Imagination Technologies is set to release a single-board computer aimed at developers and enthusiasts that is capable of running both Linux and Android and is aimed at powering connected devices as part of the Internet of Things.
Available from January, the MIPS Creator CI20 is described as a high-performance development board with low power consumption. It is targeting open source developers, the maker community, system integrators and others to enable them to create a wide range of applications and projects.
The Creator CI20 was actually detailed by Imagination some months ago, but is only now ready for release, with the firm also launching a Creator Programme to stimulate an ecosystem around the device.
Drawing inevitable comparisons with the Raspberry Pi, the Creator CI20 is based around a system on a chip (SoC) combining CPU, graphics and I/O circuitry. It also has an I/O connector block compatible with that of the Raspberry Pi, enabling it to be plugged into many of the same projects.
In this case, the CPU is a 1.2GHz dual-core processor running the MIPS32 instruction set, while the graphics is provided by Imagination's own PowerVR SGX540 GPU, which features in many current smartphones.
This is backed by 1GB of DDR3 memory and 4GB of built-in flash storage plus an SD Card slot for expansion, with built-in WiFi and Bluetooth for connectivity as well as an Ethernet port, USB ports, various I/O signals and an HDMI output capable of driving a 1080p display.
On paper, this makes the Creator CI20 more impressive in terms of compute power than the Raspberry Pi, but Imagination's executive vice president of marketing, Tony King-Smith, said that it is not intended as a direct rival.
"We're not trying to compete with devices like Raspberry Pi and Arduino, which many developers will already have, we're giving them more options, and we believe this is a pretty rich offering," he said.
In fact, Imagination sees that Raspberry Pi has helped create a broader opportunity to target the so-called ‘maker' community, as well as established manufacturers, and it has a particular eye on the Internet of Things (IoT).
King-Smith said that the Creator CI20 is ideally suited for this type of application because of its embedded wireless capabilities, but also because it is capable of running mature operating systems such as Linux and Android that support graphical user interfaces.
"This will make IoT interesting, whether you're looking at a thermostat or a sensor or whatever, it's a compelling user interface that gets people excited," he said.
The Creator CI20 is also just the first of a family of similar products, such as smaller form factors for easier embedding in projects and devices, the firm said.
"This is just the beginning. There will be a whole series of other Creator boards from both us and partners in the future," said King-Smith.
Imagination also has a development environment known as FlowCloud, described as an application-agnostic platform to accelerate IoT development. This provides a way to connect devices in different geographic locations and send notifications between devices, as well as speeding development of applications.
While the MIPS architecture is perhaps less well-known than the ARM platform seen in the Raspberry Pi, it is a well-established technology that is already widely used to power many devices found around the home and the office.
"There are more than five billion MIPS processors out there in the wild, powering things like TVs, set-top boxes and wireless routers," King-Smith said.
The MIPS Creator CI20 is available for pre-order now from Imagination's own online store for £50, with Debian Linux 7 pre-installed. Android 4.4 is available as a download.
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