almost ten years from the enormous success of the Linksys WRT54G hacking,
bringing an affordable embedded Linux system to the masses. Since then, a huge amount
of incredible hacks came to light thanks to the popularity of cheap Linux
routers, like the TP-link TL-WR703N, my favorite.
Cambridge University came along and designed the Raspberry Pi, and this was the
first cheap mainstream single board computer to hit the market, followed
closely by a plethora of other options like the BeagleBone, the pcDuino, the Cubieboard
and many other.
platforms offer good processing power and a bunch of GPIOs and peripherals, but
I want more.
at the dodgy cell phone market in Shenzhen can buy you this really nice phone,
in a retail box with included headphones, charger and two batteries. This
phones core is a Spreadtrum SoC, with a dual core Cortex A5 running at 1.2GHz,
GSM, GPRS and WiFi connectivity, a big screen with capacitive touch and two
cameras that may not excite a photographer but seem good enough for some
serious OpenCV trickery.
So, my idea
is to make a development platform out of cheap Chinese SOCs! Mediatek produces
a nice range of chips with interesting features, with CPUs that can range from
a dual core Cortex A5 to an octacore with four Cortex A17 and four Cortex A7. These
chips are quite cool, because they’re designed to include a lot of
functionality in a single package, so my board will have a lot of features that
are not available on your average raspberry:
ample set of connectivity standards: WiFi, GSM GPRS and 3G (maybe LTE),
Bluetooth, GPS, ANT+
low power consumption, even while being connected to the network waiting for
battery charger and manager
slots for SDIO peripherals, and a bunch of SPI, UART, I2C ports and GPIOs
host and device
dual camera support for up to 20 megapixel sensor and up to full HD video
for cheap LCD screens and capacitive touch, plus HDMI output
I will also
design a cheaper, less powerful board for smaller applications.
All this goodness will enable a lot
of interesting projects, for example the first thing that comes to my mind is a
completely standalone home automation and alarm system, interfacing with e.g. an
ANT sensor network and using the GSM connection when the WiFi is not available
to alert the user.
But the first project that I
personally would like to build with this platform would be a port of the Open
Vehicle Monitoring System (http://www.openvehicles.com/), a small device that
you can connect to your electric car’s diagnostic port and allows you to
remotely check the battery state of charge and do all sorts of cool stuff like
turning the AC on before you get to the car or track it with the embedded GPS.
Hold on for the next article where I'll talk about the problems that I will have to deal with and more!