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Running embedded Linux, Linseed is a computer module designed to be directly integrated into a product, saving manufacturers a lot of time and money.
Did you imagine that a Linux computer could not only be shrunk into a single chip, but will soon be available as a ready-to-use component for device manufacturers? Yes, India’s smallest Linux computer module is here already. Called Linseed, it’s as small as a postage stamp, but packs in a good punch.
Designed in the laboratories of Bangalore-based EI Labs India, a three year-old company, Linseed is aimed at easing the burden of product development for a range of applications, from handheld devices to remote telemeters. The module’s tiny form factor (30mm x 40mm) makes it easy to fit into even devices where space is at a premium. Since the module already runs embedded Linux, manufacturers can buy it and immediately incorporate it into their devices, instead of developing their own custom module. This offers device developers an application-ready design, and saves a lot of time, energy and money. Krishnamurthy Vaidyanathan, CEO, EI Labs India, explains, “Typically, for an ARM9 processor, you have to add memory and Flash, and then you have to write the software, you have to load Linux and develop the Linux software driver. Only then does it become functional. The whole process would take about nine months. In Linseed, we have done that work. Therefore, you can directly integrate this chip into the product. So the time required for the product development process can be brought down from nine months to one or one-and-a-half months.”
What’s under the hood?
Based on a 200 MHz ARM9 processor, Linseed has 32 MB of RAM, 16 MB of Flash memory, and comes with a Linux 2.6.19 kernel pre-installed. The Linseed module has sixty pins, for integration onto a PCB. It includes three USB ports (two USB hosts and one USB slave interface), three serial ports and one Serial Peripheral Interface (SPI) driver, along with an inter-integrated circuit (I2C) interface. It has one full-function Universal Asynchronous Receiver/Transmitter (UART). These come with twelve dedicated general-purpose I/Os, which can be configured either as inputs or as outputs. An evaluation board is available with the module.
Linseed supports software like Busybox Ver 1.4 and GNU development tools, and the company includes a toolchain with cross-compilation features, so developers can develop and compile software for the Linseed on their PCs.
Will it take the market by storm?
Krishnamurthy says, “This is a standard module that you can put into any device, and write your software on your PC itself. Developers can buy this device, which has been already programmed with Linux, put it into their product’s PCB, connect where they want, and can make an embedded device. This cuts the manufacturing time as well as price of the end product.”
Linseed was launched in May 2007, and it is now available in sample quantities. EI Labs India has huge market expectations from the product, based on its multiple selling points of time, cost, and space saving, which allows an increase in manufacturing capacity. As more products containing Linseed are sold, the reduced prices, as well as economies of scale, will lower product prices further. Thus, both the manufacturer and customer will benefit from incorporating Linseed into their products.
The road ahead
Linseed v1 is not the end of it, says Krishnamurthy. He has many future plans for this product. The company’s roadmap includes: boosting the CPU clock speed from the present 200MHz up to 500MHz; integrating a GPS chipset ; incorporating analogue-to-digital (A/D) conversion; and adding Ethernet support in coming versions.