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Orange Pi Development Boards

Amazon FreeRTOS Released for NXP, Texas Instruments, STMicro, and (soon) Microchip Microcontrollers

December 2nd, 2017 7 comments

FreeRTOS is an open source real-time operating system for microcontrollers released under an MIT license, and when it comes to adoption in embedded systems it’s right there near the top with embedded Linux according to Aspencore 2017 embedded markets study. For example, some Espressif SDKs for ESP8266 or ESP32 are based on FreeRTOS, and so is Mediatek LinkIt Development Platform for RTOS.

The recently announced Amazon FreeRTOS (a:FreeRTOS) leverages the open source operating systems, and extends it with with libraries that enable local and AWS cloud connectivity, security, and soon over-the-air updates. a:FreeRTOS is free of charge, open source, and available today.

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In order to get started, you’ll have a choice of 4 hardware platforms:

  • STMicro STM32L4 Discovery Kit IoT Node (B-L475E-IOT01A) powered by STM32L475 ARM Cortex-M4 MCU with 802.11 b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.1 LE, RF (868 / 915 MHz), and NFC connectivity, plenty of sensors

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  • Texas Instruments SimpleLink Wi-Fi CC3220SF LaunchPad development kit (CC3220SF-LAUNCHXL) with  CC3220SF single-chip WiFi microcontroller (MCU) with 1MB Flash, 256KB of RAM.

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  • Microchip Curiosity PIC32MZ EF Development Board (Amazon FreeRTOS support coming soon) powered by PIC32MZ EF MCU (415 DMIPS) with 2 MB Flash, 512 KB RAM, integrated FPU, crypto accelerator, and connectivity via an on-board 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi module, and two MikroBUS connector for add-on boards.

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If you don’t own any of those boards, or don’t plan to purchase one, but still would like to play with a:FreeRTOS you could run the Windows Simulator instead.

Once we’ve selected our hardware platform (or simulator), we can access Amazon FreeRTOS console to configure and download the FreeRTOS kernel and software libraries for our application.  Development of the application is done though the tools provided for the board for example TI Code Composer Studio, STM32 System Workbench, IAR Embedded Workbench, or Visual Studio Community Edition.

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Amazon FreeRTOS is free as in speech and free as in beer, with the source code and links to documentation available in Github. Amazon will make money when you utilize AWS services such as AWS IoT Core, data transfer, or AWS Greengrass. The price list of AWS services that may be charged (if enabled) while using Amazon FreeRTOS can be found here.

$29 Bluey nRF52832 BLE & NFC Development Board Comes with Temperature, Humidity, Light, and Motion Sensors

July 5th, 2017 No comments

Electronut Labs, a startup based in Bangalore, India, has designed Bluey board powered by Nordic Semi nRF52832 Bluetooth LE SoC, and equipped with 3 sensor chips reporting temperature, humidity, light intensity, and acceleration data.

Bluey board specifications:

  • SoC – Nordic Semi nRF52832 ANT + BLE ARM Cortex-M4 @ 64 MHz processor with 512kB flash, 64kB RAM
  • Storage – Micro SD slot
  • Connectivity – Bluetooth 4.2/5 LE and other proprietary 2.4 GHz wireless standards via PCB Antenna, NFC via PCB antenna
  • Sensors
    • TI HDC1010 Temperature/Humidity sensor
    • APDS-9300-020 ambient light sensor
    • ST Micro LSM6DS3 accelerometer
  • Expansion Header – 18-pin header with GPIO, 5V, 3.3V, and GND
  • Debugging – CP2104 USB interface; 6-pin SWD header
  • Misc – CREE RGB LED; 2 push buttons; coin cell holder; on/off witch; external / battery power jumper
  • Power Supply – 5V via micro USB port, up to 6V battery voltage via 4-pin header

The board is partially open source hardware with KiCad & PDF schematics (v1.1 PCB) released in Github, but not the Gerber files nor the BoM released on Github, where you’ll find some documentation, and various samples relying on Nordic nRF5 SDK to play with Bluetooth LE and sensors, as well as sample code for a 2 wheeldrive ultrasonic robot.

The board is sold on Tindie for $29, but if you live in India, you can purchase it locally instead for 1,875 Rupiah. Visit the product page for a few more details. They do not sell the full robot, as it is based on off-the-shelf parts including HCSR-04 ultrasonic sensor, DRV8835 motor driver, and chassis made by Femtech RC Model Co that is similar to the Mini Robot Rover sold on Adafruit.

Nordic Thingy:52 Bluetooth 5 IoT Sensor Development Kit Targets Mobile & Web App Developers

June 4th, 2017 No comments

Some developers may be interested in providing solutions for the Internet of Things, but they may not have the skills or interest in making their own hardware, and/or develop firmware, and just want to create demos or prototypes quickly, focusing on app development instead. Nordic Semiconductors has recently launched Thingy:52 IoT Sensor Kit with Bluetooth 5 & NFC connectivity, and various sensors for those developers.

Nordic:52 IoT Sensor development kit (nRF6936) hardware specifications:

  • MCU – Nordic Semi nRF52832 ARM Cortex-M4F Bluetooth 5 System on Chip (SoC)
  • Connectivity – Bluetooth 5 LE and NFC
  • Sensors
    • Temperature,Humidity, Air pressure, Air quality (CO2 and TVOC), color and light intensity
    • 9-axis motion sensing – Tap detection, orientation, step counter, quaternions, euler angles, rotation matrix, gravity vector, compass heading, raw  accelerometer, gyroscope, and compass data
  • Audio
    • Speaker for playing prestored samples, tones, or sound streamed over BLE (8-bit 8 kHz LoFi)
    • Microphone streaming (ADPCM compressed 16-bit 16 kHz)
  • Expansion Headers (all unpopulated)
    • 20-pin header with GPIOs, I2C, Analog inputs
    • 2x 4-pin I2C headers
    • 4-pin analog/digital header (2 I/O)
    • 4-pin analog/digital header (1 I/O)
  • Misc – Configurable RGB LEDs and button; programming & debugging connector
  • Power Supply – 5V via micro USB port, LiPo battery connector (A battery is already included in the devkit)
  • Dimensions – 6×6 cm plastic & rubber case

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Nordic provides example apps for Android & iOS with cloud connectivity for the devkit, as well as a web application relying on Web Bluetooth API. Thingy:52 kit supports secure Over-the-Air device firmware upgrade (DFU). While the company promote the kit to app developers, the application firmware source code and hardware design files are also available for download. You’ll find all info on Nordic Semi’s Infocenter. A Node.js library is also available for the board on Github.

Nordic Thingy:52 can be purchased for around $40 via distributors such as Mouser, Digikey, and Arrow.

Thanks to Jan for the tip.

OpenH PULSAR and QUASAR Boards Add 4G LTE Cat M1, or Cat 4/1 to Raspberry Pi Boards

May 31st, 2017 No comments

We’ve seen a bunch of IoT boards with 2G connectivity recently including Orange Pi 2G-IoT, Wio GPS, and Nadhat, but while in some countries 2G will still work for many years, those boards are already obsolete – or soon will be – in many other countries. However, finding low cost 3G / 4G  boards is more difficult, and while one solution is to use 3G or 4G USB dongles,  “OpenH – Open Hardware” – part of KLiP Industries – has designed two boards with 4G connectivity provided by Quectel modules.

OpenH PULSAR Board

PULSAR board is compatible with Arduino Zero and features the following specifications:

  • MCU – Atmel/Microchip SAMD21 ARM Cortex M0+ MCU (the as the one used in Arduino Zero)
  • Connectivity
  • Security – Dedicated management CPU with crypto engine
  • Power Supply 10W digital power supply and battery charger with direct solar input
  • FCC and Carrier certified

The board can work in standalone mode, but if needed, a Raspberry Pi Zero can optionally be mounted to the board. PULSAR is designed for low-bandwidth projects up to 200 kbps, support OTA firmware updates, and can work with the cloud provider of your choice.

OpenH QUASAR Raspberry Pi HAT Board

If your project needs more bandwidth, you can use QUASAR boards instead on a Raspberry Pi 2/3 board:

  • Connectivity
  • Expansion connectors
  • Security – Dedicated management CPU with crypto engine
  • Power Supply – 25W digital power supply and battery charger with direct solar input
  • FCC and Carrier certified

You’ll get up to 150 Mbps bandwidth using LTE Cat 4 module, and just like the other board is can support OTA firmware update, and popular cloud services like Amazon Web Service (AWS) IoT, Azure IoT Hub, IBM BlueMix, Google Cloud for IoT, ThingSpeak, etc…

Installation and IP67 Enclosure

OpenH explains Bluetooth and NFC are for installation and maintenance, and they appears to have a mobile to access the serial console, authorize access, reboot the board, check GPS coordinates…. over Bluetooth, as shown above using QUASAR board.

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Many such long range IoT projects are designed to be placed outdoor, so the company also offer Rubicon IP67 weatherproof enclosure that works with both 4G boards, as well as Raspberry Pi, Arduino, BeagleBone, etc.. and is high enough for one or more add-ons board thanks to a selection of shallow or deep covers. The photo above shows the case with a Raspberry Pi board (left) and Beaglebone Black + PRUDAQ cape (right).

The downside is that the board are not available yet, pricing is unknown, and documentation is very limited right now. If you are interested, you can register your email on openh.io website by clicking on Pre-order Now button. Rubicon IP67 enclosure is available now for $35 plus shipping.

STMicro Unveils STM32L4 Discovery Kit for IoT with WiFi, BLE, NFC, Sub-GHz RF, and Plenty of Sensors

May 29th, 2017 3 comments

STMicro has recently introduced B-L475E-IOT01A Discovery kit powered by STM32L4 Cortex-M4 and targeting IoT nodes with a choice of connectivity options including WiFi, Bluetooth LE, NFC, and sub-GHZ RF at 868 or 915 MHz, as well as a long list of various environmental sensors.

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B-L475E-IOT01A Discovery kit key features and specifications:

  • MCU – STM32L4 Series MCU based on ARM Cortex -M4 core with 1 MB Flash memory, 128 KB SRAM
  • Storage – 64 Mbit (8MB)  Quad-SPI Flash memory (Macronix)
  • Connectivity
    • Bluetooth 4.1 LE module (SPBTLE-RF)
    • Sub-GHz (868 or 915 MHz) low-power-programmable RF module (SPSGRF-868 or SPSGRF-915)
    • Wi-Fi module based on Inventek ISM43362-M3G-L44 (802.11 b/g/n compliant)
    • Dynamic NFC tag based on M24SR with its printed NFC antenna
  • Sensors
    • 2x digital omni-directional microphones (MP34DT01)
    • Capacitive digital sensor for relative humidity and temperature (HTS221)
    • 3-axis magnetometer (LIS3MDL)
    • 3D accelerometer and 3D gyroscope (LSM6DSL)
    • 260-1260 hPa absolute digital output barometer (LPS22HB)
    • Time-of-Flight and gesture-detection sensor (VL53L0X)
  • USB – 1x micro USB OTG port (Full speed)
  • Expansion – Arduino UNO V3 headers, PMOD header
  • Debugging – On-board ST-LINK/V2-1 debugger/programmer with USB re-enumeration capability: mass storage, virtual COM port and debug port
  • Misc – 2 push-buttons (user and reset)
  • Power Supply – 5V via ST LINK USB VBUS or external sources

The board supports ARM mbed online compiler, but can also be programmed using IDEs such as IAR, Keil, and GCC-based IDEs. STMicro also provides HAL libraries and code samples as part of the STM32Cube Package, as well as X-CUBE-AWS expansion software to connect to the Amazon Web Services (AWS) IoT platform.

You’ll find documentation, hardware design files, software, and tools on  the product page, where you’ll also be able to purchase the board for $51.94 with either a 868 or 915 MHz RF module.

Aconno Bluetooth 4.0 & 5 IoT Development Board Features an nRF52832 or nRF52840 Module, an e-Paper Display, Sensors and More

March 31st, 2017 1 comment

Bluetooth 5 is the latest iteration of Bluetooth with up to four times the speed and twice the range of Bluetooth 4.0 LE, and so far apart from Puck.js and Nordic Semi nRF52840 devkit, I had not seen many Bluetooth 5 IoT modules or boards. Aconno, a German startup, has designed ACD-52832 Bluetooth 4.0 / Thread / ANT+ IoT development board based on their own nRF52832 module, and equipped with some goodies like a black & white e-Paper display, a joystick, sensors, I/Os, etc… They’ve also launched an updated module with Bluetooth 5 using nFR52840 SoC. I don’t have the full details about the new module, but the nRF52832 module and devkit is interesting to look at, especially features should be similar.

Aconno ACD-52832 board specifications:

  • Wireless Module – ACN52832 based on Nordic Semi nRF52832 ARM Cortex-M4 @ 64 MHz SoC with Bluetooth Smart, ANT+, Thread, NFC, and 2.4 GHz proprietary
  • Display – e-Paper display with 200×200 resolution, 184 dpi pixel density
  • Sensors
    • ST iNEMO 9-DoF inertial module with a accelerometer, gyroscope and magnetometer
    • Temperature sensor with -40°C to 125°C range and ± 4K accuracy
    • Light sensitive sensor
  • I/Os – Pin header with seven I/O ports; 2x potential free relay outputs; 2x PWM controlled servo outputs
  • Debugging – micro USB port for J-Link or drag and drop flashing
  • Misc – IR emitter; 5-way digital joystick; 2x LEDs; 2x tactile switches; potentiometer for ADC values; buzzer
  • Power Supply
    • 5V via micro USB port
    • 1,200 mAh Li-Ion battery
    • Texas Instruments USB Li-Ion battery charger with up to 0.5A charging devices.
  • Dimensions – 105 x 65 mm (module is ~ 20 x 25 mm)

The board can be programmed and debugging via Segger J-Link OB through the micro USB interface, and Nordic toolchain using Keil, IAR and GCC. It’s also supported by mbed online compiler allowing drag & drop programing. The board and module supports Nordic’s SoftDevices to enable the wireless protocols needed for your project. Potential applications include IoT sensor nodes and hubs, rapid prototyping, desktop peripherals, remote controls, sports & medical wearables, smarthome sensors, beacons, toys, and NFC <-> BT tags.

ACN52832 Module Block Diagram – Click to Enlarge

Charbax interviewed the 4-person company at Embedded World 2017, where they showcase the old and new modules, the development board, as well as some other products based on the module such as soil moisture sensor, an e-Paper picture frame, an interesting tiny SMT prototyping board with traces made with conductive ink pen, a DIN rail box with e-Paper and so on..

The nRF52832 module is sold for 12 Euros + VAT, while the development board goes for 99 Euros + VAT on Amazon Germany. It’s also possible to buy directly on their own shop, and they have a 20% discount for a few more days. For more information, including manuals for both the module and devkit, and some other hardware kits, visit Aconno products page. Pricing and info about nRF52840 do not seem to have be posted to their website yet.

Nordic Semi Unveils nRF52840 Bluetooth 5 Ready SoC and Development Kit

December 7th, 2016 2 comments

Nordic Semiconductor nRF52xx Bluetooth and 2.4 GHz solutions are very often found in development kits and low power devices such as wearables, and it’s no surprise that the company introduced a new nRF52840 SoC supporting Bluetooth 5, the new standard promising twice the range, and four times the speed of BLE 4.x, as well as ANT, 802.15.4, 2.4GHz proprietary, and NFC connectivity.

nrf52840Nordic Semi nRF52840 key features and specifications:

  • MCU – 32-bit ARM Cortex-M4 @ 64 MHz with with FPU
  • Memory & Storage – 256 KB RAM, 1MB Flash
  • Connectivity
    • Bluetooth 5-ready multiprotocol radio
    • Bluetooth 5 data rate support: 2 Mbps, 1 Mbps, 500 kbps, 125 kbps
    • 104 dB link budget for Bluetooth low energy
    • -96 dBm sensitivity for Bluetooth low energy
    • Programmable output power from +8 dBm to -20 dBm
    • NFC-A tag on chip
    • Single-ended antenna output (on-chip balun)
  • I/Os
    • USB – Full-speed 12 Mbps USB controller
    • SPI up to 32 MHz
    • Quad SPI up to 32 MHz
    • PPI — Programmable peripheral interface
    • EasyDMA
    • 12 bit/200 ksps ADC
  • Security – ARM Cryptocell CC310 cryptographic accelerator, 128 bit AES/ECB/CCM/AAR coprocessor
  • Power Supply –  1.7 V to 5.5 V; individual power management for all peripherals; regulated supply for external components up to 25 mA

nRF52840 is “on-air-compatible with nRF51, nRF24L and nRF24AP Series”, and target advanced wearables, IoT, and interactive entertainment devices (remote controls / controllers).

nRF52840 Preview Development Kit - Click to Enlarge

nRF52840 Preview Development Kit – Click to Enlarge

The company has also launched nRF52840 Preview Development Kit to get started with evaluation and development.  The development board is hardware compatible with Arduino Uno Rev. 3 to allow the use of common Arduino shields, and also includes 4 LEDs and 4 buttons, all programmable by the user. It supports Bluetooth 5, Bluetooth low energy, ANT, 802.15.4 and 2.4GHz proprietary using the latest S140 SoftDevice software stack, as well as NFC thanks to an external antenna included in the kit.  The kit is compatible with Nordic Software Development Toolchain using Keil, IAR and GCC, and can be programmed & debugging with Segger J-Link OB.

Samples and the development kit are available now at an undisclosed price. You’ll find more details about the nRF52840 Bluetooth 5 SoC and development kit on the product page.

$99 MATRIX Creator Raspberry Pi Add-on Board Features Plenty of Sensors, a 2.4 GHz Radio, and More

July 6th, 2016 9 comments

MATRIX Creator is a round-shaped add-on board for Raspberry Pi boards with various sensors, a microphone array, an LED array, a Xilinx FPGA, an Atmel Cortex-M3 MCU, wireless connectivity via Z-Wave, ZigBee, Thread, and NFC, as well as various I/Os….

MATRIX_CreatorMATRIX Creator specifications:

  • FPGA – Xilinx Spartan 6 FPGA
  • MCU – Atmel ATSAM3S2C Cortex-M3 MCU
  • Connectivity – ZigBee, Thread, Z-Wave and NFC
  • Sensors – Ultraviolet, pressure, humidity, temperature, 3D accelerometer, 3D gyroscope, 3D magnetometer
  • Audio – 8x MEMs microphone array with Alexa support
  • Expansion – 2x ADC, 17x digital GPIOs, SPI, I2C, UART; 40-pin connector for Raspberry Pi 2/3
  • Misc – 35x RGBW LEDs array, IR Rx/Tx, infrared ring for the Raspberry Pi NoIR camera
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I can’t think of the single application that would make use of all features of this board, but the least we can say is that it’s extremely versatile. The developers are providing MATRIX OS based on Linux to run on the Raspberry Pi board including necessary drivers and some samples, as well as MATRIX CLI and MATRIX CV, to respectively manage multiple Raspberry Pi boards and develop computer vision applications.

Documentation has not been made public yet, but the Wiki is scheduled to be up and running on, or before, July 15th, the date when the board will start shipping. In the meantime, some Raspberry Pi 3 based demos are showcased on their website including including a self-balancing robot, a gesture triggered IR transmitter, a face tracking app, and one demo showing the compass driving LEDs.

The board can be pre-ordered for $99 plus shipping.

Via HackerBoards and Harley.