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IoT gateway runs Linux on QorIQ, accepts Arduino Shields

Feb 5, 2015 — by Eric Brown 4,292 views

TechNexion and Freescale launched an IoT Gateway that runs Linux on a dual-core, Cortex-A7 QorIQ SoC, offers six GbE ports, and expands via Arduino Shields.

The $429 LS1021A-IoT Gateway Reference Design, which is built by TechNexion and co-branded with Freescale, is the first product we’ve seen to run the first ARM-based versions of Freescale’s previously PowerPC-only QorIQ processor line. QorIQ has always been focused on networking, and that’s no different with the low-power QorIQ LS1 system-on-chip announced in Oct. 2013.

LS1021A-IoT Gateway Reference Design

The industrial HMI-targeted QorIQ LS1021A SoC used on the IoT Gateway design is one of the two higher-end models in the LS1 trio. The other one is the more networking-specific LS1020A, which similarly clocks its dual Cortex-A7 cores to 1GHz for a claimed 5,000 Coremarks when running at 3 Watts. There’s also the low-end LS1022A, which is clocked to 600MHz and runs on just 2 Watts.

The QorIQ LS1 SoCs share Freescale’s Layerscape, a software-aware, core-agnostic networking architecture. Layerscape offers a compatibility layer among LS1 processors, with shared ISA, virtualization, and cache coherency.

Freescale QorIQ LS1021A block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

The LS1 SoCs are equipped with 512KB L2 Cache, and support dual precision floating point and NEON SIMD. The SoCs not only support DDR3L RAM with ECC at up to 1600MHz, but all but the LS1022A also support the upcoming DDR4 RAM, which is said to be faster, more power-efficient, and better optimized for 3D graphics.


The LS1021A is the only model that offers an LCD controller, making it ideal for HMI industrial equipment. Like the LS1021A, it integrates a four-lane, 6GHz, multi-protocol SerDes interface. This is said to simultaneously support up to 3x GbE ports, dual DMA-controlled PCIe 2.0 connections, and a single SATA 3.0 interface.

LS1021A-IoT Gateway, front (left) and back views
(click images to enlarge)

According to a TechNexion rep, the LS1021A-IoT Gateway Reference Design was initially intended as a Freescale-branded product (as pictured above), but then the chipmaker decided on a twin bill with TechNexion. The system is built around a single board computer (shown farther below) that’s only available as part of the 200 x 170 x 58mm gateway device.

LS1021A-IoT Gateway, front (upper) and rear panel closeups
(click image to enlarge)

The LS1021A-IoT is intended to be a gateway for controlling Internet of Things endpoints for both homes and businesses. It is “ideally suited to power system solutions with unique programmable multiple DC/DC and LDO outputs,” says Freescale.

The LS1021A-IoT Gateway is equipped with 1GB ECC-protected DDR3 RAM, a 1Gb wisp of NOR flash, and an SD slot that comes standard with a 4GB card.

Two LS1021A-IoT Gateway block diagram versions:
Freescale (left) and Technexion (right)

(click images to enlarge)

For display, you get both an HDMI port and a 24-bit LVDS interface. In addition to offering two standard gigabit Ethernet ports, you get a bank of four switches GbE ports for a total of six. USB 3.0 host and OTG ports are provided along with a mini-USB 2.0 port. A SATA 3.0 interface is also provided, and although it’s not visible in the board photo (below), an mSATA socket is mentioned in Freescale’s IoT Gateway datasheet [PDF].

LS1021A-IoT Gateway internal SBC details, top (left) and bottom
(click images to enlarge)

Onboard connectors include dual CAN ports, GPIO, audio I/O, and a variety of serial and other industrial interfaces. Two mini-PCIe sockets allow easy, modular expansion. Notably, there’s also a pair of expansion connectors that enable the addition of Arduino Uno-compatible Shields.

Security features are said to include secure boot, ARM Trust architecture support, and tamper detection for both standby and active power modes. Open source BSPs are available with Freescale’s standard QorIQ Layerscape Linux platform, as well as OpenWRT Linux. You get access to schematics, layout, and BOM, along with extensive documentation. Freescale’s CodeWarrior platform is optional.

Summary of LS1021A-IoT specs

Specifications listed for the LS1021A-IoT Gateway Reference Design include:

  • Processor — Freescale QorIQ LS1021A (2x Cortex-A7 cores @ 1GHz; Silicon Image SII9022 display chipset
  • Memory/storage:
    • 1GB ECC-protected DDR3 RAM
    • 1Gb (gigabit) QSPI NOR flash
    • SDHC slot (SDIO/MMC), supports up to 32GB
    • SATA 3.0, via mSATA slot
  • Display:
    • HDMI port
    • 24-bit LVDS interface
  • Networking:
    • 4x gigabit Ethernet ports (no PHY), via switch
    • 2x gigabit Ethernet ports (each with onboard Atheros AR8033 PHY)
  • Other I/O:
    • USB 3.0 OTG port
    • USB 3.0 host port
    • micro-USB 2.0 host port
    • 2x CANBus (Flex CAN) 2.0B
    • 2x UART interfaces
    • QE UART to header for PROFIBUS or RS485 (ext. transceiver required)
    • 13x GPIO or 8x FTM (PWM)
    • 6x interrupts
    • SPI
    • 2x I2C buses
    • 4-wire LP-UART
    • Audio I/O (Freescale SGTL5000)
  • Expansion:
    • 2x mini-PCIe slots (with USB, PCIe, and I2C signals)
    • Arduino Shield connector pair (includes 4x analog inputs, I2C, SPI, 2-wire UART, GPIO)
  • Other features — reset button; secure boot, Trust arch., and tamper detection
  • Power:
    • 12VDC +/- 5%
    • 3W consumption
    • Power management (Freescale MC34VR500 PMIC)
  • Operating temperature — 0 to 40°C
  • Weight — 1.2 k
  • Dimensions — 200 x 170 x 58mm
  • Operating system — Linux SDK for QorIQ Processors v1.7; OpenWRT Linux; optional CodeWarrior

Further information

The LS1021A-IoT Gateway Reference Design is available now from TechNexion or Freescale for $429. More information may be found at the TechNexion and Freescale product pages for the LS1021A-IoT Gateway.

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2 responses to “IoT gateway runs Linux on QorIQ, accepts Arduino Shields”

  1. Go Leez says:

    $429 for an IOT gateway is a very high price to pay considering we have the likes of PCDUINO and RaspBerry P1-2. If we can get some one can design an open source embedded Linux that will talk to Nest, Zwave and other devices – we can start thinking of low cost Smart Home Automation system that a DIYer or a professional company can install.

    Just my 2c..

  2. John Leap says:

    Great idea.
    (Please include transceiver.)

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