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OpenWrt-driven i.MX6ULL module and dev kit offers A/V and LoRaWAN options

May 3, 2021 — by Eric Brown — 1765 views

M2M IOT’s “NetSOM” module, which runs OpenWrt on an i.MX6ULL, has an optional dev kit that will appear on Crowd Supply for $69 to $89 with optional camera, audio, and LoRaWAN. The NetSOM also powers a new GW-01-WI-FI LoRaWAN gateway.

M2M IOT revealed details on an upcoming Crowd Supply campaign for an open-spec development kit based on the company’s new, i.MX6ULL powered NetSOM module. You can sign up for notice of the upcoming Crowd Supply campaign for the OpenWrt-driven dev kit.



NetSOM (left and NetSOM Development Board
(click images to enlarge)

Moscow-based M2M IOT also recently announced a new WiFi-enabled variant of the GW-01 LoRaWAN gateway, which we covered in 2019. The GW-01-WI-FI uses the new i.MX6ULL based NetSOM module in place of the earlier Orange Pi Zero H2+ SBC (see farther below).

 
NetSOM

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M2M IOT bills the 45.55 x 42.35mm, -40 to 70°C tolerant NetSOM as the “first OpenWrt driven industrial grade SoM based on IMX6ULL.” The exclusivity appears to be focused on its OpenWrt support. Modules built around NXP’s up to 900MHz, Cortex-A7-based i.MX6ULL or almost identical i.MX6UL that similarly offer extended or industrial temp support include Variscite’s smaller, 50 x 25mm DART-6UL. Also in this group are two larger, SODIMM-style modules: Toradex’s 67.6 x 36.7mm Colibri iMX6ULL and iWave’s 68 x 29mm iW-RainboW-G18M-SM. All these boards ship with Yocto Linux instead of OpenWrt.

The NetSOM integrates 2GB RAM, 16MB flash, and a 2.4GHz WiFi transceiver with antenna connector. There are also dual 10/100 Ethernet PHYs.

The 5V module has castellated edge pins that enable 20x GPIO, 2x CAN, 2x USB, 2x UART, 2x SPI, 2x I2C, and single SAI, SDHC, and Parallel video interfaces. The Crowd Supply teaser page instead lists CSI instead of Parallel video.

 
NetSOM Development Board

The NetSOM Development Board, which is also referred to as the imx6 development board, will sell for $69 with a soldered NetSOM module pre-installed. The open-spec board is already supported with open source OS and driver code, sample apps, schematics, and extensive documentation, including OpenWrt configuration tips.

Real-world coastline ports include 2x 10/100 Ethernet and 2x USB 2.0 ports. Dual terminal blocks for CAN are supported with a sample UDP-to-CAN forwarding application.



NetSOM Development Board detail view
(click image to enlarge)

The board also provides a USB Type-C power input, an SD slot, a JTAG interface, and an external WiFi antenna. Other peripherals, which are the same as the module’s I/O listed above, are provided via various headers and connectors.

For $20 more you can add audio and video daughterboards. The video board is a camera module based on a 5-megapixel OV5640 sensor. M2M IOT is supporting the module with streaming source code with MPEGTS and RTSP to enabling video streaming out of the box.

The audio module is built around the Cirrus Logic WM8960, a low power codec with Class D speaker drivers for 1W per channel at 8Ω load. It also includes a microphone interface and headphone driver. M2M IOT supplies audio streaming source code for recording, playing, and streaming audio using the SIP protocol. There is also Amazon Alexa support.

The dev kit is available with an unpriced option for the SX1301 extension board for providing a LoRaWAN gateway. This appears to be an almost identical variant of the Raspberry Pi based, GW-01 RPI add-on that we covered with the stand-alone GW-01 gateway.



NetSOM Development Board (left) and latest version of the GW-01 RPI
(click images to enlarge)

Selling on its own for $89, the GW-01 RPI offers the same Semtech SX1301 8-channel LoRa concentrator as the GW-01 and GW-01-WI-FI. It has the same LoRaWAN specs including -139 dBm sensitivity and availability with either 868MHz or 915MHz support. However, instead of integrating an Orange Pi or i.MX6ULL, it requires a BYO Raspberry Pi. Sample code for a LoRaWAN gateway application is available.

The Crowd Supply page also mentions separate options for 2G and 3G data. This would suggest the presence of a mini-PCIe interface, which is available on some i.MX6ULL products, such as Artila’s Matrix-752. However, PCIe support is not mentioned on either the NovaSOM or dev kit pages.

 
GW-01-WI-FI

The GW-01-WI-FI LoRaWAN gateway is much like the GW-01 except that it swaps out the Allwinner H2+ based Orange Pi Zero H2+ SBC for the NovaSOM module with the i.MX6ULL. As noted, the NovaSOM module also adds a 2.4GHz WiFi capability.



GW-01-WI-FI with Raspberry Pi (left) and internal view
(click images to enlarge)

Although you gain WiFi, you lose the Ethernet port available on the original model and the similar, but i.MX6ULL based GW-01 PoE gateway with Power-over-Ethernet. Unlike these earlier models, the GW-01-WI-FI ships with an enclosure. It also offers improvements to the open source OpenWrt stack, including a GUI interface that replaces the command line configuration.

 
Further information

The NetSOM Development Board will soon be available on Crowd Supply for $69 or $89. You can sign up for notifications here. More information may be found on M2M IOT’s dev kit shopping page and GitHub page.

The NetSOM module will be available following the Crowd Supply launch for $21 to $31. Since we saw no differing RAM or flash options on the module, the price range appears to apply to volume, which includes discounts of up to 30 percent at over 100 pieces vs. single unit ($31) sales. More information may be found on this NetSOM shopping page and NetSOM announcement.

The GW-01-WI-FI is available for $140. More information may be found on the GW-01-WI-FI shopping page.

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