Getting Started with the Intel Joule 570x

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Hello everybody, my name is Nicholas Powers of Arrow Electronics and I want to share with you something I've been having a lot of fun with recently. Intel was nice enough to send me one of their Joule kits and this is a single board computer or single board module that really helps you do some pretty advanced computing in a very small space.

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Now you can actually see I've got a lot of things here and I want to talk about how you get started with the Intel Joule. Well here I have on hand the 570X developer's kit which features a quad core atom processor running at 1.7 gigahertz, it has four gigabytes of RAM on board, and 16 gigabytes of onboard eMMC memory so you don't necessarily need an SD card. So this is great for computational tasks, but what if you want to do more with graphics or video; what if you need to encode or decode video? Well this little module actually has the Intel HD graphics built-in and it’s strong enough to allow for 4k video capture and coding and display. So you can take in multiple cameras or even a single 4k camera capture and code and display that or analyze the video as needed. Wireless connectivity is served up by 802.11 AC Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.1. Along with this, there's a host of interfaces from USB-C to the MIPI SCI and DSI for your camera and display and GPIO SPI and I²C along with a few others.

Now there's also a 550X version which is very similar and it features the same board, but it clocks the atom processor at 1.5 gigahertz, drops the RAM to 3 gigabytes, and on the board is 8 gigabytes of eMMC storage. So just a little bit of reduced feature set in case you don't need all the power of the 570X. Now what is this meant for, what do you need all this power for? Well, pretty much anything that needs this kind of horsepower. It's excellent for machine vision, which is a popular one, especially with the camera interfaces. Intel is actually going to be pairing this up with one of their RealSense camera modules so you can do 3D environment analysis, it's excellent for machine vision in the sense that you want a robot to understand where it's going in a room or what it's seeing, what it's looking at; that's what makes this a really neat kit. It’s got the extra horsepower to do that and it's already built to handle those inputs.

There's a lot of software built around it too, to make it easy to do those things. Well easy is relative when you get into the world of machine learning and machine vision, so you have to take my word for it; that it is better than systems that don't come with the libraries you need, but that doesn't mean it's easy. Now, one of the issues with this specific kit is the comparison that it gets to something like the Raspberry Pi or the Arduino. This came out of Intel's Maker and Innovators Group so it's meant for the people that like to create and think and tinker, but it is about $360 depending on where you're looking. It gets compared directly to the Raspberry Pi, this is a Pi 3 I have right here, and that's only $35. So what gets you to 10x the price? Well I can tell you there's a heck of a lot more power within this board; you're dealing with a quad-core board that has native 64-bit OS support. Where the Raspberry Pi did just get a 64-bit OS, but it is still not a well-understood enablement for the board. It’s actually very hard to even do 1080p video input on the Raspberry Pi when trying to encode that to say H.264 or H.265, it's going to struggle. The Joule on the other hand, no issues whatsoever.

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So now you've got the Joule, you've got this incredible hardware, what does it come with and what do you need? Well it comes with a USB 3 to C cable and it comes with the actual module here, which you can see hidden underneath a heat sink right now; the silver part is the module. You can see just how small this is for the amount of power you're getting out of it. The heat sink is included in the kit and recommended; it does tend to run a bit warm, but not obnoxiously warm. You can also see here we've got a Bluetooth and Wi-Fi antennas; these allow for the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to work, but they're connected via micro UFL connectors so you can disconnect these and put on different antennas, if you need to. I even made up a little 3D printed fan shroud for it, to keep it nice and cool so I don’t have to worry about it. This isn't necessary, but it is recommended if you're going to do computationally intensive tasks on the Joule.

So you've got the module and then you have this board here; this is actually the carrier board for it. You can actually see the module sits right in here between the two GPIO ports. The GPIO ports give you access to a ton of things that you can use. There's this DC input jack, this is the one that kind of threw me for a loop; I had trouble finding the voltage input range, but at the end of the day 12V 2.5A is what I'm using; they recommended 12V 2 to 3A power supply. You got a USBC port, USB 3.1, micro USB which also is your serial interface, and then a micro-HDMI port. The micro-HDMI port is a standard port, but it's not usually one people have a cable for on hand. You can find cables for this on our website or various other ones.

On the back of this board you have a coin cell battery spot for keeping a real-time clock up and going, a microSD card slot that can be used for data storage or for updating the firmware or adding a new operating system, and then a fan header there that allows you to have a computer-controlled fan that works with the module to keep it nice and cool when you're doing computationally intensive stuff. Now besides what's in the box and needing the micro HDMI cable you need the 12V 2A power supply. I would recommend having a micro-USB cable as well because one of the things this board does is it exposes a serial console over USB so you can interface completely with the Joule module without having to have a display hooked up to it. Now a few other things that you would want to get up and going; an SD card so you can load new operating systems on to the Joule, a keyboard mouse like I have here; I just have a little wireless one, a USB hub is really useful because you only have the single USB 3.0 port on here, and other than that you're good to go.

So what can you do with this? Well they're actually three different operating systems or if you get more into it there's four different operating systems you can use native on the Joule. There is what is known as Ostrow which is based off the Yocto Linux distribution; it changes the file structure and how it handles creating and installing software. There's also the UBUNTU Core and UBUNTU Snappy installation. So UBUNTU Core is the UBUNTU you are familiar with, the UBUNTU Snappy is the one built for IoT devices that allows you a much lower overhead system so you can actually get more done with less power usage. And there's also Windows 10 IoT version which enables you to run Windows apps on the Joule in an IoT situation.

I would say this is a great board that you can take to learn and then build off of because once you get done actually developing on the carrier board that they have here, you pop off the module now underneath this you can see the interface connections for the developer board. You've got your camera interface connections on the side and then various testing points. This layout is actually already available on the Gumstix website to create your own boards so you can design this directly onto your system after you're done developing what would be a developer kit board.

Like I said, it's a lot more power than the Raspberry Pi, which is the unfortunate immediate comparison. Given the Raspberry Pi is wonderful and can do a lot, it is not going to do 4k video, it's not going to do machine learning very well, it's not going to give you the power you need for possibly an industrial setting, and it's really hard to get that Broadcom processor that's on it. So if you want to design in a Raspberry Pi, a lot of time you are designing in the full Pi itself or one of the Pi computation modules, but you are not likely to be able to develop that Broadcom chip set on your own board. Whereas, the atom processor that is something you can actually get ahold of if you get to the quantities that are worthwhile. Otherwise these single-board modules actually help you get up and running very quickly, help you get to market and beat your competition there while doing some of the cool stuff and the latest and greatest.

So this has been the Intel Joule; getting started. I just walked through a little bit of what we have on hand and what you need. I'm going to be doing a lot more with this board, showing you how to get it up and running, how to get onto Wi-Fi, how to update firmware, get Yocto or Ostrow updated to the latest version, and then play with the other operating systems. So thank you for joining me today and look forward to the other content we have coming based around the Joule and subscribe to our YouTube channel or join us at arrow.com.


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