High-performance, low-cost, low-power module uses tablet SoC

9th November 2015
Jordan Mulcare

With a quad-core Allwinner A31 processor, usually found in high-end tablets, the A31-μQ7 is a high-performance industrial system-on-module which breaks the mould, setting a new ultra-competitive price point, starting at under £50. Developed by Austrian design house Theobroma Systems, and distributed by Direct Insight, the module measures 70x40mm and is based on the 230-pin Qseven pinout standard, comes with a comprehensive Linux BSP and is provided with a full implementation of Debian 8 “Jessie” to accelerate customer designs.

Providing 4 ARM Cortex-A7 cores, with up to 2GB of DDR3 RAM, the system automatically scales the processor clock frequency up to a maximum of 1.2GHz according to application requirements and thermal capacity, bringing handheld applications within the module’s remit. Suspend power consumption down to 25mW is feasible, while typical operating power consumption is around 2W. Standard interfaces include a Gigabit Ethernet port, which offers high-throughput using a DMA-capable architecture, dual-channel LVDS and a HDMI 1.4 port. Up to eight USB ports are available as well as SD Card, SATA II, UART, I2S, I2C, SMBus and SPI. A separate on-module ARM Cortex-M0 processor subsystem provides an offloaded CAN bus solution.

An on-board eMMC Flash memory provides 4 or 8GB in standard configurations - and up to 64GB in custom configurations - of persistent storage, and a state-of-the-art security module meets the requirements of emerging IoT applications such as Smart Metering. An on-module SPI NOR Flash provides an additional 16MB of non-volatile memory.

“This is not your average SoM-based solution,” said David Pashley, MD, Direct Insight. “First and foremost, Theobroma Systems are brilliant engineers, which has allowed them to develop a system which makes accessible to industrial users the features of a processor normally reserved to tablet manufacturers for industrial users. They have a good plan for longevity and using a standard pinout and standardised approach to Linux implementation has created a solution which is plug-in upgradeable,” he continued.

“We are excited to bring to market a system-level product that combines our experience in designing embedded platforms for connected applications and our full-stack software knowhow. As we view this quad-core module as our entry-level offering, we don’t compromise on engineering quality to ensure it is truly application-ready,” commented Dr. Philipp Tomsich, CTO, Theobroma Systems. “Direct Insight is an excellent distribution partner to support this product in the United Kingdom: their engineering background will help customers to quickly adapt the technology and translate it into application Innovations,” he added.

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