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Hackable measurement board runs Linux on an ARM+FPGA SoC

Jul 23, 2013 — by Eric Brown 9,662 views

[Updated July 25] — Red Pitaya has launched a Kickstarter campaign to build an open source Linux-based measurement and control single-board computer. The $359 Red Pitaya, which can replace thousands of dollars worth of test equipment, will initially ship with apps for oscilloscope, spectrum analyzer, waveform generator, frequency response analyzer, and PID controller functions.

The Red Pitaya launched on Kickstarter on July 22, and has already achieved almost $37,000 in funding, on its way to its Sept. 20 goal of $50,000. Together with hardware partner Instrumentation Technologies, Red Pitaya is hoping to ship boards to supporters in December. The early-bird pricing of $299 is already gone, but backers can acquire boards for $359 to $399, depending on options (see farther below).

Red Pitaya showing one of its web apps
(click image to enlarge)


The palm-sized open source SBC is primarily designed for students, educators, and the DIY “maker” community, but can also be used by research institutions, industry, and embedded startups in need of a low-cost prototyping platform for measurement devices. In addition, the board’s support for software defined radio (SDR) applications make it a good choice for the amateur HAM radio community, says Red Pitaya.


(click to enlarge)

The Red Pitaya runs on the increasingly popular Zynq-7020 system-on-chip from FPGA specialists Xylinx. The Zynq combines dual 667MHz ARM Cortex-A9 cores with field programmable gate array (FPGA) functionality for programmable logic processing.

The SBC is further equipped with 128MB of RAM, and a microSD slot, which holds the Linux-based system and FPGA image, available on a 2GB card. A Fast Ethernet port is provided, as well as micro-USB ports for power and console, respectively. There’s also a USB OTG port for connecting devices including a flash drive, WiFi dongle, or camera.

So far, so normal, but then the board diverges from the typical SBC hacker board with a pair of analog inputs and outputs for attaching optional diagnostic probes. The four high-speed, dual-channel ports give the device a unique look that inspired an artist to give the board the Andy Warhol treatment (see image below).

Red Pitaya, as Andy Warhol might have rendered it
(click image to enlarge)


The SBC additionally features a daisy chain connector, an analog signal extension connector with low-speed ADCs and DACs, and a digital signal extension connector with 16 FPGA GPIOs. Red Pitaya plans to offer extension modules for these connectors featuring specific front- or back-end analog signal processing functions. Other modules will perform functions such as extending receiver and transmitter frequency range.

Red Pitaya prototype
(click image to enlarge)


Specifications listed for the Red Pitaya prototype include:

  • Processor — Xilinx Zynq (2x ARM Cortex-A9 cores, typically 667MHz, plus FPGA)
  • Memory — 128MB DDR2 RAM; microSD slot with optional 2GB system card
  • Networking — 10/100 Ethernet
  • Other I/O:
    • USB OTG (WiFi, etc.)
    • Micro-USB (console)
    • Micro-USB (power)
    • 2x analog inputs (2-ch., 125MS/s, 14-bit)
    • 2x analog outputs (2-ch., 125MS/s, 14-bit)
    • Analog signal extension connector with ADCs and DACs (4-ch., 100kS/s, 12-bit)
    • Digital signal extension connector with 16x FPGA GPIOs
    • Daisy chain connector
  • Operating system — Linux

Using a Linux-based operating system and a set of free, open source development tools that have yet to be detailed, the Red Pitaya board can be customized at multiple levels, says the company. These include HDL (hardware description language), C/C++, scripting languages, Matlab, and HTML based web interfaces. The tools suite enables the development of web apps, which run on the device’s embedded webserver (currently lighttpd, but it might change in the future) and can be accessed using any browser on a PC, laptop, smartphone, or tablet.

Red Pitaya Ecosystem


The board will ship with five apps, but more will be available on a “Bazaar” appstore site:

  • Oscilloscope — 2 channels @ 125MS/s 14-bit digital with external or signal based triggering
  • Spectrum Analyzer — 2 channels with 60MHz signal with waterfall diagram capability
  • Arbitrary Waveform Generator — 2 channels @ 125MHz 14-bit arbitrary waveform generation with external triggering
  • Frequency Response Analyzer — 2 channels with 60MHz bandwidth
  • 2×2 MIMO PID Controller — programmable proportional-integral-derivative (PID) controller for industrial control

The project describes the apps Bazaar as “a free of charge marketplace where open source applications are available within a single click for immediate experience and use.” It says the Red Pitaya Ecosystem will also include “an organized repository containing the corresponding open source code and tools necessary for developing applications.”

The Red Pitaya team’s Kickstarter video appears below.


The Red Pitaya board is available through Sept. 20 on Kickstarter, with shipments expected in December. The board costs $359, or $379 with a power supply and 2GB microSD card containing the Linux system and five Pitaya apps preflashed. A $399 “Diagnostic” kit also adds two test probes and two BNC-to-SMA adapters.

More information is available on the Red Pitaya Kickstarter page. For more on the vendor and manufacturer, see the Red Pitaya and Instrument Technologies websites, respectively.

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7 responses to “Hackable measurement board runs Linux on an ARM+FPGA SoC”

  1. Nubi says:

    1GB => 1Gb
    Small b means bit not Byte so its only 128MByte as it seems (s. comments section on Kickstarter).

    Apart from that it is a quite nice board.

  2. Crt says:

    Latest update on this project! Red Pitaya Spark Center, a place where you can suggest ideas for new Red Pitaya applications

  3. Crt says:

    Red Pitaya share latest measurements and has updated specifications on the Kickstarter page.

    Check Red Pitaya RF front end characterization:

  4. Crt says:

    Red Pitaya on Kickstarter already put two amazing stretch goals:

    1) all Red Pitayas will come with 4Gb RAM when reaching $150k
    2) all Red Pitayas will be upgraded to gigabit networking when we reach $200k.

  5. samii says:

    Ecosystem very useful

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