Does the electronics industry need another low cost development board? After all, we already have nearly 1.5m Raspberry Pi boards shipped worldwide, as well as a plethora of Arduino and Beagle boards. There’s even the Galileo boards from Intel using the low cost, low power x86 X1000 Quark processor.
Imagination Technologies, which has a design centre in Bristol and its wireless division nearby in Chepstow and is a key player for technology in the region, has developed its own version of Raspberry Pi. The Creator C120 uses a MIPS-based processor from Ingenic and is the first board that combines Imagination’s MIPS, PowerVR and Ensigma programmable RF technologies.
The 90.2 mm x 95.3 mm board uses an Ingenic JZ4780 with a 1.2GHz dual core 32bit MIPS with a SIMD engine (for doing graphics quickly) and both single and double precision floating point FPU. It is also adding 802.11 b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity. For video and graphics, the PowerVR SGX540 GPU and dedicated video hardware support a suite of video codecs, including MPEG-4, H.264, VP8, MPEG-2, RV9, and others. There’s also two USB ports and an HDMI connector – there’s more details and comments on the background in the EETimes story I wrote.
The other interesting thing is to look forwards. Imagination has pointed out that this first board doesn’t use its Ensigma IP – what about a low cost Ingenic part with the Whisper WiFi IP (more on that here tomorrow!) and Warrior processor embedded as well? A low cost board with good WiFI out of the box running Android 4.4 KitKat? That is a compelling coder/developer board at $25-$35 that would also make a huge difference to ODMs – and don’t forget Imagination has a well established consumer electronics subsidiary (Pure) that already has volume board manufacturing deals. Add in Imagination’s Flow cloud software on this to make it easily part of a home system with some automatic discovery and it becomes compellingly easy to set up and use. Mmmmmmm, some very interesting opportunities there!
US microcontroller maker Microchip is in talks about acquiring CSR (Cambridge Silicon Radio) which recently opened its expanded WiFi design centre in Bristol
The first offer was rejected and Microchip has until 25th September to finalise any deal.
CSR developed a very interesting mesh overlay for Bluetooth that allows smartphones and tablets to easily control many Bluetooth devices in the Internet of Things.
Microchip uses the MIPS cores from Imagination Technologies (also with a design centre in Bristol) while CSR uses the XAP and ARM processors so there would be an interesting mix of technologies. Microchip’s recent acquisitions include flash memory maker Silicon Storage Technology (SST) and WiFi specialist ZeroG in 2010 as well as networking chip maker SMSC in 2012. Microchip also announced a deal in May with Taiwanese Bluetooth chip maker ISSC Technologies that will close in the third quarter this year.