Posts Tagged ‘arduino’

Goblin 2 Arduino Compatible IoT Board Includes SIM5320A 3G & GPS Module

February 21st, 2017 No comments

Veracruz, Mexico based Verse Technology has recently launched Goblin 2, an Arduino compatible IoT development, based on Atmel/Microchip ATmega328P MCU, featuring a built-in SIM5320A 3G and GPS module, supporting RS-485 communication, and providing 3.3/5 and 24V power output.

Goblin 2 board specifications:

  • MCU – Microchip Atmel ATMega328P AVR MCU @ 16 MHz with 1KB EEPROM, 32kB Flash, 2kB SRAM
  • Wireless connectivity via Simcom SIM5320A  USB 2.0 module:
    • Dual-Band UMTS/HSDPA 900/2100MHz
    • Quad-Band GSM/GPRS/EDGE 850/900/1800/1900MHz
    • 1x SIM card slot
    • High accuracy 16 channel GPS
  • Expansion I/Os
    • 6x ADC input with 10 bits resolution
    • 10x digital in/out including 5 PWM
    • RS-485 protocol @ 10Mbps for up to 256 nodes on the bus
    • Header to Keypad, microphone and speaker for SIM I/O
  • Misc – 8 LEDs for power, battery, networking, RS485, UART, plus one user LED; Power switch, RS-485 /GPIO switch, program / SIM AT+ switch
  • Power Supply – 5V via micro USB port, solar panel up to 5V/200mA, 3.7V battery charger
  • Power Output- 5V @ 3A , 3.3V @ 300 mA and 24 V @ 500 mA
  • Dimensions – 65.5mm x 82.2mm

The board can programmed like any other Arduino compatible with the Arduino IDE uploading the code via the micro USB port, or if you want more control over the board using Atmel Studio.

Documentation can be found on Verse Technology website’s Docs page, and examples can be found directly on Github.

Goblin 2 is now for sale for $134 + shipping on the company’s website, and you may want to visit Goblin 2 product page for further details. In case, you are mostly interested in SIM5320 module’s features for your project, Adafruit sells a $80 FONA 3G breakout board to interface with your own board, and provides good documentation. Alternatively, you’ll also find SIM5320 modules (~$30) and breakout boards (~$50) on Aliexpress. The module has been around for several years, so it should be pretty easy to integrate into your own project. Note the last letter in the product name is for the continent, namely A is for America, E for Europe & Asia Pacific, and J for Japan.

Dragino OLG01 Outdoor Single Channel LoRa Gateway Runs OpenWrt, Supports Passive PoE

February 14th, 2017 9 comments

Dragino Technology, a Shenzhen based startup focusing on the Internet of Things, had already designed LoRa shields & Hats for Arduino & Raspberry Pi boards which can be useful for LoRa nodes, but the company has now launched Dragino OLG01 LoRa gateway running OpenWrt that communicates with nodes over LoRa, and to the cloud using WiFi, Ethernet, or 3G/4G.

Dragino OLG01 specifications:

  • WiSoC – Atheros AR9331 MIPS processor @ 400MHz
  • System Memory – 64MB RAM
  • Storage – 16MB flash
  • MCU – Atmel ATMega328P AVR MCU with 32KB flash, 2KB SRAM
  • Connectivity
    • 802.11 b/g/n WiFi with antenna
    • 2x 10/100M Ethernet with support for passive PoE
    • Optional 3G/4G module connected to internal USB socket (TBC)
    • Semtech SX1276/78 LoRa wireless module + SMA connector (antenna not provided) up to 5~10 km range
  • USB – 1x USB 2.0 host port
  • Power Supply – 12V DC power jack or PoE

Three models are offered with 433, 868, or 915 MHz frequencies: OLG01 433, OLG01 868, and OLG01 915. The weatherproof gateway is designed to be wall mounted, and ships with a 12V power supply, and a PoE injector. OLG01 runs OpenWrt, and documentation can be found on Dragino Wiki, source code on Dragino Github account. The gateways supports auto-provisioning, network firmware update, includes a web server and management UI. The Atmel MCU can be programmed using the Arduino IDE. Note that most of the documentation refers to LG01 instead of OLG01, but both gateways appears to be based upon the same hardware, except OLG01 is weather-proof, and suitable for outdoor use.

Potential application include wireless alarm and security systems, home and building automation, automated meter reading, industrial monitoring and control, long range irrigation systems, GPS tracker,etc… some of which are described in Dragino video below.

You’ll also find some more information on the product page, including a datasheet and a detailed user manual. Dragino OLG01 can be purchased for $70 on Tindie. If you don’t need PoE, nor a weatherproof case, LG01 gateway will be cheaper at $56.

Thanks to Elia for the tip

Open Surgery Initiative Aims to Build DIY Surgical Robots

February 7th, 2017 No comments

Medical equipments can be really expensive because of the R&D involved and resulting patents, low manufacturing volume, government regulations, and so on. Developed countries can normally afford those higher costs, but for many it may just be prohibitively expensive. The Open Surgery initiative aims to mitigate the costs by “investigating whether building DIY surgical robots, outside the scope of healthcare regulations, could plausibly provide an accessible alternative to the costly professional healthcare services worldwide”.

DIY Surgical Robot – Click to Enlarge

The project is composed of member from the medical, software, hardware, and 3D printing communities, is not intended for (commercial) application, and currently serves only academic purposes.

Commercial surgical robots can cost up to $2,000,000, but brings benefits like smaller incisions, reduced risks of complications and readmissions, and shorter hospital stays thanks to a faster recovery process. There have already been several attempts within the robotics community to come up with cheaper and more portable surgical robots, such as RAVEN II Surgical robot initially developed with funding from the US military to create a portable telesurgery device for battlefield operations, and valued at $200,000. The software used to control RAVEN II has been made open source, so other people can improve on it.

The system is currently only used by researchers in universities to experiment with robotic surgery, but it can’t be used on humans, as it lacks the required safety and quality control systems. This is a step in the right direction, but the price makes it still out of reach for most medical hacker communities, so Frank Kolkman, who setup the Open Surgery initiative, has been trying to build a DIY surgical robot for around $5000 by using as many off-the-shelf parts and prototyping techniques such as laser cutting and 3D printing for several months with the help of the community.

Three major challenges to designing a surgical robot (theoretically) capable of performing laparoscopic surgery have been identified:

  1. The number and size of tools: during a single operation a surgeon would switch between various types of tools, so a robot would either have to have many of them or they should be able to be interchangeable. The instruments are also extremely small, and difficult to make
  2. Anything that comes into contact with the human body has to be sterile to reduce the risk of infection, and most existing tools are made of stainless steel so that they can be sterilized by placing them in an autoclave, that may not be easily accessible to many people.
  3. The type of motion a surgical robot should be able to make, whereby a fixed point of rotation in space is created where the tool enters the body through an entry port – or ‘trocar’. The trocar needs to be stationary so as to avoid tissue damage.

He solved the first  issue by finding laporoscopic instruments on Alibaba, as well as camera, CO2 insufflation pumps, and others items. For the second hurdle, he realized a domestic oven turned to 160 degrees centigrade for 4 hours could be an alternative to an autoclave. The mechanical design was the most complicated, as it required many iterations, and he ended with some 3D printed parts, and DC servo motors. Software was written using Processing open source scripting language. You can see the results in the short video below.

While attempting surgery with the design would not be recommended just yet, a $5,000 DIY surgical robot appears to feasible. Maybe it could be evaluated by one or more trained surgeons first, and then tested on animals that needs surgery, before eventually & potentially being used on human, who would not get the treatment otherwise.

While there’s “Open” in “Open Surgery” and the initial intent was to make the project open source, it turned out it is almost impossible to design surgical robots without infringing on patents. That’s no problem as long as you make parts for private use, however Frank explains that sharing files could cause problems, and the legality of doing so requires some more research.

NovaVGA Shield Adds VGA Output to Arduino Boards

January 30th, 2017 2 comments

Arduino boards are convenient to control I/Os, link LEDs, and display info on small LCD displays, but if you want to output data to a larger monitor, it’s a bit more complex. NovaVGA shield for Arduino simplify the task of outputting data to a VGA monitor over SPI.

NovaVGA shield hardware specifications:

  • CPLD – Xilinx XC9572XL CPLD, user programmable via JTAG interface.
  • SRAM Framebuffer – 160×120 pixels @ 6-bit color (2^6 = 64 possible colors)
  • VGA Output – 640×480 @ 60Hz physical resolution (25.175MHz pixel clock)
  • Interface with MCU – SPI mode 1 interface (consumes only three Arduino pins)
  • Header pins not included

MicroNova provides an Arduino library with various examples such as color palette, Mandelbrot, Tetris and text console, as well as a user’s guide and PDF schematics that can all be downloaded directly on the product page.

NovaVGA shield sells for $29 on Tindie or directly on MicroNova store. Note that it’s not the first board of this kind, as Olimex MOD-VGA, based on GameDuino design, has been available for several years.

RTL8710 Ameba Arduino Development Board and Ameba Arduino v2.0.0 SDK Released

January 20th, 2017 1 comment

We’ve already seen a NodeMCU lookalike board called RTLDuino based on Realtek RTL8710AF ARM Cortex M3 WiSoC earlier this month, that can be programmed with a community supported Arduino port also called rtlduino via a JLink SWD debugger, but now Realtek has just launched Ameba RTL8710 Arduino board, and released Ameba Arduino v2.0.0 SDK which brings official Arduino support to RTL8710AF platforms.

Click to Enlarge

There appears to be two versions of the development kit: RTLDUINO_PRO_V1.0 and REALTEK-AMEBA_RTL8710_V2.0, but based on the user manual they seem to be identical, and as you can see from the above picture, it includes a baseboard and the aforementioned RTLDuino board.

RTL8710 Ameba Arduino HDK key features:

  • SoC – Realtek RTL8710AF ARM Cortex-M3 MCU @ 83 MHz with 802.11 b/g/n WiFi, hardware SSL engine connected to the baseboard via:
    1. RTLDuino board through female header
    2. B&T RTL-00 module soldered on module footprint
  • USB – 2x micro USB ports, CON2 used for power and Arduino programming, CON1 used for DAP programming (TBC)
  • Expansion – Arduino UNO headers with GPIOs, power signals, 2x UART, SPI, I2C, and 4x PWM
  • Debug Headers – 4-pin Mbed connector, 10-pin Jlink connector, 4-pin for serial console
  • Misc – T/R & n/R buttons maybe to select programming mode?, reset and test buttons

Pinout Diagram – Click to Enlarge

The documentation in English is still work in progress, but Realtek already released a getting started guide to program the board with Arduino IDE 1.6.5 or later. The guide only mentions Windows, so it’s unclear whether Linux is supported for now, but the steps are pretty simple:

  1. Install mbed serial drivers
  2. Install Ameba board packages in Arduino IDE
  3. Connect the board via USB to your computer, and select Ameba RTL8710 board in Arduino IDE
  4. Use Blink program to blink an LED connected to GPIO 13.
  5. Profit!

Ameba RTL8710 & Arduino IDE – Click to Enlarge

I understand you may not even need to use RTL8710 Ameba Arduino SDK for this if you have a board with the latest firmware. If not, you may need to update the firmware, but there’s no documentation about this, and it’s unclear whether this can be done via the RTLDUINO / AMEBA_RTL8710 baseboard, or a separate JLINK SWD debugger is needed.

The SDK has been released on Ameba IoT China website, and will soon be on Ameba IoT (English) website. The hardware development kit can be purchased for NT$ 630.0 in Taiwan, and 150 CNY (~$22) on Taobao. If you live outside of China, you could use a Taobao agent to ship to your country, or probably better, wait until Realtek gets a worldwide distributor. [Update: The board (pre-order) sells on Seeed Studio for $19.90]

SAM 15×15 is a Tiny Arduino Zero Compatible Board based on Atmel SAMD21G18 MCU

January 17th, 2017 1 comment

Arduino Zero is an official Arduino board based on UNO r3 form factor but using Atmel SAMD21G18 ARM Cortex M0+ MCU instead of an AVR MCU. Albert van Dalen has decided to design a compatible module based on the same MCU, and called SAM 15×15, as its size can be trimmed down to as low as 15×15 mm.

SAM 15×15 comparison with Arduino Zero and Uno boards.

SAM 15×15 Arduino Zero Arduino Uno
Microcontroller ATSAMD21G18A ATSAMD21G18A ATmega328P
Digital I/O Pins digitalWrite digitalRead 34 20 14
Analog Output Pins (PWM) analogWrite 24 10 6
Analog Input Pins (ADC) analogRead 14 6 6
ADC resolution 12-bit 12-bit 10-bit
10-bit DACs 1 1 0
Flash Memory 256KB 256KB 32KB
EEPROM 32KB (emulated in Flash) 32KB (emulated in Flash) 1KB
CPU Speed 48MHz 48MHz 16MHz

The board allows for three form factors to match your specific needs:

  • 28 x 28mm – 40 pins with 2.54mm pitch; fits on a breadboard
  • 22 x 22mm – Smaller version of the 28 x 28mm board with less 2.54mm pitch
  • 15 x 15mm – 40 pins with 1.27mm pitch

While SAM 15×15 modules are much smaller than Arduino Zero, they come with 34 I/Os instead of just 21 I/Os on Zero board.

Pinout Diagram – Click to Enlarge

You can program the board with the Arduino IDE just like you’d do with an Arduino Zero, except you’ll need to solder a USB header as shown in the picture below, and use a special, yet cheap, 5-pin female to USB male cable to program it.

Beside the link to in the introduction, you’ll find more details on the developer’s project page, where you can also contact him if you want to purchase the board for 24.95 Euros including worldwide shipping. Technical questions can be asked on a dedicated thread on forums.

Thanks to Nanik for the tip.

$10 RTLDuino is an Arduino Compatible WiFi IoT Board based on Realtek RTL8710AF WiSoC

January 4th, 2017 1 comment

Last summer, we discovered a cheap RTL8710AF WiFi module with many of the same function as ESP8266, but with an ARM Cortex M3 core instead. The only problem is that it was not quite as easy to play with as ESP8266 boards, as at the time I started by playing with AT commands with B&T RTL00 RTL8710AF module, and later on, I got a more convenient PADI IoT Stamp with breakout board, but if you wanted to change the firmware you had to play with the SDK and a J-Link SWD debugger. Realtek RTL8710AF did not offer the convenience of Arduino IDE program like its big brother “RTL8195AM” from the same Ameba family. I know mbed is being worked on, but in the meantime things have changed for the better, as kissste informed me that RtlDuino implementation added Arduino support to RTL8710AF and RTL8711AM modules, and an NodeMCU-like board with the same name was also sold for less than $10 including shipping.

rtlduinoRTLduino board specifications:

  • WiSoC – Realtek RTL8710AF ARM Cortex-M3 micro-controller @ 83 MHz
  • Connectivity – 802.11 b/g/n WiFi
  • USB – 1x micro USB port for programming and power
  • Expansion – 2x 16-pin breadboard friendly headers with GPIOs, UART, SPI, I2C, PWM, I2S, power signals….
  • Misc – Reset and test button, RGB LED
  • Power Supply – 5V via micro USB port or Vin pin
  • Dimensions – 49 x 24.5 mm (same as NodeMCU)

As you can see from the picture above,the board is actually based on the B&T RTL-00 module I previously tested. This is obviously quite easier to use since you don’t need to solder any cables to connect a USB to TTL board since RTLduino is equipped with CH340g and a micro USB port.


The Aliexpress page has some claims about 5 function that accordingly to kissste are not quite all correct:

  1. Function 1 – “Mbed debugging mode” over micro USB cable -> you won’t get – this is a different board (at least for now)
  2. Function 2 – “JTAG debugging mode” over micro USB cable -> you won’t get – this is a different board
  3. Function 3 – “Simple & fast by OTA to upgrade debugging” -> you will get partially – no debugging, but you can OTA upload new sketch
  4. Function 4 – “Serial data directly to the network transceiver function” (serial console via UART) -> OK
  5. Function 5 – “Smartconfig mode” -> yes, will work – OTA upload new sketch

If you want to do debugging, I understand you’ll still need a JTAG or SWD programmer. If you want to get started with Arduino on the board:

  • Install Arduino IDE and Ameba SDK
  • Go to Arduino IDE installation directory
  • Clone into hardware/development/rtl87xx directory
  • Restart Arduino

I could not find anything in English where other people tested the implementation, but you’ll find a forum thread (in Russian) on, and other person mentioned the project on, but has not reported on details about it yet.

Beside Aliexpress, RTLduino board can also be found on ICStation for $9.99, and Amazon US for $10.99.

SonikTech e-Paper Shield Starter Kit Relies on Teensy LC MCU Board

December 23rd, 2016 2 comments

Soniktek Electronics has designed the “e-Paper Shield Starter Kit” featuring Pervasive Displays’ E2215CS062 e-paper screen, and an adapter board to connect it to Teensy LC (Low Cost) board powered by NXP Kinetis L ARM Cortex M0+ microcontroller @ 48 MHz, or other 3.3V MCU boards supporting SPI.

e-paper-devkitAdapter board & display specifications:

  • Supports Pervasive Displays 2.15″ E2215CS062 e-paper screen with 208 x 112 resolution, no backlight required, fully sunlight-readable
  • Communication protocol – SPI  @ 3.3V
  • Sensor – On-board thermometer with I2C interface
  • Dimensions – Screen: 48 mm x 26 mm; adapter board fits into Teensy-LC module (36x18mm)

The advantages of e-Paper display are that they don’t require power to maintain an image, and they can be read in sunlight, just like actual paper. I can’t remember having seen many – if any – low cost e-Paper development kits so far, and the project is open source hardware with design files and source code available on

The project was successfully funded on Crowdsupply last month, but you can now pre-order directly on the platform, starting at $25 for the adapter only if you already have an MCU board and the e-Paper display, $50 for the adapter board, and display, and $75 for a full kit with Teensy LC board, the adapter board, and the e-Paper Display. Shipping is free to the US, and $5 to the rest of the world.

If you are interested in e-Paper display development kits, I’ve noticed there are a dozen listed on Pervasive Display e-Ink development kits page, including e-Paper HATs boards for Raspberry Pi Zero, and other Raspberry Pi boards, and e-Paper shields for Arduino.