Tibbo Technology has launched a system-on-chip (SoC) which it hopes will bridge the gap between Linux-capable application processors and highly-integrated microcontrollers, offering multiple cores and up to 512MB of DDR3 memory alongside eight 5V-tolerant input/output (IO) ports in a single LQFP package.
For hobbyists moving from commercial off-the-shelf designs into bespoke hardware, there's a gulf to jump between single-chip microcontrollers and higher-power systems-on-chips which need external high-speed peripherals like RAM and require familiarity with ball grid array (BGA) soldering. Tibbo's Plus1 family aims to solve that problem, offering a single-chip LQFP-packaged highly-integrated microcontroller-like component which nevertheless packs the power to run Linux.
"Recognizing the unmet needs of IoT and industrial control vendors, Sunplus Technology Co., Ltd. and Tibbo Technology, Inc. in late 2017 set out to develop a Linux-grade chip that would directly address these markets," Tibbo explains of the solution, which was brought to our attention by Adafruit. "The idea was to create a powerful SoC with IO features and packaging specifically targeting IoT and industrial control applications, as well as the needs of low-to-medium-volume hardware manufacturers. Thus, the Plus1 concept was born."
The SP7021, the first member in the Plus1 family, packs four Arm Cortex-A7 cores running at 1GHz along with A926 and 8051 coprocessor cores, 128MB or 512MB of DDR memory, eight 8-bit 5V-tolerant IO ports and a single high current port, "PinMux" flexible peripheral multiplexing, dual Ethernet MACs, four enhanced UARTs and one dedicated console UART, all inside an LQFP package which requires no blind solder points. A board support package (BSP) for Yocto Linux is included, along with the promise of a 10-year supply guarantee — and, the company claims, the chip can run from a single 3.3V power input. Other features include PWM, SPI, I2C, USB 2.0 OTG, HDMI 1.4, MIPI CSI and video, PDM, and a 32-bit FPGA bus IO interface plus an on-board real-time clock (RTC) and cryptographic acceleration.
Tibbo has launched the part at $20 for the 512MB model, with pricing for the 128MB variant yet to be confirmed; a development board, the Size 3 Linux Tibbo Project PCB, is available for $130 with all peripherals broken out. Both can be ordered now from the Tibbo website.