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Edison IoT module ships with Atom/Quark combo SoC

Sep 10, 2014 — by Eric Brown 21,378 views

[Updated: May 26, 2015] — Intel launched its Edison COM for IoT apps, with a “Tangier” SoC that mixes a dual-core Atom running Linux with a Quark chip, plus optional baseboard kits.

Intel’s tiny Edison computer-on-module for wearables and other Internet of Things applications is finally available for $50, along with two Intel development boards plus an array of third-party expansion boards from SparkFun. According to Jim Chase, product manager for the Intel Edison and Galileo platform hardware and ecosystems, the 35.5 x 25 x 3.9mm Edison module integrates a new system-on-chip codenamed “Tangier,” a stripped down version of Intel’s Atom Z34xx (“Merrifield”), a 22nm “Silvermont” processor, typically aimed at smartphones.

Intel Edison module
(click image to enlarge)

The Tangier SoC combines a dual-core Atom running Yocto Linux at 500MHz with Intel’s MCU-like Quark processor clocked at 100MHz. The Quark co-processor is initially inactive, but eventually will run a “Viper” RTOS derived from the VxWorks platform of Intel’s Wind River subsidiary. (Update: see “Edison’s Quark gets its RTOS,” farther below.)

Edison block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

The Edison module is equipped with 1GB of LPDDR3 RAM (2x 32-bit) and 4GB of eMMC flash. The module also offers dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0, and interfaces to its carrier board via a high-density 70-pin Hirose connector that contains SD, UART, SPI, GPIO, and USB 2.0 OTG signals. This interface is said to support Arduino add-ons (see spec table farther below).

Edison’s 70-pin expansion connector pinout
(click image to enlarge)

The Edison module’s availability was announced at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco, Calif. along with new desktop processors and other products. Mike Bell, VP of Intel’s New Devices Group demonstrated the board, and invited 3D Robotics founder Chris Anderson on stage to demo an Edison-based quad-copter. This was just one of about a dozen Edison-based products shown at IDF, including a braille printer and embosser, and wireless audio equipment from Meridian Audio.

Edison internal detail, front and back
(click images to enlarge)

When Intel announced the Edison at the CES show in January, the COM was said to offer a new dual-core version of Intel’s Pentium ISA-compatible Quark processor. The single-core, 400MHz X1000 version of the Quark runs Linux on Intel’s open source Galileo single board computer, as well as on the new Galileo Gen 2. (The Galileo was also showcased at IDF in products such as a Connected Wheelchair Project that was announced with physicist Stephen Hawking.)

In March, Intel updated its Edison plans by saying that instead of using the Quark, the chipmaker would instead launch an Atom-based version of the Edison this summer. This would be followed by another version that would instead run on a new dual-core version of the Quark.

Edison module, front and back
(click images to enlarge)

Instead of these two tiers, we have a single module with a single Tangier SoC that combines a modified, dual-core Merrifield Atom running Yocto Linux with a single-core Quark that is initially disabled. On the Galileo, the Quark runs the show, but on the Edison, it appears to be relegated to a microcontroller-like role, with an emphasis on lower-level, real-time chores, under control of an up-coming Viper RTOS, says Chase.


The Tangier hybrid SoC architecture is vaguely similar to Freescale’s Vybrid, which combines an ARM Cortex-A5 core running Linux with a Cortex-M4 MCU core running Freescale’s MQX RTOS. ARM has promoted the use of such hybrid multicore approaches through its Big.Little architecture strategy. A number of hybrid SBCs do something similar, but not on the same SoC. For example, the Arduino TRE hacker board computer combines a TI Sitara AM335x running Linux with an 8-bit Atmel ATmega microcontroller running Arduino code.

Update: Edison’s Quark gets its RTOS

As we reported initially, the Edison’s Quark processor was inactive at the time of the module’s launch, with Intel promising to activate it later. This upgrade occurred via a version 2.1 Edison firmware update on May 7, 2015. Now, the Quark runs the small-footprint, open source “Viper” real-time operating system, derived from the proprietary VxWorks RTOS of Intel’s Wind River subsidiary.

Running on the Quark, the Edison’s Viper RTOS “adds deterministic behavior to Linux applications as a service,” says Intel. Viper also offers an SDK that provides support for UART, I2C, and device GPIOs for connecting to sensors and other extended interfaces. The SDK’s IPC uses the Quark to filter sensor data, and then wakes up the Edison’s Intel Atom CPU for further analytics.

A new Quark SE version will run Viper on Intel’s tiny, button-shaped Curie module for wearables, due later this year. The Curie also provides Bluetooth Low Energy, sensors, and battery charging technologies.

Summary of Edison specs

Specifications listed by Intel for its Edison module include:

  • Processor — “Tangier” Atom SoC with 22nm Intel Atom (2x Silvermont/Merrifield-like cores @ 500MHz) and 100MHz, 32-bit Intel Quark
  • Memory — 1GB LPDDR3 POP RAM (2-ch. 32-bit) @ 800MT/sec; 4GB eMMC (v4.51)
  • Wireless:
    • 802.11 a/b/g/n (2.4/5GHz) using Broadcom 43340 module
    • Bluetooth 4.0 (Bluetooth LE due in Q4)
    • Onboard or ext. antenna options
  • I/O — via 70-pin Hirose DF40 Series connector (1.5, 2.0, or 3.0mm stack height) with 40x GPIOs for:
    • USB 2.0 OTG
    • SD
    • 2x UART
    • 2x I2C
    • SPI
    • I2S
    • 12x GPIO (includes 4x capable of PWM)
    • 32kHz, 19.2MHz clock output
  • Operating temperature — 0 to 40°C
  • Power:
    • Input voltage — 3.3 to 4.5 VDC
    • Consumption:
      • Typical — (tbd, per Intel)
      • Maximum — (tbd, per Intel)
      • Standby — 13mW (no radios); 21.5mW (Bluetooth); 35mW (WiFi)
    • Output — 100ma @3.3V and 100ma @ 1.8V output
  • Dimensions — 35.5 × 25.0 × 3.9mm (1.4 × 1.0 × 0.15 in.)
  • Operating system — Yocto Linux 1.6 for the Atom SoC, with support for Arduino IDE, Eclipse (C, C++, Python), Intel XDK (Node.JS, HTML5); Viper RTOS SDK for the Quark MCU

Intel Edison development kits

Intel announced an “Intel Edison Kit for Arduino” and an “Intel Edison Breakout Board Kit” to be made available from Mouser, Maker Shed, and SparkFun. The kits will be available in 65 countries by the end of the year, says Intel. Meanwhile SparkFun has developed a set of expansion “blocks” (described farther below) that are compatible with the Edison.


  • Edison Kit for Arduino

    The most advanced of Intel’s two Edison development kits is the Edison Kit for Arduino, which runs Yocto Linux and optionally supports Arduino Sketch programming methods. With its Edison module installed, the Edison Kit for Arduino is essentially a sandwich-style single board computer that’s I/O-compatible with the Arduino Uno, except that there are four PWM interfaces instead of six. Specifically, this kit’s hardware guide states that the kit’s expansion board is “designed to be hardware and software pin-compatible with Arduino shields designed for the Uno R3.”

    Edison Kit for Arduino, and its block diagram
    (click images to enlarge)

    The Arduino board extends the Edison module with 20 digital I/O pins, including the four PWM outputs, as well as six analog inputs. The board offers an SD slot, plus two micro-USB device ports, the second of which can be swapped out for a dedicated standard Type-A USB port, using a mechanical switch. Other interfaces available on the board include UART, I2C, and ICSP (SPI), with the latter using a 6-pin connector. There’s also a jack for 7 to 15 VDC input power.

    Closeup of the Edison Kit for Arduino, front and back
    (click images to enlarge)


  • Edison Breakout Board Kit

    The more minimal Edison Breakout Board is only slightly larger than the Edison module itself. The board features a micro-USB OTG port and power switch, as well as a USB-to-device UART bridge with a Type-B connector.

    Edison Breakout Board with Edison installed
    (click image to enlarge)

    The Breakout Board exposes the module’s native 1.8V I/O and offers a 0.1-inch grid I/O array using through-hole solder points. A battery charger and 7 to 15 VDC input jack are also available.

    Edison Breakout Board (without Edison), and its block diagram
    (click images to enlarge)

SparkFun Blocks for Edison

SparkFun is reselling the Edison module and development boards, and has released a set of modular, stackable “SparkFun Blocks” expansion products for Edison, derived from its existing line of Arduino shields. The Blocks range from $15 for basic I2C and GPIO breakouts to $70 for an Edison Sensor Pack that combines a 9 Degrees of Freedom (9DOF) Block with OLED and microSD Blocks.

Edison stacked with SparkFun Blocks (left), and SparkFun OLED Block
(click images to enlarge)

Additional Blocks include ADC, Arduino, Base O, PWM, Console, and a Dual H-Bridge that enables movement when combined with a pair of DC motors. At IDF, SparkFun reps also showed LinuxGizmos a handheld Battery Block with a 400mAh LiPo battery and charger that runs an Edison module without any wires (photo at the right, below).

SparkFun LiPo Battery Block (left), and running Edison wirelessly
(click images to enlarge)

The short SparkFun-produced video below introduces the Edison module, describes the module’s I/O expansion bus, and demonstrates SparkFun’s modular, stackable expansion “Blocks” concept.

Edison and SparkFun Blocks discussion and demo

Edison development support

Edison development support initially includes Arduino and C/C++. In the near future, Intel will add support for Node.JS, Python, as well as RTOS and visual programming tools.

Intel also announced a free Analytics for Wearables (A-Wear) developer program designed to streamline device-to-device and device-to-cloud communications and provide data-driven intelligence for Edison- and other Intel-based wearable applications. A-Wear includes tools and algorithms from Intel and data management capabilities from Cloudera CDH. The software can run rules on a data stream that triggers alerts, and offers tools for collecting, storing, and processing data in the cloud, says Intel.

Further information

The Intel Edison module ($50) is available from Mouser, Maker Shed, SparkFun, and other sources. More information may be found at the Intel Edison launch announcement and Edison fact sheet (PDF).

Further details on Intel’s Edison hacker kits, including the Intel Kit for Arduino and Edison Breakout Board Kit, are available at Intel’s Edison hacker kits page. Specifically, the Edison Kit for Arduino goes for $100 on Sparkfun and $114 on Amazon. The Edison Kit for Arduino’s detailed hardware guide is available for download here.

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14 responses to “Edison IoT module ships with Atom/Quark combo SoC”

  1. pascal martin says:

    I don’t understand what SparkFun is trying to do with the Edison.

    This is very expensive if this is aimed at competing with arduino or raspberry pi:
    Edison: module + board + power (USB??) = $140

    The cost here comes from the module approach, which is OK for companies developing their own board anyway but is expensive for hobbyists who need standard connectors and must buy the additional board. It is telling that the board costs more than the module.

    Also telling is the choice of Yocto Linux: this too is aimed at companies developing single purpose embedded products. Yocto linux typically requires a relatively high bar of entry for hobbyists, who must cross-build their own distribution on a workstation. Not only is raspberry pi a much cheaper Linux (less than $50 with power plug and SD card) but it provides a complete and free Debian distribution, all built for you: a rich native development environment that you can install in minutes.

    The Intel marketing strategy is apparently the traditional embedded tool market approach. It is different from the arduino and raspberry pi hobbyist-friendly approach. This is consistent with the relatively high price, likely related to the integration in a very small hybrid module. Package size and product integration is key.

    Which is to say, I don’t get the SparkFun marketing approach with their blocks. They seem aimed at either lab prototyping (very low volume) or at hobbyists (who are not concerned about product integration). Since Intel does not seem to care much about hobbyists, I wonder how SparkFun will sustain this. The video presentation is surreal: as both a professional and a hobbyist, I sense a disconnect between the message edited for hobbyists and the content targeted for embedded professionals.

    The reference to WinderRiver is a personal turnoff: I had to use WindRiver Linux for a project and discovered that I _had_ to develop Linux apps on MS Windows, and went through a lot of headaches due to license key installation problems (with GCC, ironically!). I quickly found that CentOS was binary compatible with WindRiver Linux on my Celeron target and I had my (native) development environment running on CentOS before WindRiver support could resolve the installation failure. Talk about negative value! WindRiver Linux is for old school embedded software developers who do not get Linux, and/or are not trained on using Unix. A Linux for people who are wired for VxWorks and are forced to use Linux against their will.

    • Nubi says:

      I agree – especially to the software part…

      Cost is actually not thaaaat bad compared to what you usually had to pay before Arduino+Raspberry Pi came around. You could easily spent $140 on a better 8-bit microcontroller development board just a few years ago (and you still can).
      Most if not all good hardware with a bit more power did cost way more just 4 – 6 years ago or so – and this is still the case for many things as not all vendors can pump up the production volumes that high or live from such low near zero margins.
      People tend to forget what stuff has to cost when you can’t sell it with very low margins (no, the part cost is not the sales price!).
      Intel was never known to be a low margin company and they can’t think that way and their shareholders could get angry if they give stuff away for free basically (like Raspberry = charity!) ;-)

      • pascal martin says:

        Compared to past price, that is very true. But this is now, and this is SparkFun. Their video seems off the mark. Edison does not seem aimed at the hobbyists, but SparkFun’s video apparently tries nonetheless.

        When it comes to Intel, there are reports that they sell the Atom CPU at a loss on tablets. ARM is the dominant player in that market, which is driven by (low) prices, especially as it reaches saturation. ARM processors are low cost and Intel must adapt to a brave new world and fight on ARM’s terms.

        The same situation exists on the hobbyist side, except that the PC architecture still dominates in term of openness. Most ARM boards are a mess in term of software environment: limited support for obscure or custom Linux distributions that are a bit of a challenge to keep up-to-date (see openssh). The Raspberry Pi and now the BeagleBone Black are the bright exceptions. Intel does not want to let ARM control the low end (IoT) where the volume is. Intel replicating the ARM messy software state of affair with the Edison signals that they are not after these two boards, or the hobbyist market.

        • Nubi says:

          > SparkFun. Their video seems off the mark.

          Yes that’s true. Who knows what deal they made with Intel to be one of the first partners (maybe Intel actually came to them…).

          > The Raspberry Pi and now the BeagleBone Black are the bright exceptions.

          But took a hard fight to get Broadcom (=very closed closed closed source company) to release any infos. So actually it leaves a bad taste in my mouth when thinking that this is using a Broadcom chip… I would never use Broadcom in my own HW projects…
          TI is much better by default in this regard.

          > Intel does not want to let ARM control the low end (IoT) where the volume is.

          Actually Edison can’t really compete in the real low end (small sensors and low cost devices) – it is factor 2 – 5 too expensive for that and is overpowered for most real world applications. This can only go into larger and more expensive devices (=not so high volume) – anything else will stay with ARM of course.

    • Jussi Kukkonen says:

      Pascal, the information isn’t very clearly laid out but the breakout board product is called a “kit” because it contains the actual chip: so with ~$60 you get a very small fully functional Atom-based computer with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth LE and USB for power. Even without the promised Quark support that’s not bad value.

      Also, complaining about a WindRiver RTOS here isn’t really relevant: It was mentioned in relation to the Quark and it’s not like running Linux there made sense anyway. The actual OS running on the main cores is provided as a board support package for Yocto, in other words “It’s Just Linux”. Making a Debian (or whatever) version based on that should be easy if you don’t like Yocto for some reason.

      Disclaimer: I work on linux stuff for Intel, but have nothing to do with Edison.

  2. kpa says:

    @linuxgizmos Are you really sure about the power consumption ? It seems really too low. I think you forget one 0 for each value, no ?

    • LinuxGizmos says:

      Good question! Actually our listed numbers are correct, but they are not power consumption of the Edison module when fully active. For some reason, Intel has not yet included module power consumption specs in any of its numerous documents, other than for the standby power. But standby mode generally relates to all unnecessary subsystems put to sleep, so for all we know the Quark portion of the Tangier SoC is all that’s running, or at most some small amount of logic within the Atom processor. We have requested clarification from Intel on the module’s maximum and typical power consumption specs, and await their reply. I’ll update this comment — and the main article — when we have more info. –Rick

    • LinuxGizmos says:

      Tentative response just received from Jim Chase, product manager for the Intel Edison and Galileo platform hardware and ecosystems…

      “The problem with ‘typical’ is the system use cases vary widely. Some will only use burst processing to keep average power to the minimum. Others will drive the CPUs near full time and stream WiFi at 50mbits/sec. We are trying to come up with use cases and power profiles for those to help with expectations. I don’t have an ETA on that yet, but I’m having the internal trials teams do some measurements for me.”

      …We’ll post the results here as soon as we get them.

      • kpa says:

        They could at least measure power consumption with Atom processor enabled and Linux idle, and with linux loaded at 100% to have a rough idea…

    • LinuxGizmos says:

      We learned in an email from SparkFun that their measurements for typical power consumption of the Edison module installed on an Arduino breakout board are in the range of 250-300mA. Also, they said the “max power is supposed to be about 500mA.”

  3. John Jeffers P.Eng. says:

    Sparkfun is getting co-op dollars from Intel and everything they build can be turned to another purpose.

    I see they have not made Edison to sit on a HAT yet which might be interesting.

    Everything I see Sparkfun has made for the Edison can be made as a HAT (Pi B+) or for something else. Edison is not a bad a price for a Raspberry pi with wifi and bluetooth. Let the whole thing cross pollinate. I really like the Hilrose connector the Edison uses better than the SIM connector the PI uses for the computing module. So we all need to mix and match by making the Edison to PI GPIO and PI to Edison Hilrose and both already have to Arduino. And who can forget the Bone which gets lower priced due to the Pi.

  4. Naveed Ahsan Tariq says:

    If Intel and/or Sparkfun really want to succeed in this business they must adapt the approach of the Raspberry PI. Raspberry PI is providing a real computer that you can actually put a choice of Linux versions and even can be used by Kids. I have installed two (2) RPIs for my kids as their PC as well as Retro Gaming console. So, the worth for me RPI is much higher comparing to its value.

    On the other than there seems below primary issues in adaptability of Intel Edison and Gallileo boards.

    1- Even though the processors seems to be x86 you cannot use these dump boards as PC, Say in my case I want to give such boards to my kids as their Microsoft Windows PC that no one can deny is required in each home even though the boom for mobile OSs.

    2- Intel Edison package seems to really work for professionals and/or organizations. The stuff I am doing at home for Kids seems the Arudino UNO is sufficient for them. I may end up buying the Edison board with some kits to keep in my library but the real home fun is limited.

    3- Intel and/or Microsoft should think a way to port the Microsoft windows embedded and/or standard must with GUI for normal home users.

    4- Intel seems to have another bad idea to consumer with its non-sense Intel NUCs that cost you more than you buy a good quality laptop with all accessories.

    My thoughts are that yes, Intel might still be dominating in Windows PC market due to their brand name etc. etc. but they need to come up with the working strategy for common users.

  5. Zaid says:

    Hello, plz do have any idea about the Intel Edison processor and is it possible to do an image processing on it?

  6. V[erticalSpin says:

    There is a work going on to bring Edison support into upstream kernel:

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