As part of the preparation for the launch of the ARM Embedded Computing Board (ECB) resource guide I spoke to Thomas Aubin of Microchip about their approach to the market. Thomas is a product marketing manager focusing on the SMART ARM Cortex-A based processors and is based in France.
Thomas first told me how he defines the market, in his view there are two distinct categories of ECB; first are system on module (SOM) that can be designed into or plugged into many types of machines as upgrades, second are pure development boards which are used to prototype a system (Arduino is in this category) that will later be converted into a custom board design to go into production later. Thomas mentioned three SOM vendors offering Atmel/ARM based boards each offering their own approach to design:
First Shiratech from Israel offers very low power SOMs that run Linux and Android and are well suited for IoT gateways and data concentrators. Here is the AT-501 board:
Taskit from Germany (see board below) took a different approach to the market with a computer on module (COM) board with pre loaded Linux and a focus on security:
Acme Systems from Italy took the same Atmel SAM part and dropped it on a 53mmx53mm board for a highly compact COM module with a multitude of peripheral and connectivity options:
These 3 approaches to the ECB market all based on a single part show just how much creativity and adaptability the ARM ecosystem can bring to the market. All 3 vendors are offering these boards for less than $100 depending upon configuration so the entry point for truly intelligent devices is easily accessible.
So let’s agree the hardware is amazing, powerful and flexible but what about writing the code? Thomas pointed out that Atmel offers 3 levels of free and open source software approaches to developing the code:
Atmel has a rich set of software tools and development platforms for you to choose from (Atmel Studio and Atmel Xplained) and yes they are all free.
Thomas summed up by telling me that in the ECB market the customers demand long term support for the parts and the boards (remember these may be going in machines with a 20 year life expectancy) so Atmel has a 12 year commitment to manufacturing the SAMA5 and has worked with memory suppliers Winbond, Micron and ISSI to guarantee a 10 year supply of the memory parts.
So as a fairly new entrant to the ECB market Atmel has got four main selling points:
Sounds like a winning combination of features for a fast growing market.
Ì suppose you wanted to say "to use a mainline Linux kernel and Yocto" ?
Just to say there is also this ECB: http://emtrion.de/en/sbc-sama5d36x.html that got HDMI output, run Debian distribution with the Latest mainline Linux Kernel and that is less than 100$ also.
But yeah this is not a SOM that's a SBC (Single Boards Computer).
TRM, Thomas from Atmel probably has a better answer than I do but Taskit say this about the new Cortex-A5 board:
The StampA5D36 has implemented various features to enable the development of hard- and software for encrypted communication and files, anti-cloning and software-piracy and base-board detection from boot to running application.
The taskit Vaultsec allows secure and unreadable storing of keys for public/private key encryption algorithms and SHA-256 hashes
So it looks like Taskit have enhanced security for this board, you can contact them here: Embedded Programming & Devices | Get in touch with taskit
Please let them know you found them here!
"Taskit from Germany (see board below) took a different approach to the market with a computer on module (COM) board with pre loaded Linux and a focus on security:"
I found this line very interesting, especially the last word, but could not find anything related to it in HW or that particular COM. Am I missing something ? The question is serious Thanks