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Tiny ARM CPU module targets embedded Linux apps

Jun 21, 2013 — by Eric Brown 6,889 views

DAVE announced a SODIMM-style computer-on-module based on a Texas Instruments Sitara AM335x ARM Cortex-A8 system-on-chip, complete with dual CAN interfaces, Linux support, and two evaluation baseboard options. The Diva computer module is also available from U.S.-based Smart Embedded Systems, with turnkey support including Linux drivers and firmware for the processor’s programmable real-time unit (PRU).

Italy-based embedded vendor DAVE S.R.L. is selling its Diva COM (computer-on-module) with its own Linux support stack and a choice of two evaluation boards. Meanwhile, U.S.-based Smart Embedded Systems is offering turnkey support for this and other DAVE ARM COMs (see farther below).

DAVE Diva AM335x COM
(click image to enlarge)


The industrial-oriented Diva AM335x is based on TI’s Sitara AM335x ARM Cortex-A8 SoC, offered at clock speeds up to 720MHz. The COM’s design supports all six AM335x SoC models, including the high-end AM3359 (used on the BeagleBone Black) and the similar AM3358. Both SoC models, as well as the AM3354, add a PowerVR SGX 530 3D graphics accelerator.


Diva AM335x COM and TI AM335x SoC block diagrams
(click images to enlarge)


The AM3354, as well as the GPU-less AM3352, are also supported by CompuLab’s CM-T335 COM. Both these SoC models, however, lack the four other models’ PRU (programmable real-time unit). The PRU, or more precisely, the Programmable Real-Time Unit and Industrial Communication Subsystem (PRU-ICSS), comprises dual 32-bit RISC microcontrollers that enable customization of I/O, including EtherCAT, PROFIBUS, PROFINET, and EtherNet/IP-based interfaces. According to TI, the PRU is much easier to program than an FPGA (field programmable gate array). Yet, it’s difficult enough that Smart Embedded Systems specializes in helping customers tame the PRU with special firmware and customization services.

The Diva AM335x CPU Module can be equipped with up to 512MB of DDR2 RAM, as well as optional NAND flash in various amounts. A Fast Ethernet controller is provided, along with a 24-bit LCD controller with resistive touch support.

All I/O is expressed through the Diva’s 204-pin SODIMM connector. Interfaces include dual USB 2.0 OTG ports, dual CAN buses, three SD/MMC cards, audio and debugging ports, and much more. The 67.5 x 38.3mm COM is available in both commercial and industrial temperature ranges.

Specifications listed for the Diva AM335x CPU Module include:

  • Processor — TI AM335x SoC:
    • ARM Cortex-A8 @ 275/500/600/720MHz
    • NEON, crypto hardware accelerator
    • Up to 2x PRU-ICSS (some models)
    • PowerVR SGX 530 3D accelerator (some models)
  • Memory:
    • 64MB, 128MB, 256MB or 512MB DDR3 SDRAM
    • Soldered-on NAND flash available upon request
  • Display — 24-bit LCD controller (TFT/RGB) for up to 2048 x 2048 pixels; resistive touch support
  • Networking — 10/100 Ethernet controller
  • Other I/O:
    • 2x USB 2.0 OTG
    • 2x CAN
    • 6x UART
    • 3x SD/MMC
    • 2x McASP (audio)
    • 3x debug (JTAG, ETB, and EMU ports)
    • 3x I2C
    • 2x SPI
    • Up to 8x 12-bit ADC
    • GPIO
  • Power — 3.6-5.5V with onboard voltage regulation
  • Operating temperature — commercial (0 to 70° C) or industrial (-40 to 85° C)
  • Dimensions — 67.5 x 38.3mm; 204-pin SODIMM form-factor
  • Operating system — Linux 2.6.xx; U-Boot

DAVE supports the Diva AM335x CPU Module with a Diva Embedded Linux Kit (DIVELK). The kit includes Linux 2.6, U-Boot, a DVDK virtual machine with pre-installed development environment, full documentation and schematics, and periodic updates.

DivaEVB and DACU boards with Diva installed
(click images to enlarge)


DIVELK is also available with one of two optional carrier boards (shown above): the DivaEVB-Lite and a DACU (Dave Automation Control Unit) board. The latter supports a variety of DAVE COMs, but requires interconnection with the DivaEVB-Lite board in order to integrate the Diva AM335x module.

The DivaEVB-Lite includes real-world 10/100 Ethernet, USB 2.0 OTG, and serial ports (one each), as well as various headers and connectors for additional I/O. A special version of the board designed to plug into the top of the DACU board removes the serial and USB ports since those are already available on the DACU.

The DACU carrier board provides dual USB OTG ports, dual USB host ports, an RS232 serial port, and a second port that supports RS23, RS485, and CAN signals. Other I/O includes an SD slot, a JTAG port, and LVDS and RGB LCD connectors. A capacitive touch controller, power supply, and RTC battery are available along with optional solid state disk (SSD) and WiFi/Bluetooth modules. Other I/O is expressed via various JST connectors and headers.

Turnkey system options

In addition to DAVE’s support options, Smart Embedded Systems, a business unit of Abisys Corp., resells the Diva AM335x CPU Module and other ARM-based DAVE modules in the U.S. The company offers special firmware and drivers, as well as customization services for industrial automation applications, consumer electronics, and medical devices.

A member of the TI Design Network, Smart Embedded Systems “has built a core expertise in PRU,” and offers special firmware with built-in PRU assembly language applications. The company offers device drivers for various operating systems, including Linux, as well as test- and end-user applications.

Smart Embedded Systems also resells DAVE ARM CPU models with TI’s video-accelerated DaVinci DM814x processors, as well as TI’s Sitara AM387x SoC. These include the DM814x-DIDO COM, which exclusively supports the 1GHz, Cortex-A8 DM8148 SoC, as well as the Maya and Naon models, which also support the similar, non video-accelerated AM387x. The Maya has a 204-pin SODIMM connector while the larger, 70 x 50mm Naon offers dual 104-pin connectors compatible with DAVE’s Esatta Line modules, such as the Lizard and Zefeer COMs.

Finally, Smart Embedded Systems also supports DAVE’s CPU/FPGA combo SoC modules, which include the new Xilinx Zynq-7000 based Zynq-Bora and Freescale i.MX31C-based Qong.

“Smart Embedded Systems is one of the few entities with in-depth knowledge of and experience with TI’s Sitara AM335x processor and especially with PRU,” says Stefano Dal Poz, CEO of DAVE, S.R.L. “The key advantages of TI’s AM335x processor with built-in PRU are lower cost BOM solutions, fewer external devices and extended connectivity with smart card and soft UART.”

The Diva AM335x CPU Module and associated carrier boards are shipping now from DAVE in Europe and from Smart Embedded Systems in the U.S., with pricing unstated More information may be found at DAVE’s Diva AM335x product page, as well as on the Smart Embedded Systems website.

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