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What is HIO Project

HIO Project is a development effort to create expandable modular hardware platforms for building embedded systems and Internet of Things (IoT) devices.  The goal is to provide affordable embedded computer building blocks that can be used across the entire product development cycle – from evaluation, development, prototyping to finish product.  It is based on the bottom up approach, enabling developers to build a custom embedded computer tailored to their applications starting with the minimal building block and adding modules as needed.

Building Blocks

It all starts with a core computer board, or “core-board” the structural base and minimal computer unit of the device.  The developer can add “modules” to the core-board (or add core-board to module) which provide peripherals, connectivity, user interface, power functionality and features to the embedded computer.  The modules can be stackable, expandable and interchangeable to provide different configurations and power requirements.  The designs of the modules are open as well as the embedded Linux OS, provide a creative canvas for developers to make their own module for specific application. Ultimately, developers are able to buy the core-board, select the ready-made modules or design custom modules to build their intelligent, application-specific embedded systems and Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

OS support

HIO Project supports Open Source embedded Linux created by the Yocto Project development environment.  The Yocto Project is an open source collaboration project that provides templates, tools and methods to help you create custom Linux-based systems for embedded products regardless of the hardware architecture. It was founded in 2010 as a collaboration among many hardware manufacturers, open-source operating systems vendors, and electronics companies.  HIO Project provides resources, instructions, open source BSP, recipes, image examples for both new and experienced developers.  Sample images range from minimal with basic filesystem which boots up to a console login to Qt Framebuffer, Qt X11, Qt xfce and more.  Android BSP is also available for selected HIO development kits.

Is HIO core-board a System on Module (SOM)

HIO core-board is not a System on Module (SOM).  It is a fully functional minimal single-board computer with its own power input, on-board RAM, Flash storage, HDMI, digital audio, audio codec, USB ports, Ethernet PHY and power outputs.  You can run the HIO core-board as a stand-alone computer, connecting to a power adapter, HDMI monitor, USB keyboard/mice and USB WiFi adapter for network connection.  System on Module (SOM) will usually need to be mounted on a carrier board (or “baseboard”) which brings out standard peripheral connectors and provides power input and outputs.  In some designs, HIO core-board can also be mounted to a custom design module acts like a carrier board.

What is the difference between HIO Platform and PC/104

Both HIO Platform and PC/104 are modular and stackable.  However, HIO Platform allows for much more flexibilities for module expansion in different size and directions.  It also accepts multiple modules to stack to the core-board in the same plane and allows butterfly expansion for add-on modules.  In addition, PC/104 is limited to the Bus Structures (ISA, PCI, PCI Express and USB, SATA) expansion for it boards vs HIO core-board’s expansion headers are not limited to those bus standard.  The form factor of the HIO core-board is defined, but the expansion header pin definition can be vary by multiplexing definition or processor architecture.  This are not allowed on a PC/104 platform.

Why HIO Platform

The bottom up approach design starts with the minimal unit (core-board), builds up the system one block at a time like putting together Lego bricks.  This is a better approach when designing embedded system variety of I/Os, User Interfaces, power inputs, connectivity requirements and emerging IoT devices with specifications that are not clearly defined yet.

HIO Platform’s core-board and modules can be quickly configured with specific features like off-the-shelf embedded boards.  Developers can use the selected HIO Platform as development kits at the earlier stage for platform evaluation and rapid prototyping.  After the hardware and software is validated, developers can select the core-board to pair with the required modules only or develop custom modules with minimum modification to build their products for quick time to market.  The same HIO Platform used in the product development can then be used for final production without the need of redo the hardware and software.

The HIoTX form factor

The HIoTX form factor is developed for the HIO Project’s modular platform. Measuring just 72mm x 85mm, the HIoTX core-board is a fully functional single board computer with on-board processor, RAM, flash, HDMI, USB and power input from the core-board or add-on modules. It is 80% smaller than the mini-ITX form factor and 20% smaller than the tiny PICO-ITX standard. The HIoTX form factor leverages the different processor architechture’s rich I/Os and flexibility. The unique modular design of the HIoTX form factor allows 3-dimensional expansion utilizing its 200-pin female header on the top and bottom of the board. The HIoTX form factor is designed to enable rapid prototyping, quick application module development and fast time to market.

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