When it comes to single board computers and dev boards, the Raspberry Pi and Arduino often take up much of the project spotlight. Those are great development platforms, but BeagleBoard’s BeagleBone can hold its own and even out-perform.

In fact, Beaglebone boards often excel in industrial applications. Just as the Raspberry Pi and Arduino can be outfitted with HATs/Shields for increased functionality, the BeagleBone uses Capes, giving it new capabilities like driving motors, providing different power options and relays for home automation.

In this roundup we’ll take a look at some of the more exciting Capes on the market for the BeagleBone platform and what they bring to the table. Bear in mind that some Capes will only work with the original BeagleBone, while most others are strictly for the Black or Green edition (these will be denoted for each entry).

1: Yantrr Industrial ModBus Cape

yantrr-industrial

(Image credit: Yantrr)

Yantrr’s Industrial ModBus 3xHD Cape gives the BeagleBone the ability to interface with sensors and instruments via industrial-grade I/O using RS232/422/485 serial ports. The Cape is outfitted with 3X half-duplex RS485 ports with up to 256 devices support on each. It sports a pluggable 3.5mm 3-pin terminal header for each port, offers up to 500Kbps data pass-through, and has a 36V to 9V wide-input range, 5V output (up to 3A, 15W), and DC-DC power conversion. The Cape also uses standard UART (Linux-based) drivers and provides power to the BeagleBone and any other Capes connected to the system.

Compatibility: All BeagleBone platforms.

2: Circuitco Battery Cape

digikey beaglebond

(Image credit: Digikey)

Circuitco’s Battery Cape provides portable power to the BeagleBone and any other Capes connected to the board. The Cape offers 5V of power using just four AA lithium batteries, making it an excellent option for short-term IoT projects in the field. The Cape also features a power button; power indicator LED, EEPROM for muxing configurations, a pair 46-position connectors, and a single 10-position connector.

Compatibility: All BeagleBone platforms.

3: MikroElektronika mikroBUS Cape

mikrobus

(Image credit: MikroElektronika)

MikroElektronika’s mikroBUS Cape is a handy board that allows you to connect over 130 of the company’s Click Boards, which are small add-on modules that provide extended functionalities, including GSM, Wi-Fi, sensors, Hall current, and more. This simple Cape is outfitted with four mikroBUS sockets, DIP switch for selecting up to four addresses, EEPROM chip, and configurable pins.

Compatibility: All BeagleBone platforms.

4: Impressx Arduino Shield Cape

arduino-shield

(Image credit: Waveshare)

Impressx’s Arduino Shield Cape provides the ability to connect nearly any Shield to the BeagleBone, regardless if it uses 3.3V or 5V logic levels or up to 5V analog inputs. The board features a 14 digital GPIO header (PWM, I2C, SPI), ICSP interface, debugging interface, power LED, boot selection jumper, VIN voltage level jumper (connects to VDD5V or custom power supply), and IOREF voltage level jumper (SYS5V or 3V3).

Compatibility: BeagleBone Black.

5: RadiumBoards HD Camera Cape

radiumboard-hd-camera

(Image credit: RadiumBoards)

RadiumBoards’ HD Camera Cape is a high-resolution portable camera that features an Aptina MT9M114 1.3-megapixel 1/6-inch sensor, which can capture images at 1280 X 960 and 720P video at 30fps. The Cape offers a pair of 46-pin connectors, two pairs of 30-position sensor board connectors, and a 24-pin camera socket. Power is supplied via 3.3V or 5V expansion connectors, and sports a pair of LED indicators. RadiumBoards touts the camera as having superior low-light performance, low power consumption, and has a progressive scan ERS (Electronic Rolling Shutter).

Compatibility: BeagleBone Black.

6: BeagleBoard Robotics Cape

beaglebone-black

(Image credit: BeagleBoard)

BeagleBoard’s Robotics Cape is loaded with everything needed for robot projects with almost no setup time. The board is outfitted with a host of sensors, including 9-axis IMU and barometer, sports 4X H-bridge DC motor controllers, 8-channel servo (or ESCs) controllers, and a 5V 2A switching regulator for robust power supplies. It also supports DSM2 and DSMX satellite radios, has 4X Quadrature encoder inputs, and headers for I2C, UART, SPI, ADC, PWM, and GPIO. The Cape’s code base comes in a single Debian package and includes 29 example command line programs to run various hardware setups without the need for programming.

Compatibility: BeagleBone Black.

7: 4D Systems gen4-4DCAPE-70CT LCD Cape

4d-lcd-display

(Image credit: 4D Systems)

4D Systems’ gen4-4DCAPE-70CT-CLB is a capacitive touch 7-inch TFT LCD display designed as a direct user interface for applications such as home automation, medical monitoring, or any number of IoT projects. The screen attaches to the BeagleBone using a Cape adapter with a 30-way FFC ribbon cable and features a Microchip AR1021 resistive touch controller, has a resolution of 800 X 400, and offers an EEPROM Cape ID selection via DIP switch. Users can also get an optional push button board for navigation and selection applications.

Compatibility: BeagleBone Black.

8: GetLab PRUDAQ DAQ

getlab-prudaq-adc

(GetLab via GroupGets)

GetLab’s PRUDAQ is a DAQ (Data Acquisition) board capable of sampling 40-million MSPS using an Analog Devices AD9201 10-bit ADC capable of sampling a pair of inputs simultaneously at 20MSPS per channel. The Cape features a 0-2V input range, 4:1 analog switches in front of each channel (providing 8 single-ended analog inputs), SMA jacks for direct access to the 2X ADC channels, and flexible clock options, including external input via SMA jack, internal 10MHz oscillator, and a programmable clock from the BeagleBone’s GPIO header.

Compatibility: BeagleBone Black/BeagleBone Green.

9: Adafruit Proto Cape

adafruit-proto

(Image credit: Adafruit)

While it may be simple, Adafruit’s Proto Cape allows you to design your own custom Cape, prototype, or circuit easily and cheaply. The PCB sits directly over the board without obstructing any ports or connectors. The Cape provides breakouts to both 46-pin headers with easy to follow numbers for each pin. It also offers strips to access the 3V and 5V power supplies, and a pair of SMT breakouts- one for the SOIC-8’s and another for SOT-23’s.

Compatibility: BeagleBone/BeagleBone Black.

10: TEM Optocape

beagle-bone-optocape

(Image credit: TEM Products via Tindie)

TEM Products Optocape is a photocoupler Cape with integrated video serializer originally designed for CNC milling machines based on 3D printing control systems. The Cape uses DIP socketed optos and features 15 isolated high-speed outputs, 10X high-speed inputs, 4X analog inputs (CMOS), 4X opto relay outputs (500mA), and 12-bit color LVDS serializer compatible with most LCD displays.

Compatibility: BeagleBone Black.

These are just a few Capes on the market available for the BeagleBone platform. There is a sea of others that can also propel the development boards into greatness with increased functionality, with the only limit your imagination. With that said, there are no "best" or "top" Capes, as each was designed with specific functions in mind, and can only help propel an excellent development board into an exceptional one.

—Cabe Atwell writes about single board computer projects on EE Times.