Introduction to Intel Edison


It is more than a month I got this tiny compute module of Intel called Intel Edison which is slightly larger than an SD card. After playing around Edison extensively I am completely in love with this tiny computer. The specialty of Edison is – It can be used for wearables, also it is enough powerful to control robots. It is a 35.5 × 25.0 × 3.9 mm module also equipped with Yocto, a Linux OS. It has onboard Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, perfect for IoT projects. We can connect to Edison remotely and can run commands or access the file system. This gives lots of flexibility to developers via SSH. Its specs will definitely impress you, they are:
ntel Edison Board
Figure 1: Intel Edison Board
  • Intel® Atom™ Processor clocked at 500MHz
  • 100MHz Quark MCU
  • 1GB of LPDDR3 RAM
  • 4GB eMMC flash memory
  • WiFi (802.11a/b/g/n)
  • Bluetooth (4.0 and 2.1 EDR),
  • UARTs
  • I2C
  • SPI
  • USB
  • 40 multiplexed GPIO interfaces
Programming Methods
Edison can be used with Arduino IDE but to get most out of it you can use other programming languages such as Python, Node.JS, C/C++. Intel has its own IDE called Intel XDK IoT edition which makes programming with Edison easy. While setting up the programming environment for Edison you can choose between Arduino IDE, Intel XDK or Eclipse.
Prototyping with Edison
To keep the Edison small all of the I/O pins are broken out to a 70-pin Hirose connector. This 70 pin connector is not prototyping-friendly. Interfacing with these connectors is really difficult so to interface with Edison we need a board with mating Hirose connector.
Currently available interfacing boards are:
  • Arduino Expansion Board
  • Mini Breakout Board
  • SparkFun Edison Blocks
If you are new to Edison and wanted to play around it, Arduino Expansion Board is for you. It will give you Arduino like feel also Arduino based shield are compatible with this board but slightly larger than Intel Galileo. Here are the features:
Arduino Expansion Board
Figure 2: Arduino Expansion Board
  • 20 digital input/output pins including 4 pins as PWM outputs
  • 6 analog inputs
  • 1 UART (RX/TX)
  • 1 I2C
  • 1 ICSP 6-pin header (SPI)
  • Micro USB device connector OR (via mechanical switch) dedicated standard size USB host Type-A connector
  • Micro USB device (connected to UART)
  • Micro SD card connector
  • DC power jack (7V – 15V DC input)
If you want to embed Edison into a project than you can use Mini Breakout Board or SparkFun Edison Blocks. They are slightly larger than Intel Edison. Mini Breakout Board has minimal features as:
SparkFun Edison Blocks
Figure 3: Edison with Mini Breakout Board
Mini Breakout Board
Figure 4: Mini Breakout Board
Image courtesy: Adafruit
  • Exposes native 1.8V I/O of the Edison module
  • 0.1” grid I/O array of through-hole solder points
  • USB OTG with USB Micro Type-AB connector
  • USB OTG power switch
  • Battery charger
  • USB to device UART bridge with USB Micro Type-B connector
  • DC power supply jack (7V – 15V DC input)
SparkFun has a whole set of modules for Interfacing, Power, Sensors, and Actuators. You can browse them here and can find one or many suitable for your project with Edison.
Figure 5: SparkFun Base Block
Intel Edison
Figure 6: Intel Edison connected with many Sparkfun blocks stacked
Is it Really Different?
The answer is yes! Some people compare it from Raspberry pi 2 or Intel Galileo but doing so will be unfair to both. Intel Edison is developed keeping wearables in mind. It is very small and equipped with wifi and Bluetooth which lacks in Raspberry Pi2. There are not much USB ports because wearable does not need many. Edison is a low power IoT computing module hence for less power consumption processor speed is kept low. Hence the choice of microcontroller completely depends on the need of your projects.