Aug 1, 2017
Qualcomm products mentioned within this post are offered by Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries.
Although it’s been available for about two years now, there are still a few capabilities about the DragonBoard 410c from Arrow Electronics that may not be common knowledge among some makers and developers.
On a basic level, the DragonBoard 410c offers advancements on many of the features that developers using single-board computers commonly rely upon, including a 64bit quad-core ARM processor, 1GB of RAM, and HD video capture and playback. While many cutting-edge projects have been developed on these features so far, it’s also possible to go deeper with the DragonBoard 410c, utilizing the board’s Qualcomm Snapdragon mobile platform capabilities to go beyond basic microcontroller functionality and support real, production-level performance.
For those coming from other single-board computers, the DragonBoard 410c provides a few new ways of doing things compared to other systems. These features serve to expand development capabilities, allowing developers to do more with a single-board computer than ever before.
Three application areas developers should know about to harness the full power of the DragonBoard 410c are:
- Sensor expansion
- Computer vision
- HD video
The DragonBoard 410c capabilities can be expanded through mezzanine boards. These add-ons expand accessible sensors, allowing a multitude of ways to mesh the performance of the DragonBoard 410c with the real world.
The mezzanine ecosystem is designed to allow developers to integrate various sensors using either the onboard Wi-Fi or Bluetooth wireless connections, or by using a range of recommended kits and accessories that can be connected to the pinouts. The DragonBoard 410c aligns with the 96Boards CE specification, which standardizes the GPIO pinout for a board and mezzanine ecosystem using 3.3/5 V modular sensors, particularly designed for rapid prototyping projects. With the DragonBoard 410c in this ecosystem, it allows developers peace of mind knowing that they’re choosing the right mezzanine components for their project.
Tips for integration:
- Always use the latest build for the DragonBoard 410c (with the inclusion of chardev since the 4.8 kernel) for the most efficient production
- New to using mezzanines? LinkSprite and SeeedStudio have kits that combine their mezzanine boards with an array of sensors that can connect to and run on DragonBoard 410c
- Check out libmraa for an efficient way to support a variety of peripherals like GPIO’s, I2C and SPI, since it supports bindings for use with additional languages like C++, Java, and Python
Computer vision is the process of acquiring, processing, analyzing and understanding digital images, and the DragonBoard 410c is ready to support this important process. Many off the shelf USB web cameras will work with the DragonBoard 410c right out of the box, cutting down on set up time.
However, performance of any computer vision application depends on two major factors: the camera image sensor (the quality of images it captures and frame rate that it supports), and the rate at which the computer vision library processes each captured frame. Some developers will need higher quality equipment, depending on their development needs.
Look to mezzanine camera boards to allow the DragonBoard 410c to operate at a higher level. Image sensors like the DesignCore Camera Mezzanine Board OV5640 are ideal for low-latency machine vision applications as they are capable of capturing higher frame rates at a lower resolution. Developers can also take advantage of the two MIPI-CSI2 interfaces provided on the high-speed expansion connector by using either the MIPI Adapter Mezzanine or the DesignCore Camera Mezzanine pack.
Tips for integration:
- Be mindful of the resources available for classification in an embedded environment. A camera sensor capturing 30 fps at 720p connected to MIPI-CSI2 header can also be used for applications using computer vision libraries like OpenCV
- Consider your camera interfaces. A USB web camera may be less expensive than using MIPI-CSI for prototyping, but as you look at commercial production volumes that is probably not the case. MIPI-CSI interface is also preferred for camera applications as it is much faster than USB
The final thing many developers might not know about the DragonBoard 410c is related to its video capabilities.
The DragonBoard 410c is engineered to support both 1080p at 30fps HD video playback and capture with H.264 (AVC), as well as 720p playback with H.265 (HEVC). However, what’s most exciting is how the hardware acceleration of the DragonBoard 410c frees up significant resources that can be used for other tasks, so that video doesn’t consume the CPU.
The chart below shows the CPU usage comparison of software versus hardware video acceleration on the DragonBoard 410c. As seen, average CPU usage drops significantly with hardware acceleration enabled.
- Tools like GStreamer offer a good cross platform multimedia framework that can be used to work with video files on the DragonBoard410c
- Use the latest version Linux kernel. Versions 4.13+ will have the Venus v4l2a merged into the mainline Linux kernel, bringing optimized video pipeline for all available codecs on the DragonBoard 410c
Bridging Prototype to Production
Now that you know about these three less common features, how will you use them? Once your proof of concept has been validated, migrate your design to a prototype that is much closer to the end product by using any of the production-ready System-on-Modules (SOM) based on Snapdragon processors, saving you a substantial amount of time.
For ideas on where to get started for your next project, get inspiration from other interesting and innovative applications on the Qualcomm Developer Network Projects page. Still stuck? Check out the 96Boards blog and DragonBoard 410c forum for tools and resources, and talk with over developers about what they’ve learned in the process.
Get developing and let us know what you create with the DragonBoard 410c.