I’m confused by Intel Edison. The cheapest way to get started doing anything involving interfacing it with the real world, as far as I can tell, is a $65 SOM plus a $24 breakout. About $90 for a single unit. The benefit over BeagleBone Black ($55) is wifi and bluetooth included in the Edison SOM. The BBB has more I/Os and two “bare” 200MHz PRUs; the Edison has one 100MHz PRU running an unspecified RTOS. BBB has been (despite its process speed and I/O advantages) a distant second-place in the market to the mostly-inferior (except in video performance) Raspberry Pi which is slightly less expensive. (I know, limited availability hasn’t helped BBB…)

This market seems price sensitive, whether it’s individual hobbyists buying a few for projects or commercial vendors shaving pennies off the BOM because they will be producing many thousands…

Probably I’m missing something obvious. I’d appreciate enlightenment!

Curtis Olson September 16, 2014 22:45

Hi Michael, I’ve been heavily involved in the gumstix world (arm, linux) and I think gumstix is a bit like edison.  You have a COM board (just the cpu and then a big fat connector with all the pins going nowhere …)  You have to plug the COM board into something before you can start.

The advantage is for people who want to design or use custom external interface boards.  With a BBB or Pi, you are locked into a specific board size, specific IO, specific arrangement, etc.

With edison and gumstix, you have the opportunity to pick (or design) a board that has exactly the IO and layout that you need for your specific project.

Check out http://geppetto.gumstix.com for soemthing you cant do with a BBB or Pi.

You may not be designing your own custom boards, but perhaps someone else will have designed a special board that has exactly what you want without needing to carry along all the other stuff you’ll never use.

I think there is plenty of room in the world for both approaches.  For prototyping projects, the BBB and Pi are really good.  But for people who want to go into production, a specific custom board might make a whole lot of sense.

If you spent $20,000 on some fancy super high tech gizmo, cracked it open and found a Pi with a bunch of sparkfun 6” 0.1” jumper cables connecting everything together, what would you think?  But if you cracked it open and found a nice tight neat board that was designed to be exactly what the product needed, no more, no less, maybe that would seem more professional?

Where edison could beat out gumstix is if edison has better and clearer documentation and makes it easier for board designers to create their own custom boards.  Gumstix is notoriously difficult in this respect.  If edison comes out with really solid and current linux support, that will also be a win.  Sometimes gumstix has been a bit laggy/dodgy on a few things with respect to linux.

For now I’m sticking with gumstix for my projects because it’s established and working well, but I’m hoping to be able to find some time to play around with an edison based system at some point to see if there are any specific advantages or nuanced advantages in terms of things like documentation and support and ease of designing around.

Sorry for the length of this comment … I do like to type!

Michael K Johnson September 17, 2014 05:55

No apologies!

Regarding being “locked into” the board with BBB, I forgot to mention that BBB is open source hardware, so the theory there when it comes to production is that you can start with the BBB design, leave everything you aren’t using off the BOM, add anything that you prototyped, and bring it anywhere to manufacture; you probably want to consider CircuitCo since they have demonstrated expertise but you aren’t locked in. You probably don’t need as much flash for a custom project as for the BBB where they just doubled the flash (and raised the price) to make it easier to support more Linux distributions, so I’d expect the BBB-sourced BOM to be less than $40 in quantity. Mouser quotes the Edison SOM alone at $57.65 quantity 200 (highest quantity discount they quote).

I mentioned RPi only to demonstrate what looks to me like price sensitivity on the individual side. Penny-shaving the BOM is pretty well established. ☺

Curtis Olson September 17, 2014 09:10

Perhaps some of this is intel wanting to get more into certain segments of the embedded systems market and needing to choose one way or the other to layout their system.  They could be trying to craft a “professional” versus “basement hacker” image.  I’m just speculating …

For myself, I could see it being much more daunting to rearrange and relayout an entire computer motherboard (BBB) versus designing a presumably much simpler add on board.  Also, if you are thinking about cooking one up in your toaster (errr reflow) oven, simpler might be more attractive.

It’s probably one of those things that is down to nuance and preference, not so much an issue of capability or possibility?


Sparkfun is selling (preorder) the edison board for $49.95.

Based on the fact that sparkfun already has a dozen or so add on boards ready to go, I conclude that these boards must be pretty straightforward (good intel documentation?) to design.  These are just sparkfun boards … presumably many other companies will be developing boards as well … that could make for a pretty interesting and dynamic ecosystem, especially if intel has worked hard to lower the barriers.

From the OS level on up, edison vs. arm should be pretty transparent.  I’m sure GPIO  and other drivers will be handled pretty identically from the OS perspective.

I don’t think there’s any reason for people with well developed arm based systems (or a bunch of arm expertise) to make a massive rush to edison, but it will be interesting to see how the ecosystem shakes out and it will definitely be something I’ll be interested to keep my eye on.

Michael K Johnson September 17, 2014 09:37

Oh, hadn’t considered checking the prices at sparkfun because they have so often been significantly higher than elsewhere; I had been looking at Mouser since they have often had decent prices… That is much more in range and interesting. $50 for a decent processor with wifi and bluetooth, plus $15 for a GPIO breakout is interesting, though it seems that the GPIOs are all 1.8V which might be limiting; there’s no level shifter included in sparkfun’s GPIO breakout board.

I see that sparkfun said they designed all their boards in just five weeks, so as you say it must have been reasonably easy.

Curtis Olson September 17, 2014 11:36

I am wishing someone will take the APM2.x design, and add an edison interface.  I’m imagining shared power, the edison connected to the apm via a uart.  With the option of pulling out some of the additional edison pins and interfaces.  The atmel chips are really good at sensor IO and ISR’s and PWM’s and all of that, while the edison would be offer a full Linux OS and dual core performance.  I know the DIY guys are full speed ahead on the pixhawk, but maybe a 3rd party with enough design experience would find this an interesting project?

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