Evaluation Type: Independent Products
Did you receive all parts the manufacturer stated would be included in the package?: True
What other parts do you consider comparable to this product?: Raspberry Pi
What were the biggest problems encountered?: Setup issues with the stock software and display problems
My first impressions from this board were an excellent candidate for connected Multimedia device that in true sense in open. For the IoT category this board makes a perfect fit, boasting a much better performance and options. I am an avid user of Raspberry Pi and have been using it for past 1 year on most of my embedded Linux project. One of the problems that one encounters while using Raspberry Pi as part of any project is that if there are some high level changes needed to the Linux itself or for that matter the non-monitor applications where it runs headless.
RIoT Board uses the iMX6 family of processors, of which nearly every tiny bit of information and user manuals are available online in Freescale website. Additionally the Linux kernel mainline has support for iMX6 built in directly into the releases after 3.10 onwards. RIoT board being the more streamlined version of the predecessors MarS board and Saber Lite boards from Embest-tech, has better support for development eco-system.
Here is a picture of RIoT Board running stock android:
Having said that, its not right if I don't mention the downsides of this board. The sock device images are not that easy to swap unless one is aware of U-boot and there are inherent display issue that I have been discussing lately on the RIoT Discussion section at E14. Apart from this the audio video setup did not quite work as expected and hence I am trying to complete this review before my time runs out. The project that I am trying to accomplish using this board is detailed later in the review.
Lets now look at my setup of the board:
Here is a closeup of the board:
Initially there was lot of difficulty in trying to get the display to work with the Stock linux image and I decided to go with the Debian build from agrahambell.
Thanks to this I made some more progress on my project. My project is a product presently running with partial functionality using Raspberry Pi.
The goal for using IoT was to help provide a better solution with enhanced user interaction and remote monitoring.
Lets now look at what features I need to get my project working from this board:
1. Remote internet connectivity using 3G Dongle and Wifi - Not ethernet
2. Higher number of GPIOs and easier interface options from software ( native C access without super user permission )
3. Possibility of using multiple media for storage and remote upload
4. Bluetooth connectivity for user interaction
5. NFC Tap-n-go point
Now these features provide an helpful comparison between the Raspberry Pi solution and the proposed IoT based RIoT board solution.
My project deals with displaying advertisements in public places using TV provided by the advertisement agency. Presently this is more of a passive one sided information flow to the potential customers. Some times the advertisement campaigns don't actually attract any of the customers as they go nearly unnoticed. In order to have further customer interactions and incentivise the advertisements IoT was the way to go. Another problem was that of connectivity for remote maintenance and monitoring. Some times the location of the Advertisement hardware did not have Ethernet or WiFi available hence proper control of the system from remote was hampered. The 3G dongles could not be directly used and using additional power other than the battery was not possible. Hence in such cases the complete OS Image and the Advertisement data was programmed into an SD card and manually replaced in the installation to provide updates or maintenance. This was cumbersome and costly affair. Some times it causes problems due to unskilled personnel fiddling around with the hardware.
The RIoT board helps to address all these points due to unique design and features.
Lets look at how the RIoT board address these points and what features of the board are involved:
1. Need to 3G connectivity when WiFi / Ethernet are not available. The riot board contains an exclusive 4port USB hub on-board. Connecting a higher current requiring hardware is possible without any change or add-on to the board itself. Thus 3G dongle solutions is possible.
2. Need to more storage and multiple media of storage. Since there is a powered USB Hub as well as dual SD card slots more storage space is already available. Plus its safer to plug in USB Pendrives than SD cards involving touching the board.
3. Need for Bluetooth to interact with the user. Again the USB hub availability help to connect a standard Bluetooth module which would support any mode based on the loaded driver.
Here is a video showing the power of the RIoT board and what I could achieve so far:
Still a long way to go for the complete proto but the signs of this making a success IoT Advertisement Platform as optimistic and show promise.