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As we learned during Kickstarter Week modern development boards are amazing tools that have put the power of the microprocessor into the hands of hobbyists and entrepreneurs everywhere. These development boards are capable of handling multiple inputs including analog and digital, storing data, and running powerful programs. But what do you do when one board is not enough? What if you want to connect multiple devices and sensors to a single board and turn that already versatile board into an even more powerful system? Luckily there are many different methods to connect these devices. In this post we will discuss some common ways to do this using a wired connection. We will cover wireless communication in a future post.

 

The two primary methods for data transfer are serial and parallel communications buses. Serial uses a single channel to send data bits one after another while parallel uses multiple channels and sends multiple bits concurrently. For the purposes of this article we will focus on serial communication because it is more commonly used for development boards. One of the reasons for this is that serial communication takes up less space which is often limited on development boards. Three common methods of serial communication we’ll discuss here are SPI, universal asynchronous receiver/transmitter (UART), and I2C. Each interface has advantages and disadvantages depending on the application.

 

SPI

Serial Peripheral Interface (SPI) is a serial interface that can be used by microcontrollers and other peripherals such as sensors to send data to one another. SPI utilizes a clock line, data line, and a select line that is used to select the appropriate device you wish to communicate to in the case of multiple connected devices. SPI is capable of the fastest speeds out of the three interfaces we cover here and is capable of handling multiple slaves from a single master device. One drawback of SPI is that compared to other methods it requires more wires and as you add additional devices the number of wires can quickly become burdensome.

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UART/Serial Ports

Serial ports use an asynchronous method to communicate between two devices and is commonly seen on many development boards. Most development boards will come with a standard asynchronous serial port that can be used for a simple connection between two devices. Some will prefer this method because of its simplicity, but there are downsides to using the serial port. Since it is asynchronous (no clock is being transmitted), both devices using the serial port must be programmed ahead of time to use the same data rate or the data will be corrupted. Another downside is it can only be used for communication between two devices and two only.

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I2C

Inter-Integrated Circuit (I2C) is a two-wire design that has found its way into a wide variety of chips and can be found in many designs today. I2C uses a bi-directional serial clock and data lines and supports three bit rates: 100 kbps standard mode, 400 kbps fast mode and 3.4 Mbps high speed mode.


Data and clock are sent from the master and the data is clocked on the rising edge of SCLK. I2C supports multiple masters and slaves on the bus, but only one master may be active at any one time while slaves can transmit or receive data to the master.

 

Each device is recognized by a unique address and can operate as either a transmitter or receiver, depending on the function of the device. I2C sits in the middle of the previous two methods. Because of this versatility it is helpful to use an oscilloscope, as we discuss next, to monitor an I2C signal and decode the data on the scope to verify the connection.

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Example – Here’s how to validate I2C

When designing a system that utilizes an I2C bus you will often come across the need to verify that data being transmitted across the bus is the correct data. Using an MSO/DPO2000B oscilloscope you can not only view the signal but can also trigger on events of interest. With the DPO2EMBD application module you can decode the data using software, saving you the time that it would take to decode the data bit by bit manually. These capabilities can save you hours of work by enabling you to easily find, capture, and analyze events of interest on your serial data.

For more insights, but sure to check out the Serial and Parallel Bus Decode Video.

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Guest blog by Matt Benes, Technical Marketing Manager, Tektronix Embedded Instrumentation Group

Thank you to everyone who participated in the post! WOW! You guys came up with some phenomenal ideas for projects! It made my week to read all of your project ideas! Alas, there are only five boards to give away so without further ado I would like to present to you the winners of the Kickstarter Week Out of Box Analysis Board Giveaways:

 

Drum-roll PLEASE!!!

 

 

................................ (This is apparently a text drum-roll)

 

 

 

The winner of the Arduino Due is ........................ gregoryfenton !!!! Have fun building your Christmas decorations automation!! Would love to see a video of the final product if you get the chance =)

 

 

The winner of the Nordic nRF51822 mKIT is ........................ jessem !!!! Have fun building your fermentation monitoring system!

 

 

The winner of the FRDM KL25Z is ........................ garysims!!!! Good luck with developing your children's game!

 

 

The winner of the BeagleBone Black is ........................ burnsbert!!!! I would love to see a picture of your completed magic window!

 

 

The winner of the Odroid-XU3 is ........................ phonikg!!!! I wish you and your team good luck with your hackathon! Let us know how you do!

 

 

To the winners, please PM me (or send it to Carissa.Labriola@arm.com) your mailing address so I can get you your boards. To everyone one else, check back in January for more Out of Box Analysis posts with more boards and more chances to win.

 

Thank you again everyone!

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                                                            HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

I am often asked where to get in-depth information about embedded software development. Commonly, the query comes from a student who thinks that it sounds like an interesting career option. Typically they ask how I got started, but, although I am willing to share my story, I am not at all sure that the details are still relevant – that was then, this is now. Maybe they are after advice on which college course to take; perhaps they want to know about helpful websites; but, more often than not, they are after a reading list. Which books should they read? …

It seems only yesterday [though it is actually 10 years ago at least] when suggesting books on embedded software was challenging. Searching Amazon for the word “embedded” would not yield very much, even though the word had become widely used. I would generally suggest looking at some combination of electronics and software engineering books. Nowadays, matters have changed and there is quite a wide range of relevant reading matter.

To read the rest of this entry, visit the Colin Walls blog via Mentor Embedded.

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Happy Friday! It's the last day of Kickstarter Week and it's time for the fifth and final board (at least for this week )! Today I present to you a particular powerhouse in Hardkernel's line: the Odroid-XU3! In short, this board is a BEAST. I am talking you hold it and think, "the force is strong in this one!" But more on that in a little bit. In case you haven't caught on to my pattern here,(Out of Box Analysis: BeagleBone Black ***PRIZE POST***, Out of Box Analysis: Freescale Freedom KL25Z ***PRIZE POST***, Out of Box Analysis: Arduino Due ***PRIZE POST*** and Out of Box Analysis: Nordic nRF51822-mKIT ***PRIZE POST***) I have a giveaway!

You can WIN an Odroid-XU3!

 

It's super simple: just comment below and tell us what you would make with this board. Each person who submits their idea will be entered into a drawing on December 15, 2014. Submissions will be closed on Monday, December 15 at 1 PM PST and the winner will be announced that day by 5 PM PST.

 

By beast I mean this board leverages the power of the Samsung Exynos5422 Cortex-A15 2.0Ghz quad core and Cortex-A7 quad core CPUs and a Mali-T628 MP6 (OpenGL ES 3.0/2.0/1.1 and OpenCL 1.1 Full profile). Count the cores because this board means business! Yes, I'm gushing, but you get my point: this is the board you choose if you are working on a processing-dense project like designing a game that captures hand-movements using OpenCV and translates them into nice, clean graphics on the screen. Let's get to the action! 

odroid.PNG

[Image courtesy of ameriDroid.com]

 

Hardware

From a design aspect I have needed to take the physical size of the board into account, what voltage supply/ battery pack to purchase, the number of break out pins available for sensors, price and available documentation. These aspects have therefore been taken down in case they are important to anyone else’s design.


Software

The benchmarking for software was determined by the environments, native languages, time to get started and the like

  • Tutorials (YouTube, main page, etc)
  • Time to get LED blink working
    • First make sure you have all of the right cables and additions: I recommend getting the pre-booted SD card of eMMC with Linux or Android (your choice), plug in the microHDMI cable to a screen, plug in keyboard and mouse to the USB ports, ethernet cable, memory with OS and power. When the setup is ready the boot takes less than a minute for the command line to come up. Depending on what you want to do with it next the time to set up your IDE and other applications depends on your flavor of choice.
  • Languages
    • C
    • C++
    • Python
  • System Software
    • Ubuntu 14.04 + OpenGL ES + OpenCL on Kernel LTS 3.10

    • Android 4.4.2 on Kernel LTS 3.10

//Note, I got rid of programming environments because it doesn't quite fit this board

  • From taking board out of box to printf on screen using C, C++, or Java?
    • Same process as the LED: Once the operating system is up you can download your IDE of choice, set it up and start programming.

 

Projects & Community

Whenever you take on a new project it is always nice to see what other people have done. Therefore the last section is dedicated to the resources already available.


Opinion time:

What I appreciate about the Odroid-XU3

This board is meant for some heavy-duty work. If you want to make it your new desktop machine it can handle the load, if you want to start developing 3D games (which seems to be the most popular option for this board) it's good for that too! Personally when I get some time (AKA after finals) I want to try playing with OpenCV applications on it. With great power comes a serious amount of add-ons to get it started but once you're over that hurdle you can enjoy the ride.

 


*Warning on biases: I am a senior Computer Engineering student with a background in embedded systems. I have worked with a variety of ARM-based boards for projects over the years. I acknowledge that I have my own set of preferences based off of what has worked well in the past but I have tried to be as impartial as possible since not everyone has the same project goals.I am an intern at ARM but these opinions are my own. If you have had a different experience I welcome your feedback!

chrisconlon

CyaSSL 3.3.0 Released

Posted by chrisconlon Dec 11, 2014

wolfSSL is happy to announce version 3.3.0 of the CyaSSL lightweight SSL/TLS library.  CyaSSL version 3.3.0 offers:


  • Secure countermeasures for Handshake message duplicates, CHANGE CIPHER without FINISHED, and fast forward attempts added to our source code.  Thanks to Karthikeyan Bhargavan from the Prosecco team at INRIA Paris-Rocquencourt for the report.  This is an important fix and all users should update!
  • Complete testing for FIPS 140-2 version submitted to NIST.  FIPS 140-2 source code now available.
  • Removes SSLv2 Client Hello processing for enhanced security, can be enabled with OLD_HELLO_ALLOWED
  • Protocol level control:  User can now control TLS protocol down-cycling to a minimum downgrade version with CyaSSL_SetMinVersion().  For example, you could reject handshakes at a protocol level less than TLS 1.1.
  • Small stack improvements at TLS/SSL layer, to benefit environments with limited available stack.
  • TLS Master Secret generation and Key Expansion are now exposed at the API level
  • Adds client side Secure Renegotiation, * not recommended, ever! *
  • Client side session ticket support.  This feature is not fully tested with Secure Renegotiation, so don’t use Secure Renegotiation.
  • Allows up to 4096-bit DHE at TLS Key Exchange layer
  • Handles non standard SessionID sizes in Hello Messages
  • PicoTCP Support added
  • TLS Sniffer now supports SNI Virtual Hosts
  • TLS Sniffer now handles non HTTPS protocols using STARTTLS
  • TLS Sniffer can now parse records with multiple messages
  • TI-RTOS updates or enhances support
  • Fix for ColdFire optimized fp_digit read only in explicit 32bit case
  • Added ADH Cipher Suite ADH-AES128-SHA for EAP-FAST


Stay up to date with what is happening with wolfSSL, you can follow our blog at wolfSSL - Current News


If you have any questions please feel free to contact us anytime at info@wolfSSL.com or (425)245-8247.
We look forward to hearing from you!


Thank You!

wolfSSL


Happy Thursday! It's day four of Kickstarter Week and it's time for another board to get it's time in the sun (or if you are in the Bay area, lots of rain and wind)! Today I am happy to present a board that hails from Texas Instruments: the BeagleBone Black! This powerhouse platform runs various distributions of Linux, can handle hefty processing applications, and has an abundance of pin-outs to play with. Just like my previous posts (Developer Board Analysis: Freescale Freedom KL25Z ***PRIZE POST***, Out of Box Analysis: Arduino Due ***PRIZE POST*** and Out of Box Analysis: Nordic nRF51822-mKIT ***PRIZE POST***) I have a giveaway! You can WIN a BeagleBone Black!

 

It's super simple: just comment below and tell us what you would make with this board. Each person who submits their idea will be entered into a drawing on December 15, 2014. Submissions will be closed on Monday, December 15 at 1 PM PST and the winner will be announced that day by 5 PM PST.

 

This board takes advantage of the TI Sitara™ AM3358 ARM® Cortex®-A8 processor. For a relatively low cost this little board can power applications from robots to OpenCV with a 3D camera! This is not my first run in with the BeagleBone Black- I used it 1.5 years ago as part of an internship and I am preparing to use it now for my senior project. BUT it's been awhile and many different platforms since we have last met so I can appreciate this unboxing of the BBB from a different set of eyes than I had then. So on that note let the reunion commence!

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Image courtesy BeagleBoard.org - black


Hardware

From a design aspect I have needed to take the physical size of the board into account, what voltage supply/ battery pack to purchase, the number of break out pins available for sensors, price and available documentation. These aspects have therefore been taken down in case they are important to anyone else’s design.

  • Physical layout (width x length)
    • 53.3 x 86.4 mm
  • CPU specs: Performance, Memory, Power
    • Input voltage: 5V
    • Operating voltage: 5V
    • Flash memory: 4GB
    • DRAM: 512MB
    • Clock speed: 1 GHz
  • I/O specs:
    • 65 digital I/O pins (3.3 V)
    • 8 PWMs
    • 4 Timers
    • 4 UARTs and 1 TX only
    • 2 I2C ports
    • 2 SPI ports
    • 2 CAN bus ports
    • 7 Analog pins
    • A/D converter
    • external SD card slot
    • micro HDMI
    • 3D graphics accelerator
    • NEON floating-point accelerator
  • Price: $55; check out here for distributors and pricing: https://octopart.com/bb-bblk-000-circuitco+electronics-26478322
  • What additional hardware do you need to purchase?
    • To get started programming - nothing. I do however advise a LCD screen of some sort to see the Linux interface.
    • To get some really cool projects going I recommend taking a look at the capes available: Beagleboard:BeagleBone Capes - eLinux.org


Software

The benchmarking for software was determined by the environments, native languages, time to get started and the like.


Projects & Community

Whenever you take on a new project it is always nice to see what other people have done. Therefore the last section is dedicated to the resources available.


Opinion time:

What I appreciate about the BeagleBone Black

This is where you have to remember my bias of embedded systems, for which this board is perfect! Most of the senior projects for my Computer Engineering class call for video processing to be embedded into a very small space and be battery powered to keep the project mobile. My team in particular is working on a distributed-system robot and using the BBB to tackle the processing-dense functions. Between the ease of use, the vast variety of options (language, IDE, and OS), library of capes and sheer power to drive a project forward the opportunities are abound with this board!


*Warning on biases: I am a senior Computer Engineering student with a background in embedded systems. I have worked with a variety of ARM-based boards for projects over the years. I acknowledge that I have my own set of preferences based off of what has worked well in the past but I have tried to be as impartial as possible since not everyone has the same project goals.I am an intern at ARM but these opinions are my own. If you have had a different experience I welcome your feedback!

Mousr.jpg

Connect the unconnected and that's exactly what three cat-loving Ph.D. students at the University of Illinois did with their robotic cat toy that reacts to your cat - yup, and they're claiming (I trust them, since this is their passion) Mousr is the first of its kind. The little mouse just raised $116,000 on Kickstarter without a huge professional PR blitz (well...they did put together a rap to support it) and is already taking $150 pre-orders via their website.

 

Prior to launching their campaign, they moved to Shenzhen, China to start prototyping and connecting with the appropriate experts. "Being in China allowed us to evaluate a dozen different possible solutions faster than we could have anywhere else."

 

Mousr is engineered to enable the cat to engage in its natural hunting patterns. The 360 degree vision of the toy enables it to detect the cat from any direction, and the inertial measurement unit combines motion sensing technologies so it can move precisely and stay on track. Want to have a little fun with it yourself? They've included Bluetooth, so you can take control of Mousr and control it from their smartphone app.

 

 

 

Dave Cohen, one of the co-founders of Mousr, sheds a bit more light about their successfully funded invention.

 

Developer Background:

I have an M.S. in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Also on the team are a Ph.D. and another M.S. in electrical engineering, a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering, and a serial entrepreneur. Our primary research focus in grad school has been on signal processing and artificial intelligence.

 

Tech Inside:

At the moment we are leaning toward using an LPC4330 ARM Cortex-M0/-M4 MCU from NXP (author note: not sure if they're purchasing it from Mouser Electronics - sorry, I'm not funny). Additional key hardware includes a 360 degree vision system (CMOS imager + custom lens), inertial measurement unit, and loud speaker. The real magic behind Mousr is the signal processing and algorithms that give him his intelligence.

 

What was the inspiration for creating Mousr? How many cats do you own?

It started essentially as a shower thought: wouldn’t it be cool if there was a toy that could sense a cat and run away from it? I brought the idea to Michael Friedman (known to friends as "Doom"), our resident cat enthusiast extraordinaire, and together we built the first prototype. After seeing how well the idea worked, we brought on David Jun, a true embedded systems wizard, and we moved to China to develop Mousr full-time. Collectively the founding team has 6 cats, 4 of which belong to Doom.

 

Most challenging hurdle you had to overcome in creating Mousr?

In some sense I think our most challenging hurdles are yet to come in the manufacturing process. But for prototyping, finding the right sensing technology was definitely the trickiest part. We explored every kind of proximity sensing technology you can think of. Some worked better than others, but nothing ever felt truly right until we came up with the 360 degree vision system we’re using today.

 

Advice for a developer that would like to create a robotic toy?

No matter if you’re building something for fun or for commercial sale, always keep your end-user in mind. For us, that’s cats. For you, it might be as broad as kids or as specific as women over 55 with dark hair. Who knows - but make sure your design decisions are made with them in mind. You might think it’d be cool to throw WiFi on your robot, but is it important to the user experience? Of course if you are the end user, put as much WiFi on there as you want!

 

Advice for someone wanting to start at Kickstarter campaign?

We’re probably the wrong guys to ask. We put ours together in a week without paying for a professional video or spending a ton of time on media outreach. If you look at some of the “DOs and DON’Ts of launching a Kickstarter” stuff out there online, I think we probably did just about everything on the DON’T list. But hey, we ended up being successful, which goes to show you don’t have to follow any specific formula. Our biggest goals in creating the campaign were to be honest, show our personalities, and make people laugh while they were visiting our page. I think it worked well for us.

 

Congrats to these young entrepreneurs and best of luck with Mousr! Mousr is one of 50 Kickstarter Innovations Based on ARM hosted on the recently launched 'ARM-based Projects' curated page on Kickstarter.

The fun never stops during ARM Kickstarter week and our latest interview is with Humberto Evans, the creator of Pantelligent. This is a great story of determination and an interesting business "pivot".  I met Humberto a few years ago when he launched a very cool in-browser electronics design tool called CircuitLab which continues, but Humberto is a maker at heart so he wanted to build something cool (or hot in this case) and so Pantelligent was born.

pantelligent_cooking.jpg

As the name implies, Pantelligent is a smart pan that very accurately senses temperature and communicates to your Smartphone via Bluetooth. Humberto loves to cook, and like many home chefs, he struggled with temperature control which is everything if you are trying to produce perfect salmon, scallops and chicken. The promise of a robot that cooked your food perfectly every time has been around since the first episode of the Jetson's, but has never come to fruition, but what if there was at least a smart pan?

 

So Humberto and his crew attached some sensors to a pan and tried to measure what was going on, this turned out to be much harder than it first appears - the sensor has to be in just the right place to measure the temperature on surface of the pan not the bottom and how do you communicate that information? The Pantelligent team figured out exactly how to get a sensor on a pan (without solder, duh!) by bringing in a mechanical engineer from their alma mater, MIT, and it works so well they have patented the design. Looking at many Kickstarter projects, it's rare to see a patent on a device, so this is a new twist which will be interesting to follow over time as these companies mature.

 

Once they had the measurement problem solved it was onto the electronics and Humberto told me that using an ARM-based device was a no-brainer, "you get a computer on a chip and it's the same price as other devices, why wouldn't you use one?" He knew that Bluetooth was needed and a quick search for "Bluetooth SoC" brought up the Nordic nRF51822 (that dev kit was just reviewed here on the community Out of Box Analysis: Nordic nRF51822-mKIT ***PRIZE POST***). Below you can see their first prototypes and the final board, and yes it was designed in CircuitLab.

Pantelligent board nRF51822.jpg

 

The board is very low-power (beauty of the ARM Cortex-M0 processor and BLE), so it will run for 9 months on 2 "AAA" batteries which slide into the handle along with the board. Below is an advanced prototype almost ready for production:

Pantelligent advanced prototype.png

 

A key design constraint in this case is the user interface and to Humberto it clearly had to be your phone. With a well written app, the user has audio, video, search and the ability to share their experiences. Again, another example of the smartphone spawning innovation in other areas. Here is a shot of the App and how informative it is:

pantelligent_app_screenshot1.jpg

 

There are several videos on the Pantelligent site, but this one below really shows the process and why it is so elegant:

 

Funnily enough, the day before I saw this video, I attempted to cook scallops for my family and guess what? I overcooked them, and at $20 per pound. that's food abuse!

 

Pantelligent is a very novel, but incredibly useful application of ARM-based technology in the pan and in your hand, you can read the full story here.

 

What are you going to cook?

 

**Pantelligent is one of 50 Kickstarter Innovations Based on ARM hosted on the recently launched 'ARM-based Projects' curated page on Kickstarter.

Happy Wednesday! It's day three of Kickstarter Week and it's time for another board! Today I am happy to present the Freescale Freedom KL25Z. This cost-effective platform packs some unique on-board peripherals and provides the low-power characteristics perfect for embedded devices running on batteries. Just like my previous posts (Out of Box Analysis: Arduino Due ***PRIZE POST*** and Out of Box Analysis: Nordic nRF51822-mKIT ***PRIZE POST***) I have a giveaway! You can WIN a Freescale Freedom KL25Z!

 

It's super simple: just comment below and tell us what you would make with this board. Each person who submits their idea will be entered into a drawing on December 15, 2014.Submissions will be closed on Monday, December 15 at 1 PM PST and the winner will be announced that day by 5 PM PST.

 

This board takes advantage of Kinetis KL2 MCU with the ARM® Cortex®-M0+ Core. In addition to being low-cost and low-power it is also ARM® mbed™ enabled for faster prototyping. This is my first experience with the FRDM series and I was quite pleased. The greatest advantage to makers who are looking to make battery-operated devices is the power consumption. Shall we then?

freedom.PNG

[Image courtesy of freescale.com]

 

Hardware

From a design aspect I have needed to take the physical size of the board into account, what voltage supply/ battery pack to purchase, the number of break out pins available for sensors, price and available documentation. These aspects have therefore been taken down in case they are important to anyone else’s design.


Software

The benchmarking for software was determined by the environments, native languages, time to get started and the like.


Projects & Community

Whenever you take on a new project it is always nice to see what other people have done. Therefore the last section is dedicated to the resources available.


Opinion time:

What I appreciate about the Freescale Freedom

I have to say the part of me that appreciates shiny things appreciates the tri-color LED and capacitive slider. The quality for the cost is great as well! Engineering projects can get VERY expensive so the platform being around $13 is convenient. Also being Arduino™ R3 compatible means lots of available peripherals to play with!

 

*Warning on biases: I am a senior Computer Engineering student with a background in embedded systems. I have worked with a variety of ARM-based boards for projects over the years. I acknowledge that I have my own set of preferences based off of what has worked well in the past but I have tried to be as impartial as possible since not everyone has the same project goals.I am an intern at ARM but these opinions are my own. If you have had a different experience I welcome your feedback!

As part of ARM Kickstarter week we asked our friends over at Tektronix to give hardware Kickstarter teams a heads-up on what to do when things aren't working, that's reality!

 

Matt Benes is a Technical Marketing Manager at Tektronix in Beaverton, Oregon and he gave us the following wisdom:

 

New low-cost high-performance processors like the ARM Cortex-M4 processor make it easy and affordable for hobbyists and entrepreneurs to ramp up development of their product ideas. These processors along with low-cost yet powerful development boards serve as an integrated, easy-to-use platform with access to multiple analog and digital I/O, serial data, Ethernet, WiFi, and USB all wrapped together with an easy to use programming language. These development boards have become more user friendly over time and it no longer takes a degree in electrical engineering to bring many electronic designs to life.

 

Another recent development supporting entrepreneurship has come in the form of crowdsourcing. Online services like Kickstarter provide an infrastructure that allows individuals to submit innovative ideas and for the public to support those ideas by pledging money in exchange for some sort of  reward, often early access to the product. The success of crowdfunding has made it possible for nearly anyone with a promising idea to seek funding and potentially turn their idea into reality.

 

The Freescale Kinetis KW2x series development board is a good example of a platform that allows designers to cost effectively bring wireless Internet-connected devices to life. Featuring the ARM Cortex-M4 processor, the KW2x boards come standard with I2C, SPI, UART and USB serial interfaces as well as IEEE 802.15.4 WiFi for wireless communication. The Cortex-M4, it should be noted, is a reasonably high-performance processor designed to be responsive, low-power, and easy to use all in a low cost chip.

Kinetis pic for Tek.jpg

Now that designing electronics is more accessible than ever, it only seems fitting that testing those electronics should become more accessible as well. Electronic test equipment has gotten much more powerful over the years and is capable of in-depth analysis and troubleshooting. Wherever you are in the design phase and no matter the sophistication of your design, there is capable test equipment available that you can afford. Below is a quick roundup of some of the most notable and versatile instrumentation available today – from Tektronix, the world’s leading supplier of oscilloscopes.

 

TBS-1000

For basic designs – and even some not-so-basic designs – this scope will allow you to make simple measurements like amplitude and timing checks on sub-200MHz signals at an affordable price. Even though prices start at less than $600, it offers a host of versatile features including a 7-in. display, 34 automated measurements and dual channel frequency counters. Watch the product demo below for more details.

TBS-1000 product video - TBS1000B Demo

 

MSO/DPO2000 This next step up gives you more power and debug tools as well as the availability of up to 16 digital channels with the MSO models. This comes in handy if you want to look at an I2C bus to see if it’s making a connection on its I/O. With automated serial and parallel bus analysis, and innovative Wave Inspector controls, the MSO/DPO2000B Series provides the feature-rich tools you need to simplify and speed debug of your designs.

MSO/DPO2000 product video - Tektronix - MSO/DPO2000

 

MDO3000          

The MDO3000 Mixed Domain Oscilloscope features six integrated instruments, including a spectrum analyzer, function generator and more, giving you the ability to capture analog, digital and RF signals with one scope. This scope is well suited for the designer who is beginning to explore the world of RF, but also has many other tasks that need to be complete and can’t afford a bench full of expensive equipment.

MDO3000 product video - MDO3000 Mixed Domain Oscilloscope Virtual Product Demo : Tektronix 

 

MD04000

The versatility of the MD4000 comes from its integrated oscilloscope and spectrum analyzer. For the first time ever, you can see how your designs perform in both the time and frequency domains on a single instrument. This scope is ideal for the serious designer that is designing in both embedded and RF systems and needs to solve complicated design issues in the shortest amount of time possible.

MDO4000 product video - tek demos

 

Whether you’re just getting started or have already launched a Kickstarter campaign, we want to hear about the design test challenges you’re facing. Post in the comments below about your interests and challenges and we’ll provide more insight in future posts. Do you want to manage battery drain better? Validate that the WiFi radio is working at lower power levels?

 

In the meantime, we’re planning to blog about how to use an oscilloscope to debug many of the designs we see on Kickstarter covering such topics as power management, serial decode, and debugging wireless designs.  Let’s build – and test -- things.

Its ARM Kickstarter week and I must admit that as we dig into all things Kickstarter I am amazed by how much is happening, for those who have long and non-volatile memories, it’s like a Heathkit or Altair being born every week:

Heathkit amp.jpg1024px-Altair_8800_Computer.jpg

[Heathkit, left, Altair, right]

 

This may sound a little hyperbolic but with so much electronics innovation happening so quickly history tells us that some of these companies are going to change our industry forever, this we know - but as we all know getting from the idea to a finished product is not trivial, so I thought we should hear from Cyril Ebersweiler of HAXLR8R (aka HAX) about how to make the dream a reality. I first met Cyril in the summer of 2012 in Shenzhen, China at Seeed Studio purely by chance, it’s a long story but you can read about in my EETimes blog.

Cyril+Ebersweiler+TechCrunch+Disrupt+SF+HAXLR8R.jpg 

Cyril (photo above) founded HAXLR8R in 2012 and its business model is simple; startups apply to join a “class” and if are accepted they get $100k to finance their company in exchange for equity. This model is now fairly common with Y-Combinator being the most famous example.

 

The unique value that HAXLR8R (aka HAX) brings to hardware startups is their experience and connections in Shenzhen where a hardware startup can take advantage of low cost and rapid China manufacturing. I Skyped with Cyril from their new 15,000 square foot space atop the famous Huaqiangbei market in Shenzhen which is fitting because the largest physical electronics market in the world is just a few floors below him. I am not exaggerating when I say the market is one of the wonders of the modern world - its size is mind boggling and you can wander from hall to hall looking at every electronic component available in the world today (don’t believe me?), if you are in electronics and ever get to Shenzhen or Hong Kong, you owe it to yourself to visit Huaqiangbei.

 

I approached this interview with the misconception that HAX helps companies get their products made after they had a successful Kickstarter but Cyril pointed out it’s the other way around. HAX helps create companies who can launch on Kickstarter and they have now invested in 50 companies. You can see a list of the HAX companies on their Kickstarter page (see pic below) and it's impressive, but there’s a lot more to this than meets the eye.

haxlr8r kickstarter page.png

Cyril told me of the 50 companies they have funded only 1 has failed so far, and they have another 50 ready to go in 2015, so the growth is accelerating. Having 1 failure in 50 compared to traditional VC funded companies (where on average 90% fail) is a startling statistic, but remember these companies are market tested by Kickstarter and the HAX team get them to market fast. This process means startups can skip a seed round and go straight to a series A for further funding because they are viable and profitable much more quickly than the VC route. Below is the 10 step program that companies go through to be part of a class:

haxlr8r-process-noBACKground.png

I asked Cyril about the design process and he said almost all of their projects are prototyped on an ARM-based development kit like an Arduino, Raspberry Pi or Beagleboard and are then productized by a combination of the engineers on the HAX team and the startup depending upon their skill level. Most projects are aiming to ship 1,000 to 5,000 units in year 1, but Cyril is seeing more projects shipping up to 10,000 units as the Kickstarter market expands. This brings me to the most important part of our conversation which is where he thinks the market is heading. Cyril admitted they have a growth problem with many more companies coming to them than they can currently handle but they are scrambling to keep up. Cyril thinks we are just at the beginning of a whole new wave of product development and it’s going to change the distribution and retail world forever. Each project Cyril sees is one step closer to the next generation of smarter hardware and I quote “it’s putting the power of the smartphone inside smart products”, here at ARM we couldn’t agree more. 


If you want to join the revolution and get your idea to market with HAX go and apply for the next class.

Happy Tuesday! It's day two of Kickstarter Week and today I'm taking a stab at an IoT platform. IoT is up and coming, but if you are not a networking person it's nice to have a place to start. Just like yesterday's post (Out of Box Analysis: Arduino Due ***PRIZE POST***) I have a giveaway! You can WIN a Nordic nRF51822-mKIT! It's super simple: just comment below and tell us what you would make with this board. Each person who submits their idea will be entered into a drawing on December 15, 2014. Submissions will be closed on Monday, December 15 at 1 PM PST and the winner will be announced that day by 5 PM PST.

 

Today's review, as you have probably figured out from the title, is the Nordic nRF51822, specifically the ARM mbed enabled development platform. This board takes advantage of both the nRF51822 chip from Nordic Semiconductor, but also the Atmel ATSAM3U2C with the 32-bit ARM Cortex-M3 processor. If you are familiar with some of my previous posts (I'll forgive you if you're not), this is not my first run-in with this board, but it's worth mentioning considering the number of wearables on Kickstarter. The BLE radio on this platform combined with number of pin-outs of peripheral input make this board a great place to start on a project. Let's take a look...

nord.PNG

[Image courtesy of nordicsemi.com]

 

Hardware

  • Physical layout (width x length)
    • 5.25cm x 10.5cm
  • CPU specs: Performance, Memory, Power
    • Input voltage: 1.8-3.6 V
    • Operating voltage:1.8 V-3.6 V
    • Flash memory: 256/128kB
    • RAM: 32kB/16kB
    • Clock speed: 16MHz, 96MHz (Nordic, Atmel respectively)
  • I/O specs:
    • 31 configurable GPIOs
    • 1 UART
    • 2 two wire interfaces
    • 2 SPI headers
    • 2 LEDS
    • 2 buttons
    • Bluetooth low energy and 2.4 GHz protocol stacks
  • Documentation quality
  • Price: $73.88; check out https://octopart.com/nrf51822-mkit-nordic+semiconductor-34978999 for distributors
  • What additional hardware do you need to purchase?


Software

The benchmarking for software was determined by the environments, native languages, time to get started and the like.

  • Time to get LED blink working
    • If you are familiar with mbed programming the board to blink can take less than two minutes to sign in, add the Nordic Board to your platforms, import the blinky program, plug in your board via USB, compile and drop the file in. mbed takes away the need to set up the IDE so the process is very simple.
  • Languages (Native)
    • C or C++
  • Development Environments
    • mbed Compiler
    • Keil uVision, EmBlocks, ARMGCC, Eclipse, etc
  • From taking board out of box to printf on screen using C, C++, or Java?
    • Depends on the IDE: mbed requires a serial communication to a terminal.


Projects & Community

Whenever you take on a new project it is always nice to see what other people have done. Therefore the last section is dedicated to the resources available.


Opinion time:

What I appreciate about the Nordic nRF51822-mKIT

This board is a great place to start with BLE programming. The Nordic-supplied apps on Android and iOS It's worth mentioning that if you need the same program on a smaller board there are other alternatives to make your project more package-able.


dongle.PNG

[Images from nordicsemi.com and developer.mbed.org, respectively]

 

Sensors like a heart-rate monitor or an accelerator make for a great wearable, but controlling the movements of a robot from an app is also a fun idea to go with this board. Side note, if you are in the Austin area ARM is working on an IoT Meetup series using this board: http://www.meetup.com/IoT-Deep-Dive-Workshop-Meetup/events/218624252/ even if you are not in the Austin area the documentation will be available for everyone to use =) Sam Grove

 

*Warning on biases: I am a senior Computer Engineering student with a background in embedded systems. I have worked with a variety of ARM-based boards for projects over the years. I acknowledge that I have my own set of preferences based off of what has worked well in the past but I have tried to be as impartial as possible since not everyone has the same project goals.I am an intern at ARM but these opinions are my own. If you have had a different experience I welcome your feedback!

For ARM Kickstarter Week I interviewed Kaido Kert about his brand new Kickstarter project called Blossom. I was personally interested in this project because I have a couple of highly dysfunctional sprinkler controllers at my house that have been nothing but trouble so really wanted to hear the back story on Blossom.

 

Kaido and his co-founder Manrique met whilst working at Skype and they had a conversation about sprinklers when Manrique saw them going off in the rain, this is an image many of us have seen and probably though the same thing; it was one of those classic “there must be a better way” moments.

sprinlers in rain.jpg

This time though was different from those fleeting thoughts we often have because Manrique the business guy and Kaido the engineer decided to do something about it. So for the past 2 years they have worked on Blossom and it launched on Kickstarter on November 16, 2014.

 

A sprinkler system is actually a very simple network and some would say a dumb one (people like me), but it’s also a almost perfect example of an Internet of Things (IoT) application with real-world benefits for not just the gardener and her wallet, but the planet. The concept is simple; if it’s raining or about to rain, then the cloud connected controller gets local weather data and doesn’t run. In the more intelligent version we can apply algorithms which carefully meter the water being used based on environmental conditions, time of day and any feedback from moisture sensors.  Depending upon where you live there are huge issues around water use and waste. Nobody should see sprinklers going off in the rain ever again!

 

Kaido knew the design has to be cloud connected so it was self-evident to him they needed a 32-bit controller, 8-bit wasn’t going to hack it and a COTS Embedded Linux board was way too expensive to get the end-user price under $200. They knew very quickly by looking at block diagrams and system functionality that an ARM Cortex-M solution would work, but which one? They looked at the Cortex-M3 family and found a highly integrated version from Marvell, saving them time and development costs. Marvell gave them a module with the WiFi chip, antenna and MCU all tightly integrated. Marvell also gave them a full software stack and RTOS for basic tasks and primitives. On the software development side Marvel offers an SDK with C libraries and useful tools. Kaido and his team leveraged the software from Marvell to expedite their design and implementation.

 

The Blossom team went through several prototypes (all parts coming from Digi-Key) until they came up with the idea to add powerline networking to the device because the controller can be far away from the home network. Powerline connectivity has been a sleeper technology to me but Kaido and his team were able to design a robust solution using a Homeplug chip from Qualcomm (ARM9-based).

 

The physical design of the system has been done in-house by the team with prototype PCB’s built by CircuitLogic and heavy use of 3D printing for the housing. The team looked at US-based manufacturing, but the cost equation for volume pointed them to Asia and they went with Accton. The Blossom is designed to be mounted outdoors and has the power supply built in which is also neat (its IP54 rated to meet environmental conditions of outdoor deployments).

blossom on wall.jpg

Another clever innovation is the Blossom has no external controls; everything is done through the App.

blossom app.png

Depending solely on the App may sound odd at first but in my experience the user interface on most irrigation controllers is archaic at best and bizarre on others. The irrigation controller industry has stubbornly hung on to the old dials and single displays for too many years and Blossom is their “innovators dilemma” nightmare come true. I believe this is the main reason we see so many sprinklers going off in the rain because the controllers are just so darn hard to use. Many homeowners have their irrigation set up by a landscaper and then it’s forgotten, I suspect some people don’t even know where their controller is! Even if they knew where it was, the interface is so hard to use they may just turn it off or call the landscaper back. Kaido thinks Blossom has the potential for homeowners to take back their gardens and make a dent in the water challenges we have in places like California.

 

Blossom is a microcosm of several mega-trends in technology coming together, highly integrated inexpensive hardware (from Marvell in this case), robust home networking connectivity through Powerline, Smartphone ubiquity and crowdfunding for good ideas. These forces are much larger than most casual observers of tech realize and will bring about a revolution in how products are not just designed but the whole ecosystem of manufacturing and distribution. Like all seismic shifts in an industry they tend to start small and are under the radar of most people but they can have a massive impact on the lives of everyone. There is some skepticism creeping into commentary of the Internet of Things but products like Blossom will make the IoT a reality much faster than the skeptics realize. 

 

You can go and get the full Blossom story over on their Kickstarter page and I am seriously considering getting one at the “holiday offer” pricing of $129. It’s a heck of a lot of cool technology and clever design for the money.

For our second teardown of ARM Kickstarter Week we take a look inside the storied Oculus Rift 3D virtual reality headset, in this case the new DK2 (dev kit 2, the real device isn’t out yet).  If you don’t know the story behind Oculus Rift they were a Kickstarter project back in 2012 and raised over $2.4m but the really big score was they were bought by Facebook for $2b in July of this year. Oculus don’t have to crowd fund anymore!

Oculus DK2.jpg

During ARM Wearables Week we heard from Shane Walker of IHS that entertainment and gaming was likely going to be the biggest category in wearables and this device and its offspring will probably lead the way.

 

On Kickstarter today there are other VR projects, but Oculus has spawned about 100 crowdfunded game projects for this device so they seem to have the momentum to create a real market when the consumer device hits the market sometime in 2015.

 

The full teardown is over at iFixit but here’s the main board in the design for us to take a look at:

oculus ST board.png

 

I’ve always been a little prejudiced against 3D so haven’t taken much interest in how these devices create the effect so it was a surprise to me that an STMicroelectronics STM32 Cortex-M3 based processor would be at the heart of the board for such a complex device. But on further reading the STM32 is just processing the sensors, the VR effects come from a cleverly hidden Samsung Note 3 smartphone display in the front of the headset!

 

Here is the hidden phone display:

oculs samsung note.png

 

So there you have it, a now legendary Kickstarter project that sold for $2b. The consumer product will be released sometime in 2015 and it means Facebook is in the hardware business now. Exactly how this product will be received in the market is anyone’s guess, what’s yours?

 

To see more ARM-based Kickstarter projects, check out the new curated page with over 50 successful campaigns: ARM-based Projects — Kickstarter

Welcome to Kickstarter Week! I have created a series of posts focusing on a variety of boards that Makers can use to develop their products. Some of these boards I have used before and some of them I have not. This is not meant to be a side-by-side comparison: more of a breakdown of each board's characteristics and the advantages developers can leverage when starting a new project. To be fair across the board (pun very much intended), I have set up a variety of bench-marking aspects to assess each platform. These characteristics are all aspects I have researched about a board to determine whether it fit my needs or not so I am going to be vain and assume other people have similar processes. As an extra bonus you can WIN an Arduino Due!


Comment below and tell us what you would make with this board. Each person who submits their idea will be entered into a drawing on December 15, 2014. Submissions will be closed on Monday, December 15 at 1 PM PST and the winner will be announced that day by 5 PM PST.


To kick off Monday, I decided to evaluate the Arduino Due. I am new to this particular little gem so I had no previous bias coming in. The Arduino Due is the first Arduino built on a 32-bit ARM architecture with the Atmel SAM3X8E ARM Cortex-M3 CPU. Let's get started, shall we?

due.PNG

[Image courtesy of arduino.cc]

 

Hardware

From a design aspect I have needed to take the physical size of the board into account, what voltage supply/ battery pack to purchase, the number of break out pins available for sensors, price and available documentation. These aspects have therefore been taken down in case they are important to anyone else’s design.


  • Physical layout (width x length)
    • 53.3 mm x 101.52 mm
  • CPU specs: Performance, Memory, Power
    • Input voltage: 7-12V
    • Operating voltage: 3.3V (Note, do not plug 5V peripherals into this board)
    • Flash memory: 512 KBytes
    • SRAM: 96 KBytes
    • Clock speed: 84 MHz
  • I/O specs:
    • 54 digital input/output pins (12 can be used as PWM outputs)
    • 12 analog inputs
    • 4 UARTs
    • USB OTG capable connection
    • 2 two-wire interfaces
    • SPI header
    • JTAG header
  • Documentation quality
    • Set up instructions straight forward, very much a “plug-and-play” device
    • Getting started is a total of 9 steps and 1 download: Arduino - Windows
  • Price: as low as $44.13; check out https://octopart.com/a000062-arduino-24879247 for distributors
  • What additional hardware do you need to purchase?


Software

The benchmarking for software was determined by the environments, native languages, time to get started and the like.

 

  • Tutorials (YouTube, main page, etc)
  • Time to get LED blink working
    • The program and set up the environment - very simple. Getting the "Blink" to work was a little tricky ("L" LED stayed constantly on) and took some sniffing around the internet to jump start it. If you run into a similar issue try these steps:
      • Manually press the white "erase" button
      • Unplug the USB  cable and replug it in
      • Press the upload again with the "BlinkWithoutDelay" sketch
      • Should blink now =)
  • Languages (Native)
    • C/C++
  • Development Environments
    • Arduino IDE
    • Atmel Studio, Eclipse, Microsoft Studio, etc.
  • From taking board out of box to printf on screen using C, C++, or Java?
    • 5 minutes
      • lots of sample code make learning format of Arduino code fast and easy
    • Especially with the sample code this particular print to screen is very easy. The output is done via serial communication so the command is Serial.println (“whatever I want”);


Projects & Community

Whenever you take on a new project it is always nice to see what other people have done. Therefore the last section is dedicated to the resources available.

  • What community do these have already?
    • Adafruit, Arduino.cc, instructables, Makezine, and dozens more.
  • What references or examples are out there? What can you do with it?
    • Great for projects like alarm clocks, simple robots and the like.
    • Can’t do intense projects like image processing or video games.
    • http://playground.arduino.cc/Projects/Ideas <- great example projects with range of experience suggestions.
  • What cool projects are out there already

 

Opinion time:

What I appreciate about the Arduino Due

Out of everything with this board there things I like in particular: the ease of the Arduino IDE and the number of I/Os. I would use this board for a project I want done, but don’t want to spend a lot of time to get up and going.


*Warning on biases: I am a senior Computer Engineering student with a background in embedded systems. I have worked with a variety of ARM-based boards for projects over the years. I acknowledge that I have my own set of preferences based off of what has worked well in the past but I have tried to be as impartial as possible since not everyone has the same project goals. I am an intern at ARM but these opinions are my own. If you have had a different experience I welcome your feedback!

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