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Indiegogo campaign promises ‘world’s first open controller’

25 November, 2019

An Italian engineer has launched an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to help develop what he describes as “the world’s first open hardware and multi-platform controller”, which could also be used for edge computing and as an IIoT gateway. Giacomo Falcone is hoping to raise €120,000 to develop his Yaba (Yet Another Backplane Architecture) technology, which he sees as filling the gap between low-cost, but hard-to-assemble, boards, and costly dedicated industrial controllers.

Unusually, Falcone is basing his system on the USB bus which, in its latest version (3.1), offers the performance needed to support control applications, he says. Other attractions of USB, according to Falcone, include its simplicity, reliability, wide usage and support. He says that over the past 20 years, USB has evolved from a system designed to provide relatively low-speed connections to external devices, to a transport interface that now competes with the fastest system buses. It offers the possibility of expanding Yaba “without any limitations”, he believes.

The Yaba system will also support other bus technologies via a single connector, including EtherCat and I2C/SMBUS, which acts as an interface between devices. Yaba developers will have a choice of using any or all of these buses.

Falcone has come up with six different form factors for his technology and, if his crowdfunding venture is successful, plans to start shipping the first versions in July 2020, with new models being launched every two months after that. All of the formats will use the same CPUs and expansion cards, and will have the option of being connected to intelligent displays. For the launch, Falcone is developing CPU boards based on ARM/Raspberry and Arduino platforms, but in future, almost any platform could be supported including x86/64 and Jetson boards.

In 1995, Falcone set up a company called STS, which develops hardware and software for industrial and telecommunications systems, and it will be the main technical partner for developing Yaba.

Yaba envisages its open control technology being produced in a variety of form factors

The Italian engineer envisages Yaba being supported by a community of software developers and systems integrators. They will be able to find partners and suppliers, and promote products in what he calls the MarketSpace.

Falcone believes that his main challenge is to make Yaba understood and appreciated in a sector that is “traditionally very conservative and suspicious of new ideas”. But he feels that “today’s world is mature and forward-thinking enough to understand that staying entrenched cannot guarantee any future while, on the other hand, spreading knowledge and sharing ideas and experiences can only be a winning approach”. 

Although the Yaba system is based on technologies that are “predictable and risk-free”, there are still some technical hurdles to overcome, such as adjusting PCB “lanes” to guarantee performance at 5Gb/s.

Another critical issue could be the system’s retail price. Falcone says it does not have to be the cheapest on the market, and believes that the price would be less than €300 as long as more than 300 systems are produced.

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