You've probably heard of BeagleBones and the Beagleboard Foundation by now (check out that link if you're not familiar with them). They make open source SBCs and have an online community much like the Raspberry Pi Foundation.
While Beaglebones don't have as large of a community or market share as Raspberry Pi, their boards are still quite popular because they tend to be more application-focused than Raspberry Pis. For example, there's the general-purpose Beaglebone Black, the sensor-oriented Beaglebone Green, and the Beaglebone Blue for robotics applications.
The newest member of the BeagleBone family is much smaller, but it still packs a punch for certain applications and has a lot of potential for modification with all those pins.
The topside of the PocketBeagle. Image courtesy of Digi-Key
Like its BeagleBone predecessors, the PocketBeagle is geared toward applications like drones, CubeSats, robots, and robotics industrial equipment like 3D printers, CNC mills, and laser cutters. Most news outlets are comparing it to the Raspberry Pi Zero, but I don't find that to be entirely accurate. Like the Raspberry Pi Zero, it has a GUI, it's Linux-based, it stores its operating system in an SD card, and it's powered through a micro USB port (the microUSB on the PocketBeagle doubles as a host/client).
Unlike the Raspberry Pi Zero W, however, the PocketBeagle has no RF module for wireless communications, no standard-sized USB port, and one fewer microUSB port. What the PocketBeagle has that the Pi Zero W is lacking is a lot more pin headers (72 on the PocketBeagle versus 40 on the Pi Zero W). These 72 pin headers each have power and battery I/Os. Of these pins, there are 8 analog inputs, 44 digital I/Os, and "numerous digital interface peripherals."
The Backside of the PocketBeagle. Image courtesy of Digi-Key
The other major difference is that the PocketBeagle's processor has a 3D accelerator, which allowed BeagleBone to make this board geared toward navigation and 3D printing applications. The PocketBeagle is available for order now through Mouser, Arrow, and Digi-Key.
PocketBeagle Technical Specs
- 512MB DDR3 RAM integrated
- Integrated power management
- 2×32-bit 200-MHz programmable real-time units (PRUs)
- ARM Cortex-M3
- 1-GHz ARM Cortex-A8 CPU
- 3D accelerator
- power/battery management and EEPROM
- 72 expansion pin headers with power and battery I/Os
- Micro USB port
- MicroSD connector
- 8 analog inputs
- 44 digital I/Os
- "numerous digital interface peripherals"
- Debian GNU/Linux images customized for BeagleBone
- Cloud9 IDE on Node.js with BoneScript library
- Any BeagleBone Black software not needing access to unavailable expansion pins
Pinout diagram for the PocketBeagle
Resources for PocketBeagle
- PocketBeagle Datasheet
- Linux Programs for PocketBeagle
- BoneScript Library
- PocketBeagle Wiki on Github
What would you make with a PocketBeagle? Let us know in the comments!