TechNexion EDM Modules: Open Software and (somewhat) Open Hardware ARM & x86 CPU Modules
TechNexion, a Taiwanese “embedded solution” company, was present at Computex 2012 showcasing their ARM & x86 CPU Modules and corresponding development kits.
The company recently created the EDM Standard, an open hardware and software standard for x86 and ARM Computer on Modules available under the creative commons share alike license. Their EDM modules come in three form factors:
- EDM Compact: 82 x 60 mm (ARM only)
- EDM Standard: 82 x 95 mm (ARM and x86)
- EDM Extended: 82 x 145 mm (x86 only)
They have already designed 5 modules based on this standard:
- EDM-CF-iMX6 EDM Compact Module powered by Freescale i.MX6 (solo, dual or quad)
- EDM-CT-AM437x EDM Compact Module powered by TI Sitara AM437x (single core Cortex A9)
- EDM-SF-iMX6 EDM Standard Module with Freescale i.MX6
- EDM-ST-AM437x EDM Standard Module with TI Sitara AM437x
- EDM-XI-QM77 EDM Extended Module with Intel QM77 3rd generation i3/i7 core
I could not find information about x86 EDM standard module. If you’ve never heard about Texas Instruments Sitara AM437x it’s perfectly normal because it has not been announced yet. Technexion is not the only company to have unintentionally “leaked” information about AM437x (EDM page is not directly linked in their website, but Google picked it up), as Arrow Europe also leaked TI Sitara Roadmap until 2014, which shows AM437x being available in 2013, and AM2x single and dual Cortex A7 as AM5x Cortex 15 planned for 2014.
They also have 5 baseboards for EDM modules:
- Fairy – 3.5″ baseboard for mobile applications (EDM Compact only)
- Elf – 3.5″ baseboard for automation applications (EDM Compact only)
- Druid - A5 sized baseboard for Thin clients (All EDM boards)
- Seer – A5 sized baseboard for Panel PC (All EDM boards)
- Wizard – micro-ATX EVM (All EDM boards)
Their ARM modules support Linux (OpenEmbedded), Android and Windows CE, and the new EDM modules above will also support Windows RT.
For details about the EDM standard and boards you can go to TechNexion EDM Modules and Baseboards page or download the company presentation (40 MB PDF). EDM modules and baseboards info starts page 11.
I write about this company after watching the video below (Source: charbax), because they appear to have some interesting solutions, and because I’ve heard him say “all the software code can be found on our home page, we don’t believe in NDAs, everything needs to be open source” and later “the baseboard schematics are available”. This is extremely unusual for companies that make CPU modules or SoMs to open most of their design.
You can watch the video to know more about their ARM CPU modules, development kits and the company philosophy.
I went ahead to check if what they claim is true. They currently do not have documentation and source code about the EDM boards because they are probably still being developed and the SoC are not really available yet. Freescale i.MX6 will be really available in August, and Ti Sitara AM4370 possibly only early 2013 (just a guess). So instead, I went to check one of their existing modules: The TAM-3517 System on Module based on TI Sitara AM3517 with 256 MB RAM and 512 MB Flash.
If you check that module documentation and support page, you will find the following files:
- Documentation: Hardware manual, user guide, baseboard design checklist and multiplex pin Excel list.
- Rescue SD Image for Twisterpack (This is the baseboard for TAM-3517)
- Windows CE 6 and Windows Embedded Compact 7 Source Code BSP
- Android 2.2 and 2.3 Source Code
- Android 2.3 runtime images for Twisterpack. Different images depending on NAND or SD card boot and LCD size.
- x-loader, u-boot, Linux 2.6.32 and 2.6.37 kernels and root filesystem source code.
- DXF and STP dimensional files for module and baseboard (Mechanical drawings)
- Allegro Design Files for the baseboard (PDF & Orcad schematics and Gerber files)
That’s pretty good. Not only can you download those files without NDA, but you don’t even need to register before download. It’s just there. The only thing which is missing is the system on module design files (Schematics and gerber files), but this is understandable since their business model is apparently based on selling those CPU modules and providing support and engineering services to their customers.
I suppose most companies do not open their designs, because they do not want to “help” their competitors, but I wish more companies would be as open as TechNexion is, as it makes the job for developers so much easier. Good documentation and open source software also save on costs for both the clients (faster development) and the company providing the open source design, as it decreases the support workload and possibly the number of FAE needed. You can also get rid off the delays and legal issues introduced by NDAs.
You can visit TechNexion website for more information about the company, their products and services.