Open source Snapdragon baseboard targets AI

Open source Snapdragon baseboard targets AI

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By Nick Flaherty

Antmicro has created an open source Snapdragon 845 Baseboard for vision-based machine learning designs.

The open hardware baseboard serves as a starting point for building new solutions such as portable smart assistants, kiosks, VR/AR or smart screens, and the company also provides software, AI frameworks, over the air update (OTA) and fleet management development services.

The Snapdragon 845 Baseboard is a 100x70mm (4×2.75 in) carrier board for the Quectel SA800U-WF System on Module. The SA800U-WF features an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 System on Chip based on the Kryo 385 64-bit CPU and the Adreno 630 GPU.

Antmicro has worked with camera vendors including Allied Vision for camera drivers, as well as working with other vendors such as OmniVision and FRAMOS via the existing camera adapters or quickly designing a custom one. Antmicro has also been developing a variety of video conversion devices, often including FPGA or dedicated ASICs. This includes open hardware designs such as the SDI to MIPI CSI-2 bridge or the HDMI to MIPI CSI-2 bridge, which are also electrically compatible with the baseboard.

The SoC also includes radio transceivers for dual-band (2.4GHz/5GHz) WiFi and Bluetooth 5.0, while the SoM includes on-board antenna ports which simplify the antenna integration process. All the other IO-interfaces offered by the SoM are break-routed by Antmicro’s baseboard through board-to-board connectors located on the bottom side of the SoM. This approach minimizes the mechanical outline of the SoM itself and allows for stacked designs for size constrained applications such as mobile consumer electronics or wearables.

The SoM has two independent video interfaces over MIPI DSI and the baseboard exposes one of them on a generic 0.5mm pitch FFC and converts the other into HDMI with s Lontium 9611 IC, making the board compatible with a variety of displays and external monitors supporting HDMI input.

The SA800U-WF supports up to four MIPI CSI-2 camera interfaces and our Snapdragon 845 Baseboard exposes two of them – each in 4-lane configuration. The baseboard also includes a unified FFC connector that is electrically compatible with a variety of open hardware video accessories developed by Antmicro.

The Snapdragon 845 Baseboard includes slots for external storage (SD Card slot and M.2 (Key-M) supporting NVMe SSD cards). The on-board M.2 slot is electrically compatible with the Smart IoT module developed by Antmicro which includes a Nordic RF52840 SoC, useful e.g. for supporting a dedicated Matter/Thread interface for communicating with home sensors and controllers.

The wired connectivity of the Snapdragon 845 Baseboard is complemented by a Gigabit Ethernet interface implemented with an on-board controller. The Gigabit Ethernet interface also features a Power over Ethernet (PoE) Power Delivery (PD) controller, which means you can use the board as part of a LAN network, providing data exchange and power over a single cable.

Besides Power over Ethernet, the Snapdragon 845 Baseboard accepts power supply delivered over either a USB-C Power Delivery subsystem or a regular wire-to-board supply connector. The latter option allows using the board with external power supply systems including wall, battery or a solar-powered installation – or a combination of the three.

All of the power sources delivered to the Snapdragon 845 Baseboard can be hot swapped, and are managed by a power path controller IC that features under-voltage, over-voltage and reverse polarity protection. An important advantage of using such an IC is that the sources can be connected simultaneously and the board will manage which one to use at any given time.

The SA800U-WF SoM offers two independent USB 3.1 interfaces. The Snapdragon 845 Baseboard exposes them on separate USB-C connectors. One of them acts as a generic downstream-facing-port suitable for connecting peripheral interfaces such as USB modems, touch panels, RFID/barcode readers or mass-storage devices. The other USB-C connector supports On-The-Go (OTG) mode and allows for re-flashing the SA800U-WF SoM without removing it from the baseboard, which greatly simplifies the software development process. The same port can also be used in alternate mode and provide a DisplayPort interface for connecting an external USB-C monitor.

The Snapdragon 845 Baseboard has been designed to support flexible software development and rapid deployment. The SA800U-WF SoM can be re-flashed with one of the USB-C interfaces and there is a third USB-C port that brings up a system console over an on-board UART/USB converter.

The default operating system for Snapdragon 845 is Android, which makes the board perfect for various signage/multimedia applications. Android 9/10 are shipped on the SoM by default, hence, after installing the SoM on the Snapdragon 845 Baseboard, most IO interfaces available on the board should already be supported in Android OS.

The board support package (BSP) integration also applies to interfacing with any external components such as camera modules, displays, modems and any other peripheral interfaces. In particular, Antmicro offers Android customization towards Kiosk-based applications with Android UI development, Over The Air (OTA) features and advanced Device Fleet Management, all based on open source with no royalties and licensing costs.

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