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Ubuntu Core ported to an i.MX6 COM, a Dell IoT gateway, and a LimeNET base station

Feb 28, 2017 — by Eric Brown 2,327 views

Ubuntu Core is available on Technologic’s i.MX6-based TS-4900 COM, will run on Dell’s Edge Gateway 3000, and will soon appear on a LimeNET base station.

At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Canonical announced several more takers for its IoT-oriented Ubuntu Core distribution. When Dell unveiled its compact, $399-and-up Edge Gateway 3000 series of Intel Atom-driven IoT gateways, Canonical revealed that the devices will be available with Ubuntu Core when they ship in early summer.

Dell Edge Gateway 3001
(click image to enlarge)

The news followed a Feb. 23 announcement that Ubuntu Core, formerly known as Snappy Ubuntu Core, is now available for Technologic Systems’ i.MX6-based TS-4900 computer-on-module. This followed an announcement on Feb. 16 that Canonical and Lime Microsystems will launch a crowdfunding campaign for a new Ubuntu Core enabled LimeNET base station built around the earlier LimeSDR SBC. (See farther below for more on the TS-4900 and LimeNET.)


Canonical’s lightweight, container-like Ubuntu Core version of Ubuntu is built around a secure “snap” package management mechanism, and offers app store support. Last year, the Ubuntu project sponsor released Ubuntu Core’s snap packaging technology as an independent plug-in for other Linux distributions.


Earlier this this month, Canonical revealed that the snap mechanism was available for the openHAB smart home stack. Ubuntu Core also runs on other platforms including Gumstix boards, Erle Robotics drones, the Nextcloud Box, the Mycroft home hub, Intel’s Joule, and SBCs compliant with Linaro’s 96Boards spec, among other targets.

Dell Edge Gateway 3000

In its Feb. 27 announcement of the $399 and up Dell Edge Gateway 3000 Series, Dell made no mention of OS support. However, Canonical revealed that the IoT gateways will be available with Ubuntu Core, which already runs on Dell’s $899 and up, Bay Trail Atom based Edge Gateway 5000. Dell’s related, Intel Atom and Core based Embedded Box PC 3000 and 5000 industrial computers run Ubuntu Desktop and Windows.

Edge Gateway 3000 models, clockwise from upper left: 3003, 3001, and 3002
(click image to enlarge)

With Ubuntu Core and its snap technology, Edge Gateway 3000 customers will be able to “deploy new software onto their gateways with the certainty that their device will continue to operate whether the update is successful or not,” says Canonical. “Enterprises looking to deploy IoT solutions also benefit from the large number of developers and system integrators offering IoT solutions for Ubuntu.”

The Edge Gateway 3000, which will be available in a generic automation model, as well as versions aimed at transportation and signage/retail markets, is a more affordable, and more compact, alternative to the Edge Gateway 5000. Compared to the 5000 series, the 3000 series is designed to work in “both fixed and mobile use cases requiring smaller sensor networks, tight spaces, and simpler analytics,” says Canonical. Dell lists potential deployments including “a vehicle, a refrigerated trailer, a remote oil pump in the desert, digital signs in an elevator or inside of the HVAC units on a roof-top of a casino.”

No dimensions were provided for the first three variants of the Edge Gateway 3000, but judging from the photo, it appears to be about half the size of the 5000 series. Dell’s limited spec list does not include the type of Intel Atom SoC inside the device, but the device likely advances to the latest Apollo Lake models rather than the Bay Trail Atom used on the 5000 series. Standard features across all three models include 2GB RAM, 8GB to 32GB eMMC, as well as SD card storage.

They all provide USB and 10/100 Ethernet ports, with the latter available with PoE, and the devices are certified for WiFi and Bluetooth LE. LTE modems will be available in the U.S., with 3G on tap elsewhere. Other standard features include GPS, accelerometers, and atmospheric pressure sensors.

Edge Gateway 3000 deployments in mining (left), HVAC (middle), and automotive applications
(click image to enlarge)

The Edge Gateway 3000 will provide a 2-57 VDC power input with vehicle transient voltage protection, as well as an ignition pin for “easy operation while connected to a battery powered device.” The temperature range is listed as -30 to 70°C.

The Edge Gateway Industrial Automation and Energy Management Model 3001 adds a multi-function I/O port and programmable RS-485/422/232 ports. The Transportation and Logistics Model 3002 instead adds a CAN bus “for land/marine protocols,” as well as ZigBee for mesh sensor networks. Finally, the Digital Signage and Retail Model 3003 adds a DisplayPort with 2560 x 1600 resolution, plus a 3.5mm audio jack.

In addition to offering Ubuntu Core’s secure transactional update and app management capabilities, the gateways will ship with the Dell Command Suite. They will also offer an optional upgrade to Dell’s Edge Device Manager for remote management.

Ubuntu Core comes to TS-4900

Ubuntu Core has been ported to several SBCs, such as the Raspberry Pi that runs Ubuntu Core on the Nextcloud Box private clouds server. Now, Canonical has announced the second computer-on-module to run Ubuntu Core: the circa-2014, Technologic Systems TS-4900. Last year, Canonical announced availability of Ubuntu Core images for Samsung’s Exynos-based Artik 5 COMs.

TS-4900 with i.MX6Quad (left) and i.MX6Solo
(click images to enlarge)

The TS-4900 appears to be the first Ubuntu Core target running on NXP’s popular, Cortex-A9-based i.MX6 SoC. The 2.95 x 2.17-inch TS-4900, which already ran Ubuntu Desktop, along with other Linux and Windows distributions, supports up to a quad-core i.MX6Quad clocked to 1.2GHz. Options include a WiFi/Bluetooth module and extended and industrial temperature versions.

The COM provides 1GB (Solo) or 2GB (Quad) DDR3 RAM, and boots from 4GB of onboard flash or a microSD card. A Gigabit Ethernet controller is onboard along with support for I/O including SATA 2, USB host and OTG, 5x serial, and 70x DIO. Other features include LCD, PCIe, I2C, I2S, SPI, and CAN interfaces. A carrier board is also available.

“The TS-4900 Compute Module brings Ubuntu Core to the popular i.MX6 platform, delivering a new level of life-cycle management, monetisation and security to a whole range of IoT applications,” stated Mike Bell, EVP IoT and Devices at Canonical.

Coming Up: LimeNET with Ubuntu Core

Earlier this month, Canonical revealed that Lime Microsystems’s upcoming LimeNET Network-in-a-Box base station will support Ubuntu Core on a built-in SBC’s Intel Core processor. The open source micro base station is based on the Ubuntu Core ready LimeSDR SBC for software defined radio, which was a big hit on CrowdSupply last year. CrowdSupply has set up a pre-launch page for the “coming soon” LimeNET campaign where you can sign up for launch notification.

LimeNET (left) and LimeNET Mini
(click images to enlarge)

Thanks to the flexibility of open source SDR technology, LimeNET will support the same wide range of wireless technologies as LimeSDR. These include cellular standards from 2G or 5G, as well as IoT protocols like LoRa, Sigfox, NB-IoT, LTE-M, Weightless, and others, says Canonical.

The 100 x 60mm LimeSDR board doesn’t run Ubuntu Core directly, but rather is designed to work with USB- or PCIe-connected SBCs or PCs that run Ubuntu Core. The board itself is built around an Intel/Altera Cyclone IV FPGA with 256MB DDR2. The other key component is a Lime Microsystems LMS7002M 2×2 MIMO transceiver, which has a continuous frequency range of 100kHz to 3.8GHz, as well as 61.44MHz bandwidth, and up to 10 dBm output.

LimeSDR board with antennas
(click image to enlarge)

The LimeNET box will come in two versions, each of which combine Intel Core processors with LimeSDR boards and radio gear. The Mini model runs Ubuntu Core on a dual-core, 2.7/3.5GHz Core i7-7500U from the latest Kaby Lake generation. It ships with 32GB of 2133MHz DDR4 and a 512GB SSD. Other features include USB 3.1 type C and USB 3.1 ports, as well as 2x USB 3.0 ports and a GbE port. It includes the standard USB Type A connected version of the LimeSDR.

The standard LimeNET model uses a 10-core, 3.5/4.0GHz Core i7-6950X from the desktop class Broadwell-E generation. This larger vox integrates the PCIe connected LimeSDR model. The device is further equipped with 64GB of DDR4-2133, a 1TB SSD, a GbE port, 2x USB ports, and 4x USB 3.0 ports.

Over 3,600 developers are currently involved in efforts to create Snaps — Snap packaged Ubuntu applications — for LimeSDR, says Canonical. Several free and paid-for apps having already appeared on the open community LimeSDR App Store, as well as Lime’s invite-only app store, which confusingly, is also called LimeNET. In addition to wireless networking, other applications for LimeSDR are said to include use as an IoT gateway, an aviation transponder, a utility meter, in media streaming and broadcasting, radio astronomy, radar, drone command and control, and radio astronomy.

“It’s clear that existing telco business models are quickly running out of steam, and that operators need to find new revenue streams,” stated Maarten Ectors, VP IoT, Next-Gen Networks & Edge Cloud, Canonical. “Together with Lime Microsystems, we’re looking to initiate a ‘herding’ behaviour that will usher in the age of the largely software-enabled telco network. Through its open sourced SDR design Lime will encourage a wide range of manufacturers to produce more cost-effective base stations.“

Further information

Canonical is offering demonstrations and more information on Ubuntu Core running on the Dell Edge Gateway 3000, the Technologic TS-4900, and LimeNET base station at the Ubuntu Booth in Hall P3-3K31 at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week. Other resource information is linked to farther above.

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