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First Azure Sphere dev board launches

Sep 17, 2018 — by Eric Brown — 979 views

Seeed’s “Azure Sphere MT3620 Development Kit” features MediaTek’s MT3620, a Cortex-A7/Cortex-M4F hybrid that runs Linux and integrates Microsoft’s Azure Sphere security tech. A Grove Shield and Starter Kit are also available.

If you missed Microsoft’s Azure Sphere announcement in April, you might be somewhat flummoxed by Seeed’s new Azure Sphere MT3620 Development Kit, which runs Linux, but requires a Windows 10 desktop running Visual Studio for development. The tiny dev board is the first dev kit for MediaTek’s MT3260 Azure Sphere SoC, which in turn is the first SoC to support Microsoft’s Azure Sphere, an end-to-end, Azure Cloud connected secure IoT platform.



Azure Sphere MT3620 Development Kit (left) and Grove Starter Kit
(click images to enlarge)

 
MediaTek MT3620

Seeed’s $84.90 dev kit is built around a dev board featuring MediaTek’s MT3620 SoC. The MT3620 runs a Linux-based Azure Sphere OS on a 500MHz Cortex-A7 core accompanied by 64kB/32kB L1 caches and a 256kB L2 cache. It also includes 4MB of integrated SRAM.

The SoC also provides dual 200MHz Cortex-M4F chips, one of which is dedicated to a Microsoft Pluton Security Subsystem designed to interact with Microsoft’s Azure-based Azure Sphere Security Service. The Pluton subsystem creates a hardware root of trust, stores private keys, and executes complex cryptographic operations. In addition, Azure Sphere OS provides additional Microsoft security.



MediaTek MT3620 block diagram (left) and Microsoft Azure Sphere ecosystem diagram
(click images to enlarge)

The Pluton-dedicated Cortex-M4F core has 64Kb ROM and 128kB TCM while the general purpose M4F core has 64kB SRAM and 192kB TCM/cache. The MCU subsystem supports peripherals including 5x UART/I2C/SPI, 2x I2S, 8x ADC, up to 12 PWM counters, and up to 72x GPIO. A separate Andes N9 32-bit RISC core supports 1×1 dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi.

The Azure Sphere Security Service is a turnkey, cloud-based platform that brokers trust for device-to-device and device-to-cloud communication through certificate-based authentication. The service also detects “emerging security threats across the entire Azure Sphere ecosystem through online failure reporting, and renewing security through software updates,” says Microsoft.

 
Azure Sphere MT3620 Development Kit

Seeed’s 85 x 50 x 16mm Azure Sphere MT3620 Development Kit board does not appear to offer additional memory beyond what’s available on the MT3620 SoC. The only real-world port on the 110-gram board is a micro-USB port that supports 5V/1A input and debugging. A 5V/1A DC jack is also available along with a 3.3V output.



Azure Sphere MT3620 Development Kit, front and back
(click images to enlarge)

The Azure Sphere MT3620 Development Kit is further equipped with two banks of I/O extension headers. These include four “ISU” serial interfaces that can be configured as an up to 1MHz I2C, an up to 40MHz SPI, or an up to 3Mbps UART. The I/O also includes 4x 12-bit ADC inputs and an I2S interface with slave and TDM modes.

The board is further equipped with onboard antennas and u.FL antenna connectors for antenna diversity. Other features include an RTC with 3V battery holder, 3x system buttons, and 8x LEDs, half of which are user controlled. The board supports -40 to 85°C temperatures.

 
Grove shield and kit

The new MT3620 Grove Shield and Azure Sphere Grove Starter Kit offer easy connections to Seeed’s Grove sensor and I/O modules. The shield and starter kit are on pre-order now and will be ready to ship in September and October.



MT3620 Grove Shield (left) and detail view
(click images to enlarge)

The MT3620 Grove Shield is a breakout board with four 2.54mm headers that connect to the MT3620 dev board. The 50 x 36.5 x 17.8mm shield connects to the dev board’s ADC and I2C interfaces with the help of an I2C-bus controller with UART interface and a 12-bit ADC, I2C-compatible serial interface. You also get 6x Grove connectors plus 2x I2C, 4x GPIO, and single UART and analog interfaces.

The Azure Sphere Grove Starter Kit includes the MT3620 Grove Shield. It also offers six Grove modules chosen from the following list of seven: a rotary angle sensor analog input, a light sensor analog input, buzzer and relay digital outputs, a blue LED button, a temp/humidity sensor, and a 1.12-inch OLED display.

 
Azure Sphere SDK

The Azure Sphere MT3620 Development Kit is pre-installed with the Linux-based Azure Sphere OS. Development occurs on a USB-connected Windows 10 desktop running Microsoft Visual Studio IDE with the Azure Sphere extension. You’ll also need the free, open source Azure Sphere software development kit. The SDK, which is due by the end of the month, will not initially support the Cortex-M4F cores or certain peripheral interfaces (ADC, I2C, I2S, PWM and SPI). The early release also lacks support for WiFi 802.11a, as well as RTC with clock selection and battery backup.

Microsoft recently revealed some more details on Azure Sphere, including upcoming support for its Cosmos DB NoSQL database. In July, Dell EMC, HPE, and Lenovo began ordering Azure Sphere for their servers. In April, Microsoft said that chip manufacturers including Nordic, NXP, Qualcomm, ST Micro, Silicon Labs, and Toshiba had signed up to build their own Azure Sphere enabled SoCs.

 
Further information

The Azure Sphere MT3620 Development Kit is available for pre-order at $84.90 (plus $5 as pre-order surcharge), with shipments beginning Sep. 24. Different models will be available for the U.S., Europe, and Japan, and volume discounts are available. The SDK will be available by Sep. 30. More information may be found on Seeed’s Azure Sphere MT3620 Development Kit product and shopping page. The
MT3620 Grove Shield and Azure Sphere Grove Starter Kit are available for $15.90 and $49, respectively, and will ship in September and October, respectively.

 

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One response to “First Azure Sphere dev board launches”

  1. mike says:

    at a cost of $84.90 i’ll pass way to expensive.

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