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Posts Tagged ‘amazon’

Design Amazon Alexa Gateways, Robots and Smart Speakers with WisCore Modular Development Kit

June 17th, 2017 3 comments

RAK Wireless has launched a new development board powered by Mediatek MT7628A processor running OpenWrt with built-in WiFi and Ethernet connectivity, and audio codec and microphone to support Amazon Alexa voice service. Bluetooth, Zigbee, and Z-wave will also be supported via UART modules.

Wiscore Specifications:

  • Processor – Mediatek MT7628A MIPS24KEc CPU @ up to  580MHz
  • System Memory –  128MB DDR2 (64 MB optional)
  • Storage – 16 MB flash + micro SD card

    Block Diagram – Click to Enlarge

  • Audio
    • MicroSemi ZL38062 for audio in and out
    • MicroSemi ZL38067 to handle “Alexa” keyword
    • single or dual digital microphone up to 5 meter range
    • Far field voice wake up
    • Support for echo cancellation
  • Connectivity
    • 802.11 b/g/n WiFi 2×2 MIMO up to 300 Mbps
    • 2x 10/100M Ethernet (LAN and WAN)
    • Optional UART modules for Bluetooth, ZigBeem Z-Wave
  • USB – 1x USB 2.0 host port
  • Expansion – Arduino headers with UART, I2C, SPI and GPIOs
  • Power Supply – 5V via power barrel or mini USB port

As you can see from the photo below, the main components are on separate boards (for some reasons) with a “mother board”, MT7628 module, and an audio sub-board.

As mentioned in the introduction, the MT7628 module runs an OS based on OpenWrt with RAK iGate middleware, and the company provides an SDK allowing you to develop solutions based on Amazon Alexa thanks to one codec that will detect “Alexa” keyword and wake up to the board, and another codec handling audio capture and output. The software architecture is shown below, Wiscore app for Android and iOS is provided to pair the EVK with Alexa, and more documentation and software can be found in the Wiki on Github.

WisCore Software Architecture

The solution can be used to build voice controlled home automation gateways or appliances, smart speakers, and robots. RAK Wireless sells a development kit with the three boards, an Ethernet cable, a speaker, a USB cable, two antennas, some Dupont wires, some jumpers, and a Quick Start Guide for $49 plus shipping. Visit the product page for a few more details.

Amazon AWS Greengrass Brings Local Compute, Messaging, Data Caching & Sync to ARM & x86 Devices

June 8th, 2017 No comments

Amazon Web Services (AWS) provides cloud computing services to manage & store data from IoT Nodes over the Internet, but in some cases latency may be an issue, and Internet connectivity may not be reliable in all locations. AWS Greengrass provides a solution to those issues by running some of the IoT tasks within the local network in ARM or x86 edge gateways running Linux.

Click to Enlarge

You can still manage your devices from AWS cloud, but a Linux gateway running Greengrass Core runtime will be able to run AWS Lambda functions to perform tasks locally, keep device data in sync, and communicate with devices running AWS IoT Device SDK.

Greengrass benefits include:

  • Response to Local Events in Near Real-time
  • Offline operation – Connected devices can operate with intermittent connectivity to the cloud, and synchronizes with AWS IoT once it is restored
  • Secure Communication  – AWS Greengrass authenticates and encrypts device data at all points of connection.
  • Simplified Device Programming with AWS Lambda – Greengrass execute Lambda functions locally, reducing the complexity of developing embedded software.
  • Reduce the Cost of Running IoT Applications – You can program filter device data locally, and only transmit the data you need to the cloud. This reduces the amount of raw data transmitted to the cloud and lowers cost

Greengrass Core’s minimum requirements are a 1GHz Processor with at least 128 MB, so it will run on most x86 products, as well as some ARM boards and devices, with Amazon recommending the following to get started quickly:

Greengrass Core works with Linux distributions with Linux 4.4.11+ or greater including Ubuntu 14.04 LTS, Debian Jessie, etc.. Canonical will also provide snap to easily install it on Ubuntu operating systems. Dependencies include SQLite 3 or greater, Python 2.7 or greater, Glibc 2.14, boto3 (latest), botocore (latest), OpenSSL 1.0.2 or greater, libseccomp and bash. You’ll find more detailed requirements in the FAQ.

Amazon’s announcement today was about AWG GreeenGrass availability to all customers, but it has already been used successfully in the industry by customers such as Enel, the largest utility in Europe, Konecranes now having 15,000 connected cranes, Pentair plc for their aquaculture customers, and Rio Tinto mining group to improve management and safety of their truck fleet.

Greengrass is free to try for one year with up to 3 devices, and costs $0.16 per month or $1.49 per year per device for up to 10,000 devices. If you are going to manage more than 10,000 devices you’d have to contact Amazon for pricing options. You can find more info and get started on Amazon Greengrass page.

 

OpenH PULSAR and QUASAR Boards Add 4G LTE Cat M1, or Cat 4/1 to Raspberry Pi Boards

May 31st, 2017 No comments

We’ve seen a bunch of IoT boards with 2G connectivity recently including Orange Pi 2G-IoT, Wio GPS, and Nadhat, but while in some countries 2G will still work for many years, those boards are already obsolete – or soon will be – in many other countries. However, finding low cost 3G / 4G  boards is more difficult, and while one solution is to use 3G or 4G USB dongles,  “OpenH – Open Hardware” – part of KLiP Industries – has designed two boards with 4G connectivity provided by Quectel modules.

OpenH PULSAR Board

PULSAR board is compatible with Arduino Zero and features the following specifications:

  • MCU – Atmel/Microchip SAMD21 ARM Cortex M0+ MCU (the as the one used in Arduino Zero)
  • Connectivity
  • Security – Dedicated management CPU with crypto engine
  • Power Supply 10W digital power supply and battery charger with direct solar input
  • FCC and Carrier certified

The board can work in standalone mode, but if needed, a Raspberry Pi Zero can optionally be mounted to the board. PULSAR is designed for low-bandwidth projects up to 200 kbps, support OTA firmware updates, and can work with the cloud provider of your choice.

OpenH QUASAR Raspberry Pi HAT Board

If your project needs more bandwidth, you can use QUASAR boards instead on a Raspberry Pi 2/3 board:

  • Connectivity
  • Expansion connectors
  • Security – Dedicated management CPU with crypto engine
  • Power Supply – 25W digital power supply and battery charger with direct solar input
  • FCC and Carrier certified

You’ll get up to 150 Mbps bandwidth using LTE Cat 4 module, and just like the other board is can support OTA firmware update, and popular cloud services like Amazon Web Service (AWS) IoT, Azure IoT Hub, IBM BlueMix, Google Cloud for IoT, ThingSpeak, etc…

Installation and IP67 Enclosure

OpenH explains Bluetooth and NFC are for installation and maintenance, and they appears to have a mobile to access the serial console, authorize access, reboot the board, check GPS coordinates…. over Bluetooth, as shown above using QUASAR board.

Click to Enlarge

Many such long range IoT projects are designed to be placed outdoor, so the company also offer Rubicon IP67 weatherproof enclosure that works with both 4G boards, as well as Raspberry Pi, Arduino, BeagleBone, etc.. and is high enough for one or more add-ons board thanks to a selection of shallow or deep covers. The photo above shows the case with a Raspberry Pi board (left) and Beaglebone Black + PRUDAQ cape (right).

The downside is that the board are not available yet, pricing is unknown, and documentation is very limited right now. If you are interested, you can register your email on openh.io website by clicking on Pre-order Now button. Rubicon IP67 enclosure is available now for $35 plus shipping.

$97 MXQ HF10 Android Bluetooth Speaker & TV Box Works with Amazon Alexa

May 3rd, 2017 No comments

Last fall, I wrote about Eny Technology HF10, a 2-in-1 Android 6.0 TV box & Bluetooth speaker powered by Amlogic S905X processor, but at the time it was still under development, and we did not know all the features. The device has now been launched under the MXQ brand with support for Amazon Alexa voice service, and is up for pre-order for $96.55 on GearBest.

MXQ HF10 specifications:

  • SoC –  Amlogic S905X quad core ARM Cortex-A53 @ up to 1.5 GHz with Mali-450MP GPU
  • System Memory – 1GB DDR3
  • Storage – 8GB eMMC flash + micro SD slot up to 128 GB
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0a up to 4K @ 60 Hz
  • Audio
    • HDMI output
    • 2.5″ 10W mono bass speaker with class-D amplifier
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, dual band 802.11 b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.0
  • USB – 1x USB 2.0 host port
  • Misc – Power & Play/Pause combo button, and volume buttons
  • Power Supply –  18W (may 12V/1.5A).
  • Dimensions – 9.10 cm ∅ x 12.80 cm (H)
  • Weight –  570 grams

    Click to Enlarge

The device runs Android 6.0, and you can control it with your smartphone using “MXQ app” which I could not find anywhere, but it may just be a web interface, as they mentioned it can be accessed from a web browser. You can also use your smartphone to play music to the spaker as you’d do with any other Bluetooth speakers. The provided Bluetooth remote control comes with a microphone button, which allows to talk to your box and get feedback through Amazon Alexa service. The device also ships with a power adapter, a HDMI cable, and a user manual in English.

Samsung & Amazon Introduce HDR10+ Standard with Dynamic Metadata & Tone Mapping

April 20th, 2017 7 comments

Most recent 4K Ultra HD televisions support high dynamic range (HDR) through standards such as HDR10, Dolby Vision, or Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG). Samsung and Amazon have jointly introduced an update to HDR10 with HDR10+ that adds dynamic tone mapping & metadata.

The companies describe the issues for HDR10′ static metadata as follows:

The current HDR10 standard utilizes static metadata that does not change during playback despite scene specific brightness levels. As a result, image quality may not be optimal in some scenes. For example, when a movie’s overall color scheme is very bright but has a few scenes filmed in relatively dim lighting, those scenes will appear significantly darker than what was originally envisioned by the director.

HDR10+ will be able to adjust metadata for each scene, and even for each frame, hence solving the issue of darker scenes. If you already own a Samsung TV with HDR10,  it’s not already outdated, as all 2017 UHD TVs already support HDR10+, and 2016 UHD TVs will support HDR10+ through a firmware update.

Amazon Video will be the first streaming service to deliver HDR10+ content, and Samsung also collaborated with other companies to integrate HDR10+ into products such as Colorfront’s Transkoder for post-production master, and MulticoreWare x265 video encoder.

HDR10 – and HDR10+ – is also said to be an open standard, but it could not find the specifications online, and only managed to find that HDR10 Media Profile main  must support EOTF: SMPTE ST 2084, 4:2:0 color Sub-sampling, 10-bit color depth, ITU-R BT.2020 color primaries, and SMPTE ST2086, MaxFALL and MaxCLL metadata defined in CTA 861.3-A standard (free preview) which you can purchase for $67. There must be some sort of CTA Standard for HDR dynamic metadata extensions for HDR10+, but I could not find anything [Update: Maybe SMPTE ST 2094-20-2016?]

Samsung showcased a static vs dynamic tone mapping demo at NAB 2016 last year, but it’s quite hard to see any differences in the video.

Categories: Hardware Tags: amazon, hdr, HDR10, samsung, standard

Secure IoT Connectivity with NodeMCU ESP8266 Board, ATECC508A Crypto Chip, Mongoose OS, and AWS IoT

March 7th, 2017 16 comments

There are many examples of Internet of Things projects, but more often than not the implementation is not secure, either because the device is exposed to the Internet with minimum or no security (worst case), or a gateway (hopefully) provides secure connection to the Internet, but the communication between sensor nodes and the gateway in the local network is not secure, due to memory limitation of the nodes, for example it might be challenging to implement security on ESP8266. Mongoose OS is an open source operating system for the Internet of Things developed by Cesanta working on ESP32, ESP8266, STM32, and TI CC3200, and the developers have demonstrated a secure solution with Mongoose OS running on ESP8266 connecting over a TLS connection to AWS IoT (Amazon Web Service IoT) and using TLS credentials stored in Microchip ATECC508A CryptoAuthentication Device.

NodeMCU with ATCRYPTOAUTH-XPRO (Left) or barebone ATECC508A (Right)

The addition of ATECC508 chip either using “XplainedPro extension board for crypto products” (ATCRYPTOAUTH-XPRO) or ATECC508A chip itself, is to avoid storing private TLS credentials in NodeMCU’s flash memory, as anybody with physical access to the device could steal private keys and get access to the cloud. ATECC508A is connected via the I2C interface of the target board.

So I guess the crypto chip truly makes sense if you have sensor nodes on the field with information important enough that third parties may be interested in getting access to your sensor to try read your private key from ESP8266’s flash. It costs less than $1, so you may consider it anyway, although you can still get a secure TLS connection between NodeMCU and AWS IoT without it, but it adds another level of security.

Once you are done with the hardware connections, you’ll need to install Mongoose OS on the board, and follow the MQTT + AWS IoT tutorial to get started. Nothing complicated need to be done to leverage the crypto chip, as the command mgos aws-iot-setup should automatically detect ATECC508A chip and use it.

Netgem SoundBox is a Speaker with Built-in Set-Top Box Features

February 25th, 2017 1 comment

Netgem, a company specializing in Connected TV & Home, has sent a press release about profit growth, and two new “innovations int its smart home roadmap” with voice control with Amazon, and SoundBox, a connected speaker which embeds set-top box technology.


Netgem does not sell directly to consumers, but instead sell its products and solutions to service providers, and they have not provided a great deal of technical details. But we still know the company has improved Netgem Home Platform, a cloud service allowing the deployment and management of multi-screen features, content discoverability, with support for multi-room, multi-source music service through technology from Voxtok.

SoundBox will then offer both video and audio service, and be controlled by voice using Amazon Alexa. The SoundBox will be customized for each Telco to adapt to the needs of local markets.

A few more details may eventually surfaced on Netgem’s SoundBox product’s page. They’ll also demonstrate their solutions at Mobile World Congress 2017.

Amazon EC2 F1 Instances Put Xilinx Virtex Ultrascale+ FPGA Boards into the Cloud

February 22nd, 2017 4 comments

We’ve covered several board and modules based on Xilinx Zynq Ultrascale+ MPSoC such as the AXIOM Board and Trenz TE0808 SoM, both featuring ZU9EG MPSoC, with systems selling for several thousands dollars. But I’ve been informed you may not need to purchase a board to use Virtex UltraScale+ FPGAs, which are different from Zynq UltraScale+ since they lack the ARM CPU & GPU and normally feature a more capable FPGA, as last November, Amazon launched a developer preview of F1 instances giving access to this type of hardware from their cloud.

That’s the FPGA hardware you’ll be able to access from one F1 instance:

  • Xilinx UltraScale+ VU9P manufactured using a 16 nm process.
  • 64 GB of ECC-protected memory on a 288-bit wide bus (four DDR4 channels).
  • Dedicated PCIe x16 interface to the CPU.
  • Approximately 2.5 million logic elements.
  • Approximately 6,800 Digital Signal Processing (DSP) engines.
  • Virtual JTAG interface for debugging.

I understand those FPGA boards are PCIe card plugged into servers with an Intel Broadwell E5 2686 v4 processor, up to 976 GB of memory, and up to 4 TB of NVMe SSD storage. This is obviously only usable if the FPGA do not need extra hardware connected to the board.

You can choose from two instance types as described in the table below.

Instance Type FPGA Cards vCPUs Instance Memory (GiB) SSD Storage (GB) Enhanced Networking EBS Optimized
f1.2xlarge 1 8 122 480 Yes Yes
f1.16xlarge 8 64 976 4 x 960 Yes Yes

Amazon provides an hardware development kit or FPGA Developer AMI (Amazon Instance), where developers write and debug FPGA code on their own hardware/instance, before creating an “Amazon FPGA image” (AFI), and attaching it to an F1 instance as describe in the first diagram of this post. If you’re a customer who needs a specific “acceleration routine”, you don’t even need the FPGA development kit, as you can purchase the AFI on the market place, and deploy it on F1 instances.

If you are interested in Amazon solution and want to know more and get started, Amazon organized a one hour webinar last December.

Hardware-accelerated computing leveraging FPGAs is especially used for genomics research, financial analytics, real time video processing, big data search and analytics, and security applications.

AFAIK, Amazon has still not officially launched F1 instances commercially, at which point you’ll be able to pay by the hour for the use of the instance, but you can still sign up for the F1 preview.

Thanks to Jon for the tip.