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Trickle-down tech: It's not just the Pi

Posted: 23 Apr 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Raspberry Pi? embedded? processor? single board computers? computing boards?


Atmel is a relatively new entrant into the embedded computing board market, but it has made waves with the ATSAMA5 processor (ARM Cortex-A5), which boasts very low power coupled with the ability to run full Linux on a SOM or COM priced around $50. Product manager, Thomas Aubin, told me that Atmel is offering 10-year supply of the ATSAMA5 part and has agreements in place for memory supply over the same time period from Micron, ISSI, and Winbond, so if you design this into a system with a long life expectancy you are covered. ACME Systems offers a highly compact COM board (53mm x 53mm, or roughly two inches square) as illustrated below.

ACME Systems


One of the great advantages of the ARM ecosystem is that silicon vendors can take the best ARM IP and combine it with their own expertise to offer board suppliers unique capabilities. A perfect example of this is the Xilinx Zynq, which combines a dual core ARM Cortex-A9 processor with programmable FPGA fabric. Dave Tokic of Xilinx says that this approach gives designers tremendous flexibility in the way they approach a projectthey can use the Cortex-A9 to run the system, and use the FPGA fabric for highly compute-intensive functions like video processing in a single device. The block diagram for the Zynq is shown below.


Avnet offers the Zynq-based ZedBoard (along with a lively online community) for as little as $249, which is an incredibly low entry point into the world of FPGAs.

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