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Tiny i.MX6-based IoT COM fills Intel Edison's shoes

Mar 9, 2015 — by Eric Brown 6,507 views

TechNexion’s Freescale i.MX6-based “PICO-IMX6” COM offers a superset of the features of Intel’s Edison IoT module, along with partial plug-in compatibility.

TechNexion, which last month joined Freescale in launching a Linux-ready, Internet of Things oriented LS1021A-IoT Gateway Reference Design, is now readying a tiny “PICO-IMX6” computer-on-module based on the Freescale i.MX6, along with a “PICO-Dwarf” carrier board that converts the COM into a sandwich-style SBC. Like the gateway, the PICO-IMX6 is aimed at IoT applications, in this case including drones, robots, wearables, and IoT appliances. Open source Linux and Android builds are available, as well as full schematics of the hardware.

PICO-IMX6 top (left), compared to Intel Edison top
(modules are shown to scale)

The twist here is that rather than providing Arduino compatibility, as on TechNexion’s IoT Gateway reference design, this new module offers expansion connector and mounting hole compatibility with Intel’s Edison IoT module, along with a superset of its features. As a result, you can fit a PICO-IMX6 module into the 70-pin Hirose connector “Edison socket” on an Edison carrier board, provided the extended length of the TechNexion module — 40mm, versus 25mm for the Edison — doesn’t interfere physically with any of the baseboard’s components.

PICO-IMX6 bottom (left) compared to Intel Edison bottom
(modules are shown to scale)

In contrast to the Edison’s Atom and Quark processors, the PICO-IMX6 module offers a choice of Freescale Cortex-A9-based Solo, Duallite, or Quad i.MX6 SoCs clocked to 1GHz, 1GHz, and 800MHz respectively. By comparison, the Edison has dual 22nm-fabricated Silvermont cores clocked to 500MHz, plus a 100MHz Quark processor.

The single-core version of PICO-IMX6 module uses the i.MX6 Solo SoC, which is not to be confused with the recently introduced, microcontroller-enhanced i.MX6 SoloX, and ships with 512MB of DDR3 RAM. The dual-core version ships with the i.MX6 Duallite SoC and 1GB of DDR3 RAM, and the Quad PoP version uses a package-on-package (PoP) design that bakes 1GB of LP DDR2 RAM into the PoP package along with the quad-core i.MX6.


Superset of Edison features

The 60 percent larger footprint of the PICO-IMX6 makes room for many more interfaces (see comparison table farther below), as well as an additional pair of 70-pin Hirose I/O connectors. Although TechNexion made no mention of the new module’s power consumption, the PICO-IMX6 runs from a 3.3 to 4.5V power supply, the same power input used by the Edison module.

Block diagrams for Solo and Duallite PICO-IMX6 modules (left), and Quad PoP module
(click images to enlarge)

The only other difference among the COMs is that the Quad PoP is the only one with SATA support or a PMIC. Each of the three COM models offers a choice of a microSD slot or the same 4GB of onboard eMMC flash memory found on Intel’s Edison module. All PICO-IMX6 module versions ship with Broadcom BCM4335 wireless modules with WiFi and Bluetooth.

Comparison of Edison and PICO-iMX6 module specs

Intel Edison Module TechNexion PICO-IMX6 Module
Processor Intel Atom (500MHz) + Intel Quark (100MHz) Freescale i.MX6 Solo (1GHz) Freescale i.MX6 Duallite (1GHz) Freescale i.MX6 Quad PoP (800MHz)
Flash 4GB eMMC flash microSD or 4GB eMMC (depends on model)
WiFi and Bluetooth BCM4335
Power 3.3 to 4.5V
Edison I/O (@1.8V) 70-pin Hirose connector with: 9x GPIO, 4x PWM, 2x I2C, 1x I2S, 1x SPI, USB-OTG, SDIO (4-bit), 2x UART
PICO-IMX6 I/O no 2x 70-pin Hirose connectors with: 24-bit RGB, LVDS, HDMI, MIPI DSI/CSI, CAN, LAN, PCIe
SATA no yes
PMIC yes no yes
Dimensions 36 x 25mm 36 x 40mm

The PICO-IMX6 supplies the same I/O as the Edison on its “Edison expansion connector,” including 9x GPIO, 4x PWM, 2x I2C, 1x I2S, 1x SPI, USB-OTG, SDIO (4-bit), and 2x UART. The IMX6 module’s two additional 70-pin Hirose connectors add many more interfaces, including HDMI, 24-bit RGB, LVDS, MIPI DSI/CSI, CAN, Ethernet, PCIe, and in the case of the Quad PoP version, SATA.


The 95 x 95mm PICO-Dwarf carrier board features coastline gigabit Ethernet, HDMI, and USB host and OTG ports. Also available on the sides of the board are audio jacks, an SD slot, and a debug console.

PICO-Dwarf, front and back

The Dwarf is equipped with a battery charger and sensors including a gyroscope altimeter, and a 6-axis sensor. Onboard interfaces include LVDS, TTL, DSI, and CSI (camera) interfaces, as well as a SATA connector that requires the presence of the Quad PoP version of the COM. The baseboard also provides CAN, I2C, SPI, UART, and GPIO interfaces.

PICO-Dwarf block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

The PICO-IMX6 and PICO-Dwarf are said to be open source. Schematics and documentation for the modules and carrier board are available in PDF format. For the Dwarf, you also get PCB design files and gerbers. Android and Yocto Linux source code is available, along with a free Virtual Machine, says TechNexion.

Further information

The Dwarf carrier board and most PICO-IMX6 module versions will ship in May, via all TechNexion distributors, says TechNexion. The exceptions are the Quad PoP and Solo-with-eMMC module versions, which are expected to ship in June. The Solo version with microSD will start at about $50, scaling up to the Quad PoP, which “will stay below $100,” says the company. Development kits that include the Dwarf carrier and a PICO-IMX6 module will start at $130, and range up to $150 for “high-end configurations, depending on location,” says TechNexion. More information may be found at TechNexion’s website.

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