June 3, 2016 | Written by: Jim Beneke
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There are a number of IoT Starter kits on the market today, with many focused on the Maker and DIY enthusiasts. The price points are attractive – in the $50 to $100 range. They seem to be capable of doing just about anything and are often promoted as a great starting point for IoT developers. So why would anyone want to pay $300 for the recently introduced Avnet MicroZed Industrial IoT Starter Kit?
To start with, let’s recognize the distinction of ‘Industrial’. Industrial implies it’s different from the others, but what does that really mean?
The kit is based on the MicroZed system-on-module, or SOM. For development, the MicroZed plugs into an off-the-shelf carrier card for rapid prototyping. Once a design concept is proven using the development system, designers can then migrate the MicroZed SOM to their own custom designed carrier card. MicroZed can be purchased as an off-the-shelf module, resulting in a simpler and lower cost custom carrier card.
The MicroZed processing system is based on the Xilinx Zynq®-7000 All Programmable SoC. Zynq is the combination of a high performance, dual core ARM Cortex™ A9 processing system with a block of programmable logic, or FPGA. The processing system offers the ability to run standard operating systems like Linux, real-time operating systems, or a combination of the two. The programmable logic provides a unique capability to create custom interfaces or custom accelerators. Together, they provide a versatile, performance optimized solution.
Application ready operating system
In working with Wind River, Avnet’s MicroZed SOM comes bundled with Wind River’s Pulsar™ Linux. This small footprint, high-performance, secure Linux distribution provides a certified and ready-to-use binary image specific for the MicroZed SOMs. Pulsar not only provides a small, reconfigurable Linux kernel, user space, and file system, it also offers a path to full production support with extended maintenance and security updates.
IBM Watson IoT platform enabled
Out of the box, the MicroZed IIoT Starter Kit boots to a cloud enabled example design. The connection agent to Watson IoT Platform is already bundled with the Pulsar Linux. A reference design using IBM’s Bluemix services provides an excellent starting point for collecting, analyzing, and taking action. Everything you need to start your IoT development with Bluemix is included.
Extended temperature range
The MicroZed module that the kit is based on supports both commercial temperature (0° to +70° C) and industrial temperature (-40° to +85° C) ranges. This is critical for certain industrial applications that are subjected to harsh environments.
A commercially backed kit brings with it a higher level of support. Avnet provides a host of on-line tutorials, example designs, and a support forum. A global deployment of field application engineers also enable on-site support in certain situations.
Unlike the Maker and DIY kits that have no guarantee of long term production or product change notifications, the MicroZed SOM offers a +5 year production plan. This can be an important consideration for companies basing their product on an off-the-shelf board.
Everything tends to have its purpose. For Makers and DIYers, there are lots of low cost options for IoT experiments. For professional developers of Industrial grade, high performance IoT devices or gateways, the MicroZed IIoT Starter Kit is worth considering. It offers the ideal sandbox for both software and hardware developers, while ensuring a smooth path to a production deployed system. Take a look on the MicroZed website.