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Review of Tronsmart Vega S89 Elite Amlogic S802 TV Box

April 12th, 2014 8 comments

Tronsmart Vega S89 is an Android TV Box based on Amlogic quad core Cortex A9 processor. You can refer to Tronsmart Vega S89 specs for more technical details, and checkout my Tronsmart Vega S89 Unboxing post for pictures of the device and the board. As a reminder there are two models of the device: Tronsmart Vega S89 with 16GB flash and dual band Wi-Fi (AP6330 module), and Tronsmart Vega S89 Elite with 8GB flash and 2.4 WiFi (AP6220 module). I’ve been sent the Elite version, but both version should have similar performance. I’ll start by giving my first impressions, going through the user interface and settings, then I’ll switch to video and audio tests, Wi-Fi performance, and perform some other tests for Bluetooth, gaming, external storage, USB webcam, etc.. trying to cover most of the hardware features available on this device.

First Boot, Settings and First Impressions

Vega S89 (Elite) comes with an IR remote, but the two required AAA batteries are not included, so you’ll need to purchase some separately. As we’ll soon see the user interface has been designed to be used easily with an IR remote, but once you start using Android apps, you’ll probably want to use another input device. So I’ve also used the Mele F10 air mouse during testing. I’ve connected an Ethernet cable, the HDMI and AV cables, and Mele F10 USB RF dongle, and the power supply, before pressing the power button which is oddly located at the back of the device. The complete boot took 38 seconds, and loaded the Metro style user’s interface shown below.

Tronsmart Vega S89 Home Screen (Click for Original Size)

Tronsmart Vega S89 Home Screen (Click for Original Size)

On the top of the screen, we can see the network status, the weather in your locale (only Chinese cities are available in the settings), and the date and time. There are also six main menus: Online Video (YouTube, Netflix, and XBMC), My recommend (favorite apps), Setting, My Apps (all installed apps), Music, and Local. The last two are some apps to access/play local files with a not-so-slick interface that you are unlikely to use. There are smaller icons at the bottom, some shortcuts with the Browser, File manager, Gallery, 4K player, Google Play Store and XBMC by default. You can add and remove the ones you want as you wish. You can navigate this user interface with the remote arrow keys. For those of you who are not fond of 720p UIs, I’ve got good news, as both video output and UI are 1080p, and you can click the screenshot above to see it the real size.

The “Setting” menu gives you access to the settings shown in the same Metro-style with four sub menus: Network, Display, Advanced and Other.

Display Settings (Click for Original Size)

Display Settings (Click for Original Size)

When you first boot the device, there’s no network at all, so you need to go to the Network settings, and select whether Ethernet or Wi-Fi, and both are working just fine. In the display settings, it will detect the maximum resolution for your TV, 1080p60 in my case, and it’s supposed to support UHD / 4K output, but I don’t own a 4K TV to check this out. Other options allow you to hide or show the status bar, adjust the display position/size, and whether you want to use a screensaver. I’ve enabled the status bar, as I find it’s easier to navigate between apps and home screen with the Mele F10. The Advanced menu will let you start Miracast (Source only, not a display), enable the software Remote control (not tested, but you can download RemoteIME.apk on your smartphone or tablet), adjust CEC controls, set your location (unfortunately only Chinese cities are available),  set the screen orientation, and select digital audio output (PCM, SPDIF pass-through, HDMI pass-through). The Other button will give some details about the Android version (4.4.2), kernel version (3.1.10) and provides access to OTA System Update, which is not enabled. You can also access standard Android settings by going through Setting->Other->More Settings. The Android settings in this box are based on the phone interface, not the tablet one, which requires a few more clicks.

You can check the user’s interface and settings in the video below.

I’ve used HDMI output with 1080p during my testing, which was automatically detected as I started the device. If I switch to manual mode, I can also see 4K video output at 24, 25 and 30 Hz, and as well as 4K SMPTE. SMPTE stands for Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers, but I’m not quite sure what it means in this context. There’s also an AV output, but there’s no option in the menu. If HDMI is not connected, it will simply switch to composite output, which worked as expected, including audio output. You can then choose between 480cvbs and 576cvbs. To switch back to HDMI, insert the HDMI cable. and restart the device.

TVega_S89_About_Mediaboxhe product comes with a 8 GB flash, and there’s well over 5GB free storage on the only partition found in the internal storage which should be plenty enough to install as many apps as you wish. The firmware is not rooted, and developer options are disabled in the firmware. I’ve written an Amlogic S802 root how-to that will root your device and enable dev options. Looking into the “About MediaBox” section shows the device name is  “VEGA S89″, and just like the custom settings section, it shows Android 4.2.2 is running on top of Kernel 3.10.10.

I could install most applications from Google Play Store including Facebook, ES File Explorer, Root checker, Antutu, Quadrant, Vellamo, Candy Crush Saga, etc… The only one that failed to show up in the list is Real Racing 3, but this one appears to have disappeared from most Android TV Boxes. Sixaxis Controller also failed to install returning an error in Google Play.

The power button on the device is used to power on and off the device. A short press is needed to start the device, but a long press (about 10 seconds) is required to turn it off. You can use the IR remote to enter and exit standby mode, but not powering off the device. There’s no soft power button, so these two are the only options to turn off the box. You can’t do that with a mouse, unless maybe you install some thrid party apps. I haven’t tried. I’ve also been asked to check power consumption, but I did not have the right connectors with me to use a multimeter or check with Charger Doctor. I’ve checked the temperature of the box after running Antutu benchmark. The top was 40 °C, the bottom 53 °C, with my room temperature around 28 °C.

The firmware is extremely stable, I’ve never experienced a crash and the system never hung. With a quad core Cortex A9 processor at 1.99 GHz, it’s also very smooth, and slowdowns are very rare. At one point, my brother entered my room, and I could hear a “wow” when he realized how fast switching between menus was in Angry Birds Star Wars.

Video Playback

XBMC 14 alpha is pre-installed in the device, so I’ve decided to test videos with XBMC, reverting to MX Player to check issues, and double check some features. As always, I’ve played videos from a SAMBA share. I had no problem for SAMBA configuration in XBMC nor ES File Explorer.

I started with the videos from samplemedia.linaro.org, and I added some Big Buck Bunny videos with H.265/HEVC codec from another source (Elecard):

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container (Big Buck Bunny), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • MPEG2 codec / MPG container, 480p/720p/1080p – OK.
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • VC1 codec (WMV), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • Real Media (RMVB) – Failed. Only shows “Click OK when playback has ended”.
  • WebM / VP8 – 480p/720p OK, 1080p is very choppy. Most probably software decode.
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container, 360p/720p/1080p
    • XBMC – Audio only
    • MX Player – Can play and audio works, but everything is in slow motion with many frames skipped. The number of frame skips does not seem to be related to the resolution.

I’ve also tested some high bitrate videos:

  • ED_HD.avi (1080p MPEG-4 – 10Mbps) – No video, audio only.
  • big_buck_bunny_1080p_surround.avi (1080p H.264 – 12 Mbps) – Video appears to be fine, but after a while I’ve noticed a massive 4 to 5 seconds audio sync issue
  • h264_1080p_hp_4.1_40mbps_birds.mkv (40 Mbps) – OK
  • hddvd_demo_17.5Mbps_1080p_VC1.mkv (17.5Mbps) – Video is supported but some frames are skipped.

I still don’t own an audio system with HDMI or S/PDIF input, and if anybody have recommendation for a low cost system or way (around $100), that would allow me to test SPDIF and/or HDMI pass-through in future reviews, please please let me know. Anyway, I’ve still tested the audio codecs below, downsampled to PCM, in XBMC, and most worked perfectly:

  • AC3 – Can decode audio, but video was very slow
  • Dolby Digital 5.1 / Dolby Digital 7.1 – OK
  • TrueHD 5.1 & 7.1 – OK
  • DTS-MA and DTS-HR – OK

There’s HDMI and S/PDIF pass-through in the menu, and I’ve already reported Geekbuying tested HDMI pass-through with success (apparently) with most codecs. However, when I switched to MX Player to play these files, none of them had audio. That probably means DTS, Dolby and AC3 are not supported by the hardware, but XBMC can use software decoding.

I was not confident about this one, but I threw a Blu-ray ISO into the test, Sintel-Bluray.iso, a free Blu-ray ISO file, and it worked perfectly, it was also possible to switch between the eight chapters of the video. I did not have audio/video sync issues.

Amlogic S802 can support 4K video in theory. I tried with HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4, a 60 Mbps UHD video, and it failed in XBMC (audio only), but could play perfectly with MX Player from a SAMBA share over Ethernet. I also tried some HEVC / 4K videos, but they had the same frame skipped problems as  lower resolution videos.

Finally, I played some random AVI, MKV, FLV and MP4 videos. They could all play, but some AVI still had that massive audio/video sync issues, the audio being late by a few seconds.

Links to various video samples used in this review and be found in “Where to get video, audio and images samples” post and comments.

Wi-Fi Performance

The Wi-Fi test consists in transferring a 278 MB files between a SAMBA share and the internal flash, and vice versa. I repeat the test three times. The first time I tried the transfer speed was catastrophic, sometimes running at up to 2MB/s, but most of the time hovering around 50KB/s, and in some cases even stalling, with the transfer taking 11 minutes and 30 seconds. I went outside, and came back 2 hours later, to repeat the test, and I was unable to reproduce the problem I had during the first test, so I discarded it, but this may be something to keep in mind. The transfer times averaged a decent 2:35 (1.79 MB/s), which bring Vega S89 in the upper middle of the field, with performance similar to MK908.

Tronsmart_Vega_S89_WiFIPlease bear in mind there are many factors when it comes to Wi-Fi performance, and the results you’ve got with your setup may be completely different than the ones I’ve gotten here.

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

Bluetooh is built-in in this Android TV Box, There’s no option in the custom setup, but you can enable Bluetooth in the Android setting. Vega S89 can detect my PC, but can’t find my phone (ThL W200). However, my phone could find and pair with Vega S89. The first time I transfered a file it got stuck at 29% and the transfer failed, but the second time was successful.

I’ve also installed Sixaxis Compatibility Checker to check if Sony PS3 Bluetooth Controllers, or clones, can work following these instructions. The drivers appear to be there, and I can pair my gamepad with the device, but the program segfaults when listening for controllers. I was unable to install the paid version “Sixaxis Controller” due to the error “Couldn’t install on USB storage or SD card” in Google Play.

External Storage

I could use both a micro SD and a USB flash drive formatted to FAT32 successfully.

USB Webcam

I could use a low cost no brand USB webcam with Skype. Video was OK, the “Echo Test” in Skype could record my voice using the webcam mic, and repeat my voice. I could not access the Video in Google Hangouts however.

Gaming

I’ve tested 3 games: Angry Birds Star Wars,  Candy Crush Saga, and Beach Buggy Blitz. The first two are rather easy games on the GPU, and run just fine on most hardware. I’ve configured Beach Buggy Blitz to maximum graphics settings, and it could still run smoothly. As with other Android TV boxes and sticks, there are caveats because of the input devices, and the first two games can be played with an Air mouse, but not the IR remote, and racing games are very difficult to play because you have to move the cursor from on side of the screen to the other to turn left and right. If Sixaxis controller works you can use a Bluetooth controller to play games, but it failed to install on this device. Another solution might be to use remote apps like such as Droidmote.

Tronsmart Vega S89 Elite (and Amlogic S802) Benchmarks

Before running the benchmark, I’ve gathered some details about this new processor and board with CPU-Z. It’s a quad core Cortex A9 r4p1 clocked between 24 MHz to 1.99 GHz, although I’ve never seen it at 24 MHz even at idle. Maybe this frequency is used in standby mode only. The GPU is also reported correctly as an ARM Mali-450.

CPU-Z_Amlogic_S802_Vega_S89

CPU-Z – Amlogic S802 in Tronsmart Vega S89 (Click to Enlarge)

The model is referred to as VEGA S89 (k200), with k200 possibly a reference design code from Amlogic. Pixel resolution is reported to be 1920 x 1008, and there’s mention of 1280 x 672 “dp” resolution, but I’m not sure what it means here. The device comes with 2GB RAM, but only 1578 MB is available to Android, the rest probably being used by, or reserved for the GPU, VPU, and some other hardware sub-systems. As mentioned previously there’s 5.75 GB flash available to the user from the 8GB NAND Flash.

Antutu 4.3.3 Score

Antutu 4.3.3 Score

I’ve installed Antutu from Google Play (Version 4.3.3) and the score I got was 22,603, which will be disappointing if you’ve read GeekBuying blog post showing a score of 30,000. I’ve been told I’m not the only one to get this score with this firmware, and the previous firmware was different. The factory tried with Antutu 4.4.1 and got 28,000 to 30,000. I’m not sure whether it’s a problem with Antutu (CPU in test is reported as 4x core @ 1104 MHz, instead of 1992 MHz on GeekBuying blog), or if it is an issue with the firmware itself. In any case, I’m pretty sure it will be fix in future firmware. You’ll also notice the GPU benchmark has not been run in full screen (607×1080), testing in portrait mode in the middle of my TV. It’s still much faster than the Antutu  score with Rockchip RK3188T @ 1.4 GHz in Beelink A9, especially with the 3D graphics test which is over 3 times faster (S802/Mali-450: 6800 @ 607×1080, RK3188T/Mali-400: 1960 @ 1280×672).

Vega S89 Quadrant Score (Click to Enlarge)

Vega S89 Quadrant Score (Click to Enlarge)

In Quadrant, Tronsmart Vega S89 is faster than HTC ONE X (Nvidia Tegra 3 @ 1.5 GHz), especially because of much better I/O performance.

The device gets 617 points with Vellamo Metal, and 1602 points in Vellamo HTML5, which is lower than the 859 / 1864 points found in GeekBuying review, so there might indeed be a performance issue with this firmware.

Nenamark2 is rendered at 60.2 fps which is the maximum framerate possible.

Conclusion

Tronsmart Vega S89 (Elite) has good performance, a stable firmware, but there are still quite a few issues that needs to be addressed to make it a better product.

Let’s summarize the PROS and CONS

  • PROS
    • Fast and stable firmware
    • Android 4.4 Kitkat
    • XBMC pre-installed
    • Blu-Ray ISO and 4K video playback
    • 1080p user interface
    • 4K video output up to 30 fps supported
    • Good Ethernet and decent Wi-Fi performance (N.B: Potential stability caveat with regards to Wi-Fi, TBC)
    • USB webcam works with Skype
    • HDMI CEC support
  • CONS
    • Sometimes non-optimal user’s experience:
      1. Need to switch between XBMC and MX Player depending on video files
      2. Multiple input devices required, e.g. if you use an air mouse, you still need to access the IR remote to turn the device off (Standby), and get up to press the power button.
      3. Bluetooth not available from default settings menu
      4. Only Chinese cities available for weather
    • Some video issues: Audio/video sync with some AVI and FLV files, H.265 not working smoothly (frames skipped), and
    • DTS, Dolby, AC3 not supported by hardware, but software decoded in XBMC (minor)
    • Current firmware does not seem to be fully optimized for performance based on Antutu, Quadrant, Vellamo benchmark results
    • USB webcam could not be used with Google Hangouts

The firmware clearly still needs some work, but I believe this is a good base, as it is very stable, and most issues can be fixed by updating the firmware. Tronsmart usually tries to fix major issues, and GeekBuying will most probably send samples to some members of Freaktab to make custom ROMs that many are fans of, so in time, firmware is likely to improve. One of the most annoying issue is the audio/video sync issue with some AVI files, so if you have many in your media library, these may not be watchable. The need to try a video in XBMC, and then switch to MX Player if it does not work is also annoying, but hopefully they’ll improve XBMC overtime.

You can purchase Tronsmart Vega S89 Elite for $105 and Tronsmart Vega S89 for $120 from Geekbuying, and Aliexpress. There’s a $6 coupon (YYTKMFIX) for Vega S89 Elite, and a $10 coupon (GSFJMTQF) can be used on GeekBuying until April 18.

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Fin is a Bluetooth Ring That Let You Control Your Devices with Your Fingers (Crowdfunding)

February 14th, 2014 8 comments

We’ve already seen smart rings with NFC rings that can be used for authentication and share small amount of data (e.g. business card data) with smartphones. Fin is a completely different type of smart ring that fits onto your thumb, and let you control Bluetooth enabled devices by tapping different phalanges on your fingers, and/or the palm of your hand.

Fin_SmartringHere are some of Fin smart ring specifications:

  • MCU – N/A
  • Connectivity – Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR, and 4.0
  • Sensors – No details, but Fin can track accurate movement of your thumb on the palm and detect each phalanx of your finger where you are touching.
  • IP Rating – IP67 (Dust and Waterproof)
  • Battery -  Li Po custom battery with micro-USB charging dock ; One charge will last for 1 week; more than one year durable.
  • Misc – LED indicator

The ring will work with Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and Windows Phones.

Example of Fin's Phalange Assignment

Example of Fin’s Phalange Assignment

RHL Vision Technologies, the Indian start-up behind the project, lists the key differentiating features as follows:

  • Three different devices support with a single fin
  • Recognize each phalanx of fingers
  • Acts as security authemnticator
  • Gesture interaction on palm
  • Fashionable
  • Water-proof, dust-proof and durable.

Another advantage is that you can rest your arm on the table while using Fin, which won’t lead to tiredness associate with products such as Leap Motion, although it should certainly less flexible and accurate.

They’ve showed some demos such as answering the phone with a tap of a finger, adjusting the volume of your car radio without removing from the steering wheel, using your hand to play shooting games, controlling a VR headset, and so on.

Development is advanced but not quite finished with product development expected to complete in April, and software development in May, before starting delivering products in July. The company is looking for funds to complete development and start manufacturing via Indiegogo. At this time, they’ve received pledge for about $80,000 out of their $100,000 target, but since it is a flexible funding campaign, they’ll receive the funds whether they reach their target or not and mass production should go ahead. You can pledge $79 to receive an early developer sample with support for 5 gestures by June 2014, and $99 to get the final version in September 2014. Shipping is $10 to the US and Asia, and $20 elsewhere. The official website is www.wearfin.com, but there’s not much more info than on the Indiegogo page.

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STMicro To Launch $24 M24SR Discovery Kit for NFC Applications at Embedded World 2014

February 14th, 2014 No comments

STMicro will unveil an a new development board called M24SR Discovery Kit absed on the company’s M24SR dynamic NFC tags to help designers easily add  NFC connectivity to different kind of electrical devices such as fitness bands, loudspeakers, washing machines, water meters, and more.

STMicro MS24SR Discovery Board (Click to Enlarge)

STMicro MS24SR Discovery Board (Click to Enlarge)

There are two models for MS24SR Discovery kits: Standard and Premium editions. The Premium editions adds a headset and a Bluetooth module to pair it with a smartphone via NFC. Here are the key features of MS24SR-Discovery board:

  • MCU – STM32F103RGT6 64LQFP 32-bit microcontroller, with 1Mbytes of Flash memory
  • NFC – M24SR64-Y Dynamic NFC/RFID tag
  • Antenna – 31 mm x 30 mm, 13.56 MHz double layer inductive antenna etched on the PCB (ANT14)
  • Display – LCD Color Screen (320 x 200 pixels)
  • Misc – Different color LEDs, Joystick for menu selection
  • Debug – JTAG connector for microcontroller firmware upgrade and debug
  • Power – +5V via USB microB connector
  • Premium version only:
    • Bluetooth module with audio outputs connected to Jack 3.5
    • Headset

The M24SR Discovery Kit can be use to implement NFC applications such as “tap and pair,” URL connection, send an SMS or an email, and business-card download. The company provides antenna reference designs, application notes, eDesignSuite, reference MCU drivers, and an NFC Android App for the board. Support will be available via E2E community.

The standard edition (M24SR-DISCO-STD) will sell for $24, whereas the premium edition (M24SR-DISCO-PREM) will go for $49. You can find the user’s manual, hardware documentation, including gerber files and schematics, as well as download links to tools and software,  and links to buy samples on MS24SR-DISCOVERY page. The company will also showcase the solution at Embedded World 2014, on February 25-27, in Nuremberg, Germany, and distribute free M24SR discovery kits to visitors. All you need to do it pre-register for a free sample.

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U-BRAIN MicroSmart is a Tiny “15-Axis” Sensor Module with Bluetooth or Zigbee Connectivity

February 4th, 2014 2 comments

Usuda Research Institute & Systems Corporation has just announced U-BRAIN MicroSmart, a tiny and lightweight 3D modules module with a “15-axis” sensor, 5 GPIOS, as well as optional Zigbee and Bluetooth connectivity allowing up to 100 meter range. The module targets wearable devices used for fitness and health applications.

U-BRAIN_Microsmart
U-BRAIN MicroSmart (UBN-MS8) Specifications:

  • Processor -  MCU + DSP
  • Sensors – 6-axis position sensors, 3-axis posture sensor, 3-axis direction sensor, 1 temperature sensor, 1 audio sensor, and 1 light sensor.
  • Connectivity – Optional? Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR or ZigBee with up to 100 meter range.
  • GPIO – 5 GPIOS, TTL.
  • Power Consumption – 10 mA max during use, 100 uA max in sleep mode
  • Power – Via microUSB port
  • Dimensions – 20 x 19 x 3.8 mm
  • Weight – 2g to 5g depending on presence and selection of communication module

The module will support Windows XP/Vista/7/9.0/8.1, Android 2.3 and greater, iOS, Linux, Unix and ITRON RTOS. Middleware and software tools to handle signals and motion control will be provided, and products like Google Earth and Unity are also supported.

If your Japanese is good enough, you can find more information in the press release and product brief.

Via Tech-On

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$99 CSR µEnergy Starter Development Kit for Bluetooth Smart

January 3rd, 2014 No comments

CSR has recently launched CSR µEnergy Starter Development Kit, a low-cost devkit based on their CSR1010, CSR1011 and CSR1012 modules for developers designing Bluetooth Smart, aka Bluetooth Low Energy, applications.

CSR_uEnergy_development_kitMain features of CSR µEnergy Starter DevKit:

  • Fitted with CSR1010, CSR1011, or CSR1012 module
  • USB or CR2032 battery powered (link selectable)
  • USB SPI interface to development PC
  • Headers – 1x Headers for CSR1010/CSR1012 I/O, 2x Headers for CSR1011 I/O
  • Misc – 1x push button, 1x LED
  • Dimensions – 80x68mm PCB area

CSR_Bluetooth_Smart_Modules
The modules are based on the Bluetooth Smart ICs with the same name, and the following characteristics:

  • CSR1010 – QFN 32 lead, 5 x 5 x 0.6mm, 0.5mm pitch
  • CSR1011 – QFN 56 lead, 8 x 8 x 0.9mm, 0.5mm pitch
  • CSR1012 – QFN 32 lead, 4 x 4 x 0.65mm, 0.4mm pitch

All three come with 128KB memory (64KB RAM and 64KB ROM), CSR1010 and CSR1012 has 12 digital I/Os and the same functionalities (only the package changes), and CSR1011 has more extension capabilities with a total of 32 digital I/Os. CSR1010/CSR1012 are better suited to health monitors, cycle sensors, and are to be controlled with an existing host MCU, whereas CSR1012 is recommended for keyboards, remote controls, and advanced mice.

Beside the target board, the development kit includes a mini-USB cable to connect to Host PC USB port, a printed Setup Guide, a Quick Start Guide (PDF), and CSR µEnergy Starter Dev Kit CD-ROM.

The company provides the free CSR xIDE software development environment (using GCC), example applications for the most common Bluetooth Smart profiles, example host applications for iOS and Android, datasheets for CSR µEnergy ICs, hardware design guidelines, manufacturing packs for module reference designs, as well as production test and configuration tools. Support is available via CSR developer forum and wiki.

You can watch the video below for an introduction of the kit, and an heart monitor demo with an iPod Touch.

CSR µEnergy Starter Development Kit is available now for $99 + shipping with CSR1010 (Part no. DK-CSR1010-10169) from Digikey and Broadband, but CSR1011 and CSR1012 are still under development, and will be available at a later stage. Further information is available on CSR µEnergy Starter Development Kit page.

Via Embedded.com

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Rezence Wireless Charging Standard Gets Rid off Charging Pads, Leverages Bluetooth 4.0 LE

December 28th, 2013 1 comment

I’ve just found out via my twitter feed that Nordic Semiconductor had announced the availability of the Bluetooth LE-based S120 8-link central protocol stack and nRF51 Wireless Charging SDK for wireless charging applications based on a new wireless charging standard called Rezence.

Rezence_wireless_chargingThe Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP) gave their wireless power technology the name Rezence a couple of weeks ago. Rezence uses magnetic resonance, instead of inductance used in first generation products, and bring several key improvements:

  • Greater charging range – Your device does not need to be placed on a charging pad, but it can be placed anywhere within range (I could not find data yet).
  • Multiple device charging – Ability to charge multiple devices with different power requirements at the same time, such as smartphones, tablets, laptops and Bluetooth headsets. Up to 8 devices with Nordic Semi solutions mentioned in the introduction.
  • Ready for the real world – Charging surfaces powered by Rezence will operate in the presence of metallic objects such as keys, coins, and utensils.
  • Bluetooth communication – Uses existing Bluetooth Smart (Bluetooth 4.0 LE) technology, minimizing the manufacturer’s hardware requirements.

The alliance also envisions smart charging zones in public places that can both be used for charging and “value-added services such as mobile payments, gaming, advertising, peer-to-peer data sharing and location based services”.

Several “big players” are members of A4WP including Samsung, Qualcom, Broadcom, Texas Instruments, NXP, just to name a few.Rezence_Block_Diagram

Power charging occurs via 6.78MHz resonators, and Bluetooth 4.0 LE (Smart) is used for out-band signaling between the power transmitting unit (PTU) and the power receiver unit (PRU), and although specifications are only accessible to paying members, several technical publications are available that can provide a better understanding of Rezence standard.

For example, according to a May 2013 presentation, there will be 5 categories to handle five different type of device / power requirements:

  • Category 1 – Bluetooth headset (On Roadmap)
  • Category 2 – Feature phone (3.5 Watts)
  • Category 3 – Smartphone (6.5 Watts)
  • Category 4 – Tablet (On Roadmap)
  • Category 5 – Laptop (On Roadmap)

Feature phones and smartphones are supported in Version 1.0 of the specifications, with other devices becoming supported at a later stage.

There will also be 5 classes of Power Transmitting Units:

  • Class 1 – On roadmap – Supporting 1 category 1 device.
  • Class 2 – 10 W – Supporting 1 category 1, 2 or 3 device.
  • Class 3 – 16 W – Supporting 2 category 1, 2, or 3 devices, or 1 category 4 device.
  • Class 4 – 22 W – Supporting 3 category 1, 2, or devices, or 1 category 4 device.
  • Class 5 – On roadmap – TBD

That means that none of the first generation of Rezence products might be handle to charge your tablet and smartphone simultaneously, and only one tablet can be charged at a time, but up to three phones, or headsets can be charged simultaneously. The document is dated from May 2013, and Class 5 PTU may have already been defined.

First Rezence compatible devices and chargers should start to become available in 2014. You may want to visit rezence.com to find out more about the standard.

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Categories: Hardware Tags: bluetooth, rezence, standard

Crowdfunding Report 2013 on CNXSoft Blog

December 24th, 2013 9 comments

Crowdfunding has really took off in 2013, with sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, as they enable start-ups to launch new and innovative products, and some established, even large companies, I’m thinking Canonical with Ubuntu Edge here, have also tapped into that market, actually shifting part of the risks from shareholders, to customers / individual funders.

Indiegogo_KickStarter

In this post, I’ll go through all the crowdfunding projects, 16 Indiegogo and 25 Kickstarter campaigns, featured on cnx-software.com between the beginning of December 2012 till the end of November 2013, to find out which ones have been a stellar success in terms of funding and on-time delivery, and those that have failed in one way or another, with some being close to looking like scams. There was a wide range of products with dealing home automation, the Internet of things, wireless Arduino compatible boards, Linux development boards, media players and more.

Let’s go straight to the subject with a table sorted chronologically.

Date Project Crowdfunding Site Funded?
Pledged amount / Goal
Expected Delivery Actual Delivery Comments
6. Dec. 2012 StickNFind Indiegogo Yes
$931,870 / $70,000
03/2013 04/2013 There does seem to be quite a few complains on their Facebook page however
3. Jan. 2013 PlayJam GameStick Kickstarter Yes
$647,658 / $100,000
04/2013 10/2013
11. Jan. 2013 Crystalfontz CFA-10036 Kickstarter No
$12,184 / $30,000
03/2013 - The board is now available from the company website
21. Feb. 2013 CoolShip Indiegogo Yes
(Amount unknown)
04/2013 Delayed to eternity The Indiegogo page is gone, the company (Focuswill) website too, and nobody ever got their device. The project owner apparently took the money, saw he could not make profit, and ran with the money.
7. Mar. 2013 The Mojo Kickstarter Yes
$100,490 / $7,000
04/2013 04/2013
20. Mar. 2013 RFDuino Kickstarter Yes
$352,700 / $5,000
07/2013 10/2013 Shipping took place is several batches over 1 month starting in mid-October
12. Apr. 2013 UDOO Board Kickstarter Yes
$641,614 / $27,000
09/2013 10/2013 Boards shipped in several batches in October
29. Apr. 2013 CoAction Hero Kickstarter Yes
$12,110 / $10,000
07/2013 09/2013
2. May. 2013 DroneShield Indiegogo Yes
$8,708 / $3,500
09/2013 09/2013 Only a few units were shipped in September to people willing to be beta testers, and more units have been shipping slowly, with all items shipped by the end of December
28. May. 2013 Aithon Motor Control Board Kickstarter No
$8,460 / $18,000
09/2013 - Allegedly working with STMicro to complete the board design, but no news since June 2013.
5. Jun. 2013 Scanadu Scout Indiegogo Yes
$1,664,574 / $100,000
03/2014 -
14. Jun. 2013 Digitstump DigiX Kickstarter Yes
$107,783 / $50,000
09/2013 11/2013
17. Jun. 2013 Stealth Nighthawk F-117A Indiegogo Yes and No (Flexible campaign)
$7,404 / $40,000
08/2013 - The company promised the device to backers, but to date none of them received anything
20. Jun. 2013 Fargo Ethernet Boards Kickstarter Yes
$20,605 / $10,800
09/2013
12/2013 (R4DI)
10/2013
-
About 15 days delay for the first board, and probably about the same for the next one.
21. Jun. 2013 Babuino Stick & Board Indiegogo No
$9,241 / $40,000
10/2013 - The project appears to be canceled
23. Jun. 2013 BLEDuino Kickstarter Yes
$75,126 / $15,000
11/2013 Delayed Delivery might occur in February
26. Jun. 2013 Peloton Bike Kickstarter Yes
$307,332 / $250,000
11/2013 (US) Delayed Probably January in the US
30. Jun. 2013 Wimoto Motes Indiegogo Yes
$115,366 / $22,000
09/2013 Delayed Maybe early next year
10. Jul. 2013 Lernstift Digital Pen Kickstarter No
£26,794 / £120,000
11/2013 - Development is still going on
13. Jul. 2013 The Plug (renamed to Lima) Kickstarter Yes
$1,229,074 / $69,000
12/2013 Delayed Delayed at least until spring 2014 due to software redesign
20. Jul. 2013 WigWag Kickstarter Yes
$454,976 / $50,000
11/2013 Delayed Probably at least 3 months delay
23. Jul. 2013 Ubuntu Edge Indiegogo No
$12,814,216 / $32,000,000
05/2014 - Project canceled, but Ubuntu will be found on other phones
24. Jul. 2013 Red Pitaya Board Kickstarter Yes
$256,125 / $50,000
12/2013 Delayed Delivery now expected for February 2014
25. Jul. 2013 Borderless Arduino Board Indiegogo Yes
$164,303 / $12,000
09/2013 09/2013 There was however some issues with some parcels, which are almost resolved now.
2. Aug. 2013 OVO Media Player Indiegogo Yes and No (Flexible campaign)
$37,051 / $100,000
10/2013 10/2013
4. Aug. 2013 The “Smart Charger” Indiegogo No
$4,306 / $80,000
11/2013 - Project canceled?
12. Aug. 2013 HackRF SDR Platform Kickstarter Yes
$602,960 / $80,000
01/2014 -
21. Aug. 2013 SparqEE CELLv1.0 Kickstarter Yes
$72,155 / $70,000
11/2013 Delayed Delivery now expected for January 2014
22. Aug. 2013 Iteaduino Plus Indiegogo Yes and No (Flexible campaign)
$6,319USD / $20,000
09/2013 09/2013 On-time but shipping without tracking took a long time.
23. Aug. 2013 Sky Drone FPV HD Indiegogo No
$30,174 / $80,000
12/2013 - Project has carried on, and Sky Drone is available for pre-order via their website
29. Aug. 2013 Flutter Kickstarter Yes
$149,906 / $80,000
04/2014 -
30. Aug. 2013 Pressy Kickstarter Yes
$695,138 / $40,000
03/2014 -
7. Oct. 2013 Wizarm PVR MediaBox Indiegogo Yes and No (Flexible campaign)
$7,346 / $200,000
04/2014 - This flexible campaign did not reach their funding target, but backers have been promised to receive the device, as development and production will go ahead
10. Nov. 2013 Ubuntu for Raspberry Pi Indiegogo Yes
£2,567 / £2,500
04/2014 -
11. Nov. 2013 The VERVE Kickstarter Yes
$38,617 / $20,000
12/2013 Delayed Delivery now expected for mid-January 2014
14. Nov. 2013 NinjaSphere Kickstarter Yes
AUD $397,346 / $115,000
03/2014 -
20. Nov. 2013 Touch Board Kickstarter Yes
£122,907 / £15,000
03/2014 -
21. Nov. 2013 Neptune Pine SmartWatch Kickstarter Yes
CAD $801,224 / $100,000
01/2014 -
22. Nov. 2013 1Sheeld Arduino Shield Kickstarter Yes
$85,210 / $10,000
05/2014 -
23. Nov. 2013 Qubi Android Media Center Kickstarter No
$34,032 / $500,000
07/2014 - Project will go forward on its own
24. Nov. 2013 AlmaDom.us Indiegogo No
$663 / $150,000
06/2014 - Campaign still in progress (sort of)

Hall of Shame

Let’s get the projects with the worse possible outcome – backers money transferred to project owner, but perks never delivered – out of the way first. The worst project featured on CNX Software has to be FocusWill Coolship. This Linux keyboard powered by Rockchip RK3066 seemed promising, but the funds have just gone to money heaven, as the devices were never delivered, the Indiegogo page has disappeared, as well as FocusWill website, the company behind the project.

Stealth Nighthawk F-117A, not the fighter jet, but an HDMI TV Stick based on Broadcom BCM2835 (as found in the Raspberry Pi) capable of running XBMC, comes in second. The campaign was never successful, as it raised $7,404 out of $40,000, but the company still got the money thanks to Indiegogo flexible funding option. The company promised the device to backers, but none of them seem to have received it.

Most Projects Are Delayed

Out of the 41 campaigns, 9 projects did not get funding at all. Out of these 9, only 2 or 3 appear to have definitely been canceled, with the others just carrying development and manufacturing on their own. So a total of 5 products will never seen the light of day, meaning although 75.6% of projects get funded, 87.8% of products may be mass-produced. The Crowdfunding reality is probably much lower, as projects getting media exposure are obviously the most interesting ones.

Failure to meet the estimated delivery is a recurring issue with most crowd-funded projects. Many are just delayed one of two, but some others go way beyond that time frame, such as PlayJam GameStick (6-month delay), and the “Plug”, now called Lima, with project completion now estimated to be in spring 2014 instead of December 2013.

Hall of Fame

The Mojo, an FPGA development board which raised an impressive $100,000, well over their initial $7,000 funding target, appears to be the only fully funded project that delivered perks on time. The project was successfully funded on March 24, 2013, and according to updates and comments, the boards shipped in April, just as promised.

Special mentions go to:

  • The UDOO board, as they were very successfully with over $640,000 pledge for the Freescale i.MX6 Linux and Arduino boards, and manage to deliver most perks in October (Starting on the 4th), against a promised delivery in September.
  • Iteaduino Plus, despite failing to gather the complete funds, still received orders because the project was on a flexible funding campaign, and managed to ship perks on September 2013, just as promised. Actual delivery took a long time however, even 2 months in some cases, due to the shipping method used.

That’s all for today. If you have a good or bad crowd-funding experience to share, feel free to do so in the comments section.

Merry Xmas everyone !!!

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