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Precursor – A mobile, open source electronics platform


Precursor (pre·​cur·​sor | pri-ˈkər-sər):

1. one which precedes or gives upward thrust to; a predecessor; harbinger

2. a pocketable launch pattern board

Precursor is a cell, launch source electronics platform. Equivalent to how a Raspberry Pi or an Arduino is vulnerable to be remodeled into an IoT machine with the addition of a pair breakout boards, some solder, and a bit of of code, Precursor is a framework upon which it’s most likely you’ll per chance presumably moreover assemble a huge form of DIY cell applications.

Precursor is queer in the launch source electronics space in that it’s designed from the ground-as a lot as be carried around on your pocket. It’s no longer correct a naked circuit board with connectors inserting off at random locations: it comes entirely constructed-in—with a rechargeable battery, a order, and a keyboard—in a swish, 7.2 mm (quarter-spin) aluminum case.

Precursor → Betrusted

Followers of my blog will stare the case fabricate from Betrusted, a salvage-communication draw. It’s certainly no accident that Precursor looks to be devour Betrusted, as the latter is constructed upon the veteran. Betrusted is an limitless example of the fabricate of order that you just (and we) might maybe per chance are searching to plot the utilize of Precursor. Betrusted is a big draw mission, however, and this could per chance require several years to gain merely.

Precursor, on the bogus hand, is ready this present day. And it has the total facets it’s most likely you’ll per chance presumably wish to validate and test a draw stack devour the one which will force Betrusted. We’re moreover the utilize of the FPGA in Precursor to validate our SoC fabricate, which is ready to at final give us the self assurance we private got to tape out a paunchy-personalized Betrusted ASIC, thereby lowering manufacturing charges whereas elevating the bar on hardware security.

Meanwhile, Precursor gives us a prototyping platform that we are able to utilize to work thru person-abilities challenges, and it gives you a capacity to enforce projects that question a salvage, portable, trustable communications platform however that gained’t require the identical stage of hardware tamper resistance that a paunchy-personalized ASIC resolution might maybe per chance supply.

And for builders, the ideally precise half is that Betrusted is 100% launch source. As we plot development on the Betrusted draw stack, we are able to roll these improvements abet into Precursor, so that it’s most likely you’ll per chance presumably moreover rely on a fixed stream of updates and patches to the platform.

Hackable. In a Lawful Map.

Precursor is moreover queer in that it’s most likely you’ll per chance presumably moreover hack many aspects of the hardware without a soldering iron. As a substitute of a damaged-down ARM or AVR “Machine on Chip” (SoC), Precursor is powered by the draw-outlined hardware of a Self-discipline Programmable Gate Array (FPGA). FPGAs are a sea of general good judgment objects that users can wire up the utilize of a “bitstream”. Precursor comes pre-loaded with a bitstream that makes the FPGA behave devour a RISC-V CPU, however you’re free to load up (or code up) any CPU you devour, be it a 6502, an lm32, an AVR, an ARM, or something else. It’s entirely as a lot as you.

This pliability comes with its have characteristic of alternate-offs, obviously. CPU speeds are dinky to around 100 MHz, and complexity is dinky to single-concern, in-bid microarchitectures. It’s sooner than any Palm Pilot or Nintendo DS, however it absolutely’s no longer having a glimpse to interchange your smartphone.

At Its Core

We describe bitstreams the utilize of a Python-basically based mostly Fragmented Hardware Description Language (FHDL) called Migen, which powers the LiteX framework. (Migen is to LiteX as GNU is to Linux, attributable to this truth we consult with the mix as Migen/LiteX.) The framework is flexible enough that we are able to incorporate Google’s OpenTitan SHA and AES crypto-cores (written in SystemVerilog), yet worthy enough that we are able to natively describe a bespoke Curve25519 crypto engine.

Within the occasion you’ve ever wished to customize your CPU’s instruction characteristic, experiment with hardware accelerators, or plot cycle-merely simulations of retro-hardware, Precursor has you lined. And the ideally precise half is, attributable to Precursor’s highly constructed-in fabricate philosophy, it’s most likely you’ll per chance presumably moreover gain all that arduous figure out of the lab and on the avenue.

On the Inside

And in the occasion you’re itching for a excuse to ruin out your soldering iron or your 3D printer, Precursor is here to come up with one. Whereas its compact fabricate order might maybe per chance appear limiting before all the issues, we’ve noticed that 80% of projects have along side correct one or two area-particular sensors or hardware modules to a unsuitable platform. And most of these additions advance on breakout boards that require only a handful of signal wires.

With eight GPIOs (configurable as three differential pairs and two single-ended strains) connected straight to the FPGA, Precursor’s battery compartment is designed to accommodate breakout boards. It moreover gives a pair of energy rails. It’s most likely you’ll per chance obtain any preference of third-birthday party breakout boards with sensors ranging from barometers to cameras and radios ranging from BLE to LTE. Patch them in with a soldering iron, and you’re all characteristic. The principle alternate-off is that, the extra hardware you add, the much less space you’ve left for your battery. Except obviously you build an even bigger enclosure…

On the Outside

Within the occasion you would like even extra space or personalized mounting hardware, the case is designed for straight forward fabrication the utilize of an aluminum CNC machine or a resin printer. Naturally, our case designs are launch source, and the native Solidworks CAD recordsdata we present are constructed such that the enclosure’s size and thickness are are parameterized.

Furthermore, Precursor’s bezel is a undeniable extinct FR-4 PCB, so if your application would no longer require a huge order and a keyboard, it’s most likely you’ll per chance presumably moreover merely desire them and change the bezel with a paunchy-sized circuit board. Via example, weeding out the LCD and changing it with a smaller OLED module would plot room for a extraordinary increased battery whereas freeing up space for the customised hardware it’s most likely you’ll per chance presumably wish to construct, snort, a portable, trustable, VPN-protected LTE hotspot.

Come Have a Gape!

Within the occasion you’ve ever wished to hack on cell hardware, Precursor became once made for you. By combining an FPGA dev board, a battery, a case, a order, and a keyboard trusty into a single thin, pocket-prepared bundle, it makes it easier than ever to trudge from a thought to a avenue-prepared portion of hardware.

Precursor will soon be crowdfunding on Crowd Supply. Learn extra about its specs on our pre-launch online page, and test in for our mailing list so that it’s most likely you’ll per chance presumably moreover gain profit of early-chicken pricing when the marketing and marketing campaign goes are dwelling.


We’ve determined to realize an prolonged pre-launch half for the Precursor marketing and marketing campaign to gauge hobby. After all, we are in the course of an phenomenal world pandemic, and one of many worst economic downturns in recorded ancient previous. It will most likely most likely per chance appear a bit of of loopy to strive to fund the mission now, however it absolutely’s moreover loopy to strive to construct trustable hardware that can help up against assert-stage adversaries. We plot choices no longer on what’s helpful, however what’s merely.

In actual fact the hardware is at a stage the put we are overjoyed producing extra objects and getting it into the hands of builders. The launch ask is if builders private the time, hobby, and money to gain half in our marketing and marketing campaign. Initial outreach indicates there might maybe be vulnerable to be, however we’ll only obtain out for obvious in the approaching months. Precursor is no longer cheap to fabricate; I’m prepared to settle for a failed funding marketing and marketing campaign as a imaginable .

We’re moreover fastidiously brooding about alternate sources of funding, akin to grants from organizations that half our values (akin to NLNet) and industrial sponsors that gained’t join stipulations that compromise our integrity (you’ll stare the Silicon Labs banner at Crowd Supply). This might maybe per chance optimistically plot the hardware extra accessible, especially to obedient builders in need, however please preserve in mind we’re no longer a tall corporation. As particular person folks akin to you, we private got to effect meals on the desk and preserve a roof over our heads. Our fresh idea is to supply a dinky preference of early chicken objects at a low tag — so in the occasion you’re devour me and apprehensive about making ends meet subsequent 365 days, subscribe to our mailing list so that it’s most likely you’ll per chance presumably moreover optimistically gain profit of the early chicken pricing. And in the occasion you’re fortunate enough to be in a salvage concern, please gain into consideration backing the marketing and marketing campaign at a greater pricing tier.

Over the approaching months, I’ll be mirroring about a of the extra associated posts from the marketing and marketing campaign onto my blog, once in a whereas with extra commentary devour this. There’s over two years of effort that non-public gone into constructing Precursor, and I leer forward to sharing with you the insights and info gained on my stir.

This entry became once posted on Saturday, September 19th, 2020 at 10: 55 pm and is filed beneath betrusted, Hacking, launch source, precursor. You seemingly can moreover observe any responses to this entry thru the RSS 2.0 feed.

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