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Tiny IoT-oriented i.MX6 UL module includes Linux BSP

May 23, 2016 — by Eric Brown — 2,006 views

Digi unveiled a tiny “ConnectCore 6UL” COM, combining NXP’s I/O-rich i.MX6 UL SoC with 802.11ac, BT 4.1, industrial temp support, and TrustFence security.

Digi International’s ConnectCore for i.MX 6UL, or ConnectCore 6UL, appears to be the smallest computer-on-module to date running NXP’s year-old, IoT-oriented i.MX6 UltraLite system-on-chip. The device debuts a patent-pending Digi SMTplus surface mount form factor measuring only 29 x 29mm, or “slightly larger than a postage stamp,” says Digi.

The ConnectCore 6UL is smaller than TechNexion’s 40 x 34mm, i.MX6 UL based PICO-IMX6UL module. It also beats out the recent 37 x 27mm, i.MX7-based iMX7 Dual uCOM from Embedded Artists.

Two views of the Digi ConnectCore 6UL
(click images to enlarge)

The Digi SMTplus COM form factor is said to support a 3.75mm thickness, although the ConnectCore 6UL is 5mm. The SMTplus format offers two integration options — fully featured, versatile, 245-pad LGA, or else the simpler 76-pad castellated edge vias, said to allow manual prototyping placement. The two options provide a wide range of product feature requirements, unit cost targets, and levels of design expertise, says Digi. The surface mount form factor enables “highly reliable mounting for high shock/vibration applications and compact low-profile devices, and eliminates the need for costly board-to-board connectors,” says the company.

The ConnectCore 6UL module is aimed at IoT applications including healthcare, precision agriculture, building access/control, transportation, and gaming. The module follows in a long line of Digi’s “Connect” branded, Linux-based embedded devices, many of which have used Freescale (now NXP) SoCs, such as the ConnectCard for i.MX28.

The 528MHz i.MX6 UltraLite shifts from the i.MX6’s usual Cortex-A9 cores to the more power-efficient Cortex-A7. It has a stripped down WXGA display interface along with new security and power management features.

ConnectCore 6UL block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

The ConnectCore 6UL provides two different power management solutions: the i.MX optimized NXP PF3000 PMIC and Digi’s MCA Cortex-M0+ microcontroller assist chip. The latter offers more advanced features such as low-power RTC wake-up, low-power Bluetooth LE wake-up, and ultra-low (sub-mA) power gating.

The ConnectCore 6UL provides up to 1GB DDR3 RAM and up to 2GB SLC NAND flash, and offers dual Fast Ethernet controllers. A separate SKU includes wireless features like 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.1 with BLE.

The module expresses I/O including 24-bit LCD and MIPI-CSI interfaces, as well as dual USB 2.0 OTG. A wide range of industrial I/O includes FlexCAN, ADC, and up to 103 GPIOs. The module supports industrial -40 to 85°C temperatures and IEC 60068 shock and vibration resistance.

Digi supports the ConnectCore 6UL with a Yocto Project based Linux BSP that is said to deliver “integrated, tested, regular software maintenance based on current, stable community releases.” The BSP includes a new Digi TrustFence Device Security Framework that implements secure connections, authenticated boot, encrypted data storage, access-controlled ports, secure software updates, and seamless integration of the dedicated on-module Secure Element (SE). There’s are also two ConnectCore 6UL starter kits (see farther below).

Specifications listed for the ConnectCore 6UL include:

  • Processor — NXP i.MX6 UltraLite (1x Cortex-A7 core @ 528MHz); MCA Cortex-M0+
  • Memory/storage:
    • 256MB to 1GB DDR3 RAM
    • 256MB to 2GB SLC NAND flash
    • MMC 4.5/SD 3.0/SDIO interface
  • Display/camera:
    • Parallel 24-bit LCD interface, up to 1366×768
    • 4/5-wire touchscreen support via ADC interface
    • Parallel 24-bit MIPI-CSI camera interface with BT.656 support
  • Wireless (only on CC-WMX-JN58-NE SKU):
    • 802.11ac WiFi
    • Bluetooth 4.1 with BLE
    • ANT+
    • U.FL antenna connector plus “option through pads”
  • Networking — 2x 10/100Mbps Ethernet controllers (MAC + IEEE 1588)
  • Other I/O:
    • 2x USB 2.0 OTG with PHY
    • 7x UARTs
    • 2x FlexCAN 2.0b
    • S/PDIF
    • 4x I2C
    • 4x SPI
    • 3x I2S/SAI
    • 8x PWM
    • 3x watchdog
    • 4x timers
    • 2x 12-bit ADC (10-ch.) with 4/5-wire touch
    • Up to 103x GPIOs
  • Power — NXP PF3000 and MCA-based PMICs
  • Operating temperature — -40 to 85°C
  • Shock and vibration resistance – per IEC 60068-2-6, IEC 60068-2-64, IEC 60068-2-27, HALT
  • Dimensions — 29 x 29 x 5mm; Digi SMTplus form factor with 245-pad LGA or 76-bad castellated edge vias options
  • Operating system — Linux BSP (Yocto Project) with Uboot and TrustFence security

Other i.MX6 UltraLite-based COMs we’ve encountered include CompuLab’s CL-SOM-iMX6UL, TechNexion’s tiny PICO-IMX6UL and EDM1-CF-IMX6UL, iWave’s iW-RainboW-G18M-SODIMM i.MX6UL, F&S’s efus A7UL , and Ka-Ro’s TX6UL.

ConnectCore 6UL Starter Kit

Digi offers the ConnectCore 6UL module with a choice of a ConnectCore 6UL Starter Kit or a more expensive ConnectCore 6UL Jumpstart Kit. We only found a data sheet based on the former.

ConnectCore 6UL Starter Kit board
(click image to enlarge)

The 87 x 63mm ConnectCore 6UL Starter Kit board includes the wireless version of the module, along with an antenna and a 10/100 Ethernet port. The board provides a microSD slot, dual USB 2.0 host ports, and dual micro-USB ports with power support.

A 40-pin expansion connector is provided, but there are no claims here for Raspberry Pi compatibility. There are three Interfaces for SeeedStudio’s Grove sensor and I/O add-on modules (D, A, and I2C). Other features include a coin-cell header, LEDs, buttons, boot switches, and a JTAG debug interface.

The 5 VDC board runs at a typical 200 mA, says Digi. Like the module, it supports -40 to 85°C temperatures. Digi also provides custom design services, as well as antenna design/selection guidance, cellular integration, and certification assistance.

“The ConnectCore 6UL System-on-Module platform demonstrates how long-term partners like Digi deliver best-in-class products built on our i.MX, Kinetis, security and NFC products,” stated Ron Martino, vice president, i.MX applications processor and advanced technology adoption, NXP Semiconductors.

Further information

The Digi ConnectCore 6UL will be available in a ConnectCore 6UL Starter Kit ($124 in August) and a ConnectCore 6UL Jumpstart Kit ($249 in September). No information was provided on pricing or availability on the ConnectCore 6UL module on its own. More information may be found at the Digi International ConnectCore 6UL product page.


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