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BeagleBone SBC morphs into robotics and industrial models

Jan 29, 2016 — by Eric Brown 4,343 views

Element14 has spun an industrial version of the BeagleBone Black with -20 to 85°C support, while is prepping a “BeagleBone Blue” for robots.

The Raspberry Pi single board computer has seen numerous spin-offs in recent years, from official Raspberry Pi Foundation models like the Zero to competitive, third-party lookalikes like the Banana Pi and new, $10 Orange Pi One. Yet, the BeagleBone Black, which is widely considered to be the second most popular Linux hacker board, has remained stubbornly set its ways. In recent months, however, there’s been a flurry of spinoffs, including the BeagleBone Green, BeagleBone Enhanced, and a COM version called the BeagleCore BCM1 (see farther below).

Now two more BeagleBones have broken cover: the rugged “BeagleBone Black Industrial 4G” and the robotics focused “BeagleBone Blue.”

BeagleBone Black Industrial 4G (left) and BeagleBone Blue prototype on EduMIP robot
(click images to enlarge)

The BeagleBone Black Industrial 4G showed up for sale this week for $69 with little fanfare on the website of Element14, one of’s two official manufacturing partners. It’s also available at MCM Electronics.


The BeagleBone Blue was shown at CES earlier this month, but received scant attention outside of a Jan. 11 Hackaday post. This week more info appeared in a newsletter. There’s still no listed price for this educational robotics board, a collaboration with UCSD EduLine. However, more details are due in February prior to the launch in May.

BeagleBone Black Industrial 4G

Element 14’s BeagleBone Black Industrial 4G fills the role originally intended for CircuitCo’s industrial OEM focused BlueSteel-Basic, which was announced in June 2014, but never saw the light of day. Despite the name, the BeagleBone Black Industrial 4G has a red PCB, and there’s no 4G radio. The 4G apparently refers to the 4GB of eMMC flash, the same amount provided on the other BeagleBones.

BeagleBone Black Industrial 4G (left) compared to standard BeagleBone Black
(click images to enlarge)

The specs are identical to the BeagleBone Black Rev C with two key exceptions. First, the Industrial 4G supports an extended temperature range of -20 to 85°C. It also offers conformal coating for better resistance to harsh industrial environments.

The board ships with an industrial temperature version of the BeagleBone Black’s TI Sitara AM3358 SoC, called the AM3358AZCZA100. The SoC similarly features a 1GHz Cortex-A8 core, a PowerVR SGX530 GPU, and a Programmable Real-Time Unit (PRU) subsystem for industrial interface customization. The Industrial 4G is software and cape compatible with the BeagleBone Black, and it’s preloaded with Debian Linux.

Other shared features include the 4GB flash, microSD slot, 10/100 Ethernet port, mini-USB 2.0 client port and USB 2.0 host port. There’s also an HDMI port, an LCD interface, serial JTAG, and serial expansion interfaces.

BeagleBone Blue

The BeagleBone Blue is an educational robotics controller made available with a robotics education curriculum developed by’s partner, University of California San Diego. Currently, the partners are showing only a prototype developed by the UCSD Robotics Lab that combines a robotics cape with a BeagleBone Black. However, an integrated SBC version will be ready by May.

Integrated BeagleBone Blue PCB design
(click image to enlarge)

UCSD EduLine, which appears to be UCSD’s educational outreach program, plans to offer a series of open spec, BeagleBone Blue based kits, which will be supported by a Massively Open Online Course (MOOC) on robotics. Complete “mechanics and software” will be provided for EduMIP (two-wheeler), EduRover (four wheeler), and EduMAV (drone hexacopter) robot kits. It would appear, however, that the BeagleBone Blue will also be available independently outside the MOOC.

BeagleBone Blue prototype running on EduMIP (left) and EduRover bots
(click images to enlarge)

Although full specs for the BeagleBone Blue have yet to be published, the Blue appears to combine the standard BeagleBone Black functionality with the following features:

  • Processor — TI Sitara AM3358 @ 1GHz
  • Memory — 512MB DDR3 RAM; 4GB eMMC flash
  • Wireless — 802.11bgn; Bluetooth 4.0; BLE
  • Motor control:
    • 8x 6V servo out
    • 4x DC motor out
    • 4x quad enc in
  • Sensors — 9 axis IMU; barometer
  • Other I/O:
    • HighSpeed USB 2.0 client and host
    • Interfaces for GPS, DSM2 radio, UARTs, SPI, I2C, analog, buttons, LEDs
  • Battery — 2-cell LiPo support with balancing, 6-16V charger input

The BeagleBone Blue can run distributions and middleware including Debian Linux, Ubuntu Snappy, ROS, Ardupilot, and Machinekit. There will also be a graphical programming option based on Cloud9 IDE on Node.js.

Thanks in part to the TI AM3358’s real-time PRU coprocessors, the BeagleBone Black has done well in the robotics market, and has been augmented with a variety of robotics capes. The SBC has appeared in bots such as the original underwater OpenROV, as well as an EVB replacement computer for the Lego Mindstorms EV3 robot kit.

UCSD Robotics Lab director Tom Bewley shows off BeagleBone Blue prototype

More BeagleBones

The BeagleBone Blue and BeagleBone Black Industrial 4G join several other BeagleBone spinoffs that have appeared in recent months. Each is pictured to the right of its description, below.

  • BeagleBone Green — Seeed Studio’s $39 Green variant subtracts the BeagleBone Black’s micro-HDMI port and 5V barrel jack connector, but costs $11 less and adds expansion connectors for Seeed’s popular Grove sensors.


  • BeagleBone Enhanced — Pricing has not yet been set for SanCloud’s soon-to-ship superset of the BeagleBone Black. Improvements include twice the RAM (1GB), a Gigabit Ethernet port, a second USB host port, barometric and temperature sensors, and 6-axis MEMS. Like the BeagleBone Green, it has received’s seal of approval for being software and cape compatible.


  • BeagleCore BCM1 — After being unveiled as an unsuccessful Kickstarter project last summer, this 48 × 31mm computer-on-module spin on the BeagleBone Black will be available from Conrad Electronics in April for $55. It can also be bought with a carrier board as part of a $129 starter kit. The processor and memory are identical with the BeagleBone Black.

Further information

The BeagleBone Black Industrial 4G is available now in limited quantities from Element14 for $69.

The BeagleBone Blue will ship in May at an unstated price. More information may be found at’s BeagleBone Blue product page.

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