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uCLinux IoT SBC runs WiFi and Bluetooth at 400mA

Jun 26, 2014  |  Eric Brown
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Amptek is prepping a uClinux- and Cortex-M3 based “iCon” SBC for IoT, equipped with WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, USB, and CAN, and running less than 2 Watts.

uClinux on a microcontroller represents the simplest expression of the Linux operating system, sort of the flipside to Android or Ubuntu on the high end. Despite this platform’s limitations, however, it draws only a smidgin of electricity, and provides a capable wireless platform while also supplying numerous industrial interfaces. All these attributes are showcased by the iCon single board computer (SBC), which probably deserves more than being stuck in the doldrums on Kickstarter, with nine days left to go.



iCon SBC

The carriage won’t necessarily turn back into a pumpkin on July 5, however, as Amptek Technologies, an embedded firm in Ontario run by Floyd Lau, says it plans to go ahead with the project, win or lose. At publication time, there’s still one funding slot left at $99, and plenty more at $109, and touchscreen versions go for $159 (4.3 inches) or $199 (7.0 inches)

The credit-card sized (86 x 54mm) iCon SBC is aimed at Internet of Things (IoT) applications including industrial control systems, wireless sensors, and smart home appliances. As a proof of concept, Amptek used the iCon as the basis for a relay board that replaces the wired controller of a OWI-535 Robotic Arm (see video farther below). Thanks to the board’s integrated Boa web server, the project uses a smartphone to control the robotic arm.

The iCon is equipped with a 120MHz NXP LPC1788 Cortex-M3 processor, along with 64MB of SDRAM and 32MB flash memory. This LCD-ready MCU supports the SBC’s optional resistive, 4.3- and 7-inch touchscreens. However, as Lau notes in the FAQ, the iCon “is NOT for video processing. So forget about adding a camera or HDMI output.”



iCon detail, front and back
(click images to enlarge)

What the iCon does have is 802.11b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0 built in, both with supplied drivers. This not only saves you $35 to $50, but offers a tidier solution for an industrial setting, says Amptek. Besides, Lau writes, “Some dongles come with legs. They will walk away when you don’t keep an eye on them. :)”


iCon 7- and 4.3-inch touchscreen options
(click image to enlarge)

The board integrates a real-world USB 2.0 port, as well as a mini-USB debug port. It also features a +5V grounded connector that offers CAN and RS-485 ports, both of which are supported with drivers. On the back of the board, expansion interfaces provide access to the LCD displays, as well as a host of industrial interfaces.

The iCon requires a 5VDC power supply, and runs at only 260mA at bootup, or 390mA with WiFi, and 400mA when you also activate Bluetooth, says Amptek. The SBC can integrate a coin cell battery to keep the real-time clock running when power is disconnected.



iCon rear xpansion connector detail
(click image to enlarge)

The open source iCon ships with TCP/IP, WPA supplicant, and BlueZ (Bluetooth) protocol stacks. In addition to the Boa web server, Amptek supplies an Inadyn DDNS client.

Specifications listed for the iCon include:

  • Processor — NXP LPC1788 (1x Cortex-M3 @ 120MHz)
  • Memory — 64MB SDRAM; 32MB flash
  • Wireless — 802.11 b/g/n; Bluetooth 4.0
  • Standard I/O:
    • USB 2.0 port
    • Mini-USB debug port
    • CAN port (+5V ground connector)
    • RS-485 port (+5V ground connector)
    • JTAG interface
  • Expansion I/O:
    • I2C
    • SPI
    • UART
    • RMII
    • PWM
    • GPIO
    • 10-bit DAC
    • 12-bit ADC
    • 16-bit RGB LCD
  • Other features — RTC with battery backup; optional 4.3- (480 x 272) or 7-inch (800 x 480) resistive touchscreens
  • Firmware components — BlueZ; TCP/IP; WPA; Boa web server; Inadyn DDNS client
  • Power — 5VDC; 260mA consumption after bootup, 390mA with WiFi, 400mA with WiFi and Bluetooth
  • Dimensions — 86 x 54mm
  • Operating system — uClinux (Linux 2.6.33-ARM1)




iCon demo with OWI-535 Robotic Arm

 
Further information

The iCon is available for Kickstarter funding through July 5, priced in packages from $99 to $199, depending on options. More information may be found at the iCon Kickstarter page and the Amptek Technologies iCon page.
 

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