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Open-spec control oriented SBC builds on RPi COM

Sep 29, 2014 — by Eric Brown 3,103 views

Calao Systems unveiled a Linux-ready, industrial “PinBall” SBC based on the Raspberry Pi Compute Module, plus special M2M and home-automation models.

Grenoble, France based Calao Systems plans to ship the PinBall single board computer in the fourth quarter starting at about 325 euros ($413) in single units. The open-spec SBC is available in a “Core access” model, as well as in an Industrial Automation and Robotics (IAaR) model aimed at M2M applications, and a Home and Building Automation (HaBA) model with KNX support. All the systems are based on the Raspberry Pi Compute Module, and ship with an RPi-compatible open source Linux BSP.

PinBall SBC: front (left) and rear showing RPi Compute Module
(click images to enlarge)

Calao Snowball

Calao is perhaps best known for building the Snowball hacker SBC, supported by ST-Ericsson and a now-defunct Igloo Community. Calao now sells an updated version of the Snowball called the SKY-S9500-ULP-CXX. The embedded vendor also offers various white label solutions aimed at industrial and networking, and provides a variety of computer-on-modules. These include a pair of relatively new Qseven modules based on the Xilinx Zynq system-on-chip, as well as older modules based on Atmel’s ARM9-based SAM9 processors, using homegrown form-factors like USB, TinyCore, and QIL(quad in-line). The Calao website also has a teaser page for an upcoming Fireball Snapdragon 600 product. Al the above products noted above run Linux, although it’s possible Calao may go with Android for the Fireball.


The Raspberry Pi Compute Module, which implements a COM-style version of the Raspberry Pi SBC, has already spawned Geekroo’s CoMo Booster Pico-ITX baseboard and Techbase’s ModBerry automation computer. Calao has chosen a larger, 120 x 100mm form-factor for its PinBall SBC.

The HaBA and IAaR PinBall models share a number of basic features with the core model, but add many more industrial interfaces. Core features shared by all three PinBall models include the RPI Compute Module, mounted on the rear of the board, complete with the usual 512MB of DDR3 RAM and 4GB of eMMC flash. Other common features include a 10/100Mbps Ethernet port, an HDMI out port with full 1080p support, dual USB host ports, and a pair of S/PDIF out ports. Onboard interfaces include USB device, CVBS out, JTAG, and a pair of serial ports.

PinBall block diagram (left) and table of available models
(click images to enlarge)

The HaBA and IAaR PinBall models are further equipped with MIPI-CSI and MIPI-DSI interfaces, a CAN bus, a dual mini-PCI slots, a micro-SIM slot, and two more serial ports for four total. They also add three opto-isolated inputs, two opto-isolated outputs, an isolated 24V output, and a relay interface. Humidity and temperature sensors are also supplied.

The HaBA model is almost identical to the IAaR model except that it adds a KNX BAOS 820 module from Weinzierl that supports the European-focused KNX home automation networking standard. KNX is a serial bus standard that supports media including twisted pair, RF, power line, or IP-based Ethernet or WiFi. The only other difference on the HaBA model is the addition of a “learning mode push button” and associated LED.

PinBall with optional enclosure
(click image to enlarge)

The PinBall SBCs feature a 9 to 36 AC/DC power supply, as well as an auxiliary supply that is similarly wide-ranging. The boards support temperatures between -20 to 70°C. The black, anodized aluminum enclosure shown above is optional.

The PinBall boards are preloaded with a “qualified open source software package integrating a BSP maintained in main-line, and a Linux Kernel,” says Calao. “Then, depending of the version, a Java virtual machine, OSGI framework, device abstraction, network, and connectivity management” are also supplied. The Core model runs the XBMC flavored, Raspberry Pi compatible XBian, while the other two models run Raspbian. In addition, the HaBA version ships with Open HAB Smart Home software, and the IAaR ships with Scada OPC UA software, says Calao. Calao has also posted extensive hardware documentation for the PinBall.

Summary of PinBall specs

Specifications listed for the PinBall include:

  • Processor (via RPi Compute Module) — Broadcom BCM2835 (1x ARM11 core @ 700MHz); Broadcom VideoCore IV GPU
  • Memory (via RPi Compute Module) — 512MB DDR2 SDRAM; 4GB eMMC flash
  • Networking — 10/100 Ethernet port
  • I/O available on all models:
    • 2x USB host ports
    • USB device interface
    • HDMI port
    • CVBS out interface (no simultaneous use with HDMI)
    • 2x serial interfaces
    • S/PDIF out optical port
    • S/PDIF out (isolated cinch/RCA) port
    • JTAG interface
  • I/O available only on the HaBA and IAaR models:
    • MIPI CSI-2
    • MIPI DSI
    • CAN bus
    • 2x additional serial ports (4x total)
    • 3x opto-isolated inputs
    • 2x opto-isolated outputs
    • Isolated 24V output
    • Relay (COM, NO or NC)
    • 2x mini-PCI slots (1x USB only with supercapacitor)
    • Micro-SIM slot
  • Other features:
    • Boot shutdown, reset, and user push buttons and LEDs
    • Optional black anodized aluminum enclosure with 3.2mm mounting holes
    • KNX BAOS 820 module (HaBA only)
    • Learning mode push button and LED (HaBA only)
    • Humidity and temp. sensors (HaBa and IAaR only)
    • Open HAB Smart Home software (HaBA only)
    • Scada OPC UA software (IAaR only)
  • Power:
    • Main supply 12VDC/2A (9-36 VAC/VDC)
    • Auxiliary supply 9 to 36 AC/DC (Micro Power MPC3) for second supply of external battery charger
    • BR1632A Lithium battery for RTC backup
  • Operating temperature — -20 to 70°C
  • Dimensions — 120 x 100 x 25mm
  • Operating system — Linux (XBian for Core; Raspbian for HaBa and IAaR only)

Further information

The PinBall SBC will be available in Core, Industrial Automation and Robotics (IAaR), and Home and Building Automation (HaBA) versions starting at 325€ ($413) per single unit, in the fourth quarter. More information may be found at the PinBall product page. Calao Systems will showcase PinBall running in the Innovation Village booth 482 at SEMICON Europe, held Oct. 7-9 in Grenoble, France.

(advertise here)

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