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ARM TechCon 2014 Schedule – 64-Bit, IoT, Optimization & Debugging, Security and More

July 23rd, 2014 No comments

ARM Technology Conference (TechCon) 2014 will take place on October 1 – 3, 2014, in Santa Clara, and as every year, there will be a conference with various sessions for suitable engineers and managers, as well as an exposition where companies showcase their latest ARM based products and solutions. The detailed schedule for the conference has just been made available. Last year,  there were 90 sessions organized into 15 tracks, but this year, despite received 300 applications,  the organizers decided to scale it down a bit, and there will be 75 session in the following 11 tracks:ARM_TechCon_2014

  • Chip Implementation
  • Debugging
  • Graphics
  • Heterogeneous Compute
  • New Frontiers
  • Power Efficiency
  • Safety and Security
  • Software Development and Optimization
  • Software Optimization for Infrastructure and Cloud
  • System Design
  • Verification

There are also some paid workshops that take all day with topics such as “Android (NDK) and ARM overview”, “ARM and the Internet of Things”, or “ARM Accredited Engineer Programs”.

As usual, I’ve gone through the schedule builder, and come up with some interesting sessions with my virtual schedule during the 3-day event:

Wednesday – 1st of October

In this session, Dr. Saied Tehrani will discuss how Spansion’s approach to utilize the ARM Cortex-R line of processors to deliver energy efficient solutions for the automotive MCU market has led the company to become a vital part of the movement toward connectivity in cars. Beginning with an overview of the auto industry’s innovation and growth in connected car features, he will explain how these systems require high performance processing to give drivers the fluid experience they expect. Highlights in security and reliability with ARM Cortex-R, including Spansion’s Traveo Family of MCU’s will also be presented.

HEVC and VP9 are the latest video compression standards that significantly improves compression ratio compared to its widely used predecessors H.264 and VP8 standard. In this session the following will be discussed:

  • The market need for GPU accelerated HEVC and VP9 decoders
  • Challenges involved in offloading video decoding algorithms to a GPU, and how Mali GPU is well suited to tackle them
  • Improvement in power consumption and performance of Mali GPU accelerated decoder
  • big.LITTLE architecture and CCI/CCN’s complementing roles in improving the GPU accelerated video decoder’s power consumption

ARM’s Cortex-M family of embedded processors are delivering energy-efficient, highly responsive solutions in a wide variety of application areas right from the lowest-power, general-purpose microcontrollers to specialised devices in advanced SoC designs. This talk will examine how ARM plans to grow the ARM Cortex-M processor family to provide high performance together with flexible memory systems, whilst still maintaining the low-power, low-latency characteristics of ARM’s architecture v7M.

IoT devices as embedded systems cover a large range of devices from low-power, low-performance sensors to high-end gateways. This presentation will highlight the elements an embedded engineer needs to analyse before selecting the MCU for his design. Software is fundamental in IoT: from networking to power management, from vertical market protocols to IoT Cloud protocols and services, from programming languages to remote firmware update, these are all design criteria influencing an IoT device design. Several challenges specific to IoT design will be addressed:

  • Code size and RAM requirements for the major networking stacks
  • Optimizing TCP/IP resources versus performance
  • Using Java from Oracle or from other vendors versus C
  • WiFi (radio only or integrated module)
  • Bluetooth (Classis versus LE) IoT protocols

Thursday – 2nd of October

Amongst ARM’s IP portfolio we have CPUs, GPUs, video engines and display processors, together with fabric interconnect and POP IP, all co-designed, co-verified and co-optimized to produce energy-efficient implementations. In this talk, we will present some of the innovations ARM has introduced to reduce memory bandwidth and system power, both in the IP blocks themselves and the interactions between them, and how this strategy now extends to the new ARM Mali display processors.

Designing a system that has to run on coin cells? There’s little accurate information available about how these batteries behave in systems that spend most of their time sleeping. This class will give design guidance on the batteries, plus examine the many other places power leakages occur, and offer some mitigation strategies.

64-bit is the “new black” across the electronics industry, from server to mobile devices. So if you are building or considering building an ARMv8-A SoC, you shall attend this talk to either check that you know everything or find out what you shall know! Using the ARMv8 Juno ARM Development Platform (ADP) as reference, this session will cover:

  • The ARMv8-A hardware compute subsystem architecture for Cortex-A57, Cortex-A53 & Mali based SoC
  • The associated ARMv8-A software stack
  • The resources available to 64-bit software developers
  • Demonstration of the Android Open Source Project for ARMv8 running on Juno.

Rapid prototyping platforms have become a standard path to develop initial design concepts. They provide an easy-to-use interface with a minimal learning curve and allow ideas to flourish and quickly become reality. Transitioning from a simple, easy-to-use rapid prototyping system can be daunting, but shouldn’t be. This session presents options for starting with mbed as a prototyping environment and moving to full production with the use of development hardware, the open-source mbed SDK and HDK, and the rich ARM ecosystem of hardware and software tools.Attendees will learn how to move from the mbed online prototyping environment to full production software, including:

  • Exporting from mbed to a professional IDE
  • Full run-time control with debugging capabilities
  • Leveraging an expanded SDK with a wider range of integration points
  • Portability of applications from an mbed-enabled HDK to your custom hardware

Statistics is often perceived as scary and dull… but not when you apply it to optimizing your code! You can learn so much about your system and your application by using relatively simple techniques that there’s no excuse not to know them.This presentation will use no slides but will step through a fun and engaging demo of progressively optimizing OpenCL applications on a ARM-powered Chromebook using IPython. Highlights will include analyzing performance counters using radar diagrams, reducing performance variability by optimizing for caches and predicting which program transformations will make a real difference before actually implementing them.

Friday – 3rd of October

The proliferation of mobile devices has led to the need of squeezing every last micro-amp-hour out of batteries. Minimizing the energy profile of a micro-controller is not always straight forward. A combination of sleep modes, peripheral control and other techniques can be used to maximize battery life. In this session, strategies for optimizing micro-controller energy profiles will be examined which will extend battery life while maintaining the integrity of the system. The techniques will be demonstrated on an ARM Cortex-M processor, and include a combination of power modes, software architecture design techniques and various tips and tricks that reduce the energy profile.

One of the obstacles to IoT market growth is guaranteeing interoperability between devices and services . Today, most solutions address applications requirements for specific verticals in isolation from others. Overcoming this shortcoming requires adoption of open standards for data communication, security and device management. Economics, scalability and usability demand a platform that can be used across multiple applications and verticals. This talk covers some of the key standards like constrained application protocol (CoAP), OMA Lightweight M2M and 6LoWPAN. The key features of these standards like Caching Proxy, Eventing, Grouping, Security and Web Resource Model for creating efficient, secure, and open standards based IoT systems will also be discussed.

Virtual Prototypes are gaining widespread acceptance as a strategy for developing and debugging software removing the dependence on the availability of hardware. In this session we will explore how a virtual prototype can be used productively for software debug. We will explain the interfaces that exist for debugging and tracing activity in the virtual prototype, how these are used to attach debug and analysis tools and how these differ from (and improve upon) equivalent hardware capabilities. We will look in depth at strategies for debug and trace and how to leverage the advantages that the virtual environment offers. The presentation will further explore how the virtual prototype connects to hardware simulators to provide cross-domain (hardware and software) debug. The techniques will be illustrated through case studies garnered from experiences working with partners on projects over the last few years.

Attendees will learn:

  • How to set up a Virtual Prototype for debug and trace
  • Connecting debuggers and other analysis tools.
  • Strategies for productive debug of software in a virtual prototype.
  • How to setup trace on a virtual platform, and analysing the results.
  • Hardware in the loop: cross domain debug.
  • Use of Python to control the simulation and trace interfaces for a virtual platform.
  • 14:30 – 15:20 – GPGPU on ARM Systems by Michael Anderson, Chief Scientist, The PTR Group, Inc.

ARM platforms are increasingly coupled with high-performance Graphics Processor Units (GPUs). However the GPU can do more than just render graphics, Today’s GPUs are highly-integrated multi-core processors in their own right and are capable of much more than updating the display. In this session, we will discuss the rationale for harnessing GPUs as compute engines and their implementations. We’ll examine Nvidia’s CUDA, OpenCL and RenderScript as a means to incorporate high-performance computing into low power draw platforms. This session will include some demonstrations of various applications that can leverage the general-purpose GPU compute approach.

Abstract currently not available.

That’s 14 sessions out of the 75 available, and you can make your own schedule depending on your interests with the schedule builder.

In order to attend ARM TechCon 2014, you can register online, although you could always show up and pay the regular on-site, but it will cost you, or your company, extra.

Super Early Bird Rare
Ended June 27
Early Bird Rate
Ends August 8
Advanced Rate
Ends September 19
Regular Rate
VIP $999 $1,299 $1,499 $1,699
All-Access $799 $999 $1,199 $1,399
General Admission $699 $899 $1,099 $1,299
AAE Training $249 $299 $349 $399
Software Developers Workshop $99 $149 $199 $249
Expo FREE FREE $29 $59

There are more types of pass this year, but the 2-day and 1-day pass have gone out of the window. The expo pass used to be free at any time, but this year, you need to register before August 8. VIP and All-access provides access to all events, General Admission excludes AAE workshops and software developer workshops, AAE Training and Software Developers Workshop passes give access to the expo plus specific workshops. Further discounts are available for groups, up to 30% discount.

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Low Power Mode (Suspend to RAM) in uCLinux for Freescale Kinetis K70 MCU

June 25th, 2014 No comments

All ARM based micro-controllers and processors implement multiple power mode in order to save optimize power usage depending on the tasks. However, I’ve been told by some hobbyists/developers/makers that low power modes are not always implemented in Linux, especially for low cost systems either because of hardware limitations or the software is not implemented. EmCraft Systems has just released their latest embedded (uC-) Linux distributions for the MCU boards, and one of the features now available is “suspend to RAM” for their K70 SoM development kit, based on Freescale Kinetis K70 Cortex M4 MCU, which consume just around 600 to 700 uA @ 3.3V (2 to 2.3 mW) in this low power mode.

Freescale_K70_Board_multimeter

Frescale Kinetis K70 Board with Multimeter in Idle mode

They have connected a multimeter to measure the current drawn at different power modes. If you want to know all the details, you should probably read the company’s article on “Linux Low-Power Mode on Kinetis“, but I’ll summarize the key points in this posts.

They checked the current in three different power modes:

  • Idle mode – 104 mA
  • Under load (loop) – 137.30 mA
  • Suspend to RAM mode – 0.6 to 0.7 mA, with Ethernet module 2mA

So you’ll consume about 150 to 175 times less power in suspend to RAM mode compared to idle mode, so depending on the application, that could make a difference between the battery lasting just one day and a few months.

In order to enter this low power mode, you can simply type the following in the serial console:

echo mem > /sys/power/state

The system will enter low power mode, and pressing a key in the UART console will wake up the system immediately and get back to idle mode.
This is nice for testing, but real life applications may be limited. A more practical approach is probably to use the RTC in the system to wake up the system as regular intervals. For example to automatically wake up the system after 5 seconds:

echo +5 > /sys/class/rtc/rtc0/wakealarm; echo mem > /sys/power/state

They’ve also provide a typical example script where you log data, in this case the date, at regular intervals. There’s still more work to do however, as if you use Ethernet, you’ll lose connectivity after the first suspend, and pressing the reset is required to allow the Ethernet interface to recover.

The demo config files for the kernel and busybox, and the rootfs file  are available on here, but you’ll need to be a customer to download the source code to actually build the demo. EmCraft Systems also relatively regularly commits code to their github account for Linux and U-boot, but the latest changes for Freescale K70/K61 have not been added just yet.

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Renesas DevCon Extension Organizes Free One-Day Courses About IoT, Low Power, Sensors and More

June 13th, 2014 No comments

I’ve just come across a YouTube video called Ultra-Low-Power Solutions for Wearable Technology and the ‘Internet of Things’ On Renesas channel. The video itself promotes Cymbet EnerChip Solid State Batteries and Kits, working together with Renesas MCUs, and the interesting part is that they’ll provide a free training session for the kit as part of Renesas Devcon Extension 2014. This is not a single event as you may think, but instead the company hosts one-day workshops in various cities in the US and Brazil covering various tracks all year long, as you can see in the simplified schedule below.

Renesas_Devcon_Extension_2014RTOS & Middleware track is not available anymore, but you can still attend training sessions for Human Machine Interfaces, Low Power designs, the Internet of Things and Sensors.

As an example, the following lectures are available for the Low Power track:

  • Renesas Low-Power MCU Lineup (30 minutes) – Updated technology roadmap for Renesas’ broad portfolio of low-power MCU
  • Working with Renesas e² studio IDE (90 minutes) – How to get started with Renesas eclipse embedded studio IDE
  • Embedded MCU Low-Power System Design Techniques (60 minutes) – Techniques for designing low power embedded systems that run on small batteries or use solar, motion, etc.. energy harvesting
  • Ultra-Low-Power Solutions for Wearable Technology and the ‘Internet of Things’ (60 minutes) – This is the training by Cymbet where you’ll get a Renesas RL78 MCU board with Cymbet Energy harvesting solution.
  • Selecting the Ideal Low-Power MCU(120 minutes) – Explains how to select the best low power MCU for your application among Renesas 16-bit RL78 and 32-bit RX100 low-power MCU families.

You can find out more about tracks and events by cities, and even register for a one-day workshop on Renesas Devcon website. For an overview of the 5 tracks of 2014, I recommend checkout out the Program Overview and Course Descriptions PDF.

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Get Cypress PSoC 4 MCUs for $1 Delivered to Your Door by Fedex

June 4th, 2014 No comments

How many times have you found a low cost MCU, or a development kit, ready to order, until shipping fees, sometimes several times the price of the item, curbed your enthusiasm, to the point you just decided to cancel your purchase? It happened to me several times, so I was pleased to find out Cypress Semiconductor will ship their PSoC 4 MCUs via Fedex anywhere in the world without actually charging for shipping.

PSoC 4 Pioneer Development Kit Inlcudes Arduino header, a Cap Sensor

$25 PSoC 4 Pioneer Development Board Includes Arduino Compatible Headers, a CapSense Slider

PSoC 4 are ARM Cortex M0 MCUs with up to 32 kB Flash, up to 4 kB SRAM, and analog and digital I/Os. CY8CKIT-042 PSoC 4 Pionner Kit is the corresponding kit development kit, which happened to be voted product of the year 2013 on Element14 community beating the BeagleBone Black, Freescale SABRELite, and PiFace Digital for the Raspberry Pi.

Development can be performed using PSoC Creator, and there seems to be a developer community active enough to provide 100 projects in 100 days.

So I’ve given a quick try at Cypress shop to double check it was possible to a PSoC 4200 MCU shipped by Fedex for $1.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The answer is a resounding yes, as long as you have a Visa, Mastercard, Discover or American Express credit card.

Texas Instruments does not charge extra for shipping for their development kits, so I was hoping Cypress would do the same, unfortunately, adding “CY8CKIT-042 PSoC 4 Pioneer Kit” to my cart resulted in an additional $25 for FedEx International Economy, or $35 for FedEx International Priority. I should have read that the company indeed mentions that “free worldwide priority shipping” is not available for development kits on their store homepage…

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Texas Instruments Tiva C Series Connected LaunchPad Unboxing and Quick Start Guide

March 28th, 2014 No comments

Texas Instruments Tiva C Series TM4C1294 Connected LaunchPad is an evaluation kit for the Internet of things with a Cortex-M4 MCU (Tiva TM4C1294), an Ethernet port, and USB interfaces for power and debugging. At $19.99 including shipping via Fedex, it’s one of the cheapest ways to get devices online. I’ve purchased one via TI e-Store, and already received it. I’ll post some pictures of the kit, go through the Quick Start Guide, and provides links to resources to go further.

EK-TM4C1294XL Connected LaunchPad Unboxing

I’ve received the kit in the package below with feature a QR Code linking to http://www.ti.com/launchpad, as well basic specifications (refer to my previous post for specs), list of tools (Code composer studio, Tivaware, Keil, IAR…) and package content.

Tiva_C_Series_Connected_Launchpad_Package
In the box we’ve got the board itself, a retractable Ethernet cable, a USB to micro USB cable for power and debugging, and Connect LaunchPad Quick Start Guide.

Board, Ethernet & USB Cables, and Quick Start Guide

Board, Ethernet & USB Cables, and Quick Start Guide

The Quick Start Guide describes the boards, the different pin on header, and how to get started. You can find both sides of the document here and here.

Top of the Board (Click to Enlarge)

Top of the Board (Click to Enlarge)

A closer look at the board shows the Ethernet port, a micro USB port, two user’s buttons as well as wake & reset button on the left, the MCU is in the middle, and the debug part on the right of the board with another micro USB port. Close to the MCU, you also have several jumpers to select the power source (ICDI (In-Circuit Debug Interface), OTG, and Boosterpack), as well as some selections for CAN and UART.  At the bottom you’ve got a breadboard area, and there are also 4 Boosterpack headers (male) on the board.

Bottom of the Board (Click to Enlarge)

Bottom of the Board (Click to Enlarge)

On the back of the board we’ve got the female headers for the BoosterPacks and description, as well as the MAC Address.

TI_Connected_Launchpad_vs_Arduino_LeonardoThe first time I open the box, I felt the board to be larger than I expected. The above photo shows the Connected LaunchPad next to an Arduino Leonardo clone.

You could also watch the unboxing video.

Getting Started with Tiva C Series (EK-TM4C1294XL) Connected LaunchPad

The board is preloaded with an application that connected to a Cloud based platform called Exosite. The very first thing you need to do is to register your board via ti.exosite.com. This requires registration, and you can also use you Google+ or Yahoo account for this process. After login, go to Click here to add a new device to your portal, click “Select a supported device below”, and “EK-TM4C1429XL Connected LaunchPad”.

Click continue to enter the MAC Address (found at the back of the board), a device name, and the device location as shown on the screenshot below.

Connected_launchpad_device_setupClick Continue and confirm at the next step. The device setup is completed at this stage.

This following step is optional to get started, but if you want to access the serial console, you’ll need to install drivers. It appears many of the tools are available for Windows and Linux (CCS and TivaWare), but the Quick Start Guide mentions a Windows PC is required, so that’s what I used. You’ll need to download Stellaris ICDI Drivers and extract spmc06.zip yo your computer.

Then connect the Ethernet cable between your board and your hub/router, and the micro USB to USB cable between the board and your Windows PC, which should then detect a new hardware. Select to install your own drivers, and select the path “spmc016\stellaris_icdi_drivers”. This will install “Stellaris Virtual Serial Port“. After this is complete, Windows will still detect a new hardware again, twice, repeat the steps above to install “Stellaris ICDI DFU Device” and “Stellaris ICDI JTAG/SWD Device“. If case you have issues, you can check the full instructions (PDF).

Now you can go to the Device Manager, to check installation is complete, and the serial port number, COM7 in my case.

Stellaris_ICDI_Driver_Device_Manager
You can now start Putty or Hyperterminal, and setup a 115,200 baud 8N1 connection on your COM port to access the serial port.

Let’s go back to ti.exosite.com. Under “Device List”, click on your device to connect to it, and interact with  the dashboard.

Tiva_Connected_LaunchPad_ExositeIt will show the Junction temperature, update counters when you press the user’s buttons, and turn on and off two LEDs on your board. The response time was very slow when I tested it maybe 5 to 10 seconds. My Internet connection might be in cause, or the refresh rate of the dashboard.

The portal will also show a map with other Connected LaunchPad around the world (over 300 at the time of my connection), and a game of Tic-Tac-Toe using you board (which I haven’t tried). You can check the full website screenshot.

When you start the board for the first time, and connect to Exosite you can see the following log.

Connected_LaunchPad_SerialAnd if you type “stats”, you’ll basically get what you can see from the Exosite dashboard.
Connected_LaunchPad_Serial_StatsThat’s all for the first steps with Tiva Connected LaunchPad. Texas Instruments also has uploaded a 5-minute video showing the Quick Start Guide steps.

Going further

Texas Instruments redirect developers to www.ti.com/tool/ek-tm4c1294xl  to access the software, drivers, and documentation, to start with “Project 0″ at www.ti.com/tiva-c-launchpad which for this board is Hello Blinky. The project requires the use of Code Composer Studio (SW-EK-TM4C1294XL-CCS), TivaWare (SW-EK-TM4C1294XL), and the ICDI drivers installed previously which you can get via http://www.ti.com/tool/sw-ek-tm4c1294xl. Please note that the download will require you to go through a ridiculous “U.S. Government export approval” form, but I got accepted immediately after application. During installation of CCS you may want to select a custom install, selecting “Tiva C Series ARM MCUs” only to avoid a large download and installation. I haven’t gone further for now due to lack of time. Beside CCS, Keil, Mentor Embedded and IAR Systems IDEs can support the board, and TI Tiva C Series MCUs.

It may also be worthwhile going through “Creating IoT Solutions with the TM4C1294XL Connected LaunchPad Workshop” with provides an introduction of CCS, TivaWare, and should go through all the MCU peripherals via sample code.

There are at least two other third party software tools:

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Low Cost Development Boards Giveaway: Raspberry Pi, BeagleBone Black, MicroZed, Minnowboard, and more

March 28th, 2014 No comments

OpenSystems Media is organizing a giveaway of some development boards targeting hobbyists. They’ll have a draw for the boards at EELive in San Jose, at their booth #2009 on April 1-2, but if you can’t attend you can also get a change to win online. Debelopment_Board_Giveaway

Here’s the list of board given away

You could also double your chances to win by tweeting the text below:

I just entered to win a #DIY board from @embedded_mag from #EELive.  Click here for your chance to #win http://bit.ly/EElivecontest #embedded

I could not find any terms and conditions, so I’m not sure if the giveaway is international, or only limited to the US.

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Texas Instruments Tiva C Series TM4C1294 Connected Launchpad Sells for $20

March 11th, 2014 7 comments

There are now many ultra low cost MCU development kit selling for $15 to $25 such as STMicro Discovery Board, but for this price, they’ll usually just feature the MCU, a micro USB, pin header, maybe and maybe some sensors, and they usually lack any form of connectivity, at least without extra hardware. With Tiva C Series TM4C129 Connect Launchpad, Texas Instruments brings a board that can be used for IoT application out of the box thanks to the addition of an Ethernet port. The board sells for just $19.99, which means you could easily make something like a connected 4-relay control system for about $25.

Tiva C Series TM4C1294 Connected Launchpad (Click to Enlarge)

Tiva C Series TM4C1294 Connected Launchpad (Click to Enlarge)

Connected LaunchPad evaluation kit specifications:

  • MCU – Texas Instruents TM4C1294NCPDT ARM Cortex-M4 @ 120MHz with floating point, 1MB Flash, 256KB SRAM, 6KB EEPROM, Integrated 10/100 Ethernet MAC+PHY, data protection hardware, 8x 32-bit timers, dual 12-bit 2MSPS ADCs, motion control PWMs, USB H/D/O, and many additional serial communication interfaces
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet
  • Expansions
    • Dual stackable BoosterPack XL connection sites
    • Breadboard connection headers – Support for 20-pin and 40-pin BoosterPacker
  • USB – micro USB port for power and programming/debugging (via TM4C123GH6PMI IC)
  • On-board, in-circuit debug interface (ICDI)
  • Misc – 4 user LEDs, 2 user switches, reset switch, wake button, power select jumper
  • Dimensions – 12.45 cm x 5.59 cm x 10.8mm

The Connected LaunchPad Evaluation Kit contains the board itself (EK-TM4C1294XL), a retractable Ethernet cable, and a USB Micro-B plug to USB-A plug cable.

Tiva Connected LaunchPad High-Level Block Diagram

Tiva Connected LaunchPad High-Level Block Diagram

For development, the board is supported by Cloud-based, Exosite QuickStart Application, Code Composer Studio 6 (CCS 6) & TivaWare 2.1 and multiple development tool chain support such as CCS, Keil, IAR, Mentor & GCC.  The user’s guide also mentions it’s possible to use Energia Wiring framework.

Beside the user’s guide, documentation is currently limited, and there are no hardware files for now. Having said that there’s an online workshop for the board using CCS6 & TivaWare 2.1 to show you how to get started.

Texas Instruments Tiva C Series TM4C129 Connected Launchpad is currently available for pre-order for $19.99, and is expected to ship within 6 to 8 weeks. Contrary to most other companies that charge a ridiculous shipping fee for their low cost development kit, sometimes more expensive than the board itself, Texas Instruments does not charge for shipping, so $19.99 is the total price you pay. I know for sure, because I’ve just ordered one :).

For more information and/or to purchase the board, visit Tiva C Series TM4C1294 Connected LaunchPad page.

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