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Power-sipping IP camera SoC gains Linux dev kit

Apr 17, 2015 — by Eric Brown 6,903 views

Ambarella has launched a Linux-ready reference design for battery-driven IP cameras using its S2Lm SoC, which supports fast wake-up and sub-500mW operation.

Ambarella has announced the availability of a reference design for battery-powered IP cameras, supported with a Linux board support package (BSP). The design showcases the company’s recently announced, Cortex-A9 based S2Lm system-on-chip, which is specifically designed for battery-powered full HD security cameras suitable for consumer entry-level commercial security applications, says Ambarella.

Ambarella S2Lm

The new S2Lm SoC is touted for its ability to start 1080p30 video recording in less than 500ms after wake up from sleep mode. The power-sipping SoC supports -20 to 85°C temperatures, and runs at less than 500mW during 1080p30 recording. It’s claimed to support continuous operation for up to six months without changing batteries.

The 28nm-fabricated, 11 x 11mm S2Lm SoC supports up to 5-megapixel still image resolution and up to 3-megapixel H.264 High Profile video encoding at 30fps. It also provides “smart-AVC” streaming as low as 600Kbps at 1080p30.


The new, consumer-focused S2Lm SoC is equipped with a single Cortex-A9 core, an ISP, a video DSP, and 128KB L2 cache. There’s also a cryptography chip that supports AES/3, DES, SHA-1, and MD5 protocols.

The SoC supports DDR3/DDR3L RAM up to 528MHz. There are multiple boot options including SPI-NOR, SPI-EEPROM, NAND flash, USB, or eMMC.

The S2Lm SoC provides analytics for face detection and tracking, motion detection, and tampering, as well as algorithms that minimize false motion notifications, says Ambarella. It also integrates on-chip de-warping of wide-angle lenses for cameras with a wide field of view, plus HDR and 3D noise reduction for challenging lighting conditions.

A similar, but more advanced SL2 SoC aimed at professional surveillance applications supports up to 5-megapixels at 30fps. Previous Ambarella SoC’s include the Android-focused iOne SoC announced in 2010, which combines a dual Cortex-A9 cores, an ARM11 core, as well as an ISP, DSP, and 3D-ready GPU.

S2Lm Reference EVK

The S2Lm EVK reference platform includes a mainboard and a camera. The kit provides connectors for sensor/lens boards and peripherals, and supports sensor boards from Aptina, Omnivision, Panasonic, Sony, and others.

S2Lm EVK reference design
(click image to enlarge)

There’s no detailed spec list, but the block diagram below, which is said to show a typical camera solution using the S2Lm likely matches the EVK pretty closely. The photo shows a number of coastline ports, including what appears to be an Ethernet port. The S2Lm SoC that drives the mainboard is said to support 10/100 Ethernet, USB 2.0 host and device, and I/O including I2S, SSI/SPI, IDC, UART, PWM, Stepper, ADC. The SoC also supports a watchdog and other timers, as well as JTAG.

Block diagram showing typical camera based on S2Lm
(click image to enlarge)

The EVK ships with documentation including BOM, schematics, and layout, and an IP camera reference application with C source code. A separate reference design is said to support consumer cloud cameras, and presumably adds built-in wireless support.

A Linux 3.8 SDK is “included for networking and customer applications including cloud streaming and analytics,” says Ambarella. The SDK includes reference implementations for low-power standby operation, wake-on-WiFi, and fast boot to Linux.

The SDK is equipped with patches, drivers, tools, and source code, as well as royalty-free libraries for ISP, 3A, dewarp, and codecs, says the company. Additional features include image tuning and manufacturing calibration tools, as well as detailed documentation, a programmer’s guide, and application notes.

“Battery-powered IP cameras support new use cases that are relevant to a large segment of the security camera market,” stated Chris Day, vice president, Marketing and Business Development at Ambarella. “With no wires to worry about, S2Lm-based cameras can be installed in places where getting to a power outlet may be difficult. In addition, these cameras can be moved around for short term monitoring, without the need to reinstall the camera after every move.”

Further information

The Ambarella S2Lm SoC and EVK reference design are available now at undisclosed prices. More information may be found at Ambarella’s S2L and S2Lm product page. The S2Lm product brief link brings you to a detailed data sheet on the SoC.

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