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Tiny i.MX7 module runs both Linux and FreeRTOS

Feb 6, 2018 — by Eric Brown 1,827 views

[Updated: July 12, 2019] — F&S announced a 40 x 35mm “PicoCore MX7ULP” module that can run Linux and FreeRTOS on an NXP i.MX7. You also get up to 32GB eMMC plus optional WiFi/BT and extended temp support.

F&S Elektronik Systeme, which has produced a number of NXP-based COMs over the years, including the i.MX6 UL based efus A7UL and QorIQ LS1012A based efus A53LS, has launched the first in a new line of pin-compatible PicoCore branded modules that feature a tiny 40 x 35mm footprint. The PicoCore MX7ULP, which will formally launch at Embedded World (Feb. 27-Mar. 1), and ship in the third quarter, features NXP’s power-sipping i.MX7 SoC.

(Note: We mistakingly referred to this as an i.MX7 based module when it actually runs the new and even lower-power i.MX7 ULP. For an up-to-date report on the final shipping PicoCore MX7ULP, please see our new i.MX7 ULP report.)

PicoCore MX7ULP, front and back
(click images to enlarge)

Unlike the 62 x 47mm efus form factor, the PicoCore form factor does not use an edge connector. Instead, interfaces are expressed via 2x 80-pin Hirose DF40C plug connectors.


The PicoCore MX7ULP is the first i.MX7 board we’ve seen that takes full advantage of the i.MX7’s Heterogeneous Multi-core Processing architecture. The module enables a Yocto Project based distribution with Linux 4.1.15 to run on the SoC’s 800MHz Cortex-A7 core while also permitting the apparently simultaneous operation of FreeRTOS running on the SoC’s Cortex-M4 MCU.

PicoCore MX7ULP (left) and block diagram
(click images to enlarge)

Most other i.MX7 based modules, including CompuLab’s 30 x 27mm UCM-iMX7 and Kontron’s 82 x 50mm SMARC-sAMX7, also feature Yocto Project derived Linux. The F&S distribution adds “several security functions,” and includes a U-boot bootloader, customized interface drivers, “and all tools needed for development,” says F&S.

The PicoCore MX7ULP ships with up to 1GB LPDDR3 RAM, 64MB SPI NOR flash, up to 32GB eMMC, and an optional SD slot. There’s also an option for a wireless module with 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.1 LE. For displays, you get a MIPI-DSI interface that is accompanied with I2C-based resistive and capacitive touch support.

Additional I/O includes USB OTG, SPI, 2x I2C, 33x DIO, audio interfaces, and 2x UARTS (the block diagram says 4x UARTS). The under 10-gram board runs on 5V DC power (or a 4.2V battery) and consumes a typical 1W. You get long-term availability (2028), and can choose from 0 to 70°C and -20 to 85°C models.

Further information

The PicoCore MX7ULP will be available at an unstated price in 3Q 2018. More information may be found on F&S Elektronik Systeme’s PicoCore MX7ULP announcement and product page. F&S will be showing a prototype at Embedded World 2018 (Feb. 27 to Mar. 1) in Nuremberg, Germany, at hall 3A, booth 338, as well as at hall 1, booth 662.

(advertise here)

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