Marvell to Launch IoT Maker Kit

The semiconductor supplier Marvell in Santa Clara, Calif., rolled out its Kinoma Create JavaScript-powered Internet of Things construction kit Monday, March 10. Marvell said that the software/hardware combined tool kit is designed for “software developers, makers, and designers” to easily start creating connected consumer electronics and their companion apps.

The brain behind Kinoma Create is Peter Hoddie, who developed QuickTime at Apple and then founded a software engineering company called Kinoma in 2002.

When Marvell acquired Kinoma in 2010, the deal included — lock, stock, and barrel — Hoddie and his team, the original Kinoma team's experience in building applications for consumer electronics in JavaScript, and the body of the software work it developed and licensed to Sony, Palm, Softbank, Docomo, and Sling Media.

In describing Kinoma Create, Hoddie, now Marvell's Kinoma vice president, told us, “It is a developer prototyping device that leverages our software work to open the maker movement to many more people. One goal of Kinoma Create is to speed up prototyping so more time can be spent on user testing to refine user experiences.”

Kinoma Create's hardware consists of a power efficient CPU; WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity; a capacitive touchscreen; and numerous input/output options for external sensors, LEDs, and input devices.

The heart of Kinoma Create is its software — Kinoma Platform Runtime (KPR). By using JavaScript and XML for programming, KPR is made “accessible to novice programmers, while its advanced architecture empowers professional programmers to deliver commercial products more easily,” according to Marvell.

Kinoma Studio, the development environment for KPR, includes the Kinoma Create simulator to speed development, a wireless debugger to eliminate cables, and application packagers for iOS and Android to build mobile apps with KPR that interact with Kinoma Create prototypes.

In an unusual move for a publicly traded company, Marvell has chosen to launch Kinoma Create at Indiegogo as a crowdfunding campaign.

The choice is unconventional, because the chip company could have easily picked winning ideas, worked with proven system companies as its customers, and funded the projects. This is how semiconductor companies have traditionally worked.

Marvell, however, appears to sense that a different approach is necessary in the Wild Wild West of the Internet of Things.

Many electronics industry observers suspect that the eventual rulers of the emerging Internet of Things market aren't necessarily a handful of big household CE brand names. Instead, students, web developers, software professionals, aspiring makers, and vendors who've never worked in the electronics business, but whose core competencies cover a broad range, might create the Internet of Things that they want.

This is the premise of Kinoma Create.

Hoddie explained that the audience Marvell hopes to reach is “teams using crowdfunding to fund their products — along with many of the early adopters who support them with their pre-orders.”

How's different from Raspberry Pi?
Of course, the notion of offering a level playing field to many people with creative ideas isn't new. A number of kits and boards are already available, and they're widely used among makers today.

How is Kinoma Create, for example, different from Raspberry Pi?

The Raspberry Pi, a credit card-sized single-board computer originally developed in the UK, is very popular and has been used in a number of projects.

Hoddie acknowledged that Kinoma Create “will initially be compared to devices like Raspberry Pi.” But he added that Kinoma Create is “something else.” He calls it “a prototyping device for the rest of us.”

Next Page: Missing pieces

In his mind, Kinoma Create is much more complete than what a single-board computer can offer. Hoddie explained that it incorporates a lot of fundamental hardware and software components that developers would love to use, if not for the daunting chore of figuring out basic hardware configurations and porting a software driver.

In describing “some neat tricks” included in Kinoma Create hardware, Hoddie noted that it comes with “a case to make it portable, a battery to make it mobile, adjustable legs to reorient it, and an integrated breadboard for adding sensors — no soldering iron needed.”

Hoddie's team made sure that Kinoma Create built in “all the stuff that's missing from most prototyping kits, too,” he said. Those missing pieces include: a screen, capacitive touch, speaker, microphone, USB, WiFi, Bluetooth, and a micro SD card slot. “We included all those extras so creators can use their time to bring their idea to life, not getting the basic configuration to work.”

Kinoma Create device (Source: Marvell)

Kinoma Create device
(Source: Marvell)

Details Hoddie's team incorporated in Kinoma Create are also applied to its software. Hoddie explained:

First, we made Kinoma Create accessible to the broadest audience by making JavaScript the primary — often exclusive — programming language. Next, we encapsulated our decade of experience building software for consumer electronics using JavaScript in our core Kinoma Platform Runtime framework.

Then, we made it simple to work with hardware sensors and buttons from JavaScript rather than having to port, build, and hack a Linux driver. Finally, because pictures, video, and music are now fundamental, the digital media capabilities are strong — particular streaming media support. And, yes, it plays QuickTime movies.

The crowdfunding campaign for Kinoma Create is already live on Indiegogo here. Marvell noted that campaign perk levels are designed to reward early support, educators, and those who would benefit from additional access to the expertise of the Kinoma team.

Meanwhile, Marvell is making Kinoma Studio immediately available as a free download here.

— Junko Yoshida, Chief International Correspondent, EE Times Circle me on Google+

This article was originally published on EBN's sister publication EE Times.

3 comments on “Marvell to Launch IoT Maker Kit

  1. t.alex
    March 11, 2014

    Crowdfunding is a pretty good way to gather early market response. This is the first time I have seen a big company like Marvell do it this way. Let's see how it work out.

    March 13, 2014

    How does Marvell profit from this?  Is the hope that this widget will spawn many apps that use Marvell hardware or is the plan to sell many of these widgets themselves?  I too struggled to see what is offers compared to the cheapo Pi or any other developers kit freely available from people like Altera or Xilinx.

    March 13, 2014

    How does Marvell profit from this?  Is the hope that this widget will spawn many apps that use Marvell hardware or is the plan to sell many of these widgets themselves?  I too struggled to see what is offers compared to the cheapo Pi or any other developers kit freely available from people like Altera or Xilinx.

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