Quad-core system on module offers cost-effective 64-bit embedded performance

Direct Insight has presented the TRITON-TX8M system-on-module (SoM) in SODIMM format at Embedded World 2020. The module is based on NXP’s affordable i.MX8M Mini Quad ARM Cortex-A53 processor, which has four 64-bit ARM Cortex-A53 cores running up to 1.6GHz (Figure 1).


Figure 1: i.MX8M Mini’s block diagram

A system-on-module is one step above an SoC. It incorporates connectivity, multimedia and display, GPIO, operating system, and others in a single module. On the other hand, SoM-based designs are usually scalable to achieve a fully customized electronics assembly in terms of interfaces and form factors. SoMs can be replaced or upgraded within a carrier board. Some advantages of the SoM approach over SoC development include cost savings, reduced market risk, reduced customer design requirements and footprint.

“SODIMM modules are very good because they use a standard format, you can plug, unplug and reprogram them into your carrier board,” said David Pashley, Direct Insight’s managing director.

Unlike SoM, an SoC can contain various digital and analog functions on a single substrate. One of the most significant advantages of an SoC is that it is usually more energy-efficient. At the hardware level, the SoC still has one significant disadvantage –you are stuck in that configuration for life, and this limits the manufacturer related applications.

Integrating everything on a single board also creates some problems. Once the SoC is built, it can no longer be modified. That’s why it’s vital to know what its destination is before you design it. Despite this precaution, the programmer will have to do “somersaults” to create software that does not exceed the limits imposed by the hardware. To overcome this limitation, SoM comes to our aid and offers us much more flexibility.

“There are problems with the adoption of system-on-modules. It’s not just as a component, because you have APIs and complex integrations to do, and to take advantage of the time-to-market opportunity it all needs to go smoothly and what my company specializes in doing as one of the largest suppliers of system-on-modules in the UK,” said Pashley.

“The only limitations you have from a system-on-module compared with designing from the ground up with a system-on-chip is that obviously from a hardware standpoint, there are fewer pins. The SODIMM module has 200 pins. The actual system-on-chip has over 400 pins, so you’ll appreciate that there is some limitation in the number of interfaces.”

The tiny TRITON module, 68mm x 26mm (LVDS version: 28mm), comes with 1024MB or 2048MB DDR3L and a 4GB eMMC. A second complex core is equipped with an ARM Cortex-M4F microcontroller, and full graphics capabilities are provided by powerful 3D and 2D GPUs.

The module provides a wide range of connectivity, including Ethernet port, two USB 2.0 ports, MIPI-DSI display, or an alternative construction with LVDS display, MIPI-CSI camera input, and many other interfaces. The i.MX8M Mini’s VPU provides 1080p encoding and decoding capabilities. The TRITON-TX8M comes with Linux or Windows 10 IoT Core BSP, providing an ideal platform for mission-critical projects. Direct Insight is also developing a BSP for QNX 7.0. The modules in the TRITON-TX family based on i.MX6- and i.MX8 based on i.MX8 all take a single 3.3 to 5.5V power supply and provide up to 300mA 3.3V output power for use on the baseboard.

Direct Insight also offers a TRITON-TX8M development kit with 10″ touch screen with 1280 x 800 resolution and other interfaces such as MiniPCI expansion port, RJ45 Ethernet connector, 3.5 mm audio jack, 120 pins expansion head, MIPI-CSI camera port, micro-SD card (Fig. 2).


Figure 2: TRITON-TX8M development kit

>> This article was originally published on our sister site, EE Times Europe.

 

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