Introducing SeeedStudio BeagleBone Green

by Christopher Rush and Jason Kridner

The first available WiFi plus BLE board from the BeagleBone community

Description: 102010048 01

Seeed Studio BeagleBone Green Wireless is a joint
effort between BeagleBoard.org and Seeed Studio
. It is based on the open-source hardware design of the successful
BeagleBone Black development board. It includes two Grove connectors, which
allows users to adopt the wide range of sensors and actuators using  Grove eco-system, eradicating any
requirement for soldering and increasing rapid prototyping and productivity.

The new highlighted features of Seeed Studio BBG Wireless are that it features the TI WiLink™
8 2.4GHz wireless module, which not only supports MIMO 802.11 b/g/n WiFi but it also supports Bluetooth 4.1 LE. The wireless
module has been specifically designed for a seamless integration with the Sitara AM335X and this allows low power consumption for
extending battery life.

 This enhanced wireless features make it more suitable for IoT
projects reducing the requirement for any additional purchasing of extra
hardware
. The BBGW is a true IoT device.

Specification

  • SoC: TI AM335x
  • CPU: 1GHz ARM Coretex-A8 + 2x 200MHz PRU
  • GPU: SGX 3D graphics accelerator
  • Memory: 512MB DDR3
  • USB Ports: 4
  • Network: 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.1

Software

Straight out of the box it comes with a Seeed Studio custom Debian Linux 4.9 image, which is tailored by the software
design team at Seeed. The great advantage of using Debain over other OS is that it is more commonly used
amongst other boards allowing porting of projects over to the
board and easy process.

Programming the Seeed
Studio BeagleBone Green Wireless is easy with the introduction of the “mraa”
library by Intel
. This library was specifically designed for use with low level Linux boards such as the Seeed
Studio BeagleBone Green Wireless. The “mraa” library
provides a simple interface with the GPIO pins where port names and numbering
matches the board GPIO pins. This makes it easier for developers to
map their Grove modules
including sensors and actuators, on top of the Seeed Studio BeagleBone Green Wireless hardware to allow
control using the low level communication protocol in
a variety of native programming languages such as Python and JavaScript.

The Wi-Fi features
support for both AP+ST
A
mode of communication between devices and other networks on the default OS
image.
This reduces the unnecessary installation
of drivers for wireless devices, as well as providing a more simplified end
user experience. Your mobile devices can easily connect to the Seeed Studio BeagleBone Green Wireless using the AP mode and
there you can configure any connection in STA mode to connect to a local Wi-Fi router
for internet connectivity, this does not require any additional software or
drivers, these features are all built in to the Seeed
Studio BeagleBone Wireless board by default.

The Seeed Studio
BeagleBone Green also supports the Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP)
for the built-in Bluetooth module. A2DP is a Bluetooth profile
which defines how high quality stereo audio
can be streamed from the Seeed Studio BeagleBone Green Wireless board to a Bluetooth
audio device such as a speaker or headset. Most Bluetooth devices and module
are setup to only transfer data and would require additional installation and
configuration to setup A2DP, which can be difficult for most users. This
feature adds more depth for creating Bluetooth projects using Bluetooth Audio
devices and reiterates the power potential of the Seeed
Studio BeagleBone Green Wireless development board.

Hardware and Connectivity

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Seeed Studio BeagleBone Green Wireless gives users
the hardware tools to determine a number of ways in which you can connect and
interact with your board.

It comes with 802.11
b/g/n MIMO wireless technology based on the TI WiLinkTM 8 chipset. The advanced wireless
features such as AP mode and P2P direct connection prepare developers for the
future of devices. The wireless module also supports enhanced low power mode
(ELP) when connected to devices and when used as an access point it has the
ability to enter into a low power state to reduce overall power consumption.
MIMO technology allows a greater throughput and extended range providing an
overall efficient wireless experience.

It has also adopted
the modular
Grove eco-system
, which is a series of
over 150 breakout modules such as actuators and sensors. The Grove modules
provide a simple and efficient approach to prototyping your projects
eradicating any need for soldering and circuit designing. This Grove modular
system is suited for beginners and also software programmers who know little
about any electrical hardware. The two Groves connectors on the board provide
both UART and I2C connectivity.

It also features the
same pinout as the original BeagleBone Black giving
user a possible of up to 65 GPIO pins. The BeaglBone
Green Wireless has better I/O capabilities with 7 channel 200KHz 12-bit ADC,
8PWM, 4 UART quadrature encoder hardware plus many more. This means that you do
not have to buy any additional hardware components to connect up many more
sensors and actuators unlike other boards such as the Raspberry Pi.

 The pins also allow the expansion for the
BegleBone Cape family of expansion boards including
the SeedStudio Grove Cape. GPIO headers feature the
following:

  • 65x Digital I/O
  • 8x PWM
  • 7x Analog
    Inputs
  • UART
  • I2C
  • SPI

Applications

It is the perfect
platform for developing robotic projects and analy
zing sensor data, due to its wide range of
I/O capabilities including up to 8 PWM pins for drivers Servos and motors. The
enhanced wireless capabilities can give you access to your robotics remotely,
monitoring their behavior even updating real-time
hardware based on data analysis from sensors alike.

It also has better
real-time control with two 200MHz 32-bit RISC programmable real-time units
(PRU) that are optimized for single-cycle latency to the I/O pins. This mix of
both Linux and a micro
controller
on one chip makes the
board handle tasks which is not possible on other
boards such as the Intel Galileo.

Linux
Board Comparison

 

BeagleBone Green Wireless

Intel Galileo

Raspberry Pi 3

Arduino Yun

SoC

TI AM3358

Intel Quark X1000

Broadcom BCM2837

Atheros AR9331

CPU

ARM Cortex-A8 + TI PRU

Intel X1000

ARM Cortex-A53

MIPS32 24K + ATmega32U4

Architecture

ARMv7

I586

 

MIPS + AVR

Speed

1GHz

400MHz

1.2GHz

400Mz

Memory

512MB

256MB

1GB

64MB

FPU

Hardware

Hardware

Hardware

N/A

GPU

PowerVR SGX530

N/A

Broadcom VideoCore IV

N/A

Internal Storage

4GB

8MB

N/A

16MB

External Storage

MicroSD

MicroSD

MicroSD

MicroSD

Networking

802.11 b/g/n WiFi +
Bluetooth LE 4.1

Ethernet 10/100

Ethernet 10/100, 802.11n WiFI
+ Bluetooth LE 4.1

Ethernet 10/100, 802.11 b/g/n WiFI

Power

5V Micro USB

5V DC Jack

5V MicroUSB

5V Micro USB

Dimensions

86.4×53.3mm

106.7×71.1mm

85.6x56mm

68.6×53.3mm

Weight

40g

50g

45g

41g

MSRP

$45

$80

$42

$75

Digital I/O Pins

65

14

26

20

Pin Logic

3.3V

3.3V or 5V

3.3V

5V

Analog Input

x7
12-bit ADC (0-1.8V)

x6
12-bit ADC (0-5V)

N/A

x12
10-bit ADC (0-5V)

UART

4

1

1

2

SPI

2

1

2

1

I2C

2

1

1

1

 

You can see from the comparison table that Seeed Studio BeagleBone Green Wireless is far superior in terms of inputs and out
puts compared to other Linux boards, these GPIO pins also can server as
multiple functions such as I2S or CAN bus plus many more. Only the Raspberry Pi
is faster in terms of hardware spec however the design is for more of a
multimedia computer and as such does not compare to any other development when
using I/O pins. The clear lack of analog ability
dampens its ability to be part for the Linux development boards. Also the
significant internal data storage in the form of a 4GB eMMC
module provides excellent data storage for collecting and monitoring sensor
data uploading to the server. This shows great capacity and flexibility when
designing IoT projects.

Open
Source Hardware (OSH)

One of the key factors in choosing a
development board is how open source the hardware is. The
Seeed Studio BeagleBone Green Wireless is fully open-source based on the
BeagleBone eco-system, allowing developers to design their own version
specifically for industrial or commercial applications,
this is something that is not common amongst other boards such as the Raspberry
Pi. Not only does OSH release full access to the board but opens up the full
potential it was built for. For educational purposes it teaches users the
dynamics of how modern development boards are designed and with  Seeed
Studio BeagleBone Green Wireless it sets the standard.

No matter what level your design skills
are, all the components manufactured for the BeagleBone Green are ready
available for anyone to purchase including the Sitara
devices from TI. Just recently Propogate
, the Manufacture Dept in Seeed Studio partnered with ValentF(x) who have brought you KiwiSDR,
which is a software-defined radio module with GPS. It covers shortwave, longwave and AM broadcast radio
bands including a number of utility stations and amateur radio transmissions
using a worldwide spectrum. 294 backers pledged $70,757 to help bring this
project to life
through Kickstarter. This is another great example of utilizing the
open-source hardware on the
board which cannot be accomplished on other platforms alike.

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The
Future of Seeed
Studio BeagleBone Green Wireless

The Seeed Studio BeagleBone Green Wireless is going to unleash a very powerful set of
tools into the hands of some experienced developers building future IoT projects. We are going to see some exciting projects
utilizing the open-source hardware.
It has a bright future in the IoT market,
inspiring makers alike to learn and be creative with easy-to-use hardware
tools.

 

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