BeagleBoard.org has now enhanced the embedded processing capabilities of the original BeagleBoard with the X15 model.

January 7, 2016

5 Min Read
BeagleBoard Goes High-End and Industrial: Co-Founder/Developer

The BeagleBoard is a popular-Linux based embedded development platform used by hardware engineers to create a variety of smart products such as health-monitoring and exercise-tracking devices, robotics, multimedia players, and video imaging systems. The BeagleBone is a low-cost version of the original BeagleBoard, created for makers and educators to explore development of smart products, operating systems, and computer coding techniques.

Both the BeagleBoard and BeagleBone allow a variety of Linux distributions, like Debian and Ubuntu, to manage internal system operations (i.e., RAM, ROM, and watchdog timers), HDMI, Ethernet communication ports, and GPIO functions of the embedded development platforms. The open-source hardware designs for both the BeagleBoard and BeagleBone are available to engineers, educators, and makers on beagleboard.org/.

In addition, electronic shields called “capes” extend the user-ability of the BeagleBone by allowing specific electronics hardware devices and functions to be investigated. A few examples of capes like CAN bus, camera, LCD, radar, and audio can be attached by stacking them on top of the BeagleBone.

BeagleBoard.org has now enhanced the embedded processing capabilities of the original BeagleBoard with the X15 model. Design News discussed these new enhancements with the co-founder/developer of the BeagleBoard and BeagleBone, Jason Kridner.

The BeagleBoard-X15 is a high-performance Linux-based single-board computing platform. The X15 board uses a Texas Instruments AM5728 x 1.5 GHz ARM Cortex-A15 processor to achieve efficient computing power.
(Source: BeagleBoard.org)

X15 is the Cream of BeagleBoards

“The BeagleBoard-X15 is the top-performing mainline Linux-enabled power-users computing board,” Kridner noted. “The BeagleBoard-X15 has a processing core tailored for every computing task and a high-speed connectivity interface.”

He said the new board gives enough processing power to allow the developer’s algorithms to grow as dictated by software design requirements. Kridner, who is also a Texas Instruments applications engineer, further explained that the X15 is a platform that goes back to the original design philosophy of using TI's high-power processors in single-board computer applications.

READ MORE DON WILCHER ARTICLES ON DESIGN NEWS:

The TI AM57x chip family is the highest integrated available Cortex-A15 processor on the market, according to Kridner. Additional benefits of the AM57x processor family, pointed out by Kridner, include:

  • Unmatched performance in the class of Cortex-A15 processors

  • Scalable family with pin-compatible single and dual-core devices with single processor SDK for all TI Sitara devices

  • Accelerated multimedia

  • Real-time control and processing with PRU and C66x DSP

  • Industrial protocol (i.e., Profibus)

  • A variety of hardware/communication connectivity: PCIe, USB 3.0, and SATA

In addition, the BeagleBoard-X15 provides the following onboard peripheral resources for Linux software developers:

  • 2GB DDR3 RAM

  • 4GB 8-bit eMMC on-board flash storage

  • 2D/3D graphics and video accelerators (GPUs)

  • 2x700 MHz (66 digital signal processors [DSPs])

  • 2xARM Cortex-M4 microcontrollers (MCUs)

  • 4 x 32-bit programmable real-time units (PRUs)

Kridner explained that the BeagleBoard’s use of a dual-core processor helps to reduce power consumption, thereby enhancing the single-board computer’s computational and connectivity performance.

The BeagleBoard–X15 has plentiful onboard peripheral resources for high-speed connectivity of web-based applications. The single-board computer provides multiple gigabit Ethernet ports using an internal high-speed data switch. Also, multiple USB 3.0 ports are capable of managing 5-Gbits/s. USB 2.0 ports for backward-compatible low-level serial communication interfacing and hosting are provided, as well. Although JTAG is used in serial debugging of software applications, the X15 provides connectivity to an ICE box for the embedded developer building Linux-based hardware devices.

Software Compatibility

The BeagleBoard-X15 is a universal computing platform allowing software developers to use a variety of operating systems. Kridner pointed out the intent behind the board is to allow traditional developers’ experience with it to be seamless, thereby eliminating the learning curve and raising productivity. The following list of software/operating systems is compatible with the board:

  • Debian –Linux distro

  • Android (operating system)

  • Ubuntu –Linux distro

  • Cloud9 IDE on Node.js ( javascript development platform)

Also, high-end computing applications using the compatible software/operating systems listed can easily aid in the development of industrial vision systems and multimedia player applications. The single-board computer provides dual 1080p60 plus HDMI ports.

Don Wilcher is a passionate teacher of electronics technology and an electrical engineer with 26 years of industrial experience. He’s worked on industrial robotics systems, automotive electronic modules/systems, and embedded wireless controls for small consumer appliances. He’s also a book author, writing DIY project books on electronics and robotics technologies. His latest book, Make: Basic Arduino Projects, published by Maker Media, is on the Alabama State Department’s approved Career and Technical Education (CTE) reading list. He’s currently developing 21st century educational training products and curriculum focusing on Internet of Things (IoT) and Industrial Physical Computing for makers, engineers, technicians, and educators. Besides being an Electrical Engineer, he’s a Certified Electronics Technician with ETA International and Alabama State Certified Electronics Instructor.

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