Banana Pi BPI-M64 Board Gets Allwinner R18 Processor with Google Cloud IoT Core Support

Banana Pi BPI-M64 board was launched with Allwinner A64 processor, but a few days ago, I noticed the board got an option for Allwinner R18. Both processors are likely very similar since they are pin-to-pin compatible, and Pine64 was first seen with Allwinner R18, so I did not really feel it was newsworthy. But today, Google announced Google Cloud IoT Core cloud service working with a few app partners such as Helium and Losant, as well as several device partners including ARM, Marvell, Microchip, Mongoose OS, NXP… and Allwinner, having just announced the release of an Allwinner R18 SDK with libraries supporting Google Cloud IoT Core.

Let’s go through the board specifications first which are exactly the same as for the original BPI-M64 board, except for the processor:

  • SoC – Allwinner R18 quad core ARM Cortex A53 processor with Mali-400MP2 GPU
  • System Memory – 2GB DDR3
  • Storage – 8GB eMMC flash (16, 32 and 64GB options), micro SD slot up to 256 GB
  • Video Output / Display interface – HDMI 1.4 up to 4K resolution @ 30 Hz, MIPI DSI interface
  • Audio – HDMI, 3.5 mm headphone jack, built-in microphone
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet + 802.11 b/g/n WiFi & Bluetooth 4.0 (AP6212)
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 host ports, 1x micro USB OTG port
  • Camera – MIPI CSI interface (which I guess you support parallel cameras via some kind of bridge)
  • Security – Hardware security enables ARM TrustZone, Digital Rights Management (DRM), information encryption/decryption, secure boot, secure JTAG and secure efuse
  • Expansion – 40-pin Raspberry Pi 2 somewhat-compatible header
  • Debugging – 3-pin UART header
  • Misc – IR receiver; U-boot, reset and power buttons;
  • Power – 5V via power barrel; 3.7V Lithium battery header; AXP803 PMIC

So from hardware perspective, there’s no advantage of getting the board with the new R18 processor. But the SDKs are somehow different, and based on Allwinner’s press release, only R18 processor gets Google Cloud IoT Core support.

Cloud IoT Core Overview

Some of the key benefits of Cloud IoT Core include:

  • End-to-end security – Enable end-to-end security using certificate-based authentication and TLS; devices running Android Things or ones supporting the Cloud IoT Core security requirements can deliver full stack security.
  • Out-of-box data Insights – Use downstream analytic systems by integrating with Google Big Data Analytics and ML services.
  • Serverless infrastructure: Scale instantly without limits using horizontal scaling on Google’s serverless platform.
  • Role-level data control – Apply IAM roles to devices to control access to devices and data.
  • Automatic device deployment – Use REST APIs to automatically manage the registration, deployment and operation of devices at scale.

Both Foxconn/SinoVoIP and Pine64 can offer Allwinner R18 platforms compatible with Google Cloud IoT Core via their Banana Pi BPI-M64 and Pine A64+ boards respectively.

Jean-Luc started CNX Software in 2010 as a part-time endeavor, before quitting his job as a software engineering manager, and starting to write daily news, and reviews full time later in 2011.

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tkaiser
tkaiser
3 years ago

Oh my… what a weird mind set behind this all (absolutely identical SoCs with different names and different chipid that are only allowed to run this or that ‘SDK’ based on this ID — when will Allwinner realize that this is plain stupid?)

BTW: You forgot to mention that Xunlong can produce an ‘OPi CloudIoT’ (‘OPi Win’ with A64 replaced by R18) and same with FriendlyELEC’s NanoPi A64. At least now we know why hardware vendors still rely on these uninteresting chips in 2017 and release new boards with them.

tkaiser
tkaiser
3 years ago


I forgot Olimex before, they also have finalized A64 designs where nothing has to be changed except of the SoC. At least now we also know why Allwinner is about to release a new kernel 4.4 BSP variant (Google must have had a laugh when Allwinner was telling them that all they have is either kernel 3.4.39 or 3.10.65)

JotaMG
JotaMG
3 years ago

cnxsoft:
You miss a R in the title…

tkaiser
tkaiser
3 years ago

BTW: I was wrong above, it’s not about chipid but a different bit as can be seen here: Shell ic check fail,IC must=H8,but id=0x00000001 1 ic check fail,IC must=H8,but id=0x00000001 http://forum.linksprite.com/index.php?/topic/4516-lm-sensors-no-worky/#entry12084 Allwinner’s A83T and H8 are as similar (identical) as A64 and R18 we’re talking here about but H8 was only ‘allowed’ to run Android 4.4 while A83T (different business unit) supported ‘even’ 5.1 (and the above check should ensure that H8 users could not enjoy an Android version exceeding 4.4). In case Allwinner implements something similar now with A64 and R18 (the ‘ic check’ above) to limit ‘SDKs’ to… Read more »

tkaiser
tkaiser
3 years ago


The idea to pay for Allwinner’s ‘software’ hurts! I hope someone at Allwinner takes eg. a Pine64 and then runs their latest own Android 6.0 on it and compares it to community’s (ayufan’s) Android 7.1. And I hope the same person then starts to think about what’s wrong with the way they’re doing software.

Jon Smirl
3 years ago

I implemented Amazon’s IOT core on the A64 months ago, there was nothing special about it. The only slightly unusual bit is that you need to use the secure keystore to hold the device’s private key. I seriously doubt if Google’s IOT core is significantly different than Amazon’s. The management at Allwinner does not know how to organize a SOC company. The people running Allwinner are clearly chip heads and they organize like a chip person views the world. News to Allwinner — organizing that way is an utter disaster for software development. You are institutionalizing “port and forget”. Chip… Read more »

theguyuk
theguyuk
3 years ago

Allwinner act like a company whose main market is dying and are licencing their IP in several different markets in a attempt to survive. Hence multiple SoC with bits added or removed. IMHO thats why they are so thread bare with software support, like Orange Pi they just make things software support is not priced in, maybe like CNX says for upport you pay extra?
Nanopi cost more but their is some software support. Mind you I know Nanopi don’t just sell to makers they sell to industry too, don’t know about Orange Pi.

Athar
Athar
3 years ago

This is why sane people should stay away from Allwinner type xPi “community” vendors and just go along the flow with those very available, very hackable, very supported, very cheap and best price/performance Amlogic/ RK devices that clearly are more than Android Boxes, 32/64bit.

The only exception is CHIP. But they chose to invest in professional help and thus are doing well now.

Repair jobs and excuses can’t help. This isn’t about those old Maytag commercials.

Ian beckett
Ian beckett
3 years ago

Is it not simply a material die shrink which you could argue is a good enough reason for Allwinner to move name A64 -> R18 ? Lower power, heat and better stability at higher clock speeds etc .. plus a few fixes and slightly updated cores .. sounds fair enough to me if that’s the case

tkaiser
tkaiser
3 years ago

Ian beckett :
Is it not simply a material die shrink

Nope, both R18 and A64 are 40nm (and the same chips BTW and R18 even appeared before A64 ‘in the wild’ — see above 😉 ). Allwinner’s 28nm offerings are A80 and A83T (the latter also known as H8, R58 and something with V) and soon H6 and A63.

JotaMG
JotaMG
3 years ago

In short, probably Jon Smirl view about Allwinner is the right one. According to the book they recently sent with the Banana Pi R40 gift, the Rxx series is for “smart hardware”, in contrast to “consumer electronics”, “home entertainment”, “automotive applications” and “industrial applications”. This all seem like business units, and that’s fine, except that they seem to be overlapping themselves. Many SoC’s appears to be really the same over units, with different names, so clearly, this units are not only about chips, there is also software and support involved. It is a strategy, like shooting in all directions, maybe… Read more »

itchy n scratchy
itchy n scratchy
3 years ago

We should start a Kickstarter campaign buying out allwinner 😛
After all we all know how to do it better 😀

Jon Smirl
3 years ago

@itchy n scratchy
Allwinner is worth over a billion dollars in the stock market. That’s going to be a huge Kickstarter.

Jon Smirl
3 years ago

@Jean-Luc Aufranc (CNXSoft) The R group is releasing a different SDK for the R18. They are not using the A64 one. That strongly suggests to me two sets of software people. A single software group would have simply added the R18 extras into the A64 SDK. You want a centralized Linux and Android group. Then inside that group you develop specialists. For example the DMA person, the UART person, the Ethernet person, etc. That person is responsible for driver support over all of the CPUs Allwinner makes. They become experts on this piece of the SOC. The output of this… Read more »

Jon Smirl
3 years ago

I really, really wish I could get Allwinner to support a public git tree. I have been asking them to do this for years without success. Hundreds of other people also ask them to do this. I believe the problem is that their legal department is confused about their contracts with Google. The legal depart is not differentiating Google’s released code and unreleased code and insisting that all access to Google code be protected by NDA. I have specifically been told by AW reps that the Google contract prevents them from making a public git tree. They are simply confused… Read more »

Jon Smirl
3 years ago

The last step in this process… Both AW and Orange PI have public git servers hosting their changes to Linux and Android.

There should be a constant only going effort to empty out those delta servers by getting their code checked into mainline AOSP and Linux. In a perfect world those servers would be quickly emptied after each new SOC is released.

Once the code ends up in mainline it can truly be in maintenance mode.

Jon Smirl
3 years ago

The A64 team made the A64 SDK and shipped it. Management then disbanded the A64 team and sent the various people out to work on new unreleased chips implementing SDKs for them inside the A division. That is classic “port and forget”. The A64 SDK is never going to get much in updates because no one is assigned to work on it any more. The R division has a completely different set of programmers. That’s because the R and A divisions compete at the General Manager level. Those GM’s bonuses are set on how well their division perform. So the… Read more »

tkaiser
tkaiser
3 years ago

@Jon Smirl I really hope someone at Allwinner has the balls to translate your points into Chinese for Allwinner’s management without altering contents so they might get the idea why they will fail especially in their new ‘R business’. I believe with their traditional markets the awful ‘port and forget’ style seemed to work well for them. Their only customers were hardware vendors living the same ‘company culture’: Once the cheap tablet or OTT box is out it’s already forgot, zero support, zero updates, let’s move on to the next piece of hardware before customer takes notice and sell them… Read more »

Jon Smirl
3 years ago

The BPI people have it, they have not managed to get it onto a public server yet. They are going to put it up, I think they are just fighting with the stupid 8GB file.

As you can tell I have worked in chip companies behaving like this. That’s where the term “chip head” for a division manager who is excellent at chips and who knows nothing about software comes from. I didn’t make it up.

I just gave Allwinner about $50M worth of advice. My ex-employer lost way more than that learning those lessons.

JotaMG
JotaMG
3 years ago

Jon Smirl :
In the current model Google patches AOSP, and then almost zero AW customers end up with the security patch.

To be fair, this is not only a Allwinner problem, 90% of us all have that deficit in our Android phones, tablets, etc, no matter what the Soc maker is.
This is beginning to hurt Google, so I guess this “business model” (mentality?) will change with time.

And, thanks Jon Smirl for the very fine lecture!

Tkaiser:
I think Chinese management can read English very well… 😉

Jon Smirl
3 years ago

There are signs that Allwinner is starting to see how the strategy I described works. Consider the A13 and then the R8. When the A13 first came out it was their flagship chip. Of course they did “port and forget” on it and dropped the software. But someone had the smarts to see that flagship chips can be repurposed as a low end model with very little expenditure. So this smart person launched the R8 taking advantage of the free R&D from the A13. If you happen to own fabs this strategy can really pay off since your flagship chips… Read more »

Jon Smirl
3 years ago

They will also quickly learn that their automotive chips are going nowhere without a minimum ten year longevity guarantee.

Jon Smirl
3 years ago

@JotaMG There are two factors messing with Google and Android. The first factor is vendors doing “port and forget” like Allwinner does. That one can be fixed. The second factor is much more worrisome. Some companies (like Qualcomm) are purposely trying to create churn in the phone market in order to generate revenue. Places like Qualcomm are trying to stack things so that you have to buy a new phone every two years so they will get another huge patent royalty check (as high as $10/phone). Qualcomm has been “encouraging” this churn by refusing to update drivers for chips more… Read more »

jacky
jacky
3 years ago

itchy n scratchy :
We should start a Kickstarter campaign buying out allwinner
After all we all know how to do it better

I come from China, I support you!

tkaiser
tkaiser
3 years ago

Jon Smirl :
The BPI people have it, they have not managed to get it onto a public server yet. They are going to put it up

So when did ‘the BPI people’ deliver? Where’s what they put on a public server? Where’s their try to behave nicelyl in terms of ‘open source’?

Anyway, we don’t need to wait for those guys any more. Allwinner vomited a huge pile of code in a single commit in the meantime. See yourself what’s different: https://github.com/tinalinux/linux-3.10/compare/r18-v0.9 😉

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