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Consortium aims to unify Linux and Android IoT

Mar 17, 2017 — by Eric Brown — 1,262 views
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Advantech and nine firms, including Retronix, ThunderSoft, Canonical, and Timesys, launched an Embedded Linux & Android Alliance (ELAA) for IoT standards.

Just when we thought there couldn’t possibly be another IoT organization promising to usher us into the nirvana of true interoperability, here comes the Embedded Linux & Android Alliance (ELAA). For all we know, ELAA will be the one we’re all talking about in the coming years as opposed to the Open Connectivity Foundation (OCF) or AllSeen/AllJoyn and other would-be IoT saviors.



ELAA architecture
(click image to enlarge)

The ELAA alliance promises to drive “standardized board adoption of an open and unified architecture for embedded Linux and Android OS for industrial embedded and IoT application.” The group also hopes to “standardize board adoption of an open and unified architecture for embedded Linux and Android OS for industrial embedded application.”

Despite these ambitious sounding goals, ELAA doesn’t appear to be defining a soup-to-nuts IoT framework like the OCF or AllSeen, but is rather focusing on building standards around a few common reference boards and BSPs that support Advantech hardware. The group also stands out with its embrace of Android, as well as Linux, although it makes no mention of Google’s IoT-oriented Android Things (formerly Brillo).

Taiwanese embedded board giant Advantech appears to be the main driver of ELAA, as it is contributing two embedded boards based on NXP’s ubiquitous ARM Cortex-A9 i.MX6 SoC. NXP is not a member, however, nor is there any other hardware vendor in the mix aside from carrier board and equipment makers Retronix and Thundersoft. Retronix is making a digital signage solution based on Advantech’s i.MX6 boards, and Thundersoft is working on IoT gateway solutions.



ELAA conceptual diagram (left) and initial projects and member roles
(click images to enlarge)

Another key member is AIMobile Co. Ltd. a joint venture formed in early 2016 between Advantech (55 percent) and Inventec (45 percent). AIMobile’s mission is to develop industrial handheld mobile devices targeting retail, in-vehicle, field service, and medical applications.

The first 10 ELAA members are separated into two groups, with several companies fitting into more than one:

  • Unified hardware and BSP — Advantech, AIMobile
  • Carrier board, peripherals, tailor-made hardware services — Advantech, Retronix, ThunderSoft
  • Software solution and service — AIMobile, ArcherMind, Canonical, Lineo, Retronix, RTSoft, ThunderSoft, Timesys, Witekio

ELAA hardware and BSP members — Advantech and AIMobile — will jointly develop and support an ELAA Unified Development Platform with hardware products and a BSP. Other members will contribute additional ecosystem components to provide “faster time-to-market, minimal development risk, extensive software offerings, and compatible peripheral integration … through co-business development and cross marketing opportunities.”

 
ELAA’s i.MX6 reference designs

The first two ELAA reference platforms are built around i.MX6-based Advantech COM/carrier board offerings. The first is a ROM-DK7421 carrier for Qseven COMs, and the second is a ROM-DK3420 designed for RTX 2.0 form-factor modules.



First two ELAA reference platforms: ROM-DK7421 for Qseven modules (left) and ROM-DK3420 for RTX 2.0 modules
(click images to enlarge)


ROM-7421

The Mini-ITX form factor ROM-DK7421 development kit supports Advantech’s Qseven style, ROM-7421 computer-on-module. The 70 x 70mm ROM-7421 COM ships with up to 2GB of DDR3 RAM and 4GB of flash. The ROM-DK7421 carrier board offers a GbE port plus interfaces for HDMI, VGA, LVDS, and PCIe interfaces. There are also four USB ports, an SD slot, dual CAN buses, and a SATA interface, among other I/O.

The ROM-DK3420 development kit,” meanwhile, builds upon the rugged ROM-3420 module. When we covered the ROM-3420 a year ago, it was instead paired with a ROM-DB3900 carrier board.



ROM-3420
(click image to enlarge)

The ROM-3420 was one of the first modules to use the RTX 2.0 spec announced around the same time, which was developed by an RTX Consortium formed by Advantech, Aaeon, and Avalue. The RTX (Rugged Technology eXtended) 2.0 spec defines a 68 x 68mm footprint for ruggedized ARM COMs, with four 100-pin connectors for stackable designs. It also supports wide-range, 5V to 24V power and -40 to 85°C temperatures, thereby differentiating itself from the 0 to 85°C extended temperature support offered by SGET’s Qseven and SMARC specs.

The ROM-3420 features 1GB DDR3 RAM and 4GB eMMC flash. The ROM-DK3420 carrier board uses the dual-core i.MX6 version of the ROM-3420. The large, 305 x 244mm board offers most of the features supported on the ROM-DK7421, as well as extras like MIPI-CSI and additional serial interfaces.

 
Further information

ELAA members plan to “launch different SoCs solutions” in the second half of 2017, presumably referring to other Advantech boards based on other SoCs beyond i.MX6. More information may be found at the ELAA website.
 

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