3G carrying hardened PCs arrive on the wings of a Rooster

MWC 2013: Little, hardened, and always connected internet of things

Sun Corporation LogoIf you have been looking for a little ARM PC with an integrated 3G modem, the Rooster of your dreams has arrived. No, Mobile World Congress did not spike the water with interesting chemicals, the box is called the Rooster-GX.

This odd little box is pretty tiny, 33x91x114mm, 500g light, and looks like a mid-90’s car stereo amp. Luckily the Rooster-GX by Sun Corporation is much more than that, it is a full hardened Linux PC with remote management functions built in. The CPUs are a Marvell 88F6281 at 800MHz and secondary Renesas RL78/G13 controller for management and watchdog capabilities. This means if the main CPU locks or crashes, the system can still be managed, rebooted, and hopefully fixed remotely.

Sun Corporation Rooster-GX embedded PC with 3G modem

Roosters don’t always have feathers

This is backed by 256MB of DDR2 and 128MB of ROM, storage is via microSD card or two internal USB2 ports. There is also a third USB port externally to plug in whatever you want, two serial ports for controlling devices, and a couple of 10/100Mb Ethernet ports too. If that isn’t enough, there is a U-Blox LISA-U200 3G data modem, more than enough connectivity for the tasks at hand. Power is supplied via a 12V DC jack, quite handy for automotive mounting. Since it pulls 10W max including the radio running at full rate, you could get away with a battery or a small solar panel for many uses.

All of the above is slapped in an anodized aluminum case with beefy screw mounts and is passively cooled. No fans mean little if any dust problems, and the Rooster-GX is said to be fine with “severe environmental conditions”. If not, you can always reboot it remotely. Oh wait, it runs a Linux 2.6 kernel so you probably won’t have to, but just in case, the option is there.

On top of this, Sun Corporation put in a full Java J2ME JVM and it also runs Inventit’s ServiceSync platform and framework. Rooster-GX is a full remote data logger and controller with an 800MHz ARM CPU plus all sorts of hardened embedded control options. The idea is to never have to touch the box physically once installed, it is built to last so if something goes bonk in the night you can fix it from your bedroom with a command line. The 3G modem pretty well insures that it will be reachable almost everywhere but with luck you never will have to.

In addition to the full open source Linux software stack, you have ServiceSync to develop your own apps for if you want to. Embedded devices with custom software are never trivial or easy, but this looks to be about as simple as you are going to find in the space. The only rub for some people is the price, a Rooster-GX costs $700, enough to make most people twitch. Given what goes in to this box, plus the hardening and custom software, that price is pretty reasonable. Compared to other embedded boxes, this one is pretty cheap and could come in really handy in areas miles from the nearest net connection.S|A

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Charlie Demerjian

Roving engine of chaos and snide remarks at SemiAccurate
Charlie Demerjian is the founder of Stone Arch Networking Services and SemiAccurate.com. SemiAccurate.com is a technology news site; addressing hardware design, software selection, customization, securing and maintenance, with over one million views per month. He is a technologist and analyst specializing in semiconductors, system and network architecture. As head writer of SemiAccurate.com, he regularly advises writers, analysts, and industry executives on technical matters and long lead industry trends. Charlie is also available through Guidepoint and Mosaic. FullyAccurate