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UP Core SBC is a smaller, wireless version of the Atom-based UP

Mar 17, 2017 — by Eric Brown 5,155 views

[Updated: Jun 1] — Aaeon’s UP Core is a smaller version of the community-backed, Atom x5 Z8350 based UP board that swaps out the GbE port for WiFi and Bluetooth.

Aaeon closed out the Embedded World show by announcing a more compact and COM-like UP Core version of its community-backed UP board SBC. The similarly Linux- and Android-ready UP Core will be offered first on Kickstarter (update: it launched there on June 1) with a price of $69 (vs. $89 retail), with a base level of 1GB RAM and 16GB eMMC. Also at Embedded World, Aaeon unveiled several IoT-oriented products, including a LoRa gateway based on the UP SBC (see farther below).

UP Core (left) vs. original UP board
(click images to enlarge)

The main differences of the UP Core compared to the UP include the smaller size — 66 x 56.5mm vs. a Raspberry Pi-like 85.60 × 56.5mm for the UP board – and the fact that it ships with WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0 BLE instead of a GbE port. The only coastline ports are an HDMI port and a USB 3.0 port.

UP Core top and bottom views
(click images to enlarge)

You get the same 64 bit, “Cherry Trail” Intel Atom x5 Z8350 SoC that can be clocked at up to 1.84GHz. There is also a 500MHz Intel Gen 8 HD 400 GPU featuring 12 Execution Units. Aaeon supports the SoC’s Intel AES New Instructions and Intel Identity Protection Technology.

UP Core detail views, front and back
(click image to enlarge)

The UP Core can be further equipped with up to 4GB DDR3L RAM and up to 64GB eMMC. In addition to the coastline HDMI and USB 3.0 ports, interfaces include a UART and 2x USB 2.0 headers, compared to 4x coastline USB 2.0 ports and 2x USB headers on the UP SBC.

UP Core block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

A DSI/eDP interface is once again available, and there are dual MIPI-CSI camera interfaces instead of one on the SBC. The 0 to 60°C board has a 5V DC jack and an RTC.

UP Core 100-pin expansion interface pinout
(click image to enlarge)

Instead of offering the RPi-compatible 40-pin expansion bus, there is now a 100-pin docking connector. Aaeon makes no claim of RPi compatibility, but the block diagram appears to suggest that the UP Core’s 100-pin expansion interface offers the signals required for implementation of a HAT40-compatible interface on a carrier board, plus “many more (PCIe, USB, HSIC,…” according to Aaeon. The company plans to offer several carrier boards for the UP Core, and will post free schematics for the carrier spec in order to encourage third party development (see farther below).

Specifications listed for the UP Core include:


  • Processor — Intel Atom x5-Z8350 (4x Cherry Trail cores @ 1.44GHz / 1.84GHz burst); Intel HD 400 Graphics (200MHz/500MHz)
  • Memory — 1GB, 2GB, or 4GB DDR3L-1600 RAM; 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB eMMC flash
  • Display/camera:
    • HDMI 1.4b port with audio (via docking)
    • eDP (DSI)
    • 2x MIPI-CSI (2-lane and 4-lane)
  • Wireless — 2.4GHz 802.11 b/g/n; Bluetooth 4.0 BLE; antenna
  • Other I/O:
    • USB 3.0 port
    • 2x USB 2.0 via headers
    • I2S audio (via docking)
    • 100-pin docking connector to carrier with HAT40 compatibility
  • Other features — RTC
  • Power — 5V DC-in @ 4A 5.5/2.1mm jack
  • Dimensions — 66 x 56.5mm
  • Operating system — Linux (Ubuntu, ubilinux, Yocto); Android Marshmallow; Windows 10 (full); Windows 10 IoT Core

Community orientation

Like the UP board, the UP Core offers a community website, hacker-friendly documentation, and lower prices than commercial Atom-based SBCs. Neither board, however, appears to be fully open source except for the UP Core’s carrier board spec. The UP is available with Ubuntu, ubilinux, and Yocto based Linux distributions, as well as Android, but Windows 10 and Windows 10 IoT seem to be the main course here. With regard to Linux, Aaeon says “we support and enable Linux, through our UP Community.”

Additionally, Aaeon is launching an UP Core carrier board reward program in order to turn UP Core carriers into open source platforms. Aaeon will share several carrier board schematics that developers can modify, or they can design from scratch from the carrier spec. Developers then submit their designs for qualification, which will include an online poll of community users.

Specs for four proposed UP Core expansion boards (preliminary)
(click image to enlarge)

Aaeon will then post the accepted designs on the UP community site. Third parties can manufacture boards, and in some cases, Aaeon will manufacture the boards to sell at the UP shop. Additional details are available in Aaeon’s overview of the UP Core Carrier Board Reward Program, available for download here [PDF].

UP Squared

In October, Aaeon went to Kickstarter to launch the community-backed UP Squared SBC, due to ship to backers in April. Starting at $98, the UP Squared features a faster Intel Apollo Lake SoC, and offers up to 8GB DDR4 of RAM and up to 128GB eMMC 5.0. Additional features include 4K video encode and decode, dual GbE, dual HDMI, SATA, M.2, and mini-PCIe, as well as new 40- and 60-pin GPIO connectors.

In addition, the original UP board has appeared in Aaeon’s UP-GWS0 gateway. It also forms the foundation of a Smart Vending Now platform from Aaeon and Kii that combines the UP with with Kii’s cloud-based IoT platform for vending machines.

Meanwhile, Aaeon’s parent company Asus is prepping its own maker-oriented Tinker Board. The SBC runs Debian and Kodi on a quad-core 1.8GHz Cortex-A17 Rockchip RK3288, and offers 2GB RAM, GbE, 4K video, and RPi-compatible 40-pin connector.

An UP-based LoRa gateway

In addition to introducing the UP Core, Aaeon announced a LoRa Gateway & Network Server that uses a gateway with an “UP Connect LoRa” board based on the UP board. The UP Connect LoRa board adds an IMST LoRa Radio concentrator. The LoRa gateway is integrated with a LoRaWAN network server from The Things Industries.

The combined solution provides gateway and device management, data management, and representation services, says Aaeon. It also provides a high grade of security, incorporating encryption from sensor to application without intermediate decryption, says the company.

We’ve seen several LoRa gateway products recently, including Dragino’s OpenWrt-based LoRa Gateways and SODAQ’s Arduino-compatible LoRaONE. The LoRa (Long Range Radio) spec is a low-power wireless technology, typically based on Semtec LoRa transceivers. Compliant with the IEEE 802.15.4g standard, LoRa operates at 868MHz and 915MHz, near the lower end of the GPRS range.

A single LoRa gateway can service thousands of nodes, with a range of 2.5km in urban areas up to 15km in the suburbs. The power-efficient technology uses a spread spectrum modulation type with wide-band linear FM pulses.

LoRa is typically used in LoRaWAN networks, often deployed in European “smart city” networks. This Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) protocol for IoT is overseen by the LoRa Alliance. LoRa radios also support a more advanced Symphony Link protocol for more industrial and enterprise applications.

At Embedded World, Aaeon also announced Spring 2017 availability of an Aaeon UP IRQF Starter Kit for IoT developers. The UP board based starter kit, which will be supported with workshops, enables developers to rapidly prototype and develop wireless- and sensor-enabled IoT products with a Microsoft Azure backend. The products use the AES-128 encryption features of the IRQF 4.0 operating system.

Finally, at Embedded World, Aaeon demonstrated a pairing of the UP board with Emutex’s Linux-based ubiworx IoT software framework for embedded systems. The demonstration showed off smart home IoT solutions with the ubiworx-enabled UP board.

Further information

[Updated: Jun 1] — The UP Core is currently funding on Kickstarter, starting at a price of $69 (vs. $89 retail). More information may be found on Aaeon’s UP Core page on the UP-Board community site.

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2 responses to “UP Core SBC is a smaller, wireless version of the Atom-based UP”

  1. Mike Schinkel (@mikeschinkel) says:

    Oh, if this only supported mSATA!

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