Thursday, June 21, 2018

What's on the Bench? The PocketBeagle

The PocketBeagle is the latest member of the BeagleBoardfamily. Like the other members of the family it follows the Open Source Computing approach, driven by the Foundation with the primary goal to “provide education in and collaboration around the design and use of open-source software and hardware in embedded computing.

The PocketBeagle packs on a small board about the size of small tin can of Altoids mints (55mm x 35mm) a lot of processing power and a rich set of features and interfaces, and it only costs $25 !!

Here is a quick list of the PocketBeagle technical specs and features
  • ·      1GHz TI Sitara ARM Cortex-A8 AM3358 processor
  • ·       SGX530 Graphics accelerator
  • ·       512MB DDR3 RAM
  • ·       Dual Core 200MHz 32-bits PRUs (Programmable Real Time microcontrollers)
  • ·       ARM Cortex-M3 for power and security management
  • ·       4KB I2C EEPROM
  • ·       microSD socket
  • ·       44 GPIOs and multiple interfaces, UART, USB, U2C, SPI, CAN, PWM, etc

      To make the PocketBeagle small and low cost, the board is built around a very novel hardware concept called SiP or System in Package developed by Octavo Systems.

Octavo Systems based in Austin, TX was founded couple of years ago by three senior semiconductor technology leaders that have been previously with Texas Instruments. The name comes from the Latin meaning of “one-eight,” which derives from printing 16 double side book pages on a single sheet of paper, then the resulting page size of the book is 1/8 of the original paper sheet.

Octavo instead of taking the SoC (System on Chip) approach all the way to custom silicon, developed their technology on the proven process known as Sytem-in-Package, which integrates multiple chips and other components in a single package. In this case for the PocketBeagle, the result is a small footprint BGA like package that includes most of the components to get a system up and running.

This is a great way to expedite development and time to market since all the details about DDR3 interconnection, Power distribution and management, CPU decoupling, etc, are all taken care of inside the System-in-Package part.

As you will see on the board and its schematics there are not that many parts besides the Octavo OSD3358-512M-BSM SiP, just few LEDs, some resistors to set the configuration of the Octavo SiP, a crystal as the clock source, a push-button, a USB power switch, few passives, the microSD card socket and microUSB connector, that’s it !

The BeagleBone Black Wireless and the BeagleBone Blue have been also built around the Octavo Systems SiP technology.

How hard is it to get it running? Piece of cake !!

Only extra things you need are a microSD card of at least 4GB (Class 10 recommended), a micro USB cable and a host PC with Windows or Linux, or a Mac.

Here is a quick start but you can find also the same information on the PocketBeaglesite.

Getting the PocketBeagle up and running

  1. Download the latest firmware image from
  2. To write the image on the microSD card you will need a utility like Etcher
  3. Follow the instructions on Etcher to write the firmware image on the microSD card
  4. After you have your microSD card ready insert it on the PocketBeagle and plug-in the microUSB cable
  5. After applying power via the microUSB connector you will see the power LED going on and after few seconds you will see the USER0, USER1 and USER2 LEDs start flashing as the Linux kernel boot process starts

    USER0 – Linux Kernel heartbeat indicator
    USER1 – microSD card R/W
    USER2 – Activity indicator
    USER3 – Idle
  6. After the PocketBeagle finishes to boot the Linux kernel and switches to multiuser mode you will notice that on your PC the board will present a USB drive with the content shown below

  7. The PocketBeagle will also create a virtual Ethernet interface between itself and your PC via USB, the IPv4 address for the PC side is and the PocketBeagle will be, and a virtual serial console port via USB.

At this time your PocketBeagle is ready to rock and roll 😊 You will find that there are many ways to connect to it, you can open the START.htm on a browser (Google Chrome is recommended) or just connect to the website hosted on the PocketBeagle at

You can also use a terminal emulator like TeraTerm and connect via the serial console via USB, in my case it shows up as COM4

Or via SSH using a SSH client like Putty to

One of the great features of the PocketBeagle, shared with other members of the BagleBoard family is that you have everything that you need to start developing included with the board.

After you connect to the PocketBeagle with your browser, you will notice a green title block saying that “Your Board is Connected,” meaning that it is ready to for example run JavaScript code (BoneScript in the BeagleBoard context) right from your browser. If you navigate to the link , you will find several examples you can try right away, just click on the button that says “Run”

And last but not least, the PocketBeagle includes its own IDE tool !! Just connect your browser to, that will open in your browser the Cloud9 IDE hosted on your PocketBeagle

As you can see for just $25 and not requiring any extra stuff, just a microSD card and a USB cable, the PocketBeagle is a very cost effective board to start developing IoT and other applications, and being fully open-source is a great reference to create your own designs.

In other articles I’ll be showing some tricks about how to get the PocketBeagle connected to the Internet via your PC, how to extend the File System, upgrade firmware and other “recipes” as they are called in a good introductory book to the BeagleBone from Mark A. Wolder & Jason Kridner.

You can get your PocketBeagle with free shipping from Arrow Electronics.

Happy Hacking & Happy Father’s Day


No comments: