13 Dec 2009

Electronic devices - rapid prototyping environments

There are many platforms that can be used for rapid prototyping of electronics devices, in this article I will write about two of them which are quite popular.

Arduinio

Arduino is an open-source electronics prototyping platform based on flexible, easy-to-use hardware and software. It's intended for artists, designers, hobbyists, and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments.
What is inside Arduino?
version 2009
  • ATmega168/ATmega328
  • 16 KB Flash Memory (ATmega168)/32 KB Flash Memory (ATmega328) (2 KB are used by bootloader)
  • 1 KB SRAM(ATmega168)/2 KB SRAM (ATmega328)
  • 512 bytes EEPROM (ATmega168)/1 KB EEPROM (ATmega328)
  • 14 digital input/output pins (of which 6 can be used as PWM outputs)
  • 6 analog inputs
  • 16 MHz crystal oscillator
  • USB connection
  • power jack
  • built-in LED
  • ICSP header
  • reset button
  • I2C support
Some helpful links on Arduino
Inspirations for cool projects
Projects listed above, were made using ATmega32:

Sun Spot

Project Sun SPOT (Small Programmable Object Technology) was created to encourage the development of new applications and devices. It is designed from the ground up to allow programmers who never before worked with embedded devices to think beyond the keyboard, mouse and screen and write programs that interact with each other, the environment and their users in completely new ways. A Java programmer can use standard Java development tools such as NetBeans to write code.
What is Sun Spot
Read: What is SunSPOT - Introduction, it has many nice features
  • Embedded Development Platform
  • Easy to program - Java top to bottom
  • It has Wireless Communication (Overlay Network - CTP, IPv6/LowPan ; Mesh Networking - AODV, LQRP) ; Multi-hop Over the Air Programming
  • Built in Lithium Ion battery charged through USB
In Kit there are two SUN Spots + base station (base station is only processor board without sensors).
What is inside
  • 180 MHz 32 bit ARM920T z 512K RAM SRAM i 4M Flash.
  • 2.4 GHz IEEE 802.15.4 support
  • USB interface
  • light sensor ; temperature sensor ; 8 colour leds ; inputs/outputs ; ADC ; 2 buttons ; accelerometer
It is based on open hardware and schematics. Schematics can be downloaded from here, and software from here. Sun Spot runs Squawk VM, software is written in Java (there is special version of NetBeans IDE) - checkout sources to get some details. There is some nice tutorial: how to use emulator.
Sample projects based on Sun Spot

Conclusion

Arduino
  • Great for start - cheap (remember you can damage device during development process)
  • A lot of tutorials, references, sample projects
  • Many people use this!
  • Some SDK is provided
Sun Spot
  • Sun Spot is more powerful out of the box
  • Perfect for creating mesh networks, sensor network or something like that
  • Programmable in Java - you can use NetBeans
  • It is not good for start - quite expensive, but has many feature built in
  • Hardware is inside case - ready to use outdoors
It is a pity that I don't have enough time to start playing with this stuff.

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