Intel Edison: Putting it All Together

The Intel Edison computing platform is available in stores starting at a price around $50. In a small, very small platform, no more than a memory card, the Intel engineers were able to include an Intel Atom system-on-a-chip (SoC) based on leading-edge 22 nm Silvermont microarchitecture including a dual-core CPU and single core microcontroller (MCU), Wifi module, Bluetooth LE module, 1 GB LPDDR3, 4GB EMMC and a 70-pin header connectors. It’s like trying to put an elephant in a hand luggage. But miraculously it works.

The dual-core processor performs a ton of operations under the Yocto Linux-based operating system. Yocto runs on embedded platforms and supports Node.JS, Python, RTOS, and Visual Programming applications.

The Intel Edison board has a strong connection with the open-source Arduino UNO board. The single board computer is capable to work with third-party app developers.

Intel Edison Board

To work with it, you have to attach the tiny module by a stackable board. These stackable boards provide specific functionality that you need to build applications. So far, the ‘brain of things’ can be used with three ecosystems:

  1. SparkFun helps you get started with three blocks
  2. The Intel Edison breakout board
  3. The third option is an Intel Edison kit for Arduino

1. The SparkFun blocks
The SparkFun company makes things works for Intel Edison users with a battery module for power supply.

The battery module can turn on the lights and provide users through a console block the necessary access to Edison features. The access to the board is via a built-in FTDI chip and USB port. The work with Edison console block should be simple and is based on the same idea of modular blocks.

The Intel Edison is a small footprint module engineered for anyone who’s looking at embedded electronics. In this area, the GPIO pins are the doors to the physical world. The Intel Edison Block GPIO board provides access to 16 basic GPIO pins (1.8v level logic) including GPIO, PWM, and UART2. The Intel module is much smarter than anyone can think. It can provide a range of power rails including 3.3V and 1.8V with a VSYS system for digital alert messages.

2. The breakout board
The second method to use the Intel Edison module is via a breakout board developed by Intel engineers. The breakout board is cheap enough ($25) to attract any maker and is featured enough to reveal the power of Edison module. The Intel Edison board together with the breakout board kit has a cost around $75, which is much more than a Raspberry Pi Model B.

The prototyping board is equipped with USB ports, battery charger, 1.8V GPIO pins, and a DC power supply jack with a range between 7V and 15V DC input.

3. Intel Edison Kit for Arduino
The third method to use the Intel Edison board has a total cost of $107 and uses the Intel Edison kit for Arduino. The price is high compared with other breakout boards, but this kit offers an impressive list of features that can be used to cover the power of a dual-core processor and a microcontroller.

Compatible with Arduino UNO and having attached a microcontroller, the Edison kit is a programmable platform and featured enough to control the Intel Edison module. The tiny minicomputer can be attached to the breakout board easily. All you have to do is to download the Edison Arduino IDE, install the Edison USB driver and build your first application (for example, blinking LED).

The Arduino kit offers a series of ports including UART (RX/TX), I2C and ICSP 6-pin header (SPI), 6 analog inputs and 20 digital input/output pins including 4 pins as PWM outputs. Several other options such as a Micro USB connector, SD card connector, and DC power jack are also available on the breakout board.

The Intel Edison single board computer doesn’t have a general purpose such as Raspberry Pi for computers or Arduino for microcontrollers. This board is expensive compared with other options and becomes fully functional only with additional modules. More than that, the WiFi and Bluetooth modules are not killer features for the maker community.

In other words, if you need power and flexibility, you can try the Intel Edison computer with one of the prototyping options. But if you need a great community support, you still need the Raspberry Pi or Arduino.

Do you think that this computing platform can turn the focus from Raspberry Pi?

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