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Fast-boot, open spec COM includes FPGA

Jun 10, 2014 — by Eric Brown 1,457 views

Technologic is sampling a fast-booting “TS-4740” COM that runs Debian on a 1GHz, ARM9 PXA168 SoC and offers a 25K-LUTs Spartan-6 FPGA and gigabit Ethernet.

The passively cooled TS-4740 uses a form-factor called TS-Socket that was first announced by Technologic Systems back in 2010. The credit card sized (75 x 55mm) computer-on-module standard features dual 100-pin off-board male connectors that also supply the single 5VDC power input. TS-Socket also requires that all parts are soldered for greater ruggedness. The TS-4740 module, which supports 0 to 70°C temperatures, is designed to plug into a TS-Socket-compatible TS-8150-4740 carrier board, as well as a TS-TPC-8390 touchpanel platform (see farther below).

TS-4740, front and back
(click images to enlarge)

Unlike the recent TS-7400-V2 and TS-7670 single board computers, which run Debian Linux on Freescale i.MX286 system-on-chips, the TS-4740 instead runs a similar Debian stack on a 1GHz, ARM9-based Marvell PXA168 SoC, which is also found in the Kinoma Create JavaScript programming platform. The PXA168 is able to muster 720p video decode on the TS-4740.

TS-4740 attaching to baseboard via TS-Socket connectors

The TS-4740 further integrates a “user programmable” Spartan-6 FPGA. The Spartan-6 lies at the low end of the Xilinx family of field programmable gate arrays, far below the Artix-7 class FPGAs found in Xilinx’s own hybrid ARM/FPGA Zynq SoC. Still, its 25K LUTs of processing power can mimic a microcontroller for RTOS applications, while still keeping the power draw fairly low. (Note: The press release differs from the product page and the photo by saying the FPGA is a Lattice part, but we tend to trust the photo first.)

An FPGA bitstream “can be loaded from Linux user space, which is ideal for incremental changes and development,” says the company. The bitstream can also be loaded as part of a custom TS-4740 build available from Technologic Systems.


The TS-4740 ships with 512MB DDR3 RAM, 4GB eMMC flash, and a microSD slot. Both the flash and SD media is supported with Technologic’s DoubleStore technology for RAID-like filesystem redundancy.

TS-4740, side view
(click image to enlarge)

The TS-4740 is touted for not only offering 10/100 Ethernet, but also gigabit Ethernet, which is something of a rarity on an ARM9-based system. The extra bandwidth should help out with HD video or “critical data which depends on low latency and high reliability,” says the company.

In addition to expressing I/O via its dual 100-pin TS-Socket connectors located on the bottom of the COM, there is an external 16-bit bus that can be implemented over 21 DIO pins. All told, 121 DIO signals are available, along with USB 2.0 host and OTG ports, six UARTs, LCD output up to WUXGA, and a separate FPGA touchscreen interface. Additional interfaces include SDHC, SPI, I2C, and CAN.

Like the Technologic SBCs, the module ships with open specifications and runs an open source Debian Linux stack, all supported with voluminous documentation. Customized baseboards can also be developed, with optional support from Technologic Systems.

With the help of BusyBox, the system can boot Linux 2.6.34 in under a second, claims Technologic Systems. Elsewhere, it refines this claim by saying that it boots the Linux kernel to an initial ramdisk shell from either the onboard flash or microSD card in about two seconds. The TS-4740 can also boot to Debian Squeeze 6.0 in 20 seconds. Debian offers more than 28,000 software packages and a GNU compiler collection. Technologic Systems includes user space utilities for controlling interfaces such as DIO, SPI, and UARTs.

Specifications listed for the TS-4740 include:

  • Processor — Marvell PXA168 (1x ARM9 @ 1GHz); Xilinx Spartan-6 FPGA (25K LUTs)
  • Memory:
    • 512MB DDR3 RAM
    • 4GB eMMC flash
    • MicroSD slot
  • Networking — 10/100/1000 Ethernet; 10/100 Ethernet (magnetics required for both)
  • Other I/O:
    • 121x DIO (3.3V)
    • USB host
    • USB OTG (host or device)
    • SPI
    • I2C
    • CAN
    • 6x UARTs (ext. transceivers)
    • LCD output up to WUXGA
    • FPGA touch interface
    • SD, SDHC, SDXC support
  • Other features — Watchdog; RTC; temperature sensor; DoubleStore SD technology
  • Operating temperature — 0 to 70°C
  • Power — 5VDC nominal min.
  • Operating system — Debian Squeeze 6.0 (Linux 2.6.35)

TS-8150-4740 baseboard (left) and TS-TPC-8390 touchpanel
(click images to enlarge)

TS-8150-4740 and TS-TPC-8390

Technologic offers two carrier board options: a standard TS-8150-4740 baseboard and a TS-TPC-8390 touchpanel system. The TS-8150-4740 extends the Ethernet and USB interfaces with real-world, coastline ports, and offers three RS-232 or TTL COM ports, as well as an RS-485 port. It also supplies 28x DIO, extends the SPI and I2C buses, and adds a PC/104 bus and Mux bus. LCD (text) and keypad headers are also supplied. The 4.45 x 3.8-inch board adds a 28VDC power supply and supports industrial temperatures of -45 to 85°C.

The TS-8390 panel supports HMI applications with a 7-inch LCD resistive touchscreen form-factor. The 7.88 x 5.52 x 1.65-inch touch panel provides 800 x 480-pixel resolution, AC97 audio, and a speaker. You get dual Ethernet ports, four USB host ports, and six serial ports. Other I/O includes I2C, SPI, and CAN interfaces, as well as 9x digital outputs, 12x digital inputs, and 6x A/D converters, among other interfaces. The touchpanel is said to run on under 10 Watts.

Further information

The TS-4740 is available now to selected customers for evaluation purposes, and will ship in four to eight weeks, says Technologic Systems. Quantity 100 pricing starts at $176, and the product page breaks down pricing on numerous options, including a pre-programmed bootable mSD card with Debian Linux. Much more information may be found at the TS-4740 product page, and more on the carrier options may be found at the TS-8150-4740 and the TS-TPC-8390 product pages, respectively.

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