Prabindh Sundareson is a Senior Technical Architect, Graphics and Android platforms at Texas Instruments (India).
1) What was the idea behind the development of BeagleBone Black?
The BeagleBoard range of products is the result of efforts by a collection of passionate individuals, including several employees of TI with BeagleBoard.org. Members are interested in creating powerful, open, and embedded devices and BeagleBoard, BeagleBone and BeagleBone Black address open source developers need to innovate and create.
2) What is the target audience for the BeagleBone Black?
BeagleBone Black is a community-supported development platform, for developers and hobbyists and is a true open hardware. As it is a community supported board, the target audience of BeagleBone Black is the developers’ community – anyone from electronic artists to an engineer, who wants to experiment and dirty their hands. With BeagleBone Black, everyone now has the ability to innovate and create.
3) What are the key features of BeagleBone Black that makes it a unique choice?
BeagleBone Black is based on the 1-GHz Sitara™ AM335x ARM® Cortex™-A8 processor from TI. TI’s Sitara AM335x processor enhances the user experience by enabling an advanced graphical user interface and more than 2x higher performance than ARM11™-based solutions. BeagleBone Black includes 2GB of on-board storage to run pre-loaded Linux software, as well as a USB cable to power the board. Featuring USB, Ethernet and HDMI interfaces, BeagleBone Black has the interfaces to connect to a wide variety of devices such as a mouse, keyboard or LCD display. BeagleBone Black offers designers flexibility with expansion headers, including 65 digital I/Os, seven analog inputs and access to a variety of analog and digital peripherals.
Specifically, from a design engineers’ perspective, the key feature for BeagleBone Black is its performance. Additionally, this one of its kind – a portable credit-card sized device with an integrated graphics accelerator and gives the best 3D performance for someone who is working on an UI, and priced at $45.
4) What are the factors that motivate an open source hardware industry?
The primary motivation behind the open source hardware industry, is to build a proven platform for innovators to quickly experiment with their ideas, get problems solved through collaborative work, thus being able to lower the barriers of innovation. Open source hardware goes hand in hand with a friendly software development environment, and pre-packaged demonstration packages. This is the foundation for the Beagleboard community.
5) What are the key developments in the open source hardware industry?
Recently, the Digital Freedom Foundation and FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) celebrated the second Hardware Freedom Day on April 20th which brought to light several innovative projects from hobbyists. The popularity of open source hardware was visible as it offers hobbyists freedom, to add, delete or modify not only the lines of code but also interfaced devices, circuit components, or even the design of the board itself.
Another key development that we see today, is the emergence of crowd-sourced funding avenues for innovative hardware projects that need funding. For example, OpenROV project based on Beaglebone, was completely funded by a Kickstarter project.
6) What you have to say about your present competitors/ or other open source hardware like Audrino and Raspberry Pi?
Arduino is based on an ARM Cortex-M3 core, while BeagleBone Black is based on an ARM Cortex-A8. BeagleBone Black offers 2x more DMIPS, enabling it to run Linux and advanced graphical user interfaces. BeagleBone Black also has more memory that enables faster processing as against Arduino. With regard to, Raspberry Pi it is a credit-card-sized single-board computer developed in the UK by the Raspberry Pi Foundation with the intention of promoting the teaching of basic computer science in schools, as against the BeagleBone Black which was created to meet the innovation needs of developers & hobbyists. This is a dynamic ecosystem and the community focuses on the ease of use, community support, and availability of the right processing power at the right price point. For example, development of appealing User Interfaces, or thin client packages, becomes simpler due to availability of higher processing power and networking capability.
7) What have you planned for community engagement?
As a part of community engagement, TI recently held a cape contest. A cape basically is an attachment that can be plugged into the BeagleBoard to extend its functionalities beyond the standard ones. In this competition, the contestants were asked to come up with their own innovative cape extensions. People made capes for unmanned aerial vehicles by attaching gyros, accelerometers and equipment, all they needed to do is get the cape, plug it in and work towards development. There are also capes available to monitor temperature & humidity.
8) What are the specific areas where BeagleBone Black finds its application most?
The areas where BeagleBone Black finds its application are home-gateway, home-automation, industrial-automation and robotics. Furthermore, the performance of BeagleBone Black can be clearly felt in graphics intensive 3D applications and any other application of HMI where 3D rendering, advanced UI and similar functionalities are to be used. The board features GPIOs with which one can control multiple devices at the same, thus making networking a prominent addition the list of applications.
Yet another important application of the board is industrial communications. It has an in-built CAN module on it, with CAN being one of the most used interfaces with its applications ranging from industrial communications to various uses in automotive, like telematics and in tracking M2M.
9) What are the limitations of BeagleBone Black? Or what is the future sustainability of BeagleBone Black?
We can say that, the limitation of the BeagleBone Black is limited by imagination of open source community. With advancements occurring every day in the software and systems front, we believe Beaglebone as a platform has tremendous potential to lower barriers of entry.
10) What are the major changes in new BeagleBone Black as compared to older version?
BeagleBone is a low-cost, open source USB-powered, 10/100 Ethernet and USBJTAG developers’ platform with plug-in board expansion that costs $89. It has a memory module of 256MB DDR2. Whereas, BeagleBone Black features a 1 GHz processor priced at $45. It is compatible on eMMC, onboard HDMI, USB and HDMI interfaces and has a memory module of 512MB DDR3. It allows the user to boot Linux in about 10 seconds and get started on development in less than 5 minutes with just a single USB cable.
11) Are there any ongoing developments in BeagleBone Black?
We continuously work with different communities on feature additions. The next update of Android software package from TI will include Beaglebone Black support. There are efforts going on to add more functionality to the programming model. Work is also continuously taking place to support latest Linux kernels and driver frameworks.
Filed Under: Electronic Projects