Intel has been active in Internet of Things product releases. As part of IDF 2014 keynote, Intel has announced that their Edison development platform is now shipping. First announced back at CES, Edison is a development platform for Intel’s burgeoning Internet of Things development initiative. Intel is upping their bid for a place at the efficient-yet-powerful device table. Intel is pushing to break into both wearable devices and household devices, as it sees both as huge opportunities for growth. The plan seems to be that Edison Leads Intel into Wearables. Having largely missed the smartphone opportunity, Intel is clearly stepping on the gas to get ahead of the game in IoT.
Edison is very tiny x86 board. Phone chip (22nm Merrifield smartphone processor) powers consumer IoT drive: Edison is just over a postage stamp in size (35.5mm x 25.0mm) and containing a dual-core Atom CPU (500 MHz) and a Quark CPU (100 MHz). The 500 MHz Silvermont-class Atom is the main processor. Quark CPU (Lakemont-class core) acts as a sensor hub, scrubbing noise from accelerometers and other sensors. There is also 1 GB LPDDR3, 4 GB EMMC, and dual-band WiFi and Bluetooth® Low Energy on a module the size of a postage stamp.
With it Intel is hoping to jump-start development of tiny internet-connected x86 devices by providing a complete platform for developers to use in their devices. Originally envisioned to be an x86 computer stuffed into an SD card form factor, this tiny platform for wearables, consumer electronic designers, and the Internet of Things has apparently been redesigned a few times over the last few months. The current Edison is an upgrade from the initial concept announced a few months earlier.
For input and output connections Edison has a 70-pin connector to break out 40 pins for add-on hardware. In real life applications, Edison module would be pretty useless by itself, you also need a base board of some kind to have sensible access to signals. Additional development boards to expand its functionality and access its I/O. Intel is demonstrating both a simple USB board and a more complex development boards for this task. There is a board that offers Arduino compatibility ($99) by providing Arduino R3 headers on there and software support to program with Arduino programming language. That’s interesting, and makes a fair bit of sense: there are thousands of Arduino-compatible shields out there. In this way developers take advantage of the current Arduino development ecosystem.
There will also be other boards and projects. Sparkfun Electronics has developed 14 stackable boards for Edison (the use a somewhat obscure Hirose 3mm connector may hold up their commercial availability for some time). So far, Intel has spawned about 40 Edison projects (check project gallery).
The price of the Edison is said to be 49$USD and it is shipping now (Intel gave IDF2014 attendees with the $50 module and a development board for free). Wireless connectivity looks pretty nice with WiFi and Bluetooth out of the box (Broadcom 11n Wi-Fi chip with dual antennas). Intel has the Product Brief for some more details. Read also Hands On with the Intel Edison article from Hack A Day.
The Intel Edison module now supports Linux. Intel ships Edison with a version of its Yocto distribution (It’s not quite a distribution but instead an Embedded Linux build system). The Intel Edison module will initially support development with Arduino* and C/C++, followed by Node.JS, Python, RTOS, and Visual Programming support in the near future.
Edison provides good connectivity for many current mainstream IoT uses: OEMs often turn to WiFi and Bluetooth Low Energy links for IoT applications first, given their relatively high bandwidth and low power consumption. What if you want to add mobile connectivity to to your tiny IoT device (mobility, reliability, and security)? Intel has also solution to it in mind. Intel announced a 3G cellular modem XMM 6255 with an integrated power amplifier that fits into a 300 mm2 footprint, claiming it is the smallest such chip (proves 3G and 2G connections). Intel targets the XMM 6255 at Internet of Things uses in areas such as healthcare monitors and advertising. The modem is currently shipping in modules from U-blox AG. For LTE you can use XMM 7260 modem (used in Samsung Galaxy Alpha).
How this board would compare to some other Embedded platforms?
The combination of Edison and Arduino inteface board could be compared to Intel’s “Galileo” board, which is based on Quark (at 400MHz) and is Arduino compatible, but there are differences. Edison has a substantially punchier CPU; but no PCIe, wired ethernet, and includes wifi and BT. The teeny little one has relatively high powered CPU for a small device; but not the high speed expansion bus or wired networking.
Edison board is almost SD card sized IoT board. When the Intel Edison was first announced, speculation ran rampant that is would take on the form factor of an SD card (like Electric Imp). The end result was was 35.5mm x 25.0 mm for factor that is just barely larger than an SD card. Electonic Imp packs an ARM microcontroller and a WiFi adapter into an SD card. The Electric Imp card itself will sell for about $25, but there are also dev kits to turn the Imp into an Arduino-compatible board. Electonic Imp is cheaper and has much less powerful CPU and less IO pins.
Edison is based on mobile chip like Raspberry Pi. Most probably Edison has more raw CPU power than Raspberry Pi and is considerably smaller. What Edison is lacking are wire Ethernet and display connections.
As Hands On with the Intel Edison article says: This isn’t a Raspi killer, a Beaglebone killer, a TI CC3200 killer, or an ESP8266 killer. It’s an x86 board, with WiFi, Bluetooth and Linux that can toggle a few pins. It’s something different than existing platforms, which is a good thing.