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The Android Head Unit Build - The Quest for Power

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  • The Android Head Unit Build - The Quest for Power



    The Quest for (always-on) Power

    A part of the challenge when planning the Android head unit build was finding the best way to power the development board in the car. One area that tablets and smart phones have an advantage over a development board like the ODROID-X2 is that they come with a battery. This means that not only can the be powered by something as simple as a 12v car plug, but also that there's some level of power remaining after the vehicle ignition stops.

    As mentioned in previous posts, my choice to provide a stable power output to the 5 volt 2 amp ODROID-X2 is the Minibox intelligent DC/DC converter. The Minibox device can be configured to provide the 5 volts the X2 needs, as well as the 12v a standard Lilliput touchscreen requires. While this device can provide the power the development board demands during a drive, there's no easy way to notify the ODROID-X2 that the ignition signal is off and the board needs to shut down gracefully. A quick search on Amazon presented me an opportunity to potentially never have to shutdown, effectively creating an always-on solution for the ODROID-X2.


    The Anker Astro E4 is an external power source specifically designed to recharge tablets and smart phones. It provides a mammoth 13000mAh, enough juice to completely recharge a Samsung Galaxy S3 twice over and then some. The new plan given the E4's specs is simple. Instead of the Minibox DC/DC powering the ODROID-X2 directly, it will instead charge the external battery pack. The battery back will then serve a constant dose of 5 volt power to the ODROID-X2. Using the all too valuable android app Tasker, I can set the development board into a low power state, stopping all non-critical processes and turning the WIFI and GPS devices off. Tasker can automate this task based on my phone disconnecting from the Bluetooth connection the ODROID-X2 creates upon startup, then automatically restore the power state upon Bluetooth reconnection.


    The key to the planned implementation of the battery is the real-world battery life available, a factor that I've only begun to start testing. Nevertheless, the preliminary results are very promising. With the ODROID-X2 in full power mode (no services/devices disabled), the Anker battery has been running 6 hours without 1 of the 4 charge light indicators showing a partial discharged state. If I can effectively achieve 2-3 days out of a battery charge, the always-on portion of the Android head unit build will be considered a success!

    More test results soon to come, along with a video breakdown of how Tasker automates my Android install.
    Last edited by Sonicxtacy02; 06-22-2013, 08:09 PM.
    mp3Car.com Senior Tech Blogger (Want a product reviewed? Contact me.)
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  • #2
    I think for Android it is not a big deal to shutdown gracefully or not, so it is not a big problem if this battery unit running out of juice. Good idea anyway. Can't wait for the next post.

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    • #3
      Something to make sure you pay attention to...

      Batteries go bad eventually and will do so much quicker if your vehicle gets hot in the summer and cold in the winter when it is parked. You will want to make sure you have easy access to any batteries to replace them as needed. I lost my Spare Galaxy S3 battery in my truck and found it 2 months later after it sat in the truck fully charged under the seat where it fell last summer. The battery never held much of a charge after that.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by komorg View Post
        I think for Android it is not a big deal to shutdown gracefully or not, so it is not a big problem if this battery unit running out of juice. Good idea anyway. Can't wait for the next post.
        Yea thats what i figure. I mean if the battery runs out its a difference between a 15-20 second boot and instant boot. Not a huge deal. Im more concerned about the time to fully charge the battery honestly.

        Originally posted by redheadedrod View Post
        Something to make sure you pay attention to...

        Batteries go bad eventually and will do so much quicker if your vehicle gets hot in the summer and cold in the winter when it is parked. You will want to make sure you have easy access to any batteries to replace them as needed. I lost my Spare Galaxy S3 battery in my truck and found it 2 months later after it sat in the truck fully charged under the seat where it fell last summer. The battery never held much of a charge after that.
        The battery will be stored in the glove box which strangely enough is air conditioned. The entire system will be installed for easy removal. That way the ODROID can be updated.
        mp3Car.com Senior Tech Blogger (Want a product reviewed? Contact me.)
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        • #5
          I had my android tablet installed for over a year and was powered on 100% of the time by simply using the manufacturer supplied USB charger in my car. Never experienced any power drain and the tablet pauses charging when its full...though that may not be the same experience for all tablets and all cars but works great for me..even in the 100+ degree Phoenix weather.
          "Live Free!!!...It's all about Open Source"
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          • #6
            Have you taken your tablet apart and looked at the battery hexx? I had another battery I left in a car and didn't realize it until about 6 months later and it had corroded. It was in the car for the last part of the winter into the summer before I realized it was in there.

            In both cases they fell out of my pocket.

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            • #7
              Wow. LOL! Nope. Im not concerned. Im about to redesign my install soon.

              Posted using Tapatalk2 on my awesome GalaxyS4
              "Live Free!!!...It's all about Open Source"
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              • #8
                Sounds good.
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                • #9
                  What about using some of those GPIO pins for putting it into a low power state. That way if your phone ever runs out of battery or something similar, it still goes into sleep (and not while you are driving)

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by ZombieLinux View Post
                    What about using some of those GPIO pins for putting it into a low power state. That way if your phone ever runs out of battery or something similar, it still goes into sleep (and not while you are driving)
                    I honestly have no idea how to use the GPIOs. That ill probably be the best way to do it, but I'll have to read up. Luckily enough, I'm the only one that drives my vehicle, and my phone dying wont ever be a problem in the car because I can simply plug it into the Anker battery and charge BOTH the phone and the ODROID . The Anker has a 5v 2 amp out and a 5v 1 amp.
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                    • #11
                      Sonicxtacy02 - I'll be following this build very close because this is just what I was wanting to do. I'm just programming challenged. For the screen and touch as well as a case would something like this work for your build?

                      2DIN IN DASH 7" Samsung HDMI Touch Screen Monitor

                      To me the price looks good and you get the screen, touch, and case. I've sent the manufacture an email to see if they can do one with a capacitive screen instead of resistive. I'll report back when I hear something.
                      Win7, 8GB, i7. 9-1-12 Riderunner. Plugins - RRTMS, DFXVoice, RRFuelPrices, WifiMan. Skin - Reborn.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by whteglve View Post
                        Sonicxtacy02 - I'll be following this build very close because this is just what I was wanting to do. I'm just programming challenged. For the screen and touch as well as a case would something like this work for your build?

                        2DIN IN DASH 7" Samsung HDMI Touch Screen Monitor

                        To me the price looks good and you get the screen, touch, and case. I've sent the manufacture an email to see if they can do one with a capacitive screen instead of resistive. I'll report back when I hear something.
                        The owner of that eBay account is a member here but he hasn't been active in a while. You can see the long thread about that particular monitor/enclosure here.
                        "You're just about as useless as JPEGs to Helen Keller" - Wierd Al

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                        • #13
                          Yes, awhile back Derrick sent me an open-frame demo of that screen which I reviewed here. I believe its the same screen, but the controller board looks very much different. I also notice that the case doesn't have room for a power supply and doesn't appear to come with a mount to mount the power above the motherboard, nothing that would cause me a problem with my build, but for other people who might want it as an ITX solution.

                          I worry that the case may be a bit too deep for my shallow dash, but if there's genuine interest I can see if mp3Car could reach out.
                          Last edited by Sonicxtacy02; 06-25-2013, 12:11 PM.
                          mp3Car.com Senior Tech Blogger (Want a product reviewed? Contact me.)
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                          • #14
                            Hey Sonicxtacy, I was wondering if you could help me out. Read your way of powering the Android board and was wondering, did you connect the 12v unregulated to the dc-dc board > Anker Battery Pack > Android board?

                            Have you had any issues with the Anker battery pack?

                            It's just that I am trying to do something similar but keep CCTV cameras recording 24/7 instead!

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by BiG K View Post
                              Hey Sonicxtacy, I was wondering if you could help me out. Read your way of powering the Android board and was wondering, did you connect the 12v unregulated to the dc-dc board > Anker Battery Pack > Android board?

                              Have you had any issues with the Anker battery pack?

                              It's just that I am trying to do something similar but keep CCTV cameras recording 24/7 instead!
                              That's exactly how I hooked it up. And I've had no issues with the Anker battery pack quite frankly the thing is awesome as a means of portable charging. I've gone on 3 day weekends using tablets and a few androids and letting the battery pack be the sole manner of keeping devices charged. No regrets on that purchase.

                              And as a followup, I replaced my 6 year old Kinetik power cell with a new one and now the ODROID-X2 and components remain in always on state. The only thing I have to wait for at ignition is the dreaded blue Lilliput "No Signal" screen to get out of the way
                              mp3Car.com Senior Tech Blogger (Want a product reviewed? Contact me.)
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