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Linux-based automation controller offers choice of RPi, NanoPi, and UP cores

Jul 18, 2017 — by Eric Brown 3,315 views

[Updated: July 19] — Techbase has revised its ModBerry 500 controller to the RPi CM3, and has added M700 and M1000 models based on the NanoPi M1 Plus and UP boards, respectively.

Gdansk, Poland based Techbase was one of the first manufacturers to tap the original, ARM11-based Raspberry Pi Compute Module in 2014 with its ModBerry 500 automation controller. The company has now upgraded to the Raspberry Pi 3-like, quad-core Cortex-A53 Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3 in two new models: a ModBerry 500 M3 and a less feature-rich ModBerry 400. In addition, Techbase launched a ModBerry M700 built around the quad -A7 NanoPi M1 Plus, as well as a ModBerry M1000 based on the original, Intel Atom based UP board. All the computers run Linux with new firmware based on Linux Kernel 4.0+.

ModBerry 500 M3 (left) and list of expansion modules available for all the ModBerry models
(click images to enlarge)

The company previously announced a ModBerry 2000 version based on the Intel Joule. Like many other projects that incorporated Intel’s recently discontinued, Atom-based Joule module, the ModBerry 2000 will have a truncated lifespan. The last units will ship in September. In an email, Techbase’s Adam Zaszkowski said his company is working with Aaeon’s UP community on potentially using other UP models, perhaps including the UP Squared, as foundations for future ModBerry models.

ModBerry systems can be expanded with up to three extension modules
(click images to enlarge)

All three new ModBerry models share a common, sturdy, enclosure design featuring DIN rail mounting, ranging from 106 x 91 x 61mm for minimal configurations. They all offer wide-range input power and optional extended temperature, with slight variations among the models.

ModBerry 500

Each of the ModBerry SKUs has a different selection of standard I/O ports, depending on which open-spec Linux SBC they are built on. In addition, they all offer a bank of 32-pin screw terminal connectors with varying levels of I/O.


Each device lets you add up to three expansion modules from the same catalog of choices. These include wireless modules such as WiFi, Bluetooth, ZigBee, LTE/3G/GPRS, and GPS. Techbase also notes the devices can run LoRa and NarrowBand IoT radio protocols. Wired expansion modules include accelerometers, and relays, as well as additional Ethernet, serial, PCIe, ADC, and DIO connections. Opto-isolation is available for the internal power supply for additional modems.

Finally, there’s an entirely different class of options listed as accessories that are supported by all the new ModBerry models. The accessories include power feeders, 1-Wire sensors, M-Bus converters, ZigBee sensors and I/O modules, more relay and DIO modules, and a GSM antenna

ModBerry models compared (I/O totals include potential interfaces via expansion)
(click image to enlarge)

Like the original ModBerry, as well as some other Techbase industrial computers, the new ModBerry computers are supported with the company’s cloud-based iMod, iModCloud, and iModWizard Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications. The iMod software enables applications in automation, intelligent buildings, as well as the monitoring and control of power stations, GSM base stations, and wind farms. The ModBerry devices can be set up as protocol converters, data loggers, telemetry modules, servers, PLC devices, MODBUS routers, SNMP agents, and M-Bus devices.

The iMod SDK offers multi-leveled, user access cloud management based on configuration files. The iModCloud platform provides file management, notifications, and custom-based actions. Data visualization capabilities include maps that show the location of GPS-enabled devices.

ModBerry 500 M3

The ModBerry 500 M3 updates the original ModBerry 500 with the Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3 (CM3), which gives you the same quad-core Cortex-A53, 1.2GHz Broadcom BCM2837 SoC as the Raspberry Pi 3. The SoC, which includes a 400MHz VideoCore IV GPU, is accompanied on the CM3 with 1GB of LPDDR2 RAM and 4GB eMMC.

ModBerry 500 M3 (left) and block diagram
(click images to enlarge)

The CM3 lacks built-in WiFi and Bluetooth, which are available on the ModBerry 500 M3 via expansion cards. The M3 is further equipped with a 10/100 Ethernet port, a USB 2.0 port, and a SIM card interface, as well as user, reset, and power buttons. An RTC and watchdog are also onboard.

Raspberry Pi
Compute Module 3

The 32-pin screw terminal connectors offer varying levels of I/O, depending on the M3 sub-model. The Mini version appears to be limited to single RS-232 and RS-485 interfaces, while the Standard version doubles up on those connections, and adds 4x digital inputs, 4x digital outputs, 4x configurable DI/DO interfaces, an HDMI port, and a PCIe lane. The Max version adds to this with 4x 18-bit analog inputs, as well as CAN and 1-Wire connections. As noted, there are also the up to three wired or wireless expansion modules and optional accessories found on all the ModBerry systems.

ModBerry 500 M3 detail views
(click images to enlarge)

Like the original, the ModBerry 500 M3 has a wide-range AC/DC power supply, now expanded to 10-30V DC (1000mA). The extended -25 to 80°C temperature range is now standard.

ModBerry 400

Like the ModBerry 500, the ModBerry 400 is based on the Raspberry Pi CM3 module, and has the same physical characteristics and memory allotment. As noted, it also offers all the expansion capabilities and accessories listed above. However, there are no Ethernet or HDMI ports, and external ports are limited to a USB 2.0 port, SIM card slot, and user, reset, and power buttons. Other I/O is also somewhat more limited. The ModBerry 400 offers single RS-232 and RS-485 interfaces, as well as 4x digital inputs, 4x digital outputs, 4x configurable DI/DO, and 1-Wire.

ModBerry 400 (left) and block diagram
(click images to enlarge)

Standard interfaces available on the ModBerry 400 are limited to reduce the price of the baseline configuration, according to the company. However, “there is still an option to add missing I/Os through extension modules to make the device maximally suited for customer’s needs,” wrote a TechBase rep in an email.

ModBerry M700

The ModBerry M700 is based on FriendlyElec’s $30 NanoPi M1 Plus. The open spec NanoPi M1 Plus features the 1.2GHz quad-core, Cortex-A7 Allwinner H3 SoC with a 600MHz Mali-400 MP2 GPU. Both the 64 × 60mm SBC and the ModBerry M700 provide 1GB DDR3 RAM and 8GB eMMC.

ModBerry M700 (left) and block diagram
(click images to enlarge)

The NanoPi’s onboard WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0 radios appear to be available in addition to the wireless options made available through expansion modules. The design also carries over the SBC’s Gigabit Ethernet port, HDMI 1.4 port, 2x USB 2.0 host ports, micro-USB OTG port, and audio/CVBS jack.

NanoPi M1 Plus

The terminal connectors provide a RS-232/485 port, 4x digital inputs, 4x digital outputs, and optional 1-Wire. The M700 also features a PCIe interface, a USB pin header, an RTC, and a watchdog. The ModBerry M700 supports up to three expansion modules drawn from the same list as the ModBerry 500 M3, and it also supports the same accessories.

The ModBerry M700’s wide-ranging AC/DC power supply is even wider than the M3 at 7-30V DC. The temperature range expands a bit to -30 to 80°C.

ModBerry M1000

The ModBerry M1000 builds upon Aaeon’s UP board, which combines a Raspberry Pi 3-like layout and 40-pin connector with a similar feature set. However, instead of an ARM SoC, it supplies a quad-core, “Cherry Trail” Intel Atom x5-Z8350 SoC. The 14nm-fabricated SoC is clocked to 1.44GHz, with turbo boost mode up to 1.92GHz, and features Intel HD 400 Graphics.

ModBerry M1000 (left) and block diagram
(click images to enlarge)

Like the UP board, the ModBerry M1000 is available with up to 4GB DDR3L-1600 RAM and up to 64GB eMMC. The system features a USB 3.0 OTG port, 4x USB 2.0 ports, a GbE port, and an HDMI port. You also get a 1-wire interface and an RTC.

UP board

Once again there are Mini, Standard, and Max I/O configurations. This time, the Mini version provides a single RS-232/485 interface, 4x digital inputs, 4x digital outputs. and 4x configurable digital input/outputs, while the Standard model adds a PCIe slot with internal power supply. The Max model doubles the RS-232/485 and PCIe interfaces, and adds 4x ADC connections and a CAN port.

As with the other models, the M1000 supports all the M3’s expansion capabilities. In addition to Linux distributions like Yocto, Ubuntu, and Ubilinux, the system supports Android 6.0 and Windows 10.

Further information

The ModBerry product page offers buy buttons for all the devices except for the M1000, which will be added soon, according to the TechBase rep. Off-the-shelf pricing is not listed, since the ModBerry systems are modularly customizable and “the sales department prices every configuration separately” based on the customer’s specific requirements. More information may be found at Techbase’s ModBerry product page, as well as in the PDF datasheets for the
ModBerry 500 M3, ModBerry M1000, ModBerry M700, and ModBerry 400.

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