGate-7 Open IoT Gateway” SBC, featuring WiFi, BT, 802.15.4, and optional cellular, is built around a “Spark-501” SMARC COM.

Aviv Technologies Group´s Shiratech Embedded unit first tapped Atmel’s Cortex-A5-based SAMA5D3 processor in 2013 with a Linux-ready, SODIMM-style AT-501 computer-on-module in 2013. Shiratech has now followed this with a Spark-501, which appears to be the first SMARC form factor COM built around an Atmel SAMA5x SoC. The module also fuels the new “SparkGate-7 open IOT Gateway,” which uses a Yocto Project based Linux build.

The SparkGate-7 open IOT Gateway is an SBC designed for general-purpose IoT gateways, battery powered remote IoT gateways, and smart buildings, says Shiratech. Developers can implement the gateway as is in a commercial product, or can use the Spark-501 COM and IoT stack as a reference for a similar gateway.

SparkGate-7 IoT cloud architecture
(click image to enlarge)

SparkGate-7 also includes a secure cloud management stack, providing a “ready to use device-to-cloud control and communication solution for product developers,” says the company. The cloud stack integrates REST as well as JSON or HTTP technologies. In addition, it features remotes software downloads and uses SSL-secured connectivity.

SparkGate-7 detail
(click image to enlarge)

The SparkGate-7 SBC is equipped with dual Ethernet ports, as well as the Spark-501 module’s Atmel WILC3000 combo chip with WiFi, Bluetooth, and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). A separate 802.15.4 module supports 802.15.4 wireless standards like ZigBee, 6LowPAN, and Thread. The SBC also provides a Telit cellular modem, which can swapped out for an optional mini-PCIe slot and SIM Card holder.

The SparkGate-7 board offers dual coastline USB ports, which appear to be mini- or micro-USB ports, as well as LVDS, RGB, and audio interfaces. An RS-485 interface is also available, along with a power jack.

Spark-501 module

An Atmel blog post describes why Shiratech chose the SMARC (Smart Mobility ARChitecture) form factor for the Spark-501, as well as two other Altera Cyclone V based modules — the Spark 100 and Spark 102. (See farther below for more on these Altera-based COMs.) Factors are said to include SMARC’s support for more serial interfaces compared to other formats, as well as the future-proofing provided by a multi-vendor, multi-processor vendor standard. The SparkGate-7 gateway, for example, will also be offered with an Altera ARM/FPGA SMARC module, which is presumably the Spark 100 and/or Spark 102, as well as a Cortex-A7 SMARC module that is currently under development.

(click image to enlarge)

SMARC was the first ARM-specific COM standard, following the ARM-oriented Qseven, which was similarly developed by the Standardization Group for Embedded Technologies (SGET). SMARC has new competition from a 68 x 68mm RTX standard for ruggedized ARM COMs.

The Atmel blog post also details why Shiratech chose the Atmel SAMA5D3, which has been used by numerous IoT oriented COMs like Shiratech’s AT-501 and OpenEmbed’s SOM5360, as well as many gateways and SBCs like Newark Element14’s Atmel-backed SAMA5D3 Xplained. The 536MHz, Cortex-A5 based SoC is touted for its onboard crypto chip, low power consumption, support for low-power DDR RAM, and extensive I/O potential.

The 82 x 50mm Spark-501, which supports Windows in addition to Debian Linux, ships with 512MB LPDDR2, and is available with 4GB of eMMC, with an option for 8GB. You can also load up to 1GB of NAND flash. The module features optional Fast and Gigabit Ethernet controller options, plus the standard WiFi/Bluetooth chip.

The Spark-501 COM offers a resistive touch-enabled 18-bit RGB, or optionally LVDS, interface for up to 1280 x 720 displays. The module integrates 3x USART, 2x UART, 2x USB 2.0 host, and a USB 2.0 host/device port. Other I/O includes 3x I2C, 2x SPI, 5x ADC, and 102x GPIO. There are also SDIO, SSC audio, debug, and optional CAN interfaces.

The module supports the SAMA5D3’s True Random Number Generator (TRNG) encryption engine and Atmel Secure Boot. The Spark-501 runs on 3.3-5V power, consumes 0.4W under typical operation, and has a battery input for RTC. It’s available in 0 to 70°C and -45 to 85°C versions.

Spark-100 and Spark-102 modules

It’s unclear if you can buy the SparkGate-7 with Shiratech’s Cyclone V based Spark-100 and Spark-102 SMARC modules today, or if this is a future option. The modules, however, appear to be shipping now with an Ubuntu stack.

Spark-100 (left) and Spark-102
(click images to enlarge)

Both use the 82 x 50mm SMARC format and feature the Altera Cyclone V SoC. Like the Xilinx Zynq, the Cyclone V combines field programmable gate array (FPGA) logic — in this case, similar to that found in Altera’s Stratix V FPGAs — with a dual-core Cortex-A9 processor, which on the Spark COMs is clockable from 800MHz to 925MHz.

Spark-100 (left) and Spark-102 block diagrams
(click images to enlarge)

The modules are very similar, but the newer Spark-102 lacks some of the Spark-100’s serial I/O, while adding an “Industrial Ethernet” subsystem. The latter includes two dedicated Fast Ethernet PHYs, as well as a master and slave FPGA IP from Softing Industrial Automation that supports multiple Industrial Ethernet standards such as EtherCAT/Profinet IP and “full Linux,” says Shiratech. There’s also a capacitive touch display interface that appears to be missing from the Spark-100.

Common features on the Spark-100 and Spark-102 include 1GB or 2GB of 400MHz, 32-bit DDR3 RAM, which on the Spark-100 is available with optional ECC. Both modules also provide 4GB of eMMC and up to 128MB of NOR flash.

Both modules offer a standard Fast Ethernet PHY in addition to the Spark-102’s dual-port Industrial Ethernet subsystem. They both provide up to 2x USART, 2x SPI, and 2x CAN interfaces, as well as SD, JTAG, and GPIO. The Spark-100 has four I2C interfaces instead of two, and provides an option for USB 2.0 host port or one host and one OTG compared to the Spark-102’s single USB OTG.

The Spark-100 also provides up to 145 FPGA I/Os instead of 102 for the Spark-102. The 5V modules are available in commercial and industrial temperature versions.

Further information

No pricing or availability information was provided for the SparkGate-7 open IOT Gateway or Spark-501 COM. More information may be found on Shiratech’s SparkGate-7 open IOT Gateway and Spark-501 product pages, respectively.

The Spark-100 and Spark-102 modules appear to be shipping. More information may be found on the Spark 102/100 product page.


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