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IoT box supports internal RPi, Arduino shields, and more

May 31, 2015 — by Eric Brown 3,971 views

[Updated June 2] — A hackable “Zymbit Orange” IoT box offers internal RPi SBC, Arduino shield, Atmel Wingboard, wireless, and touch display options, plus cloud-based access.

We’ve seen several carrier boards and mini-PCs that extend the Raspberry Pi, including Geekroo’s Fairywren Mini-ITX board, and for the RPi Compute Module, the OpenPi and Calao Pinball mini-PC. None of them, however, is quite as ambitious as the Zymbit Orange unveiled by Zymbit at the recent MakerFaire show in San Francisco.

Zymbit prototypes at MakerFaire San Francisco
(click images to enlarge)

Combined with an optional “Iris” OLED display and “Zymbit Connector” IoT stack, this mini-PC is billed as a complete, pre-configured “out-of-the-box-ready” platform, enabling “makers and developers to get their IoT prototypes off their desk and into the market in just days.”

The Zymbit Orange “edge device” is designed for prototyping IoT applications using a combination of the Raspberry Pi running Linux, as well as various Atmel microprocessors. The device is intended to “interact at the edge of the network for data acquisition and new user interfaces,” says the Santa Barbara, Calif. startup Zymbit.

External and internal models of the Zymbit Orange
(click images to enlarge)

You can use the Orange system independently of the Pi — and Linux — using its Atmel ATSAME70 microcontroller. The secure ATSAME70 MCU serves as a control processor, orchestrating the entire system, which can include a Raspberry Pi A+, B+, or second generation Raspberry Pi 2 Model B SBC. It also accepts Arduino Shields and Atmel Xplained Wingboards. The latter include both the Mini and more complete Ultra Wingboard variants.

Zymbit Orange motherboard details and options
(click image to enlarge)

The Zymbit Orange offers built-in WiFi and Bluetooth, as well as optional ZigBee, cellular, and PoE modules. There’s also support for unexplained “Zymbit I/O modules.”


Atmel showcased the Zymbit at MakerCon and spun its own blog announcement of the Zymbit. Here, it revealed other Atmel chips built into the Orange platform, including a SAM D21 MCU for I/O applications, as well as the aforementioned ATWILC3000 WiFi / Bluetooth 4.0 controller. There’s also an Atmel ATECC508 security subsystem with a 72-bit unique ID, a 256-bit SHA crypto engine, a random number generator, and tamper-proof inputs.

Zymbit Orange block diagrams: simplified and detailed
(click images to enlarge)

The modular, customizable Orange enclosure includes a 4-36V power supply with 5V, 2.5A output. The box can be wall- or VESA-mounted, and includes a knock-out cable port for custom wiring harnesses. The Orange can be customized with 3D printed parts, says Zymbit.

The Orange will be sold with an optional Zymbit Iris interactive color touchscreen display, which fits onto the top of the enclosure. The unusual, programmable device (see this demo video at Vimeo) combines a 128 × 64-pixel OLED display and four 64 × 48 OLED soft keys. There’s also a 9 × 9 LED matrix with an RGB perimeter that “indicates high-level conditions,” says Zymbit. Other features are said include a unique 72-bit ID, touch zones available on all LEDs and OLED displays, and a “full RGB perimeter to indicate high level conditions.”

Exploded views showing how various Zymbit Orange options assemble
(click images to enlarge)

According to a Zymbit rep at MakerCon, as well as this blog entry by Philippe Bressy, the company also plans to release a Linux-based Zymbit Black version. The Black will be preconfigured with Atmel’s Cortex-A5-based SAMA5D4 SoC. (Earlier this year, Atmel and Newark Element 14 released an MCU-based versions of Atmel’s Xplained board for the SAMA5D4.) The Zymbit rep also told us that the Zymbit boxes are somewhat mechanically compatible with the Intel NUC reference design.

Zymbit’s Connector based cloud architecture
(click image to enlarge)

The Zymbit Connector software, which has yet to reach beta, is said to streamline the connection and sharing of secured data and the management of remote IoT devices. Users can establish secure SSH connections with remote gadgets and integrate common open source tools. Zymbit Connector also includes Zymbit’s Pub/Sub Engine, which lets you collect and share data on a one-to-one or one-to-many basis, with or without subscriber authentication.

Dashboard and My Devices app views
(click image to enlarge)

Zymbit Connector is designed to coordinate remote code updates, security, and access management, while offering multiple levels of authorized access. You can view devices by status, type, unique ID, and other variables, and access information including device type, metrics, and pub/sub activity. Several device dashboard displays are being developed, including plugin metrics dashboards for the Raspberry Pi and Arduino Yún.

Zymbit also announced a contest to select the top five most inspiring and impactful IoT projects, and reward the developers with the very first Zymbit Orange devices. Zymbit is especially interested in scalable IoT concepts that collect data from edge devices, and integrate data security and authentication functions. Makers can post their project ideas here, and contest winners will be announced Aug. 21.

Zymbit posted the video below, showing the Zymbit IoT box’s modularity, on Vimeo.

Zymbit video showing Zymbit’s modularity

Further information

No further availability or pricing information was announced publicly, but a Zymbit rep told us that first shipments will be ready around the time the contest winners are announced on Aug. 21. The Zymbit reps we spoke with declined to say whether a crowdfunding campaign was imminent, but they did not rule it out. More information may be found at the Zymbit website. Zymbit is currently running a contest that offers “seriously creative developers and makers” a chance to win some of the first Zymbit products in Q3.

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One response to “IoT box supports internal RPi, Arduino shields, and more”

  1. Ray Morsley says:

    It’s nice to see “at last” some serious effort in producing an IOT device, the Zymbit Orange with a primary design goal to have security support in hardware.

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