The Intel® Joule™ module is the newest addition to a line of powerful, multi-purpose development boards from Intel®. This small package contains an Atom™ quad-core processor, clocked at an impressive 1.7 GHz, 4 gigabytes of LPDDR4 RAM, Dual band Wi-Fi* antenna, Bluetooth*, and an Intel® HD Graphics Processing Unit. These specs make the Intel® Joule™ module more powerful than any development board previously created by Intel. This new class of processor allows it to do things that its predecessors, the Intel® Edison platform, and Intel® Galileo platform, could not previously achieve; from advanced computer vision, to machine learning.
Now in order to get a better feel for the Intel® Joule™ module, let’s perform a comparison between it and the Intel® Edison module. We’ll start with a quick hardware comparison, before moving on to a software comparison, then a size evaluation, and finally an appraisal of usability.
As you can see, the Intel® Joule™ module has an extremely powerful processor for its size. It includes a quad-core processor, giving it four usable executions threads. The Intel® Edison module, on the other hand uses a dual core Intel® Atom processor, clocked at 500 MHz. This means that you get half of the execution threads at less than one third of the processing speed of the Intel® Joule™ module. This means that it has the ability to process more input in a given amount of time. For instance, if you have a bunch of sensors taking in information, the Intel® Edison platform might have to forward it to a Gateway or desktop in order for the data to be properly processed. An Intel® Joule™ module on the other hand could process the data, and send the resulting information to wherever it needs to go.
In addition, the Intel® Joule™ module’s graphics processor allows it to do several things that the Intel® Edison module simply cannot do. It can process video and images on board, taking information from them for use elsewhere. It also gives you a graphical user interface, which can make the system overall easier and faster to use.
When it comes to memory, the Intel® Edison module only has 1 GB of DDR3 RAM and 4 GB of eMMC flash memory, which means that you only have about 2 GB of memory to work with after the Operating System is installed. This limits how much you can install on the device, as well as how much memory any one program can rely on while running. The Intel® Joule™ module on the other hand, comes with either 8 or 16 gigabytes of eMMC flash memory, depending on what you need, as well as 4 GB of LPDDR4 RAM. This increased memory means that a single Intel® Joule™ platform can be used in more one application; simultaneously.
All of this ends up meaning that Intel® Joule™ module can handle a much larger workload than an Intel® Edison module can. It can also handle many smaller workloads at once, even if they are graphics processing threads. All in all the Intel® Joule™ module is simply more powerful than Intel® Edison module, allowing it to process more information in a shorter period, as well as the ability to process graphics.
The software differences between the Intel® Joule™ platform and the Intel® Edison platform are minimal because the development environment is similar with support for both the Intel® XDK and the Intel® System Studio IoT Edition . Intel® Edison platform uses a version of Linux, known as Poky, which gave the device a terminal only interface. This forced a user to work with a Linux terminal in order to do anything.
In contrast, the Intel® Joule™ platform comes with a reference Linux for IoT. This flavor of Linux is an interesting platform, and conforms a bit more to a “classical” Linux distro. Like Linux Mint or Ubuntu it offers a root access terminal, which can be output via HDMI or over a serial interface, such as PuTTY. You can use the terminal to get down and dirty with the board, and work with all of the Linux commands you know and love.
This flavor also offers a classic desktop in the form of the user-friendly X interface. This interface allows people who are new to Linux to work with a more entry level graphical interface. While interaction with the terminal will still be required, it is minimized in this mode.
The Intel® Edison compute module measures a meager 35.5 by 25 millimeters, with a thickness of 2.9 millimeters. The small size allows you to use the Intel® Edison module in many mobile applications, allowing its power to be taken on the go.
The Intel® Joule™ module is slightly larger at 48 by 24 millimeters, with a height of 3.5 millimeters. This increase in almost 600 cubic millimeters provides Intel® Joule™ compute module with better temperature and power management, as well as better Wi-Fi* and Bluetooth*. Though the bigger package does mean that it might be harder to make it into a ‘wearable’, the extra power the compute module packs could prove very useful.
The Intel® Edison platform is a relatively mature, so it can be a very useful tool. Many people are already comfortable working with it; however getting to that level of comfort presents a steep learning curve. If you don’t know how to use a Linux terminal, you might get stuck rather quickly. Even when taking into consideration the various tools that have been developed specifically to help the Intel® Edison platform be more user-friendly, working knowledge of Linux is required to use it fully.
The Intel® Joule™ platform overcomes that issue by offering more ways to work with the device, including the previously mentioned X interface. Introducing people to reference Linux distribution with an easy to use graphical interface as a means of working with Joule™ makes the learning curve less steep. But the OS still provides the classical terminal access that someone who knows how to use the Intel® Edison platform might prefer. This makes the Intel® Joule™ platform far easier to learn how to use compared to the Intel® Edison platform. In addition, support for Windows 10 IoT Core* and Ubuntu Core (Snappy)* is coming later this year.
The Uses for the Intel® Joule™ Platform
The Intel® Joule™ platform provides a more powerful punch for a similarly sized package compared to the Intel® Edison module, but you might be asking, “What can I do with it?” The answer is, almost anything you want. You can create better, faster wearable technology, embed it into manufacturing systems, build drones, or use it for face recognition applications. The possibilities are endless.
I personally have been working with this platform for two months as of the writing of this article. The power that this development platform can deliver has given me plenty of ideas on what the Intel® Joule™ module can be used for. I can’t wait to see the community that will blossom from this device, and what they will achieve!
If the Intel® Edison platform and its predecessor the Intel® Galileo platform, have taught us anything, it’s that people push these technologies to their upper limits; the Intel® Joule™ module will be the same. It’s exciting to think of what people are going to make with this new device, and if its ancestors are anything to go by, we’re going to see some impressive stuff.
For more such intel IoT resources and tools from Intel, please visit the Intel® Developer Zone