From DIY to DII – by Gianfranco Comune, Sr. Sales Engineer at SECO USA

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Whoever has followed the world of Formula One car racing – yeah I know, we have Nascar and Indy, so why would we follow Formula One? – Anyway, I was saying, those who follow Formula One know one very important fact: the technological advances and systems that are developed for the race world, one day, will be found in the cars that we drive every day. And for the skeptic out there, where do you think semi-automatic sequential transmissions come from?

If you think about it, it makes sense that two tightly related fields will integrate one another’s philosophy: usually in the direction from the most performing and advanced to the less performing and more “consumer”. So if this is a logical direction, I ask myself what is going on in the world of Embedded Technologies.

In 2010, when I first heard of Arduino, I was intrigued! Coming from studying Assembler on 80×86 and embedded C on the Intel 8051, where interfacing was as painful as a kidney stone, and the stone was as big as a fist, a tool like Arduino that made programming fun and prototyping easy seemed a revolutionary idea. Just three years later, the world of Arduino and its compatible devices exploded and with it the world of what is now called “Makers”. These Makers are electronic hobbyists and enthusiasts that, instead of just building amateur CBs or radios, are now learning to program in C and interfacing digital systems such as robots, drones and the ubiquitous 3D printers.

The explosion of this movement gave new life to the term Do-It-Yourself, which, in the best tradition of the digital world, saw the birth of the DIY acronym. Along with the movement of the DIY philosophy, we also began seeing a bunch of DIY boards.

Along this philosophy, SECO, together with AIDILAB, created the UDOO Single Board Computer. Though it was initially developed for the educational market, it quickly developed into an excellent DIY tool and opened up a brand new philosophy in the maker world: a powerful, industrial-grade board at a DIY market price. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the board reached its Kickstarter target in less than 2 days and exceeded its target by over 20 times!!! Still today, it is the most powerful while easy-to-use tool for DIY projects’ budgets.

Little did we know, though, that what they thought to be an excellent educational tool would then be a pre-cursor to a new philosophy in… the embedded industry? While talking to a distributor friend of mine just a few months ago, he mentioned to me how his company is now looking to enter the DIY world because many traditional industrial clients are now looking for DIY type solutions for their industrial application needs. The flexibility, ease-of-prototyping and cost efficiency that the DIY world brought to the surface has now made industrial companies’ mouths water. Back to the car world: it’s as if I built a car in my garage and then all of a sudden Ferrari comes to me asking for my technology to be integrated into their beautiful beasts!!! So are we seeing the world of DIY transform into the world of

DII…DO-IT-INDUSTRIALLY?

And when I told my buddy about SECO’s new project, I made his mouth water!

SECO, in fact, has released a new industrial-sector-aimed board that is based on the principles of UDOO and on the experience acquired from our interaction with the maker world: the SECOSCB-A62. This new SBC is a true industrial grade Freescale i.MX6-based solution with an extended connector that enables multiple IO configurations and very easy to use interfaces connected to the Freescale SoC, all at DIY level pricing! This new board is the first of its kind, as was UDOO, because it is a counter-revolution coming from a consumer market to the industry and not vice versa.

This board has all the major features that the i.MX6 family offers in all its industrial applications. The rich features of its graphics processing power – 2D, 3D OpenGL, OpenVG – the full force of its 1GHz processor (up to 4 cores) as well as its low power platform are now enriched by a versatile configurable connection that can become GPIOs, SPI, UARTs, Can bus, SPDI/F, SDIO, PWM or I2C with the UARTs configurable as TTL, RS-232, RS-485. This allows embedded designers to create a wide range of interfaces without requiring external expansion boards that increase costs and time-to-market as well as engineering risks.

This industrial grade “UDOO” has some great advantages over the original DIY UDOO for industrial applications:

  1. More cost effective (the A62 QUAD is cheaper than the UDOO Quad version and in addition also has 4GB of eMMC onboard);
  2. Native long term support (No commitment or initial investment fee required);
  3. Commercial and Industrial temperature grade;
  4. No Atmel/Arduino but still has GPIO flexibility through the i.MX6.

However, since SECO strongly believes in the fusion of these two worlds, we have adopted measures to enable an even stronger relationship by making the development performed on the UDOO platform migratable to this new SBC with only a few minor tweaks. Furthermore, developers may also have the choice between using the community as support or requesting technical support directly from SECO.

Therefore, the embedded world is actually going in reverse direction from what we consider the traditional road to progress and this is even more true with the ever-present IoT coming at us in full force and SECO is proud to be a pre-cursor to this trend as well as a major player in developing solutions for the embedded industry to take advantage of the technology offered to makers.

It’s going to be an interesting ride!

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