Mediatek Labs has launched a new IoT development, which on the surface looks similar to LinkIt Smart 7688 board, but the internal design is quite different as the MIPS processor and Linux OS, have been replaced by Mediatek MT7697 ARM Cortex-M4 processor running FreeRTOS, and beside WiFi, also includes support for Bluetooth 4.2 LE.
LinkIt 7697 board specifications:
Wireless SoC – Mediatek MT7697 ARM Cortex M4F MCU @ 192 MHz with 352KB RAM, 4MB flash, 802.11 b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.2 LE and a PMU
Misc – Reset and user buttons; power and user LEDs
Power Supply – 5V via micro USB port
Dimensions – 48 x 26 mm
Pinout Diagram – Click to Enlarge
The board can be programmed with the Arduino IDE, or if you need more control LinkIt SK for RTOS. The documentation is available on Mediatek Labs LinkIt MT7697 page. We’ll note that the board is based on Wrtnode7 module, also found in the upcoming 96Boards WRTnode IE board. Mediatek MT7697 appears to competes directly with Espressif ESP32, and already comes with a 5GHz variant (MT7697D).
Mediatek MT7697 SoC Block Diagram
LinkIt 7697 board is up for pre-order for $13.90 on Seeed Studio, and there’s also a Grove Starter Kit for LinkIt 7697 selling with breakout board, and plenty of module for $150. The board and starter kit should ship on June 15, 2017…
There are serious security issues with the Internet of Things at all levels: hardware, software, network, and end-users. Microsoft Research NExT Operating Systems Technologies Group has been tasked with “exploring the goal of securing the vast number of low cost Internet connected devices coming online” with Project Sopris. They have shared their first technical report that identifies “seven properties of highly secure devices”, and describes their experiments towards designing microcontroller based prototype devices adapted from Mediatek MT7687 MIPS microcontroller, and exhibiting those seven properties.
Experimental Sopris Developer Board
The seven properties identifies by Microsoft team include:
Hardware-based Root of Trust – Unforgeable cryptographic keys generated and protected by hardware. Physical countermeasures resist side-channel attacks.
Small Trusted Computing Base – Private keys stored in a hardware-protected vault, inaccessible to software. Division of software into self-protecting layers.
Defense in Depth – Multiple mitigations applied against each threat. Countermeasures mitigate the consequences of a successful attack on any one vector.
Compartmentalization – Hardware-enforced barriers between software components prevent a breach in one from propagating to others.
Certificate-based Authentication – Signed certificate, proven by unforgeable cryptographic key, proves the device identity and authenticity.
Renewable Security – Renewal brings the device forward to a secure state and revokes compromised assets for known vulnerabilities or security breaches.
Failure Reporting – A software failure, such as a buffer overrun induced by an attacker probing security, is reported to cloud-based failure analysis system.
After noticing that most traditional MCUs lacks all of those 7 properties, they decided to modify Mediatek MT7687 whose block diagram is shown below…
… and replaced the crypto engines and hardware RNG with what Microsoft calls “Pluton security subsystem”, added a memory management unit (MMU) to the CPU, as well as more on-die SRAM. One this was done, they integrated in the prototype picture in the picture at the top of this post.
Linaro Connect Budapest 2017 is taking place this week in Hungary, and during George Grey – Linaro CEO – keynote, he provided a status updates for the Linaro group, addressed some of Linaro’s criticisms from members and the community, and unveiled two upcoming boards compliant with 96Boards IoT edition both running Zephyr OS, and adding to BLE Carbon board announced last year.
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The first board is BlueSky IE board with the following key specifications:
System Memory – 485KB SRAM. It’s unclear if that’s only the on-chip SRAM, and there’s also some external PSRAM added.
Storage – 8Mb NOR flash 802.11 b / g / n HT20 / 40 mode
Connectivity – 802.11 b/g/n WiFi with support for HT20 / 40 modes
Crypto security hardware
The second board is WRTnode IE:
SoC – Mediatek MT7697 ARM Cortex-M4 wireless MCU @ up to 192MHz with 64KB ROM, 353 KB SRAM
Storage – 4Mb NOR flash
Connectivity – 802.11 b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth 4.2 LE
Crypto security hardware
Neither boards are available now, and Linaro and their members must still be working on them before the launch. There’s currently very little information about RDA5981(A) MCU except on some Chinese websites, but you’ll find many more resources for Mediatek MT7697. Mr Grey also demo’ed Orange Pi i96 board announced last year with an Ubuntu distribution developed by Shenzhen Xunlong Software.
Linaro also announced four new members with Acer joining the Linaro IoT and Embedded (LITE) Group, Guizhou Huaxintong Semiconductor Technology Co., Ltd (HXT Semiconductor) & Fujitsu Limited coming to the Linaro Enterprise Group (LEG), with the latter also joining as founding member of the LEG High Performance Computing Special Interest Group (HPC SIG), and Google joined as a Club member.
You might be interested in watching the keynote with all those announcements, and to be more up-to-date with Linaro’s progress.
There used to be a time when most products were based on a general purpose MCU or processor that you would interface to over chips like audio codecs, memory chips, flash storage, etc…, but in order to cut costs, application specific SoCs have become quite common over the year, so we’ve had mobile application processors for several years already, but more recently we got “wearables” SoCs and “Smart Home” SoCs, and Mediatek has launched MT2533D “headphone” SiP (System-in-Package) combining a Cortex-M4 MCU, 4MB PSRAM, an audio codec, and a dual mode Bluetooth subsystem.
Mediatek MT2533D specifications:
MCU – ARM Cortex-M4 @ up to 208MHz with 32KB L1 cache, FPU, MPU, AES 128/192/256 crypto engine and TRNG
Memory – 160kB SRAMs, 4MB pseudo SRAM
Storage – 4MB flash
Wireless Connectivity – Bluetooth 4.2 dual mode (classic and low energy)
AAC/SBC for Bluetooth audio
CVSD/mSBC for Bluetooth speech
PCM playback: 8-48kHz sample rate
PCM record: 8kHz and 16kHz sample rate
Dual-mic noise suppression and acoustic echo cancellation
Hardware 2D accelerator
DBI serial interface up to 320×320 @ 30 fps
1-lane MIPI DSI interface up to 480×320 @ 30 fps
Camera – Mediatek camera serial interface up to VGA resolution @ 30 fps with YUV422 or RGB565
3x UARTs, 3x I2Cs
6x PWMs, 4x SPI masters, SPI slave
Up to 38 GPIOs
Package – 172-ball TFBGA with 0.4mm pitch
Dimensions – 6.2 x 5.8 x 1.05 mm
Ambient temperature – -40°C to 85°C
There are interfaces for small displays and low resolution cameras, as well as a fair amount of I/Os, so it could certainly be use for audio applications outside of simple headphones, not matter how “smart” they may be.
One interesting part is that I did not get the news from MediaTek, but instead MediaTek Labs, Mediatek’s Internet of Things (IoT) developer program, and MT2533 is supported by the MediaTek LinkIt Development Platform for RTOS based on FreeRTOS. That means the SiP will be available to makers, and not only large companies, and development and debugging can be done in ARM Keil μVision, IAR Embedded Workbench and GCC like other LinkIt platforms. A development board or, like Mediatek calls it, an HDK (Hardware Development Kit), based on MT2533D could also be launched in the near future.
However Mediatek Labs only mentioned that MT2533D will be available to device makers in Q1 2017, and the developer documentation and tools will be released in Q3 2017, so we will have to wait for a while before being able to play with the platform. More details can be found on MT2533D product page.
Mediatek has just announced upgrades to their Helio X20 and X25 deca-core processors with respectively Helio X23 and X27 boasting higher CPU and GPU frequencies, higher camera quality, as well as lower power consumption thanks to MiraVision EnergySmart Screen power-saving technology.
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The two new processor still feature MediaTek tri-cluster deca-core architecture with two ARM Cortex A72 cores, four ARM Cortex A53 core, and 4 more low power Cortex A53 cores, but Helio X23 Cortex A72 cores’ max CPU frequency increased from 2.1 GHz to 2.3 GHz, and Helio X27 got a small boost to 2.6 GHz for the Cortex A72 cores (vs 2.5 GHz) and 1.6 GHz for the low power Cortex A53 cluster, as well as a higher frequency ARM Mali-T880 MP4 GPU at 875 MHz instead of 850 MHz for Helio X25.
MediaTek Helio X23 and X27 also support dual camera photography with the upgraded MediaTek Imagiq image signal-processing solution integrating color and mono cameras and depth-of-field applications into a single ISP.
MiraVision EnergySmart Screen technology modifies the display parameters based on the on-screen content and ambient light in order to deliver up to 25% reduction in display power consumption. The processors also integrate an Envelope Tracking Module dynamically adjusting the output voltage based on signal strength from the power amplifier for an average of 15% reduction in power consumption during peak output.
The company did not give any specific availability for smartphones powered by MediaTek Helio X23 and X27, except it will be available “soon”. You’ll find a few more details on Mediatek Helio X20 series product page.
I’ve recently received a new Android 6.0 Marshmallow smartphone powered by Mediatek Helio X20 processor, namely Vernee Apollo Lite, and one of the issues I encountered is that some applications such as Firefox and MAPS.ME would crash when I tried to launch them. The problem was reproducible 100% of the time, and occurred from the very first time I tried to start the app. I’d get a message like “Unfortunately MAPS.ME has stopped” with two buttons: REPORT or OK.
So I asked on Vernee forums to report the issue, and see if other people had the same problem. One replied had the same problem, but a simple reboot would fix the issue, while the other proposed to clear the cache. I had not considered that option since the crash occurred from the very first time, but I tried anyway. Go to the App list, drag and drop the problematic app to App Info.
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Then tap on Storage to access the options to clear cache or data. MAPS.ME used 12KB data, and 12KB cache. I tapped on Clear Data, and tried to launch the app. Same issue. But then I also noticed the app was installed in the SD card, which I used a “device storage” also referred as “Adoptable storage” in Android 6.0. So I tapped on Change, and selected Internal storage instead.
It still failed, but I decided to reboot the phone to check whether it would work, and I could see the message “Optimizing 1 of 1 app” during boot, and tried launched MAPS.NE again and success!
I successfully repeated the same procedure, i.e. moving the app from SD card to Internal Storage and rebooting the phone, with Firefox. It’s possible that it might be a Mediatek Android 6.0 SDK bug, rather than a bug specific to my device, so hopefully it may help others too.
More and more devices are supporting voice interaction nowadays from your smartphone to devices like Amazon Echo, but so far, I had not seen development boards specifically designed for that purpose, and that’s exactly what Seeed Studio ReSpeaker board does by combining audio capabilities, WiFi connectivity, and I/O headers.
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ReSpeaker Core board specifications:
WiFi Module – Acsip AI7688 Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n module based on Mediatek MT7688 MIPS SoC
Storage – micro SD card slot
USB – 1x micro USB port for programming and power
Audio – 3.5mm AUX port, WM8960 audio codec, 2-pin header for external speakers
Expansion – 2x 8-pin expansion headers for I2C, GPIO and USB 2.0 host connected to MT7688, built-in microphone.
Beside the core board, the company also offers two add-on boards such as Grove Extension board to add I2C, UART, digital or analog Grove modules to your projects, and a Microphone array board with 7 microphones and 12 LEDs.
Mic Array (Top Left), Grove Extension (Bottom Left), and Meow King Drive Unit (Right)
Finally if you want something hackable, but looking more like a consumer product, Seeed Studio has partnered with Meow King Audio Electronic to design Meow King Drive Unit with a 5W speaker and taking ReSpeaker Core and Mic Array boards. ReSpeaker Core is also compatible with ESP8266 based Wio Link, and its graphical setup interface.
Some fun projects include a smart speaker answering your questions, weather forecasting decorative cloud, voice controlled meeting scheduler, talking “I’m thirsty” flower, smart photo album showing photos from a given date or event, and more…
The project has launched on Kickstarter a few hours ago, and already raised $37,000 out of its $40,000 funding target. ReSpeaker Core with a 8GB micro SD card requires a $39 pledge (early bird, $59 normal), which goes up to $89 with ReSpeaker Mic Array, and $139 with the complete Meow King Drive unit kit with all necessary boards. There are many other rewards to choose from with various sensors, bundles, etc… Shipping is not included, and adds $10 for standard shipping (Tip: select Hong Kong irregardless of your country), or $20 for DHL shipping according to their latest update. Delivery is scheduled for November 2016, except for the Meow King kit (January 2017).
PS: I have an early sample of ReSpeaker Core board, and I’ll post a review/guide in a few days.
Mediatek introduced Helio X20 last year with a tri-cluster architecture comprised of 2 powerful ARM Cortex A72 cores, 4 Cortex A53 cores, and 4 extra Cortex A53 cores operating at a lower frequency, and optimized for power consumption. But now that ARM has introduced ultra-low power Cortex A35 cores, and more powerful Cortex A73 cores, the Taiwanese company has been able to improve its tri-cluster implementation for the upcoming Helio X30 deca-core processor with 2 Cortex A73 cores @ up to 2.8 GHz, 4 Cortex A53 cores @ up to 2.2 GHz, and 4 Cortex A35 cores @ up to 2.0 GHz.
According to various sources on Weibo, the mobile processor also includes an Imagination PowerVR 7XT GPU, supports up to 8GB LPDDR4 RAM @ 1600 MHz (PoP – Package in Package), UFS 2.1 flash storage, up to 40MP camera sensors, and its cellular modem will support LTE Cat.10 to Cat.12.
Medaitek Helio X30 processor will be mass-produced using a 10nm manufacturing process in Q1 2017 and beyond, with Helio X30 smartphones likely launched at about the same time or in Q2 2017.