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Tiny dual-core ARM modules run embedded Linux

Feb 27, 2013 — by Rick Lehrbaum 2,784 views

Phytec has introduced a tiny computer-on-module (COM), along with embedded Linux and Android support. The modules use Freescale’s dual-core Vybrid processors, which include dual-core versions based on ARM Cortex-A5 and ARM Cortex-M4 CPU cores.

Phytec expects its Vybrid-based Phycore modules to be used in applications requiring a sophisticated human-machine interface, multiple connectivity options, powerful peripherals, and concurrent real-time control.

On dual-core versions of the module, the Cortex-A5 core can run general-purpose apps while the Cortex-M4 core handles low-power and real-time tasks. This would typically be accomplished by running embedded Linux on the Cortex-A5 core and Freescale’s MQX RTOS on the Cortex-A4 core, with a low-latency communications function coordinating between the two subsystems.


Phytec says its 41mm x 51mm Phycore Vybrid modules support all of Freescale’s Vybrid processors and are rated for industrial temperature (-40 to +85 deg. C) operation, making them suitable for both industrial and general-purpose embedded applications. The modules are designed to plug into a carrier board that provides I/O connectors and additional interface circuitry not supplied by the Phycore module itself.

Phycore Vybrid system-on-module block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

The features of Phytec’s Phycore modules depend on the specific Freescale Vybrid processor of the particular module, such that not everything in the Vybrid processor is used on a given module. The full list appears below. Consult Phytec for specific models’ features.

  • Processors:
    • Heterogeneous ARM Cortex CPUs:
      • ARM Cortex-A5, clocked at 450 MHz
      • ARM Cortex-M4, clocked at 167 MHz (VF6xx only)
    • Open VG 1.1 GPU
  • Memory:
    • RAM — 1.5MB on-chip SRAM; 512KB SRAM; 512MB SDRAM
    • Flash — 2 GB NAND; 128MB SPI-NOR; 4KB EEPROM
    • Expansion — 2x SDIO/MMC sockets
  • Networking:
    • 2x 10/100 Ethernet
  • Multimedia support:
    • Audio (SAI, I2S, AC97, ESAI, SPDIF)
    • 2x display controllers supporting 24-bit TFT panels up to SVGA
    • Touch controller
    • VIU for camera input
  • Other I/O:
    • 2x USB, 2x RS-232, 2x CAN, 4x I2C, 4x SPI, 2x QSPI
    • 2x 10-channel, 12-bit A-to-D; 2x 12-bit DAC; 4x PWM
    • 4x Security TAMPER signals
  • External and on-chip RTC
  • 16-bit expansion bus

Embedded Linux support

Phytec’s Phycore modules are supported by a Timesys BSP (board support package), which provides drivers for all major Vybrid interfaces. Additionally, the Timesys Linux support package provides the support needed to deploy a hybrid embedded Linux/RTOS software environment on the Vybrid-based board, utilizing Freescale’s MQX RTOS. Timesys Linux also offers various UI and multimedia frameworks, such as Qt for Embedded Linux and GStreamer, supporting applications in point-of-sale, medical devices, smart energy equipment, home automation, and industrial automation.

Further info

For development purposes, Phytec’s Phycore Vybrid modules are provided as part of a $195 development kit, which includes the Vybrid SOM, a carrier board, and Linux and MQX BSPs, with driver support for all major Vybrid interfaces. The kit also includes a free subscription to Timesys’s LinuxLink PRO Edition. OEM quantity pricing for the modules was not disclosed.

For further details, visit the websites of Phytec, Freescale, and TimeSys.

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