96Boards Unveils Four A.I. Developer Platforms: HiKey 970, Ultra96, ROCK960 PRO & Enterprise Edition

Many new processors include a Neural Processing Unit (NPU) – aka Neural Network Accelerator (NNA) – in order to speed up talks associated with artificial intelligence, such as object or other patterns recognitions.

With Linaro Connect Hong Kong 2018, 96Boards has just unveiled four development boards specifically designed for artificial intelligence solution with Hikey 970 powered by Hisilicon Kirin 970 processor, Ultra96 based on Xilinx Zynq UltraScale+ ZU3EG ARM+ FPGA SoC,  and ROCK960 PRO & Enterprise Edition featuring the upcoming Rockchip RK3399Pro processor.

Hikey 970

Preliminary specifications:

  • SoC – Kirin 970 with 4x Cortex A73 @ 2.36GHz,  4x Cortex A53 @ 1.8GHz, Arm Mali G72-MP12 GPU, NPU with 256MAC/cycle @ 960MHz
  • System Memory – 6GB 1866MHz, 4 Channel LPDDR4x
  • Storage  -64GB UFS storage, micro SD card slot
  • Video Output – HDMI 1.4 up to 1080p60
  • Camera – 4 lanes CSI + 2 lanes CSI
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, wireless module, GPS, GLONASS, and BeiDou
  • USB – 2x USB 3.0 ports,  2x USB type C ports
  • Expansion
    • mPCIe connector
    • 40-pin 96Boards Low-speed expansion header
    • 60-pin 96Boards High speed expansion header
  • Power Supply – 8 to 18V via power barrel and maybe USB-C port?
  • 96Boards CE Extended

Huawei HiAI SDK delivers up to 25 times performance, and/or 50 times the power efficiency, and the latest HiAI SDK V150 supports Caffe, TensorFlow, TensorFlow Lite, and Android NN frameworks, and various tools

The board is expected to be used for deep learning in the automotive, robotics, and smart cities sectors . It will be available “shortly”, but no price info for now.


Click to Enlarge


  • SoC – Xilinx Zynq UltraScale+ MPSoC ZU3EG A484 with four Cortex A53 cores, two Cortex-R5 core, Arm Mali-400MP2 GPU, and FPGA Fabric
  • System Memory – 2 GB (512M x32) LPDDR4 Memory
  • Storage – 16 GB MicroSD card + adapter pre-loaded with PetaLinux environment
  • Video Output – Mini DisplayPort (MiniDP or mDP)
  • Connectivity – Wi-Fi / Bluetooth
  • USB – 1x USB 3.0 Type Micro-B upstream port,  2x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0 Type A downstream ports
  • Expansion
    • 40-pin 96Boards Low-speed expansion header
    • 60-pin 96Boards High speed expansion header
  • Power Supply – [email protected]
  • Dimensions – 85mm x 54mm form factor (96Boards Consumer Edition compatible)
Block Diagram – Click to Enlarge

Development can be done with SDSoC Development Environment or Vivado Design Suite, and supported software stacks include reVISION, OpenCV, and Caffe.

The board can be used for machine learning, automotive (driver assistance, infotainment, etc…) and Industrial IoT.

Ultra96 CE board can be pre-ordered now on AVNet for an undisclosed price (you’d need to request for a quote), but the price should be $249 with delivery in 6 weeks.

ROCK960 PRO & Enterprise Edition

ROCK960 PRO – Click to Enlarge

The PRO version is the basically the existing ROCK960 board with Rockchip RK3399 replaced by Rockchip RK3399Pro with NPU.

But there’s also another features-packed ROCK960 Enterprise Edition board with the following preliminary specifications:

  • Soc – Rockchip RK3399Pro hexa core processor with 2x Cortex A72 cores, 4x Cortex A53 cores, Mali-T860MP4 GPU, and 2.4 TOPS capable NPU (apparently CEVA NeuPro).
  • System Memory – Up to 4GB RAM
  • Storage – Dual SATA 3.0 port with RAID 0/1 support
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0/eDP up to 4K @ 60 Hz
  • Camera – Dual MIPI CSI interfaces
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11ac WiFi
  • USB – 3x USB 3.0 ports, 5x USB 2.0 ports
  • Expansion – PCIe 2.1 x16 slot
  • Remote Management – 4G LTE, management port
  • 96Boards Enterprise Edition
Click to Enlarge

Rockchip collaborated with Open AI Lab to port Open AID on ROCK960 allowing for easier development of vision and speech applications on the edge. Vamrs ROCK960 RK3399Pro boards are expected to launch later in Q2 2018.

For more details on all three boards, head over the dedicated 96Boards AI website. Documentation is still very much under construction at this stage , but it should get better over time. Ultra96 seems to be have the most up-to-date documentation at the time of writing.

The boards were also unveiled, and in the case of Ultra96 showcased at Linaro Connect HK’s keynote by George Grey, Linaro CEO.  Linaro/96Boards also announced the availability of DragonBoard 820c, and you can order it for $421. The board will also support artificial intelligence acceleration in H2 2018.

They start talking at 12:58 detailing the schedule of Linaro Connect for the week, but the keynote itself begins at 21:40, and you’ll want to fast-forward to  58:00 for the section about the new “A.I.” 96Boards.

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