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FPGA-based 96Boards SBC boasts quantum-resistant crypto

Mar 13, 2017 — by Eric Brown 4,795 views

Arrow is prepping a 96Boards CE “Chameleon96” SBC that runs Linux on an Intel Cyclone V ARM/FPGA SoC, and offers WiFi, BT, and quantum-resistant security.

After Arrow revealed plans to follow up on its Qualcomm-backed DragonBoard 410C SBC with three more Linux ready, open spec 96Boards SBCs, one of the boards — the Chameleon96 — has been detailed on The Cyclone V based, 85 x 54mm Chameleon96, which is the first 96Boards form factor SBC to include an FPGA, was also announced by SecureRF, which is offering its quantum-resistant cryptography technology on the board (see farther below).

(click image to enlarge)

We have more details on the Chameleon below. The two other Arrow boards, which have yet to be fully documented, are the Meerkat and the Oxalis. The Meerkat runs Linux on a dual-core, Cortex-A7 NXP i.MX7D, which also includes a Cortex-M4 MCU, and offers an Arduino-ready mezzanine add-on board. Like the Chameleon96, the DragonBoard 410C, and most other 96Boards offerings, the Meerkat is a Consumer Edition board with 40-pin low-speed and 60-pin high-speed expansion connectors.

The upcoming Oxalis board is a larger 96Boards Enterprise Edition (EE) board, such as the AMD A1100 based Lemaker Cello. The Oxalis taps NXP’s single, 800MHz Cortex-A53 based QorIQ LS1012A, which is billed as the world’s smallest 64-bit ARM SoC. 96Boards EE is typically aimed at higher end server operations, but the Oxalis is “optimized for battery-backed or USB-powered, space-constrained networking and IoT applications,” says Arrow. No OS support was listed, but Linux is the typical install on LS1012A boards.


Last June, Arrow joined with eInfochips to announce a $279 SD 600eval board based on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 600. This was rumored to be originally called the DragonBoard 600. A product page is still posted on the eInfochips website, and Arrow has a shopping page, but it’s still listed as out of stock. The board was notable for being the first to comply with the 100 x 85mm Extended version of the 96Boards CE spec.


The Chameleon96 runs Debian Linux on a Cyclone V SE SoC from Intel PSG (Programmable Solutions Group), the new post-acquisition name for its Altera FPGA unit. The SoC, which like the Xylinx Zynq-7000 combines dual 800MHz Cortex-A9 cores with an FPGA subsystem, can be found on boards such as iWave’s iW-RainboW-G17D module. It offers lesser FPGA powers (110K LEs) than Intel PSG’s newer, dual-A9 based Arria 10 SoC, and far less ARM and FPGA performance than its quad-core Cortex-A53-based Stratix 10.

Chameleon96 block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

Interestingly, the Chameleon96’s video processing, based on Intel Video Suite for FPGA, uses the FPGA subsystem rather than the ARM subsystem. It can drive 60fps 1080p streams via HDMI and encode such video via a two-lane MIPI-CSI camera interface. The use of the FPGA fabric for video processing “allows development of custom IPU/GPU/VPU solutions,” says Arrow.

Chameleon96 detail views
(click images to enlarge)

The Chameleon96 ships with 512MB of DDR3 SDRAM, with optional 1GB, linked to the ARM Hard Processor System (HPC). Other ARM-linked I/O includes a microSD slot, a serial UART interface, a warm reset button, and 4x user LEDs.

You will also find a micro-USB OTG port and two USB 2.0 host ports, but you can’t use the OTG and host ports at the same time. An audio interface supports PCM/AAC+/MP3/WMA, ECNS, plus optional Audio+ post-processing.

The FPGA subsystem provides the HDMI output, as well as a wireless module that includes 2.4GHz 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.1, backed up by antennas and dual LEDs. There’s also a micro-USB connected USB Blaster II JTAG cable.

Both subsystems connect to the low- and high-speed connectors, although in the latter category, the only FPGA-linked interface is the MIPI-CSI2 interface. This is said to be the sole 96Boards non-standard component on the board. The low-speed connector provides UART, SPI, I2C, I2S, and GPIO, while the high-speed offers USB 2.0 host, SPI, I2C, and GPIO, as well as MIPI CSI-2.

A 12V DC input is provided, and there’s also an Altera Enpirion PowerSoC power management chip. The board can be made compatible with Arduino using an add-on mezzanine board, one of a growing list of 96Boards mezzanines that are now available.

SecureRF’s quantum resistant cryptography

The Chameleon96 board’s FPGA subsystem is also home to SecureRF’s quantum-resistant Ironwood Key Agreement Protocol and Walnut DSA Digital Signature Algorithm reference design. These Public Key methods are specifically designed for reduced footprint, low-energy IoT deployments.

The Ironwood protocol is based on a 128-bit security Diffie-Hellman-like authentication protocol, which is said to be resistant to potential attacks by attackers using new quantum computers for cryptography hacks. The SecureRF technology also includes secure boot, secure firmware updates and secure firmware delivery.

Further information

No pricing or availability information was provided for Arrow’s Chameleon96, although it appears it might be formally launched this week at Embedded World in Nuremberg, Germany. For now, more information may be found in the Arrow blog announcement and’s Chameleon96 wiki.

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