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Tiny rugged COM runs Linux on Cortex-A7, offers secure boot

Oct 16, 2015 — by Eric Brown 1,336 views

Ka-Ro’s “TX6UL” is a SODIMM-style COM that runs Linux on an i.MX6 UltraLite, supports industrial temperatures, and offers 4GB eMMC and secure boot options.

Considering all the announcements of i.MX6 UltraLite based computer-on-modules over the summer, one might think that Ka-Ro’s TX6UL is behind the times. Not at all. Freescale’s IoT-oriented Cortex-A7 UltraLite SoC won’t ship in volume until 4Q 2015, at which point the TX6UL will be ready to roll, complete with Yocto Linux and dual development kit options, says Ka-Ro.

(click image to enlarge)

Other announced i.MX6 UltraLite COMs include:

Like all but the PICO-IMX6UL above, and like Ka-Ro’s recent Atmel SAMA5D42 based TXA5 module, the TX6UL is a 68 x 26mm SODIMM-style COM. Applications for the Ka-Ro COM are said to include automation, medical technology, industrial control, digital signage, and transportation.


Despite the i.MX6 in its name, the single-core 528MHz UltraLite is essentially an entirely new SoC that shifts from Cortex-A9 to the more power-efficient Cortex-A7 architecture used by Freescale’s next generation i.MX7. The tiny, power-efficient SoC has a stripped-down, but still 3D-ready Vivante GPU, with all the usual video and image coprocessors. It is further equipped with a much simpler display controller, limited to a “programmable processing engine” with support for 16-bit Parallel CSI and 24-bit Parallel LCD output.

The SoC is notable for its power management and security features, with the latter including hardware tamper detection and an integrated on-the-fly DRAM encryption/decryption engine. Ka-Ro adds to the security by offering one of two secure boot services for the TX6UL. Customers can buy a dedicated secure boot-enabled module programmed with a secure key, or have Ka-Ro’s support team work with them to program a secure platform with trusted devices that will only boot and connect with digitally signed authentic code. These services are now available for all Ka-Ro TXCOMs based on i.MX6 or i.MX53 processors.

The TX6UL is available in two versions, each with 256MB DDR3 RAM: a TX6UL-5010 model with 128MB SLC NAND and a -40 to 85°C temperature range, and a TXUL-5011 with 4GB eMMC flash and -25 to 85°C support.

TX6UL block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

The TX6UL supports dual Fast Ethernet ports, as well as interfaces including dual USB 2.0 ports, 24-bit LCD, and a Parallel CSI camera sensor. Other I/O includes dual FlexCAN, SDIO, PWM, and up to eight UARTs.

The following specifications are listed for the TX6UL:

  • Processor — Freescale i.MX6 UltraLite (1x Cortex-A7 core @ 528MHz); Vivante GPU with 3D; 2D pixel-processing pipeline (PXP); 128KB L2 cache
  • Memory — 256MB DDR3 RAM
  • Onboard storage:
    • TXUL-5010 — 128MB NAND flash
    • TXUL-5011 — 4GB eMMC flash
  • Networking — 2x 10/100Mb interfaces
  • Other I/O (via SODIMM connectors):
    • 2x USB 2.0 host
    • LCD TFT controller (24bpp)
    • 8-bit Parallel CSI camera interface
    • 3x UART, expandable to 8x (standard TXCoM pinout)
    • 2x FlexCAN bus
    • 12-bit ADC
    • I2S/SAI Audio
    • I2C, SPI, SDIO, PWM, keypad
  • Other features — Crypto engine (AES/TDES/SHA); secure boot options
  • Power — 3.3V to 5V
  • Operating temperature:
    • TXUL-5010 — -40 to 85°C
    • TXUL-5011 — -25 to 85°C
  • Dimensions — 68 x 26 x 4mm SODIMM
  • Operating system support — Yocto Linux with U-Boot, kernel 3.16

Linux Display Development Kit (left) and block diagram
(click images to enlarge)

Ka-Ro provides a choice of several development kits. There’s a TX Mainboard 7, which we detailed at the end of our recent TXA5 coverage, as well as a Linux Display Development Kit version based around the same carrier board. The Linux Display kit, features a 5.7-inch, 640 x 480 capacitive touchscreen. In addition to these two showcased options, the data sheet mentions that the TX6UL supports its standard Ka-Ro Starter-Kit V for all its TX COMs.

Further information

The TX6UL will be available when the i.MX6 UltraLite ships in 4Q 2015. More information may be found at Ka-Ro’s TX6UL product page.

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