Arduino fans rejoice! Sporting high-performance 32-bit MCUs, the latest crop of Arduino boards is ready to take on even your most ambitious projects. Although they deliver over 100X more processing power than the 8-bit Atmel AVR MCU (AVR Datasheet and Inventory) in the original Arduino board, they still retain most of the elegance of design, ease of use and open-source architecture that made the original Arduino platform, and its many variants one of the pillars of the Maker movement.
The Atmel Variations
Since Atmel's elegant 8-bit AVR MCUs have been an integral part of the Arduino ecosystem since the beginning, it is no wonder that many DIY-ers have eagerly awaited boards equipped with its ARM-based successors. Kicking off the tour of the newest additions to the Arduino family with a look at a couple of boards equipped with Atmel's 32-bit SAM MCU architecture.
The Arduino Zero is a simple and powerful 32-bit extension of the platform established by Arduino UNO. It contains everything needed to support the microcontroller, allowing you to get started by simply connecting it to a computer with a micro-USB cable.
The Zero is compatible with all Arduino shields that work at 3.3V and are compliant with any board, which follows the pinout of the Arduino Uno R3 board. Commonly referred to as the Arduino 1.0 pinout, it defines the location of Digital pins 0 to 13 (and the adjacent AREF and GND pins), Analog inputs 0 to 5, the power header, ICSP header and the UART port pins (0 and 1).
The Zero board is powered by Atmel’s SAMD21 MCU that features many advanced capabilities including:
- A 32-bit core that allows operations on four byte wide data within a single CPU clock.
- A 48MHz CPU Clock
- A 12-channel DMA controller that can offload most memory-intensive tasks from the CPU
- A 32-bit Real Time Counter (RTC) with clock/calendar function.
- A 32-bit CRC generator
- A two-channel Inter IC Sound (I2S) interface
- A peripheral Touch Controller (PTC)
The Zero also supports Atmel’s Embedded Debugger (EDBG), which provides a full debug interface without the need for additional hardware.
The Arduino Zero is available for $49.
The Arduino Due board is based on the Atmel SAM3X8E ARM Cortex-M3 CPU running at 84MHz. It contains everything needed to support the MCU; simply connect it to a computer with a micro-USB cable or power it with an AC-to-DC adapter or battery to get started.
The Due is compatible with all Arduino shields that operate at 3.3V and are compliant with the 1.0 Arduino pinout. It has 54 digital input/output pins (of which 12 can be used as PWM outputs), four UARTs (hardware serial ports), a 84 MHz clock, an USB OTG capable connection, two DAC (digital to analog), two TWI, a power jack, an SPI header, a JTAG header, a reset button and an erase button. Its most significant features include:
- Firmware that supports the Android ADK 2012 protocol.
- 12 high-speed analog inputs (ADC) with 12-bit resolution, suitable for audio applications and signal processing projects that were impossible with Arduino Uno.
- Support software for the two 12-bit DACs, which includes examples for a WAV and OGG player.
- A 480Mbit/s USB 2.0 interface that allows Arduino Due to act as a USB Host for USB devices such as mice, keyboards, cameras and mobile phones.
- Four high-speed serial communication ports.
- A high-speed CAN interface.
- Two I2C busses.
The Arduino Due is available for $49.
Other Popular Flavors
Atmel is only one of several major MCU makers to take advantage of Arduino's widespread popularity and rich ecosystem. Many companies, such as STMicro and Infineon have followed Atmel's lead and offer boards featuring their own ARM-based processors. Other manufacturers have chosen to use the Arduino ecosystem as a vehicle to showcase their own unique processor architectures.
WiFire – Powered by Microchip
Microchip Technologies for example, has collaborated with Digilent to create the Wi-Fire board, which is based on its 200 MHz, 32-bit Microchip PIC32MZ2048 MCU. The MIPS-based processor is loaded with 2-MB of on-chip flash memory and 512K of SRAM. In addition, this pin-compatible Arduino variant sports an integrated MRF24WG0MA 802.11b/g Wi-Fi module (also from Microchip).
The board also features:
• A Micro SD card connector
• A USB 2.0 Hi-Speed OTG controller
• A 50 MHz SPI interface
• 43 available I/O pins
• 12 analog inputs
• Four user-defined LEDs
Wi-Fire is fully-compatible with Arduino's original Multi-Platform Integrated Development Environment (MPIDE) and Microchip's MPLAB-X—an enhancement of the original Arduino IDE—which makes developing complex applications, especially those involving real-time functions, much easier.
One of Wi-Fire's primary missions is to serve as a simple development platform for Internet of Things (IoT) applications. To this end, it has been paired with Imagination Technologies' Flow Cloud service development tools. Together, they make creating cloud-powered embedded applications much easier for the average developer. The development environment allows you to get started on your IoT application by pointing whatever PC, Mac or Linux box you are using to the FlowCloud Developer site. From there, you use the FlowCloud SDK to create your cloud application from FlowCloud's modular infrastructure capabilities and underlying services. At present, the available services include:
• Device and user management
• Asynchronous messaging
• Data storage
• Event logging
• International E-wallet payments
• Optional FlowRadio and music services
• A customizable website
The cloud services infrastructure also provides secure asynchronous messaging and end-to-end connection establishment.
The WiFire board is priced at $79. Users can get started with FlowCloud for the chipKIT WiFire.
STMicroelectronics' Discovery Kit
STMicro's Arduino-compatible STM32F7 Discovery Kit is another exciting tool for DIY-ers interested in creating IoT applications. The board and associated development tools make it easy and affordable for both "mainstream" embedded developers and Maker/DIY-ers to get their hands on the STM32F7, STM's latest and highest-performing Cortex-based MCU.
STM32F7 microcontrollers are built around the new Cortex-M7 core that has about twice the digital-signal processing (DSP) capability of earlier Cortex cores. The M7 is also the first Cortex-M core to feature on-chip cache, and is capable of ultra-fast data transfers and high-performance execution from embedded Flash or from external memories such as dual-mode Quad-SPI. The STM32F7 also includes 1MB of Flash, 340 Kbytes of RAM and an array of advanced I/O, making it ideal for applications requiring high-speed or multi-channel audio, video, wireless, motion recognition, or motor control.
The Discovery Kit’s open hardware architecture makes it an affordable, yet highly-capable development platform. Moreover, unlimited expansion capability is provided through the Arduino Uno connectivity support and immediate access to a large choice of specialized add-on boards.
The Discovery Board's features include:
• A 4.3-inch 480x272 color LCD-TFT WQVGA color display with capacitive touch screen
• On-board ST-LINK/V2-1 supporting USB re-enumeration capability
• USB functions: virtual COM port, mass storage, debug port
• A camera connector
• A SAI audio codec
• An audio line in and line out jack
• Stereo speaker outputs
• Two ST MEMS microphones
• SPDIF RCA input connector
• A microSD card connector
• An RF-EEPROM daughterboard connector
• USB OTG (HS & FS) with Micro-AB connectors
• An Ethernet connector
Priced at $49, the STM32F7 discovery kit is available from STMicro.
Intel Galileo (Gen2)
Even Intel has gotten on the Arduino bandwagon. Their Galileo Arduino-compatible development board is based on the Intel Quark SoC X1000 Application Processor, a 32-bit Intel Pentium-class system on a chip. It is the first board based on Intel architecture designed to be hardware and software pin-compatible with Arduino shields, which support the Arduino 1.0 pinout (as defined by the Uno R3).
In addition to Arduino hardware and software compatibility, the Galileo board has several PC industry standard I/O ports and features to expand native usage and capabilities beyond the Arduino shield ecosystem. This includes:
• A full sized mini-PCI Express slot
• A 100Mb Ethernet port
• A Micro-SD slot
• An RS-232 serial port
• USB Host & Client ports
Galileo also includes:
• Pulse-width modulation (PWM) outputs with 12-bit resolution for smoother, for more precise control of servos.
•12V power-over-Ethernet (PoE) capability
• 8 Mbytes of NOR flash
The Arduino Galileo board is available for $79.