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Final Android Things preview adds RPi3 features and new i.MX6 UL target

Aug 11, 2017 — by Eric Brown — 1,128 views
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Google released Developer Preview 5 of Android Things, adding Android O, OpenGL ES, and WebView on the RPi 3, and support for an i.MX6 UL based “SprIoT” kit.

Google’s Android Things Developer Preview 5 (DP5) is the latest release of the original preview released last December when Google announced that its Brillo OS for IoT was being retooled into an Android Things distribution. The major improvement is a shift to a foundation of Android O, the nickname for what is expected to be an Android 8.0 release due in the next few months. There is also an improved Android Things Console, a new i.MX6 UL target — the NXP-supported Murata SprIoT kit – and OpenGL ES 2.0/WebView and dynamic pin muxing support on the Raspberry Pi 3.



Android Things architecture
(click image to enlarge)

Last week, Google released Android O Developer Preview 4, the last preview before the final release. Android O (possibly for Oreo) offers improved notification channels, picture-in-picture mode, unread notification app badges, adaptive icons, and better Bluetooth audio support, among other changes. With Android Things DP5 shifting to Android O, “your future Android Things applications should target API 26 to work correctly on the platform with our support libraries,” says Google.

Android Things DP5 also improves on the Android Things Console that Google launched in June for over-the-air (OTA) updates. The latest release makes “a number of UX improvements to the console to improve usability and functionality,” says Google.

Another new DP5 feature is the availability of Android Things samples directly within Android Studio for browsing and importing. The samples include interactions with buttons, sensors, LEDs, and displays, as well as implementations of Google Assistant and TensorFlow.


Raspberry Pi 3

Several new features target the Raspberry Pi 3, which is Android Things’ main high-end target, especially now that Intel has discontinued the Atom-based Joule module that Google had been targeting. Another Android Things target – the older, lower-end Edison module – was also discontinued by Intel. Google made no mention of any new x86-based boards to round out its Android Things offerings.

Android Things DP5 adds support for OpenGL ES 2.0 and WebView on the Raspberry Pi 3. Google also added dynamic pin muxing on the RPi 3, enabling GPIO pins to be configured at runtime depending on what features are being used.

With the removal of the Edison, Google has added yet another NXP i.MX6 UL based target to address low-power IoT applications. The new board is the Murata SprIoT i.MX6UL, which has also been added to NXP’s Android Things page.



Murata’s SprIoT i.MX6UL dev kit (formerly Murata IoT SOM EVK)
(click images to enlarge)

SprIoT i.MX6UL appears to be the new name for the Murata IoT SOM EVK that was announced in June in conjunction with Murata’s 40 x 40mm Aquila 6UL COM. This module has since been renamed SprIoT 6UL.

The SprIoT i.MX6UL dev kit joins several other previously announced targets based on the low-power, Cortex-A7 i.MX6 UL (Ultra Lite) SoC. These include NXP/TechNexion’s Pico i.MX6UL dev kit, previously released as Wandboard.org’s Brillo-focused HobbitBoard, and also released by NXP under the name NXP i.MX6UL Development Platform. The carrier board taps Technexion’s Pico i.MX6UL COM.



Technexion’s PICO-IMX7 module, which runs on NXP’s Pico i.MX67D dev kit
(click images to enlarge)

Since last December, Google has added support for the NXP Pico i.MX7D (PDF), which appears to use the same Pico i.MX6UL baseboard, but with a Technexion PICO-IMX7module based on the dual-core version of NXP’s i.MX7, a Cortex-A7 SoC with a Cortex-M4 MCU. Technexion promotes the module as being “hardware platform compatible with Intel Edison baseboards.” The rugged, 40 x 37mm module, which offers optional WiFi and Bluetooth, also supports standard Android and Linux distributions. The module ships with up to 2GB DDR3L, and offers 4GB eMMC, optional microSD, and Ethernet support.


Argon i.MX6UL

There’s also an Argon i.MX6UL kit from NXP and ArgonBoards (owned by VVDN Technologies), which was originally announced as the Android Things-ready NXP ArgonBoard with i.MX6UL COM. Like the other two dev kits, this is a sandwich-style board, in this case tapping the Argon i.MX 6UL SOM.

 
Further information

The Android Things DP5 is available now for free download. More information may be found on Google’s DP5 announcement and Android Things Developer Kits page.
 

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