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SDR module runs Linux on Zynq

Apr 12, 2018 — by Eric Brown — 1502 views

Epiq Solutions has launched a 51 x 30mm “Sidekiq Z2” module for SDR that runs Linux on a Zynq-7010 and integrates an Analog AD9364 RF transceiver for 70MHz to 6GHz operation.

Epiq Solutions, the makers of the Linux-driven Matchstiq SDR RF transceiver devices, has added a new member of its Sidekiq line of SDR add-on cards called the Sidekiq Z2. Measuring only 51 x 30 x 5mm, the size of a full-size mini-PCIe card, the Sidekiq Z2 computer-on-module is billed as “the world’s smallest wideband RF transceiver + Linux computer in a product-ready module.” The module is designed for handheld RF test and measurement, remote RF sensing, wireless security applications, and CubeSat/UAS datalinks, says Epiq. A carrier board is also available.

Sidekiq Z2 (left) and exploded view
(click images to enlarge)

Like the Matchstiq systems, but unlike earlier Sidekiq cards, the Sidekiq Z2 can act as a standalone computer, running Linux on a Xilinx Zynq-7000 series Arm/FPGA SoC. Like the original Sidekiq, which is available in mini-PCIe or M.2 form factors, the Sidekiq Z2 operates at 70MHz to 6GHz. There’s also a Sidekiq X2, which uses the VITA57.1 FMC form factor, which supports 1MHz to 6GHz frequencies.

Sidekiq Z2 (left) and AD9364 block diagrams
(click images to enlarge)

The Sidekiq Z2 integrates an Analog Devices’ AD9364 wideband 1×1 RF transceiver and a Xilinx Zynq XC7Z010-2I, better known as a Zynq-7010-2l. The Zynq-7010, which appeared recently on MYIR’s MYC-C7Z010/007S CPU Module, has the same dual-core Cortex-A9 block as the Zynq-7015 or Zynq-7020 (typically clocked from 667MHz to 866MHz), but has a more limited 28K logic cell FPGA.

By comparison, the earlier Sidekiq systems, as well as the competing, open source LimeSDR Mini, are add-on cards that do not include embedded Linux and have FPGAs without an Arm block. The original Sidekiq integrates a Xilinx Spartan 6 (mini-PCIe) or Xilinx Artix 7 (M.2) FPGA, and the X2 is designed to work with a separate Xilinx Kintex UltraScale based FPGA system. The LimeSDR Mini, which has an Intel/Altera MAX 10 FPGA, plugs into an Ubuntu host PC via a USB interface.

Sidekiq Z2 on carrier board
(click image to enlarge)

The Sidekiq Z2 can boot Linux in under two seconds, with a typical system power consumption under 2 Watts, claims Epiq. The Zynq is backed up with 512MB DDR3L RAM and 32MB QSPI flash. The SoC drives USB 2.0 OTG, serial UART, JTAG, and GPIO signals to a carrier board.

The shielded AD9634 1Rx + 1Tx transceiver has a 4-band Rx pre-select filter bank and an up to 61.44 Msamples/sec sample rate. The 40MHz TCVCXO ref clock features +/- 1 PPM stability. The 3.3V, 8-gram module supports -40 to 85°C temperatures. The module also offers several U.FL antenna connectors.

Due to the module’s compact size and high degree of integration, “carrier boards can be small and simple, only needing to provide power, an antenna and a USB interface,” says Epiq. The company offers a Sidekiq Z2 Evaluation Kit (EVK) that includes two Sidekiq Z2 cards pre-loaded and supported by Analog Devices’ open source IIO reference design, along with two simple carrier cards. An optional Platform Development Kit (PDK) offers “enhanced support and an optimized FPGA reference design to maximize processing capability of the FPGA.”

Another view of the Sidekiq Z2 carrier board
(click image to enlarge)

Epiq Solutions provides applications for embedded RF spectrum analysis as well as 2G/3G/4G cellular network survey. There are also hooks to Analog Devices related software, as revealed in the testimonial quote below.

“By taking advantage of Analog Devices’ RadioVerse ecosystem on Sidekiq Z2, end users can quickly scale from pure simulation of the AD9364 in Simulink, to data streaming over USB via Linux’s Industrial Input Output (IIO) subsystem to host-based GNU Radio, MATLAB, Simulink, or custom applications,” stated Robin Getz, Director of Systems Engineering, Analog Devices. “Custom algorithms that target execution in the FPGA or ARM CPU can all be easily addressed, leveraging products like Embedded Coder or HDL Coder from MathWorks to further simplify application development.”

Further information

The Sidekiq Z2 is available now. The only listed price was for $649 for 1,000+ unit orders. The Sidekiq Z2 EVK and PDK also appear to be available, with pricing undisclosed. More information may be found in the Epiq Solutions Sidekiq Z2 announcement and product page.

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