The Intel® Edison development board is a small size, low cost, low power platform targeted for makers and embedded developers alike. It is capable of running linux and may empower the next generation of small devices including wearables, robotics and the Internet of Things (IoT), all on a module the size of a stamp. [1]

Intel® Edison compared to a Stamp. Source: Anandtech
Fig. 1 - Intel® Edison compared to a Stamp. Source: Anandtech.

Table of Contents

Hardware Features:

  • x86 System on Chip [Intel® Atom™ Dual Core CPU at 500MHz + 32-bit Intel® Quark™ microcontroller at 100 MHz]
  • 1GB LPDDR3 RAM
  • 2.4GHz / 5GHz (Dual Band) WiFi 802.11a/b/g/n + Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE 4.0) (Broadcom 43340 module)
  • 4GB eMMC NAND Flash Memory Storage
  • SD, UART, SPI, GPIO and USB 2.0 On-the-Go (OTG) Interface support [2]
Intel® Edison Module - Top Side without Shield
Fig. 2 - Intel® Edison Module - Top Side without Shield.
Intel® Edison Module - Bottom Side without Shield
Fig. 3 - Intel® Edison Module - Bottom Side without Shield.

Software Features:

  • Capable of running Yocto Linux
  • Support for Arduino IDE and Eclipse (C, C++, Python)
  • Future Support for Intel XDK (Node.JS, HTML5), Wolfram, Visual Programming and RTOS MCU SDK/IDE

Prototyping Hardware

The Intel® Edison board has a 70-pin Hirose connector for interfacing with the outside world. This is an extremely high pitch connector which makes it difficult for makers to use the pins directly in their applications. To jump start the development, Intel® has released a Mini Breakout Kit for powering it up and basic prototyping. Also, an Arduino Breakout Kit is available for maintaining shield compatibility and easy interfacing with user's already created applications.

Intel® Edison and Mini Breakout Kit for initial power up and prototyping. Source: SparkFun
Fig. 4 - Intel® Edison and Mini Breakout Kit. Source: SparkFun.
Intel® Edison and Arduino Breakout Kit for shield compatibility and easy interfacing with user's already created applications. Source: SparkFun
Fig. 5 - Intel® Edison and Arduino Breakout Kit. Source: SparkFun.

To access the GPIOs and different interfaces of Edison through the 70-pin Hirose connector, SparkFun Electronics has created 'blocks'. They can be stacked on top of one another to add functionality to the bare Edison module. Some of them worth noting here are - Intel® Edison Block - 9 Degrees of Freedom (for orientation sensing), Intel® Edison Block - Dual H-Bridge (for direction and speed control of two DC motors), Intel® Edison Block - OLED (for interfacing with an OLED Display), etc. [3]

Pinout of the 70-pin Hirose Interface Connector:

Intel® Edison Module Connector Pinout
Fig. 6 - Intel® Edison Module Connector Pinout. [2]

More Information about External Interfaces and General Purpose Input Output (GPIO) pins:

Interface   Number of Controllers/Ports
UART   1 full flow control (Tx, Rx, CTS, RTS) + 1 with Rx/Tx only
I²C   2
SPI   1
I²S   1
USB 2.0 OTG   1
GPIO   12 (4 with PWM capability)
SD Card   1

Yocto Linux Support: Yocto linux is used by embedded developers to create custom linux distributions tailored to their designs. Support for this level of customisation may inspire third-party app developers to build apps for consumers. Building linux distributions from scratch requires basic understanding of *nix commands. A thorough explanation is given here - Intel® Edison Board Support Package. It is just a matter of using commands like bitbake and Poky (Poky is a build system used to construct complete Linux images for the Yocto Project.). Note that building all the packages for the first time may take approximately 5 or 6 hours to complete. [4]

If you are not interested in creating your own linux distribution, you may download a pre-built, pre-compiled Yocto linux image for your Edison from Intel's website. We are yet to confirm if Edison comes pre-installed with a Yocto distribution. If you need to install/upgrade the Yocto binary on your Edison, you may download the "Edison Yocto complete image" here. You will need a Mini Breakout Kit or an Arduino Breakout Kit to flash the Edison. Then follow the instructions here: Flashing Edison (wired) - WindowsMac or Linux or Flashing Edison (WiFi) - Windows, Mac or Linux.

Most of the time, you will be interfacing to your Edison through a Console window. In Windows, PuTTY could be used. Macs have built in Terminal support. Using a Mini Breakout Kit for Edison, you can connect your Edison through the console.

Applications:

May be used for image processing applications involving OpenCV

Example - Simple Web Server Wi-Fi

Final Thoughts:

Let your handy little Arduino do the hardware control and let Edison be the brains for your next Wearable project. Edison is best suited to be acting as a host to Arduino (giving commands). You may use the UART interface to send commands, for example, to move motor A forward at 300 rpm while motor B is stopped. The example command would then be: $M1,F,300,M2,B,S#

Then, the Arduino may parse the Serial Stream of data and finally control the hardware. This is just an example but the possibilities are endless.

Edison is truly a Low Power device. It's internal voltage is 1.8V finally giving you the option to connect your 1.8V sensors directly, like the BMP180 without requiring a Logic Level Converter/Shifter.

There is no support for on-board external video output like VGA, HDMI but Intel has created this board to be used in final embedded projects like robots or flying objects like UAVs, planes, etc. It is supposed to be used by serious hackers and product developers.

You now have a low-cost, low-power Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) module at your disposal. Create the next big project for the Internet of Things.

References: