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Four Android Things production boards span Cortex-A7, -A35, and -A53

May 9, 2018 — by Eric Brown — 1393 views

Google unveiled four ARM-based production boards for Android Things 1.0: Innocomm’s i.MX8M based WB10-AT, Intrinsyc’s Open-Q 212A and Open-Q 624A, based on the Snapdragon 212 and 634, respectively, and the MediaTek MT8516.

Earlier this week, Google released Android Things 1.0 and announced several consumer products that will ship in the coming months based on the stripped-down, IoT-oriented Android variant. Google also showed off four official production platforms.



Google’s group shot of WB10-AT, Open-Q 212A, and Open-Q 624A modules plus the MediaTek MT8516 virtual module
(click image to enlarge)

One of the many restrictive licensing rules established for Android Things include the requirement to use one of four system-on-chips: the quad-core, Cortex-A53 NXP i.MX8M, Qualcomm’s quad -A7 Snapdragon 212 (SDA212) and new octa-core -A53 Snapdragon 624 (SDA624), and MediaTek’s quad-core Cortex-A53 MT8516. To enable development of these chips, Google partnered with InnoComm on the i.MX8M, Intrinsyc on the Snapdragons, and MediaTek to provide official production platforms for the chips.

The production platforms differ from the official development platforms, which continue to be the Raspberry Pi 3 and Technexion’s i.MX7-based Pico i.MX7D module. (Google has discontinued the previous i.MX6 UL based development platforms.) Neither the RPi 3 or i.MX7D can be used for production, but Google offers assistance in moving a prototype to the production platforms.



Open-Q 212A (left) and Open-Q 624A doppelganger with identical layouts and microphone accessories
(click images to enlarge)

InnoComm’s i.MX8M based WB10AT COM is based closely on its previously announced WB10 module. Intrinsyc’s Snapdragon 212-based Open-Q 212A and Snapdragon 634 based Open-Q 624A have identically sized modules and carrier boards, as well as many of the same features. Mediatek’s MT8516 is both the name of a chipset and a “virtual” production platform.

The big news with the first market-ready release of Android Things is that Google is offering free OTA security and patch updates for three years to all targeted devices. However, Google requires a licensing deal to deploy more than 100 commercial systems using the OTA updated long-term version of Android Things, and the OS itself is “managed” and tightly controlled by Google. (See our Android Things 1.0 story for more details.)



Android Things based iHome iGV1 smart speaker (left) and Google comparison chart for WB10-AT, Open-Q 212A, Open-Q 624A, and MediaTek MT8516 module features
(click images to enlarge)

The modules share the same small footprints of about a 50 x 50mm, as well a focus on audio features that might support integration with the Google Assistant voice agent. The first round of consumer devices using Android Things are smart speakers and automation hubs that integrate Google Assistant.

 
WB10-AT

InnoComm’s 50 x 50mm WB10-AT COM is almost identical to the WB10 module announced in March. The only difference we can see except for the OS is that the AT version ships with 1GB LPDDR4 instead of 2GB.



WB10-AT

The WB10-AT incorporates a 1.5GHz, Cortex-A53 based NXP i.MX8M Quad SoC with a 266MHz Cortex-M4 core. It offers 8GB eMMC, 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2, and a GbE controller.


Block diagram (left) and carrier board for the original WB10 module
(click images to enlarge)

The WB10-AT offers HDMI 2.0 with 4K HDR support, as well as extensive audio I/O enabled by the audio-savvy i.MX8M. Audio specs include 4x SAI, DSD512, and S/PDIF. Although the original WB10 was announced with an optional, unnamed carrier board that is only slightly larger than the module itself, no carrier board was mentioned by Google for the AT model.

 
Open-Q 212A Development Kit – Android Things

Intrinsyc’s Open-Q 212A is a sandwich-style alternative to the year-old, Android-focused Open-Q 212 SBC designed for “next-gen smart speaker and voice-controlled home hub products. “Instead of a monolithic Nano-ITX SBC you get a new 50 x 46.5mm Open-Q 212A Android Things SOM with a quad-core, Cortex-A7 Qualcomm Snapdragon 212 (SDA212) — the lowest-end SoC available for Android Things — mounted on a 170 x 115mm carrier board.



Open-Q 212A board and module, front and back
(click images to enlarge)

The new Open-Q 212A module provides 1GB LPDDR3, 4GB eMMC, WiFi-ac, and BT 4.2. The 12V carrier board adds 2x USB host ports, a micro-USB client port, and a micro-USB debug port. You also get MIPI-CSI and MIPI-DSI interfaces, with the latter capable of up to 720p LCD displays. PCB antennas are also available.


Open-Q 212
Nano-ITX SBC

Like the original SBC (pictured at right), the new kit excels at high-end audio features. It supplies I2S headers and Qualcomm noise cancellation and voice recognition technologies. There’s also a speaker amp accessory board based on a TI TA5782M class D amplifier and a dual-microphone accessory board with cable and connector abd “and interfaces directly to the DMIC inputs of the processor,” says Intrinsyc.

Other boards based on the Snapdragon 212 include the Android- and Linux-ready SKATE-212 SBC.

 
Open-Q 624A Development Kit – Android Things

This new sandwich-style kit is Google’s high-end Android Things platform. It combines a new Open-Q 624A Android Things SOM and carrier board, each of which is the same size as their Open-Q 212A counterparts.



Open-Q 624A, front and back
(click images to enlarge)

The module offers 2GB RAM, 4GB eMMC, WiFi-ac, BT 4.2, and a new, undocumented octa-core Snapdragon 624 SoC based on the existing Snapdragon 625. Like the Snapdragon 625, the 624 provides 8x Cortex-A53 cores at up to 1.8GHz along with an Adreno 506 GPU with support for 4K @ 30fps video. Google calls the Snapdragon 624 the SDA624, and in one place Intrinsyc refers to it as the APQ8053, which is also the name of the Snapdragon 825. It’s unclear what the differences are between the SoC models, but if there are any they likely have to do with audio.

The Open-Q 624A carrier board has a feature set that is very similar to that of the similarly sized Open-Q 212A board. However, it adds a USB 3.0 Type-C port, sensor expansion and haptic output, and an optional GPS receiver, which like the module’s WiFi and Bluetooth, is available with an antenna.

The 12V board is further equipped with a 4-lane MIPI-DSI interface that supports up to 4K playback on a monitor, as well as an optional LCD or touchscreen that supports up to 1080p @ 60fps video. You also get 2x MIPI-CSI connectors with an optional camera module featuring an Omnivision OV5693 5MP sensor. GPIO expansion is also available.

The kit offers the same speaker amp and dual-mic accessory boards that are available with the Open-Q 212A. I2S/SLIMBUS headers are available for external audio devices.

 
MediaTek MT8516

Google refers to the MT8516 as a virtual SoM, as opposed to the other physical modules, and suggests that the module’s capabilities are directly integrated into a reference board designed for high volume applications. Mediatek, however, variously refers to the MT8516 as a chip, a chipset, and a system on module.



MediaTek MT8516

Whatever the form factor, the MT8516 provides a quad-core, 1.3GHz Cortex-A35 processor with 4GB eMMC, WiFi, BT, and RF. The platform is designed for voice assistance and other audio applications, and provides 4-channel I2S x2, 8-channel TDM, and 2-channel PDM input for voice input control and connected audio.

The Cortex-A35 cores draw about 33 percent less power per core and occupies 25 percent less silicon area than Cortex-A53. The -A35 design lies at the heart of NXP’s i.MX8X SoC, which is also available in two dual-core models. The i.MX8X is found on Phytec’s phyCore-i.MX 8 module.

 
Further information

No pricing or availability information was provided for the first four Android Things 1.0 production platforms. More information may be found on this Google Android Things Supported Platforms page, as well as at these four product pages:

 

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