This week’s Weekly Roundup there’s a serious amount of new SBCs, as well as the usual AI boards and thankfully we’re well past all those stupid robots that we saw last year.
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First up on Kickstarter …
The Proxmark3 is a general purpose test equipment aimed at RFID. It allows you to listen and replay any NFC and RFID traffic between 125kHz and 13.56MHz. Interface is via Bluetooth or USB and runs the Atmel SAM7S SoC. No indication of whether you can update with your own firmware or not, but if you’re in to RFID hacking then this looks pretty good.
We’ve seen a lot of STEM education kits in past Weekly Roundups. The Leguino is yet another one that is based on Lego bricks, but they’ve minimized their hardware investment by enclosing common platforms, such as the Arduino Uno, Arduino Nano and Raspberry Pi into Lego enclosures. So, you can code up using all the familiar tools, but they heavily support Visuino. They also have created a bunch of add-ons, such as; displays, servos and gears, switches, buttons, LEDs, microphones, sensors, and battery and breadboard units.
Vion is a Bluetooth multimeter. It won’t be able to take on Dave Jones' multimeter for quality, but comes in cheaper. You can measure the traditional way, or install an iPhone or Android app to query the meter. It has some expected features such as auto-measuring, but some cool ones like voice assisted measurement. The specs aren’t fantastic, but for the price it is OK.
OK, so it’s just another Raspberry Pi Zero with a handy USB hat, but this one allows you to setup multiple virtual flash drives. Interesting.
My prediction of 2018 as being the year of the FPGA for Makers is heating up. Here’s another FPGA breakout board based on the Lattice LCMX02 series, but this one is interesting as their goal isn’t just to make a breakout board, but provide a full education system as well. It’s a hard sell trying to teach FPGAs to beginners. So, it’ll be interesting to see how this one goes.
The Raspberry Boom is a Pi hat that aims to detect infrasonic waves. These are sound waves that are below human hearing which is 20 Hz and below and since frequencies that low travel long distances you can pick up interesting things such as volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tornados, explosions, meteorites and aliens… apparently. The early bird price of US$279 is steep, but that gives you the Pi, SD card, hat, enclosure, power supply and mobile app.
Back in Weekly Roundup #50 we saw the Little Buddy Talker. Well now he has a bigger brother… or sister. This version increases the number of words from 254 to 1016.
And back in Weekly Roundup #51 on Tindie we saw the Maker Uno. They now have a Kickstarter campaign up for grabs, which you can get for 17% cheaper.
If you like binary and clocks… then this simple Kickstarter is a binary clock… It’s one of the better built ones I’ve seen, but it does lack things like syncing to an external time source.
Over at IndieGoGo, there’s an Open Hardware pick and place machine. If you’ve ever made more than a handful of your own PCBs, then you’ll understand the frustration working with tiny components. A P&P will automatically pick up and place components on to a PCB for you. Normally, they are pretty expensive - around US$4000, but with this campaign you can get one for under a grand that supports vision control of components down to 201s, with a 400 by 250mm work area. Nice.
Over at CrowdSupply there’s a datacentre-in-a-box in pre-launch. The Circumference provides power, cooling and gigabit network switch for up to 32 nodes based on either the Raspberry Pi or UDOO X86. The main control unit is a standard PC that provides control over cooling, power and access to node consoles.
And yet another portable gaming thingy, this one based on the Pi Zero. Comes with 5-way joystick, two buttons, 1.4" screen and 300mAh battery.
Back in Weekly Roundup #30 we saw the Orange Pi 2G-IoT. Well, the Orange Pi guys are back at it again with the Orange Pi 4G-IoT. This board is completely different to the 2G-IoT - They’ve dropped the Ethernet port and gone wireless mad supporting not only 4G, but WiFi, Bluetooth, FM and GPS. It runs a Mediatek MT6737 SoC with 1G RAM, 8G eMMC, HDMI and LCD out and Pi header, powered from a 5v, 2A DC jack. At US$45, it’s the cheapest way to get access to a 4G network.
If you’ve ever designed your own PCBs, then sometimes you want to be able to compare changes you’ve made between revisions. Especially if you’re working in a team. cadlab.io solves this issue by providing visual comparisons between boards and schematics along with annotations and comments. Nice.
Since the last Weekly Roundup there’s been a bunch of festivals and conferences. The big one was of course Embedded World 2018, but there was also the reprap festival, which highlights just how far 3D printing has come. Then there was the Trenton Computer Festival and you may have missed World Create Day and of course HackADay announced their Hacker Academy Awards. With $200,000 in cash prizes up for grabs. It’ll be interesting to see what hacks come up.
Over at Microchip they have shown us that the old AVR series chipset isn’t dead yet by releasing a new variant called the ATmega4809. From the datasheet it seems to read like a typical AVR; 8bit RISC CPU, 16 channel ADC, SPI, I2C, but wait… what’s this? Configurable Custom Logic? Nice. Admittedly, it only has 4 lookup tables so not as advanced as an FPGA, but still is a nice feature and hopefully a sign of things to come.
Over at resin.io they are dipping their toes into the SBC market with Project Fin. This is a ruggedized carrier board for the Pi CM3 Lite with up to 64GB eMMC, dual-band WiFi, Bluetooth, RTC, mini PCIe and an Artik020 MCU which can shutdown the Pi completely for low power modes. It can also handle a wide DC input supply of 6 to 30v.
The 96boards format is finally getting some traction and we’re seeing a number of boards hitting the market using this format. Four new SBCs have just recently been released. For example: Avnet have launched a 96boards format SBC based on the Zynq UltraScale+ SoC with on-board FPGA, 2G DDR4 RAM, micro SD, WiFi, Bluetooth, 3 USB3.0 ports, mini DP, along with the standard 96boards GPIO expansion. Powered from a wide 8 to 18v, 3A DC supply.
Then there’s the HiKey970, which is another powerhouse, running the octo-core Kirin 970 with 6GB, 4 channel DDR4 RAM, 64G UFS flash, micro SD, GbE, dual-band WiFi, GPS, GLONASS, 2 USB3.0, 2 USB Type C, mPCIe running from a wide 8 to 18v DC supply. It seems all the SBCs are starting to be a whole lot more grunty. These boards would be perfect for Machine Learning.
Over at Arrow they have finally come out with the DragonBoard 820c in the 96boards format. This runs the new Snapdragon 820E SoC, which is a quad-core Kyro processor running at up to 2.35GHz. A bit of a beast. The board also has 3G DDR4 RAM, 32G UFS flash, micro SD slot, GbE, dual-band WiFi, Bluetooth, USB3.0, mini PCIe, HDMI capable of 4K @ 60Hz and unusually GPS and motion sensors. You get all this for US$200.
Not to be outdone, Geniatech have also released the Developer Board 8, which, as far as I can see, is identical to Arrow’s board minus a couple of bits. So, not sure what’s going on there.
Of course last week we saw the Raspberry Pi 3B+ being released. No need to go into that here. Check out what I thought of it in my quick review.
Gumstix have announced two boards that work with Amazon Voice Services called the Chatterbox. The first board takes a Colibri i.MX7 System-on-Module and provides WiFi, Bluetooth, GbE, RTC, SD slot and audio in and out. The second board is designed to take the Raspberry Pi CM3 module with pretty much the same specs, except there’s no Ethernet.
SolidRun have released a couple of SBCs, both of which take their i.MX8 System-on-Module, which comes in three flavours, from dual-core Cortex-A53 with 3G DDR4 RAM to quad-core Cortex-A53 with 4G DDR4 RAM. All three boards also have GbE, WiFi, Bluetooth, PCIe SSD, eMMC, SD, USB3.0, HDMI capable of 4K @ 60Hz and a bucket load of GPIOs. This board can be chucked in to the HummingBoard Pulse, which breaks out pretty much everything on the SoM, but also provides a MikroBUS click interface and can be powered from 7 to 36v or PoE. Then there’s the Cubox Pulse mini PC, which breaks out less of the SoM features and is designed more as a desktop.
There’s a bunch of cool things over at Tindie.
This store was pretty quick to release a PoE hat for the Pi 3B+. For US$17 you can power your Pi without those annoying micro USB cables. Bear in mind that this is the cheap part. You’ll still need a gigabit switch that supports PoE which can be expensive.
If you want to muck around with ZigBee on a Pi, then this small hat runs the SiLabs EM357 which is pre-programmed with firmware supporting all the standard NCP commands over serial UART. There’s also plugins for OpenHAB, Node-RED and other platforms.
If you muck around with HAM radio, then this next one might interest you. It’s an Arduino shield running the Auctus AT1846S chip giving you Tx and Rx over all the common HAM frequencies. It also has adjustable channel bandwidth, squelch, VOX, DTMF encoding, RSSI and is powered from a 5 to 20v DC supply.
Want to have some decent control over your reflow oven? This Tindie store has an Arduino compatible controller with on-board Bluetooth module, thermocouple interface, LiPo battery management and solid state relay. All code is open-source and available on GitHub.
The MaxProLogic was a successful Kickstarter back in Weekly Roundup #45. Well, it’s now available on Tindie for around US$5 more than the Kickstarter price. Running the Altera MAX10 FPGA, it has a lot of bang for your buck.
And here’s another alternative in the same Arduino form factor, but running the more expensive Lattice iCE40 FPGA. Supports both 5 and 3.3v logic levels from a 6 to 17v DC supply and pushes out an additional 20 GPIOs.
If you use a lot of ESP32 modules, then programming them can be fiddly. The Flex Red Devil uses horizontally placed pogo-pins allowing you to program modules quickly.
The lorasensortile is a LoRa based sensor board that includes LiPo charging, SPI flash and accelerometer, pressure and light sensors in one small 23 by 23mm package. Can be powered from LiPo or 2 AA batteries with a sleep current of only 10uA.
Another breakout from Pesky Products, this long-range proximity sensor uses the VL53L1X, which improves on the previous VL53L0X by increasing the sensor range from 2 to 4m while still maintaining the 1mm accuracy.
If you saw my MQTT based RGB LED panel, I used the very common HUB75 panel. I used one of AdaFruit’s LED matrix hats, but this is a good alternative. The PocketScroller allows control of up to 72, P10 type panels. Yes, that’s right. 72 16 by 32 LED RGB panels! That’ll give you around a 288 by 128 pixel display but bear in mind panels can be expensive.
AdaFruit, Seeed, SparkFun, DFRobot, DigiKey
Over at Itead they are selling an updated version of the Sonoff POW called the R2. This upgrade provides user-configurable overload protection, live current and voltage readings and 99% measurement accuracy.
And at Seeed Studio they have on pre-order the ReSpeaker Core v2.0. This upgrade looks more like an SBC as it now contains the RK3229 SoC with 1G RAM, 4G eMMC, SD slot, HDMI out, WiFi and 100MbE. Apart from that everything else is identical to it’s predecessor with 6 mic array, LEDs and Grove ports.
Way back in Weekly Roundup #38 we saw the Artik 530 starter kit. Well now Seeed Studio, in conjunction with Samsung, have available for pre-order the Eagleye 530. This is a Pi form factor SBC, what else, running the Artik 530 SoC with 1G RAM, 4G eMMC, WiFi, Bluetooth, GbE and ZigBee with everything else almost identical to the Pi. Except power is provided by DC jack, which is a good move. Or if you’re really desperate you can still use a micro USB port.
They also have their Cytron SmartDriveDuo, which is a DC motor driver that can handle up to 80A peak and 30A continuous on two channels. Has on-board MOSFETs that are switched at 18kHz to reduce noise and handles all the thermal and current overload protection for you. So all you have to do is control it via RC, PWM or UART.
Over at AdaFruit they have their AS7262 based 6 channel visible light sensor breakout which allows sensing red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet colour intensities. Access is over UART using plain old AT commands.
SparkFun have this pretty cool magnetic imaging tile that was designed by Peter Jansen. It contains an array of 64 hall effect sensors that convert magnetic fields to a visible spectrum.
SparkFun are also getting into Helium in a big way. No, not that type of Helium but this type of Helium, which consists of a module called an Atom running a SAMR2 and SkyWorks FEM. It’s similar to LoRa in that it’s a long range, low power device.
You can get Helium starter kits which interface to a Raspberry Pi or Arduino providing a gateway between the Internet and the Helium network.
Or you can also get a standalone Ethernet to Helium gateway.
They also have in an updated fingerprint scanner. This module can scan and store up to 200 fingerprints in any rotation and requires only 1.5 seconds for recognition. Access via standard UART.
Over at Pololu they have in a stepper motor controller capable of driving a 4.5 to 35v stepper with quadrature encoder input and control over USB, UART, I2C, RC and analog voltage.