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Modular IoT gateway family has hot pluggable wireless options

Apr 19, 2017 — by Eric Brown 996 views

Portwell’s highly modular, Linux-friendly “XM-1” line of IoT gateways offers a choice of ARM or x86 CPUs and hot-pluggable ZigBee, LoRa, WiFi, or 2G/3G/LTE.

Portwell, which was an early member of the Intel Internet of Things Solutions Alliance, has released several x86-based Internet of Things gateways in recent years (see farther below). Now, the company has launched an ambitious family of highly modular ARM and x86 XM-1 gateways designed to offer a consistent hardware platform that can serve a variety of IoT applications including smart home, smart factory, and smart farm scenarios. The company also launched a line of Arduino-compatible DS-1/DS-1B Wireless Sensor Nodes (see farther below).

Portwell XM-1 60xx (left), DS-1 (middle), and DS-1B

The initial XM-1 60xx systems have a standard 215 x 163 x 72mm form factor and run Linux, Windows, or Windows CE on a choice of Intel processors. These include single, dual, or quad-core “Bay Trail” Atom E3800, dual- or quad-core “Braswell” Celeron N3000, or dual-core “Broadwell” 5th Gen Core i5 and i3 processors. An upcoming XM-1 variant will also ship with an ARM motherboard, according to Portwell’s April 18 announcement. This may well be a Raspberry Pi, according to a bullet point on a separate product page that says the XM-1 can be designed with a motherboard in various form factors, including Portwell Nano-ITX, Intel NUC, or Raspberry Pi.

The XM-1 is “the first IoT gateway to feature international patents of highly composable structure,” says Portwell. The company offers little clarification except to say the XM-1 will provide a “modularization mechanism with patents.”

XM-1 60xx detail view
(click image to enlarge)

The XM-1 design calls for hot pluggable ZigBee, LoRa, WiFi, Bluetooth Low Energy, or 2G/3G/LTE modules. Wired I/O is also highly modular. The initial XM-1 60xx ships with a standard allotment of a Gigabit Ethernet port and 5x USB 3.0 ports, but these appear to be optional, as well. Other options include 4-port Ethernet and RS-232/422/485.


4-port GbE

The fanless XM-1 systems can be purchased with -40 to 85°C support. It’s unclear if that pertains to the initial XM-1 6060 (Bay Trail), 6061 (Braswell), and 6050 (Broadwell) models, which list a 0 to 60°C range.

Other standard features for the XM-1 60xx include up to 8GB DDR3L-1066-1333, a microSD slot, and LEDs and antenna holes. The 12V system ships with an AC 100-240V adapter, and there are power and reset buttons. Desktop, DIN, and VESA mounting are available.

DS-1 and DS-1B Wireless Sensor Nodes

In addition to the hot-swappable wireless modules available for the XM-1, Portwell announced a line of somewhat similar looking standalone, Arduino IDE compatible DS-1 and DS-1B Wireless Sensor Nodes. The 95 x 40 x 33mm DS-1 is powered by micro-USB, while the 95 x 80 x 33mm DS-1B integrates dual Lithium batteries that can be charged by micro-USB or solar panel.

DS-1 and DS-1B
(click image to enlarge)

Both models offer the same modular support for ZigBee, LoRa, WiFi, and BLE. They can be configured with different assortments of sensors, including temperature, humidity, UV, light, soil moisture, water, vibration, and infrared. The nodes can control different sensors with different 3V or 5V voltages at the same time.

DS-1B mainboard detail
(click image to enlarge)

The Ds1/DS1B devices are built around an Arduino-like mainboard that runs on an 8MHz Atmel ATmega32U4 with optional 3.3V SPI flash. External I/O is limited to a micro-USB port and a GPIO button, and on the DS-1B, a JST 2.0 solar connector.

Internally, there’s a PAN network socket that support the different wireless modules. The devices include 4x jumpers, as well as headers for I2C, SPI, GPIO, and digital and analog interfaces. The 5V, 0 to 60°C ready devices support extreme power saving and sleep modes, and ship with an external antenna.

Other Portwell IoT gateways

Portwell also lists some more traditional IoT gateways that are still available. No OS is listed except for the Quark-based PI-81A0, which uses the Linux- and Windows compatible Wind River Intelligent Device Platform. The other two systems likely run Linux and Windows, as well.

Portwell PI-81A0 (left) and CAD-0225
(click images to enlarge)

Portwell’s other three IoT gateways include:

  • PI-81A0 — The entry level PI-81A0 features a 400MHz Intel Quark X1000 with support for up to 2GB RAM. Other features on the 5V device include dual 10/100 Ethernet ports, USB 2.0 host and device ports, 8-channel analog-to-digital converter inputs, and optional WiFi or “wireless” module.
  • CAD-0225 — Although it’s included on the IoT gateway page, the CAD-0225 is further identified as a network security appliance. The 180 x 150 x 42mm system features an Atom E3800 with up to 8GB DDR3L and 4x PCIe-based GbE ports. There’s also a 2.5-inch HDD, dual USB 2.0 ports, and a serial console port.
  • WEBS-2190 — The industrial focused, Atom E3800 based WEBS-2190 supports -25 to 60°C temperatures, and offers IP40 protection and shock and vibration resistance. You can load up to 8GB of DDR3L, and there’s a microSD slot and 2.5-inch SATA bay. The 12V, 150 x 150 x 53mm system provides 2x GbE, 2x USB 3.0, VGA, DisplayPort, and RS-232/422/485 ports. There’s also a half-size mini-PCIe socket, an antenna socket, an audio jack, and a watchdog.

Portwell WEBS-2190 (left) and detail view
(click images to enlarge)

Further information

No pricing or availability information was provided for the XM-1 gateway or DS-1 and DS-1B Wireless Sensor Nodes. Links to both, as well as the other Portwell IoT gateways listed above may be found on Portwell’s IoT Gateway Solutions page, as well as the XM-1 and DS-1/DS-1B announcement.

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