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WandBoard.org spins Brillo-on-iMX6UL IoT hacker board

Feb 8, 2016 — by Eric Brown — 1,487 views

Wandboard.org launched a sandwich-style “HobbitBoard” that runs Brillo on an i.MX6 UltraLite, and offers Intel Edison, Wandboard, and MikroBus expansion.

The HobbitBoard, which is available for pre-order at $69 for March shipment, is the first hacker board to come out of Wandboard.org since the original i.MX6-based Wandboard debuted back in 2012. The Wandboard, which stepped up to a quad-core version in 2013, was one of the very first community-backed, open spec boards following the BeagleBoard. It came out about the same time as the original Raspberry Pi Model B.



HobbitBoard carrier (top) and COM

Like the Wandboard, the HobbitBoard is open source — schematics will be posted in two weeks — and it shares a sandwich-style COM-and-carrier design based on an NXP (formerly Freescale) i.MX6 system-on-chip. Yet instead of the standard, Cortex-A9 based i.MX6, the tiny, Internet of Things focused HobbitBoard uses the power-sipping, Cortex-A7 based i.MX6 UltraLite (UL), clocked to 528MHz. The i.MX6UL SoC has a stripped down WXGA display interface, but it offers security, tamper detection, and power management features missing from the original i.MX6 chips.

Instead of offering Linux, the HobbitBoard runs Google’s IoT-oriented, Android-based Brillo. The HobbitBoard is designed for home automation, drone, 3D printer, climate control, robot, or remote sensor projects.


HobbitBoard COM

We were notified about the HobbitBoard by Marcel vandenHeuvel of Taiwan-based embedded vendor TechNexion. Wandboard.org was started on the side by several TechNexion engineers, and TechNexion stepped in to manufacture it using its standard PICO-EDM form-factor COMs. The company provided “the logistic backbone to distributors and catalog vendors such as Digikey/Mouser/Allied,” wrote vandenHeuvel in an email, and later “took on the whole back office.”


PICO-IMX6UL COM

Now, the same engineers have worked with NXP and the still-lively Wandboard.org community to develop the HobbitBoard, and TechNexion is once again sponsoring engineering time. The HobbitBoard computer-on-module, which plugs into a carrier board, is based closely on TechNexion’s commercial PICO-IMX6UL COM. According to vandenHeuvel, NXP suggested that TechNexion and Wandboard.org should create a community board that replaces the PICO-IMX6UL’s QSPI NOR flash with EMMC. (We suspect the new COM will eventually show up on TechNexion’s website with a module designation such as PICO-IMX6UL-EMMC.)



HobbitBoard COM detail
(click image to enlarge)

Like the PICO-IMX6UL, the HobbitBoard COM is notable for offering an Intel Edison compatible I/O connector. You can plug the 40 x 36mm HobbitBoard COM directly into the 70-pin Hirose connector “Edison socket” on an Edison carrier board. The COM’s Edison connectors remain exposed when plugged into the 100 x 45mm carrier board, which adds four board-to-board expansion headers that are identical to those found on the Wandboard.


HobbitBoard carrier-and-COM detail view
(click image to enlarge)

The HobbitBoard baseboard also has a pair of expansion headers (UART/I2C/SPI/GPIO) compatible with MikroElektronika’s MikroBus socket for its wide range of Click add-on sensor and I/O daughterboards. MikroBus connectors have started popping up on other community-backed SBCs, such as SolidRun’s i.MX6-based HummingBoard-Gate.

The HobbitBoard COM comes with 256MB of RAM, which is far more than Brillo requires, and integrates 4GB of eMMC flash. As as on PICO-IMX6UL, the COM is further equipped with a Broadcom BCM4335 802.11ac WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0 module, plus an NXP PF300 power management IC, and it also integrates a 10/100 Ethernet interface. In addition to the Edison expansion header, the HobbitBoard COM provides the dual expansion connector interface as implemented on TechNexion’s PICO COM family.

The carrier board provides real-world ports on its top side for Ethernet, USB host, along with a bottom-mounted, USB Type C port. In addition to the aforementioned expansion connectors, the board includes an audio I/O jack and a 5V DC input jack.

 
Further information

The HobbitBoard is available for $69 at ARMkits and $81.24 at Digi-Key. Shipments are due in March. More information may be found at Wandboard.org’s HobbitBoard product page. More detailed specs and schematics or due within two weeks.
 

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