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In-vehicle Linux system assists first responders

Jul 30, 2007 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 11 views

U.K.-based Thorcom Systems Ltd is shipping a rugged, Debian Linux-based, in-vehicle computer intended for emergency first responders. The GPS-equipped VR2000 can serve as an application host, IP router, and vehicle locater in a wide range of mobile data, vehicle tracking, and in-vehicle communications and networking applications,… according to the company.

(Click here for a larger image of the VR2000)

The VR2000 boasts a dual-channel graphics controller that supports connection of one or two VGA or DVI screens, including displays equipped with touch-screens. This, according to the company, allows the device to simultaneously display information on a small screen located in the vehicle cab, and greater detail, up to 1280 x 1024, on a larger screen in the rear of a vehicle.

The device incorporates a high-performance 12-channel GPS receiver for positioning and timing applications, such as automatic vehicle location (AVL) and data logging. Associated GPS software includes an intelligent “rules based” vehicle location sub-system said to minimizes transmissions, and a “black box” recorder capability that can be used for logging vehicle location and speed, or status gathered from external sensors (e.g. temperature or fuel levels) and other digital inputs.

The device can be used for implementing a “vehicle area network,” whereby the unit operates across two IP-enabled radio networks, functioning as both a mobile data terminal and as an IP packet router for other radios in the network. As such, the VR2000 can also serve to extend the home base LAN and act as the access point to a WAN, according to the company.

VR2000 in a “multi-bearer” and vehicle area network
(Click to enlarge; source: Thorcom)

Key features and specifications of the VR2000, as listed by the company, include:

  • Processor — Samsung S3C2440 with ARM920T 32-bit RISC CPU, clocked at 400MHz
  • DRAM — 128MB SDRAM standard; 256MB SDRAM optional
  • Graphics:
    • based on Silicon Motion SM501 dual-channel VGA controller
    • supports 1 or 2 screens
    • VGA, DVI, LVDS interface options
    • 8MB VRAM standard; 64MB VRAM optional
  • Storage:
    • internal 2.5-inch notebook HD drive (option)
    • CF Card type I/II, up to 4GB size; CFA/IDE microdrive option
    • 1MB NVRAM for user data
    • 64MB NAND flash for bootloader and custom applications
    • NVRAM 1Kb IIC bus non-volatile (ABLE configuration)
  • LAN — 2 Ethernet 10/100 Mbps Ethernet ports
  • Other I/O ports:
    • 4 RS232 serial ports; up to 115200bps
    • 6 x USB v1.1 host ports
  • GPS — 12-channel Trimble Lassen iQ receiver
  • Audio — AC97 codec with line in/out, mic in, speaker out jacks
  • Power:
    • input — +10 to 32 VDC at 3.5W typical / 4.0W max (excluding HDD and USB devices)
    • Backup CR2032 3.0V Lithium Coin-cell (user replaceable)
    • Microprocessor controlled power supply system with intelligent power
      on/off and watchdog functions
  • Physical specs:
    • Dimensions — 7.5 x 7.5 x 1.25 in. (190 x 190 x 32 mm)
    • Weight — 2 lbs (900g) without HDD; 2.4 lbs (1100g) with HDD
    • Operating temperature — -10 to +55 degrees C
    • Enclosure — aluminium extrusion; IP54 rated
    • Humidity — 0-90 percent RH (non-condensing)
    • EMC — 89/336/EEC (EN 310 489); Vehicle EMC directive 95/54/EEC

The device's embedded operating system is based on a customized Debian ARM version 2.6 Linux kernel, according to Thorcom. Production units run with a minimal set of OS packages, as required for system operation. “Special versions of the VR2000 are available with integral hard disk drives and full Debian Linux installation for software developers.” The VR2000's download page, located here, a bootloader (“ABLE” — advanced boot loader environment), diagnostics package, kernel patches, two standard applications (power daemon and vehicle location daemon), and other related software.


Thorcom says the VR2000 is currently available — either as a hardware-only platform, or as a turn-key solution with a full suite of “mission-appropriate” applications. Pricing was not disclosed.

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