Haathi Board

Haathi Board aims to be a low cost and developer friendly platform for the iMXRT1050 SoC

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Camera traps are an invaluable tool for wildlife conservationists and researchers and can also be used as a tool to mitigate the Human-Animal conflict, especially with elephants. The new iMXRT SoC platform from NXP is interesting as it combines high performance with microcontroller characteristics like low power consumption, quick wake up and real timeliness. This makes it an ideal platfrom to develop a camera trap. This project aims to utilize this SoC and create a low cost and developer friendly board in the process that can be used to develop camera traps.

As our population increases, and our forest spaces shrink, there is increasing competition for resources. Habitat losses and fragmentation cause elephants in the forest to spread out to find food and water.  In India according to the Ministry of Environment and Forests more than 400 humans and 100 elephants die every year due to conflicts with human settlements (ref). The same report estimates crop loss in 100s of crores of rupees. A majority of the death and injury due to elephants is due to the two parties not knowing that they are in close proximity with each other, like the story of this schoolgirl. Crop loss due to elephants has now become a routine hardship that many farmers have to face.

A primary need is accurate early warning and deterrent systems that can alert stakeholders (farmers, wildlife-rangers) to elephant movements, so they can protect lives, and take measures to protect their crop. Apart from generating a warning, data collection on the frequency and extent of elephant migrations, raids and losses would go a long way in analyzing the situation, coming up with a tailor-made solution for each region and provide evidence for getting compensation from the government. A potential tech based tool that can provide assistance for this problem would be a camera trap.

Camera traps have been widely used in wildlife conservation and scientific research for decades now. It has enabled a non-intrusive method to capture rare events in remote locations. Unfortunately still the technological development of camera traps are driven by the North American hunting market[1]. Even though there has been a research papers[2] describing how an ultimate camera trap should be, we don't think there is one in the market meeting all these specifications. In case of Human-Elephant Conflict, an important feature would be the ability to run a classification algorithm to detect elephants locally on the camera trap to provide warning.

We stumbled upon NXP’s crossover processor, the i.MX RT1050 based on an ARM Cortex M7 core, as an exciting SoC bringing the low power and high performance worlds together. The RT1050 seemed like a very good option to build a low-cost low-power camera trap. The existing evaluation board by NXP seemed a bit unwieldy in terms of the form factor for our purpose. Considering the fact that there are no open source hardware designs for camera traps out there, we decided to build our own by building a minimalist board around the RT1050. We decided to retain the best parts of the eval board while reducing the size. Another motivation in building this board was also to push our own boundaries of knowledge as hardware engineers.

While planning out our design, we had several discussions about key features which would benefit the community as well. Some of these include:

  1. A Raspberry Pi Hat compatible Expansion connector: To enable people to utilize the full potential of the existing Raspberry Pi Hats ecosystem.
  2. ArduCAM compatibility: To support a wide range of camera modules from 0.3MP to 14MP.
  3. Breaking out all other peripherals including LCD, Audio, USB, CAN, and Ethernet onto an interfaces expansion header.
  4. A lot of 0 Ohm resistors to allow customizations.
  5. Boot mode DIP switches to configure boot options.

In general, we tried to optimize our design for a camera trap use case while at the same time offering flexibility to anyone else as excited as us to work on a minimal setup to tinker with the i.MX RT 1050 SoC.


- Camera traps are expensive: iMX.RT enables for a quantity of 100 a beastly SoC platform + memory for an unheard of price of about 10 USD (SoC + QSPI NOR Flash + SDRAM). This provides a good balance of providing enough processing bandwidth and peripheral capabilities for expandability while still remaining low cost.

- Camera traps are power hungry: iMX.RT’s power consumption is significantly lower than competitors Cortex M7 based platforms. While SoCs running Linux is a no-go for camera...

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  • 1 × MIMXRT1050DVL6B i.MX RT Cortex-M7

  • ERC works with no errors !! *said no hardware dev ever*

    botmayank04/21/2018 at 13:42 0 comments

    After some really tedious inter-sheet wiring done with a smart use of the KiCAD’s `Insert` button feature for replicating the last step, here we are:

    We finally annotated the schematic! :D Woo-hoo!

    But... we also ran ERC :| :( and found a couple of issues. 12 Errors and 42 Warnings (it’s always 42 :P) didn’t seem so bad considering a 7 sheet hierarchical schematic and the team’s first brush with a design this complex (except for Abhishek: check out his entry for last year’s Hackaday Prize: BeagleLogic). 

    The major ERC errors had occurred because of the way we had used (and not used) PWR_FLAG symbols in the schematic. Once we removed and placed PWR_FLAG at the right places, the errors related to power pins were all gone.

    Currently we are down to 23 warnings in the ERC, mostly unconnected pins because of struggles in fully breaking out all the interfaces we want to. The challenge we’re facing right now are the decisions that we have to make because of the way pins are muxed on the SoC in terms of giving preference to one peripheral over another. For instance, the camera CSI pins are muxed with the Audio interface pins because of which we’ll wire up the camera by default, but provide 0 Ohm resistor packs as a way of switching to Audio (SAI) functionality for those pins if anybody wishes to.

    We expect these issues to be resolved in the coming week along with yet another full review of the schematic. Additionally, we’ll finish up the footprints for all symbols and post a log update soon before we start laying out this elephant (haathi) of a board.

    The latest PDF of the schematic can be viewed here -

  • Schematic 90% complete

    Prithvi03/25/2018 at 01:01 0 comments

    The schematic capture for the Haati board is 90% complete. We just have to pass the schematic under a rigorous to make sure that we aren't messing something important. And it comes at a time when A1 version of the silicon of i.MX RT 1050 has become available at Digikey and the migration guide from A0 is released. 

    To choose between power sources, the user can use a slider switch on Haathi board to select from the following options:

    • With a TPS62142 handling the step down, a battery input of up to 17V.
    • USB supply input.

    A coin cell holder is provided to power up the low power real-time clock and non-volatile highly protected storage section of the SoC.

    Among the boot options, the user can boot from either the Quad SPI flash memory or the SD Card. This can be change by selecting the boot mode on a DIP switch. Also possible is a Serial downloader from USB OTG and UART.

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