Freescale i.MX 6Solo X: The Perfect Processor for Secure, Low-Power Mobile devices

The i.MX 6SoloX has a heterogeneous architecture, which means that the processor includes different core types. The 6SoloX includes two ARM processor cores: a Cortex-M4 microcontroller-class core and a Cortex-A9 microprocessor-class core. The benefit of heterogeneous cores is that – when correctly configured and programmed- they enable power, security, and application optimization.

The M4 core, with its microcontroller-type capability and power envelope, runs the MQX real-time operating system (RTOS). It is suitable for deterministic data sampling and control of digital and analog sources with minimal jitter. The M4 permits a 6SoloX system to consume low power when higher processing needs are not required, allowing the A9 to be placed in a suspend state. Conversely, the A9 core is capable of running complex operating systems such as Linux and Android and enables number crunching, complex decision making, human-machine interface (HMI) management, and management of network connectivity. In applications where power conservation matters (such as for mobile devices or distributed sensors), the A9 core can be put to sleep in a very low power state, woken by the M4 core to perform its more complex functions.

The 6SoloX includes a Resource Domain Controller (RDC), which can be configured to share or split memory and peripheral access domains between the M4 and A9 cores. When split, secure domains are established and hardware mailboxes and semaphores are used for interprocessor communications.

Additionally, software functions can be divided between the two cores. This can be advantageous in applications requiring software certification (e.g. FAA for aviation or FDA for medical) where segmenting functions and having a clear, but physically limited communication path across domains, can reduce both risk of bugs and certification testing rigor and expense. This includes physically different nonvolatile storage devices for the M4 and A9, which enables segmentation and separation of operating system and application code, as well as data. On the Fury-X, M4 code can be stored in the processor’s internal memory or QSPI flash while A9 code is typically stored within eMMC flash memory.

The M4/A9 architecture also enables fast system boot. The M4 can complete boot and start executing application code within tens of millisecondswhile the A9 boots a more complex operating system, such asLinux, which can require 20 to 30 seconds. Therefore, the M4 can commence device critical operations or simple display output while the A9 completes boot.

The Fury-X: Board Architecture Made for Networking and Rugged Deployment

The 6SoloX heterogeneous architecture enables efficient implementation of applications when both microcontroller and a microprocessor are appropriately utilized. However, the circuitry surrounding the processor must be supportive of its capabilities to take advantage of power optimization, security, and application. The Fury-X does just that.

First, to enable network connectivity, Fury-X provides wired Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and ZigBee interfaces and a mPCIe slot for expansion modules, such as cellular modems. Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and ZigBee are implemented in a single radio capable of running the full network stacks, allowing either the M4 or A9 cores to manage communications. Both Bluetooth and ZigBee are optional; the Fury-X can be ordered with a Wi-Fi only module for cost savings. Fury-X Wi-Fi includes enterprise-level security.

The 6SoloX includes two Gigabit Ethernet MACs and can provide a switching function without the addition of a switch IC. The Fury-X provides one Gigabit Ethernet PHY on-board and enables a second Ethernet PHY to be provided via a daughter card. The daughter card provides flexibility in the implementation of this second Ethernet interface, including a second Gigabit connection or Power over Ethernet (PoE).
A GPS module option is provided for location reporting. A battery charger and fuel gauge are provided on-board to facilitate battery operation, and a coin cell battery powers the processor’s real time clock. LCD display and touchscreen support are available via the use of a simple daughter card. InHand’s value-added power gating technology is provided at the hardware and BSP levels so that peripherals – such as network interfaces – can be dynamically enabled and disabled for maximum power efficiency.

Sensor inputs are provided through multiple mechanisms. The Fury-X contains on-board connectors for I2C, SPI, UART, RS-232/485, USB, and GPIO. Four channels of analog video input are also provided, typically used for multiple camera inputs. Using an optional daughter card to accommodate wave shaping and filtering, eight analog signals may be multiplexed to two 12-bit SAR ADCs within the 6SoloX. The daughter card can also accommodate a CAN transceiver, additional USB, a digital camera input, and an SDHC interface.

Fury-X SBC utilizes a standard automotive temperature processor: -40°C to 125°C junction temperature. The Fury-X is routed for high yield and reliability over extreme temperature ranges, which enables the board for use in harsh environment applications. The SBC is capable of functioning as a standalone computer – unlike a system on module (SOM) which requires a custom designed carrier for even the most basic applications. The Fury-X – like all InHand COTS products – was designed for long product life cycles, with the average InHand product having been sold for over 10 years.

Bonus Points

The Fury-X SBC includes a processor architected optimally for Internet-of-Things (IoT) hub power efficiency and security, and peripherals that facilitate connectivity to the cloud. The Fury-X can also be utilized as a more standard embedded computing platform, complete with display and touchscreen input.

The Fury-X can be leveraged for a modified COTS design, where the circuitry and software are modified for application-specific use. Starting from proven schematics and printed circuit board artwork, functions can be added and unneeded features removed. This process accelerates time to market while simultaneously minimizing cost and risk. InHand regularly reviews high level requirements to assess the appropriateness of its platforms in defense, medical, and industrial applications. Contact us with your requirements and we’ll recommend a path forward.