Developers working on the Internet of Things (IoT) are seeing an increasing number of platforms come available that provide both prototyping hardware and connected services in a package deal. But most of those seem to target hobbyist or consumer applications, and far fewer provide a simple path to production. Avnet is seeking to change the situation with its latest introduction – the MicroZed Industrial IoT starter kit.
The kit leverages Avnet's existing MicroZed development module, which is based on the Xilinx Zynq-7000 SoC. The SoC combines dual ARM Cortex-A9 processor cores with numerous programmable logic cells to provide both hardware and software programmability. The substantial resources available on the SoC make it suitable for high-end applications.
Building on the module, Avnet has created a carrier board for the MicroZed to plug into, which provides developers with an R3 Arduino-compatible expansion slot, two 2×6 peripheral module expansion slots, and a header for connection to the built-in UART, SPI, I2C, and GPIO interfaces. The carrier thus makes a wealth of off-the-shelf sensor and control resources available for developers to leverage. In addition, Avnet has partnered with STMicroelectronics and Maxim Integrated to include motion MEMS, environmental, and thermocouple sensor modules in the kit.
On the software side, Avent has partnered with Wind River to embed the Pulsar Linux operating system on the board. It has also worked with IBM to make the kit Watson IoT ready and provide access to IBM Watson Services with a free trial to Bluemix cloud services.
In short, the kit includes everything someone designing an Industrial IoT application would need to develop and prototype their product. The kit price is $300, a bit high for casual interest but low for serious developers. This is intended to be a serious product-development platform, not just a demonstration or experimenter's board.
When I talked with Avnet about their kit, I was particularly interested in how readily any prototypes developed using it could be translated into deliverable products. This is an area where many platforms fail. The quality of their base modules and the reliability of off-the-shelf shields, especially in harsh environments, essentially require a full board redesign between prototype and production in order to bring things up to industrial standards.