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Firefly launches RK1808-based module and dev kit with 3-TOPS NPU

Apr 20, 2020 — by Eric Brown 1,281 views

Firefly has launched a $59 “Core-1808-JD4 AI Core Board” module that runs Linux on an AI-enabled Rockchip RK1808. It’s available as part of a similarly open-spec “AIO-1808-JD4” dev kit for $149.

T-Chip Technology’s Firefly (or T-Firefly) unit and development community launched some of the first open-spec SBCs based on Rockchip SoCs, such as the RK3399-based Firefly-RK3399. Now, Firefly has launched a Core-1808-JD4 AI Core Board compute module based on the RK1808 SoC. The module can be purchased on its own or as part of an AIO-1808-JD4 for $59 and $149, respectively.

Core-1808-JD4 AI Core Board, front and back
(click images to enlarge)

The Core-1808-JD4 follows other Core Boards such as Firefly’s “RK3399 Coreboard, available as part of a sandwich-style AIO-3399J development kit. This time, the centerpiece is Rockchip’s RK1808, which has far less CPU firepower than the RK3399, with dual 1.6GHz Cortex-A35 cores, but features the same 3-TOPS NPU AI chip found on the Rockchip RK3399Pro. The NPU supports INT8/INT16/FP16 mixed operation, as well as frameworks including TensorFlow, Caffee, ONNX, and Darknet.

The RK1808 lacks 3D graphics, but there is a 2D engine, as well as an ISP and support for HD encode and decode. The SoC is designed primarily for AI-enhanced voice control applications, but also supports other embedded applications that need a robust AI chip but not necessarily a high CPU core count, 3D graphics, or 4K video.


Boardcon recently released an EM1808 SBC based on the SoC, following Seeed and Beiqicloud’s BeiQi RK1808 AIoT module with BeiQi CarrierBoard Kit. Pine64 is prepping a SoEdge module based on the RK1808 along with USB and PCIe implementations.

Last year, Rockchip released its own USB stick form factor Toybrick RK1808 AI Compute Stick for $86. This likely comes from Rockchip partner Vamrs, which produced the Toybrick RK3399Pro SBC.

The open-spec, community-backed Core-1808-JD4 AI Core Board and AIO-1808-JD4 kit are available with source code and instructions for compiling Buildroot and Ubuntu Linux images. Firefly has posted schematics and other open hardware files. Qt is available along with an AI Application Development SDK that supports C/C++, Python, and the Rock-X SDK.

The Core-1808-JD4 AI Core Board ships with 2GB or 4GB DDR3 plus 16GB eMMC 4.51, expandable to 128GB. The 69.6 x 50mm module is equipped with a PMIC and communicates with the AIO-1808-JD4 carrier board via a 260-pin SODIMM connector.

Core-1808-JD4 detail view (left) and AIO-1808-JD4
(click images to enlarge)

The AIO-1808-JD4 extends the module with a microSD slot and single GbE, USB 3.0, and USB 2.0 host ports. More USB 2.0 and serial interfaces are available internally. For media, you get LVDS, MIPI-DSI, and -CSI connectors with touch support and an optional touchscreen and camera. Audio I/O includes one (or perhaps two) audio jacks plus mic, speaker, and I2S interfaces.

A mini-PCIe slot is available with an optional 4G module. Although not listed in the specs, the board provides an M.2 slot, which likely supports a module that can make use of the onboard WiFi and Bluetooth antennas. It’s unclear if it also supports SSD storage. The 12V board has a serial debug interface and a real-time clock.

AIO-1808-JD4 detail view (left) and mounted on the back of the optional 10.1-inch LVDFS touchscreen
(click images to enlarge)

Specifications listed for the AIO-1808-JD4 board equipped with the Core-1808-JD4 AI Core Board module include:

  • Processor (via Core-1808-JD4 module) — Rockchip RK1808 (4x -A35 @ 1.6GHz); 2D GPU, VPU, and ISP; 3-TOPS NPU
  • Memory/storage:
    • 2GB or 4GB DDR3 (via module)
    • 16GB to 128GB eMMC 4.51 (via module)
    • MicroSD slot
  • Networking — Gigabit Ethernet port
  • Media I/O:
    • Dual-channel LVDS
    • MIPI-DSI
    • MIPI-CSI
    • Touchscreen, backlight, screen voltage jumpline support
    • Optional 10.1-inch, 1280 x 800-pixel capacitive touchscreen
    • Optional Omnivision CMK-OV13850 camera
    • 3.5mm headphone jack (possibly with audio input jack)
    • Mic, speaker, I2S interfaces
  • Other I/O:
    • USB 3.0 OTG port
    • USB 2.0 host port (hub)
    • 5x USB 2.0 interfaces
    • 2x UART, RS-485, RS-232, I2C, Key
    • Serial debug interface
  • Expansion:
    • M.2 slot
    • Mini-PCIe with optional Quectel EC20 3G/4G module
    • SIM card slot
    • WiFi and Bluetooth antennas
  • Other features — RTC; user buttons; optional USB-to-TTL serial port module
  • Power — 12V DC input jack; 3V output; power and recovery buttons; optional AC110-240V 50/60Hz adapter
  • Operating system — Linux with Qt (Buildroot and Ubuntu source code)

Further information

The Core-1808-JD4 AI Core Board is available on its own for $59 and for $149 as part of the “AIO-1808-JD4” dev kit. Free or 50 percent off shipping is available on volume orders. More information may be found on the joint shopping page, as well as the Core-1808-JD4 wiki and AIO-1808-JD4 wiki pages.


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One response to “Firefly launches RK1808-based module and dev kit with 3-TOPS NPU”

  1. ProDigit (@ProDigit80) says:

    You can actually buy much faster AMLogic TV boxes on Ebay, for $35, running android (and with a hack, a full ARM-version of Linux).
    The AMLogic TV boxes ($35-45) come with 1-2GB of RAM, ~4-8GB of eMMC memory, HDMI, LAN, WIFI, and USB 2.0 and USB 3.0; quad core 1,8Ghz.
    Much better offer IMHO.

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