By looking at the Precursor you may wonder “Are we not through with these phones yet?”, but who said this was a regular phone? Its deceiving looks hide an open hardware development platform for mobile communication and computation in a secure environment. Intrigued?
The Precursor is described by the developers as a device for everyday use that compromises nothing as a development platform. It is powered by an FPGA-hosted, soft-core System-on-Chip (SoC), giving the developers a lot of freedom when it comes to the customization of the platform, but it doesn’t end there. It was designed from the ground up with one main goal: security. It can be considered a strong starting point for your projects. The developers describe some interesting things you can apply with the platform:
- Secure communication – With an easier-to-verify hardware design, self-provisioning and support for modern crypo primitives, you are in for a treat if secure communication is what you’re looking for! It uses the Silicon Labs WF200 for Wi-Fi connectivity and contains a headphone jack, allowing for end-to-end encrypted voice communications.
- Key protection – Its security characteristics make it particularly interesting when it comes to developing two-factor authentication solutions, crypto wallets and other critical applications. Since supply chain attacks are devastating in these cost-conservative targets, you may consider building your own SoC and firmware from the ground up to limit the attacking surface, where the Percursor was conceived to ease this process.
- CPU emulation – Even though its FPGA ships with a 32-bit RISC-V CPU, you can easily configure it to emulate a comprehensive library of retro CPUs, such as the 6502 from the NES or the Z-80. You can even turn it into a retro pocket-sized console with some creativity!
Regarding some of the specs of the system:
- Xilinx XC7S50 primary System on Chip (SoC) FPGA (-L1 speed grade for longer battery life) + iCE40UP5K secondary Embedded Controller (EC) FPGA (manages the power, standby and charging)
- 16MB external SRAM + 128MB Flash memories
- Dual hardware TRNG
- Physical keyboard (modular keyboard PCB, customizable to add sensors or swap for touch surface), black and white LCD (200ppi, 226×536 resolution)
- Audio: Integrated 0.7W speaker, vibration motor and headset jack
- Integrated Wi-Fi (hardware-sandboxed WF200C chipset)
- USB type C port + 1100maH battery
- Anti-tamper features