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Sandwich-style 3.5-inch SBCs run Linux on 2W

Apr 14, 2014  |  Eric Brown
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[Updated May 9] — Embedian has launched a pair of sandwich-style “SMART SBCs” that combine baseboards with a SMARC COM, and run Linux or Android on a 1GHz TI AM335x SoC.

The “SBC-SMART-BEE” and “SBC-SMART-MEN” each consist of the integration of Embedian’s SMARC form-factor SMARC-T335X COM along with one of two carrier boards that can also support other SMARC computer-on-modules (COMs). The two sandwich-style, 3.5-inch form-factor SBCs differ in terms of the I/O interfaces they support and their connector types and placements.



SBC-SMART-BEE and SBC-SMART-MEM
(click images to enlarge)

In addition to being bundled with Embedian’s SMARC-T335X computer-on-module (shown below), the carrier boards used in these two SBC sandwiches are also offered as standalone products, presumably for use with other SMARC COMs from Embedian and other sources. Both baseboards support the short (82 x 50mm) version of the SMARC form-factor (see more about SMARC farther below).


SMARC-T335X COM
(click image to enlarge)

Embedian’s SMARC-T335X COM, which forms the core of these two “SMART SBCs,” incorporates a low-power Sitara AM3352 or 3D-accelerated AM3354 system-on-chip from Texas Instruments (TI). The Cortex-A8 processors can be configured to run at 600MHz, 800MHz, or 1GHz, with less than 2 Watt power consumption listed for all varieties. The Linux- and Android-ready SMARC-T335X is further equipped with 512MB of DDR3 RAM and 4GB of NAND flash, as well as dual Fast Ethernet controllers and a 314-pin MXM SMARC connector.

The two sandwich-style SBCs are suitable for a wide range of embedded applications, including home gateways, HMI, medical devices, smart toll systems, vending machines, PLC/SCADA equipment, education devices, and point-of-sales (PoS) devices, says Embedian. Both models adopt a 145 x 102mm, 3.5-inch form-factor, and support a choice of commercial (0 to 60°C) or industrial (-40 to 85°C) temperature ranges.

These two Embedian SMART SBCs are dissected in more below…

 
SBC-SMART-BEE

This SMART SBC model combines the SMARC-T335X COM with a 3.5-inch form-factor carrier board that, in addition to a 314-pin MXM socket for the COM, offers coastline ports for dual gigabit Ethernet, USB host, and mini-USB OTG. An SD card slot and serial debug connector are also available on the coastline.



SBC-SMART-BEE connector details and block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

Specifications listed for the SMART-BEE include:
  • Processor/Memory — TI AM335x, 512MB DDR3, 4GB flash via SMARC-T335X module
  • Storage expansion — SDHC/SDIO slot
  • Display:
    • Single-channel, 24-bit LVDS interface
    • Parallel LCD 18-bit interface
    • 4-wire touch connector
    • LCD LED backlight driver onboard
  • Networking — 2x 10/100 Ethernet ports
  • Other I/O:
    • USB 2.0 host port
    • Mini-USB 2.0 OTG port
    • 3x RS232 transceivers (1x configurable to RS422/RS485)
    • 2x SPI interfaces
    • 2x I2C interfaces
    • Audio mic-in, headphone out
    • CAN bus header
    • 12x GPIOs
  • Other features — Buzzer; reset jumper; ext. watchdog reset
  • Power — 5V supply with terminal block connector and miswiring protection; consumption “2 Watts typical”
  • Dimensions — 145 x 102mm
  • Operating temperature — 0 to 60°C or -40 to 85°C
  • Operating system:
    • Linux 3.2 (TI EZSDK 6.0.0 Arago or Ubuntu 13.04) or Linux 3.12 (Device Tree Support, Arago or Ubuntu 13.04)
    • Yocto/OpenEmbedded build environment
    • Android ICS (4.x)
    • Windows Embedded Compact 7

 
SBC-SMART-MEM

Compared to the SBC-SMART-BEE, the SBC-SMART-MEN has more of an “embedded” feel, in that it lacks real-world ports for USB and most other I/O, other than pair of vertically-oriented RJ45 Ethernet connectors. Instead, it expresses its generous helping of I/O through several pin-headers, including two 40-pin connectors with locking mechanisms for reliably securing cable harnesses to them.



SBC-SMART-MEN connector details and block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

Additionally, there are a number of feature variations between the MEM and the BEE models, which are seen by comparing their two sets of connector location and block diagram images (seen directly above, and farther above). For example, on its expansion headers the MEN provides three USB 2.0 host interfaces overall, instead of one on the BEE, as well as an additional serial-to-USB connection. As with the BEE, there’s also a USB OTG interface, but the SMART-MEN provides five RS232 interfaces instead of three. On the display side, the 18-bit interface has changed from the BEE’s parallel LCD to a single-channel LVDS. Like the BEE, the MEM also provides an 24-bit LVDS interface, a 4-wire touch connector, and an onboard LCD LED backlight driver. Other minor differences include the addition of a Seiko S35390-A RTC backup battery and the lack of the SMART-BEE’s terminal block connector and miswiring protection.

Specifications listed for the SBC-SMART-MEN include:

  • Processor/Memory — TI AM335x, 512MB DDR3, 4GB eMMC flash, 4MB SPI NOR flash, via SMARC-T335X module
  • Storage expansion — SDHC/SDIO slot
  • Display:
    • Single-channel, 24-bit LVDS interface (bottom side)
    • Single-channel, 18-bit LVDS interface (bottom side)
    • 4-wire touch connector
    • LCD LED backlight driver onboard
  • Networking — 2x 10/100 Ethernet ports
  • Other I/O (via header connectors):
    • 3x USB 2.0 host interfaces
    • USB 2.0 OTG interface
    • Serial-to-USB interface
    • 5x RS232 ports
    • 1x RS422/RS485 port
    • 2x SPI interfaces
    • 2x I2C interfaces
    • Audio mic-in, headphone out
    • CAN bus
    • GPIOs
  • Other features — SPI and GPIOs (10-pin header); console port (10-pin header); buzzer; RTC; reset jumper; ext. watchdog reset; boot mode switch
  • Power — 5V supply; consumption “2 Watts typical”
  • Dimensions — 145 x 102mm
  • Operating temperature — 0 to 60°C or -40 to 85°C
  • Operating system:
    • Linux 3.2 (TI EZSDK 6.0.0 Arago or Ubuntu 13.04) or Linux 3.12 (Device Tree Support, Arago or Ubuntu 13.04)
    • Yocto/OpenEmbedded build environment
    • Android ICS (4.x)
    • Windows Embedded Compact 7

 
More on SMARC


SMARC formats
(click to enlarge)

In April 2013, the Standardization Group for Embedded Technologies (SGET) ratified a standard for highly compact ARM-based COMs. Formerly known as ULP-COM, the “SMARC” (Smart Mobility ARChitecture) specification defines 82 × 50mm and 82 × 80mm formats using 314-pin MXM3 connectors, and is designed for low-power mobile and embedded device applications.

At last count, the standard had been endorsed by 45 SGET members, including top embedded competitors like Adlink, Advantech, and MSC. SMARC was the first multivendor COM standard to be built specifically for modern ARM-Cortex SoCs, aiming to efficiently pass along ARM benefits such as low power consumption to COTS designs. Despite this focus, however, SGET hopes to have SMARC also support the use of low-power x86 and other RISC processors.

In addition to the Adlink LEC-3517, other recent SMARC modules include Kontron’s SMARC-sA3874i, SMARC-sAMX6i, and SMARC-sAT30. Further details on SMARC are available at SGET’s website.

 
Further information

The SBC-SMART-BEE with the baseline SMARC-T335X COM equipped with a TI AM3352 processor clocked at 600MHz ranges from $119 at quantity 1 down to $89 at OEM volume (3,000+). The SBC-SMART-MEN, meanwhile, with the same baseline COM goes for $159 in single units, and discounts down to $129 at high volume. For each model, upgrading to a COM with an 800MHz SoC adds $5 to the cost, and a 1GHz version adds $8. The option of an AM3354-based 600MHz COM adds $5, while 800MHz and 1GHz speeds add $8 and $10 respectively. Industrial temperature range on both SMART SBCs is available by special order, and presumably add additional cost.

More information may be found on Embedian’s SBC-SMART-BEE, SBC-SMART-MEM, and SMARC-T335X COM product pages, respectively.
 

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