A hardware platform for the Brazilian IoT program

Doghouse – IoT

Article from Issue 218/2019
Author(s):

In conjunction with Caninos Loucos, maddog helps develop a hardware platform for the Brazilian IoT project.

I have been spending a lot of time in Latin America recently, in particular Brazil. The object of my visits has been the Brazilian Internet of Things (IoT) program and the project Caninos Loucos ("Crazy Canines," in Portuguese).

The Brazilian government formulated a plan a couple of years ago to stimulate IoT in Brazil. They feel that the IoT industry could generate more than $200 billion in goods and services, and perhaps as much as 20 percent of the Brazilian Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will depend on technologies used in IoT.

Some time ago, I cofounded Caninos Loucos [1] along with Dr. Marcelo Zuffo of LSITEC, an NGO associated with the University of Sao Paulo.

At first, the project was just to allow high school and university students to purchase a single-board computer similar to the Raspberry Pi, which (for many reasons) can cost more than $120 in Brazil.

Then, the objective was to create a computer that could also easily be used for commercial products: one that could operate at commercial temperatures, have good electrostatic discharge (ESD) protection, possess a good number of standard buses, and to do this in an "open" way.

The project was also to stimulate other digital design projects and products, to give interesting work to computer engineers and electrical engineers, and to create more manufacturing jobs inside of Brazil and Latin America.

Then Dr. Zuffo became aware of the Brazilian IoT program. Traveling to the country's capital, he convinced that program that Caninos Loucos could design, develop, and manufacture a line of computers that would be the hardware platform.

We determined that we needed three systems to start, and since the project was "Crazy Canines," we named them after dogs.

The Labrador (the friendly dog) was the first. It was targeted to be a design platform, with a System on a Module (SoM) "core board" that contained the ARM four-core 32-bit CPU, a GPU, memory, and flash. The SoM talked to a motherboard that contained all the I/O controllers, power management, ESD, and connectors through a 204-pin DIMM connector. More interested in having the system be flexible and useful than just "inexpensive," we aimed for a balanced system in CPU, memory, and I/O. We also believe that, by using the SoM technology, we can safeguard the design of motherboards designed and manufactured today by standardizing on the 204-pin bus structure. Core boards of the future (with faster and more capable system units) will be able to drive the motherboards of today.

The second system, the Pulga (the "flea"), was a tiny sensor computer, using an ARM M4F processor, 128K SRAM, and 512K flash on a SoM board, with the communications (Bluetooth 5.0 Mesh or LoRaWan) and sensors being on another board with a power source (battery or uber-capacitor) sandwiched between the two boards. The whole system would be the size of a 10-cent Brazilian coin (about the size of a dime in the US) and should be able to run for at least six months on a watch battery.

The third board was a blockchain router based on the Subutai Blockchain Router designed by my company OptDyn. OptDyn contributed the design to the project (the design is also available on GitHub) and cooperated with LSITEC in the further development of the board. The blockchain router is a powerful broadband router, NAS server (RAID 0-10 configurable), 802.11b/g/n, and IoT gateway. As an IoT gateway, you can mount an Arduino shield or use the 40 GPIO pins (compatible with the Raspberry Pi) to control IoT projects in your home or business. The SoC used in this system has an ARM four-core, 64-bit processor, as well as two two-core real-time processors and a field-programmable gateway array (FPGA). The system has up to 8GB of RAM for the operating system and 8GB of RAM for the FPGA.

Caninos Loucos has plans to develop 64-bit Labradors and more designs for the Pulgas, but we want to bring these designs to market to get the IoT program (software and applications) started.

It is not the intent of Caninos Loucos to turn LSITEC into a manufacturing plant. As these designs are created and perfected, LSITEC will be contracting with private companies to produce these systems under license and to make them available to anyone who wants them at the lowest possible prices. We also intend on embracing other motherboards designed and manufactured by other people and companies (and in other countries) to extend the capabilities of these boards.

The reception we have had for the design and production of these boards has been astounding. We hope to have these in large-scale manufacture in time to have them underneath your Christmas tree.

Infos

  1. Caninos Loucos: http://caninosloucos.org

The Author

Jon "maddog" Hall is an author, educator, computer scientist, and free software pioneer who has been a passionate advocate for Linux since 1994 when he first met Linus Torvalds and facilitated the port of Linux to a 64-bit system. He serves as president of Linux International®.

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