Tag Archives: hardware

Modulowo launches Explore boards for Atmel Xplained

Modulowo’s new boards want to make IoT development a breeze.

Development tools are becoming increasingly popular and are often used for prototyping, designing new devices, educating and programming. Well, one Poland-based startup has decided to take it one step further by devising a solution to streamline the process for Makers and engineers alike. Modulowo has announced the availability of their new Explore boards for the Intel Edison and Atmel Xplained platforms.


The Modulowo Explore E is an IoT dev board for Intel Edison Compute Module (with dual-core Intel Atom, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth LE), compatible with Arduino, Linux, C, C ++, Python and JavaScript. Meanwhile, the Modulowo Explore X is a dedicated board for Atmel Xplained.


The Explore is equipped with a connector for Intel Edison platform, two Modulowo duoNECT connectors for expansion modules, GPIO, SPI, UART and I2C interfaces connectors, two microUSB (USB OTG and USB/UART converter), 12-bit ADC (optional 16-bit) for measuring analog signals, logic level translators (tolerates +3,3V/+5V signals), a battery charger (only for Intel Edison) and a connector for additional power supply to the add-ons.


One of Modulowo’s most notable features is that its modules can be mounted via pin connectors or directly on the board by castellated holes. These add-ons include sensors, tactile switches, motor controllers, LED drivers, GPS, wireless communication and Wi-Fi connectivity with the ATWINC1500.

Intrigued? You can head over to Modulowo’s page to explore the wide range of development boards.

Rewind: 50 boards you’ll want to know about from 2015

Here’s a look at a bunch of boards that caught our attention over the last 12 months. Feel free to share your favorites below! 

“Hardware becomes a piece of culture that anyone can build upon, like a poem or a song.” – Massimo Banzi

Arduino Zero


A 32-bit Arduino powered by the Atmel | SMART SAM D21.

Arduino Wi-Fi Shield 101


An IoT shield with CryptoAuthentication that enables you to wirelessly connect your Arduino or Genuino with ease.

Arduino MKR1000


A powerful board that combines the functionality of the Zero and the connectivity of the Wi-Fi Shield.

Atmel | SMART SAM L21


A game-changing family of Cortex-M0+ MCUs that deliver power consumption down to 35 µA/MHz in active mode and 200nA in sleep mode.



An ultra-low power Bluetooth Smart SoC with an integrated ARM Cortex-M0 MCU and transceiver.



An ARM Cortex-A5-based MPU that offers great features integrated into lower pin count packages, making it ideal for applications where security, power consumption and space constraints are key considerations.

Atmel | SMART SAM S70/E70


An ARM Cortex-M7-based MCU with a floating point unit (FPU) that’s ideal for connectivity and general purpose industrial applications.



A space-ready version of the popular ATmega128.

Adafruit Feather


A new line of development boards that, like it’s namesake, are thin, light and let your ideas fly. Expect Feather to become a new standard for portable MCU cores.

Adafruit METRO 328


An ATmega328-driven processor packed with plenty of GPIO, analog inputs, UART, SPI and I2C, timers, and PWM galore – just enough for most simple projects.

Arduino GEMMA


A miniature wearable board based on the ATtiny85.

Adafruit Bluefruit LE Micro


A board that rolls the versatility of the ATmega32U4 and the wireless connectivity of the SPI Bluefruit LE Friend all into one.

SparkFun Stepoko


An Arduino-compatible, 3-axis control solution that runs grbl software.

SparkFun SAM D21 Breakout


An Arduino-sized breakout for the ATSAMD21G18.

Bosch Sensortec BMF055


A compact 9-axis motion sensor, which incorporates an accelerometer, a gyroscope and a magnetometer along with an Atmel | SMART SAM D20 ARM Cortex M0+ core.

BNO055 Xplained Pro


A new extension board, which features a BNO055 intelligent 9-axis absolute orientation sensor, that connects directly to Atmel’s Xplained board making it ideal for prototyping projects for IoT apps.



A prototyping platform that combines SIGFOX, BLE, NFC, GPS and a suite of sensors. Essentially, it’s the Swiss Army knife for the IoT.

Qduino Mini


A tiny, Arduino-compatible board with a built-in battery connector and charger built-in, as well as a fuel gauge.

Tessel 2


A dev board with a SAM D21 coprocessor, reliable Wi-Fi, an Ethernet jack, two USB ports and a system that runs real Node.js/io.js.



A Windows 10 single-board computer equipped with an Intel Atom x5-Z8300 Cherry Trail processor, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of storage and an ATmega32U4 coprocessor.

LightBlue Bean+


An Arduino-compatible board that is programmed wirelessly using Bluetooth Low Energy.

Makey Makey GO


A thumbdrive-shaped device that can transform ordinary objects into touch pads.



An uber mini, DIY board based on an Atmel | SMART AT91SAM9N12 that runs Linux via a USB drive.



A set of tiny modular circuit boards that takes the hassle out of building electronics.

Microduino mCookie


A collection of small, magnetically stackable modules that can bring your LEGO projects to life.

The AirBoard


A compact, open source, wireless and power efficient dev board designed to learn, sketch and deploy prototypes out in the field.



A matchbox-sized, Arduino-compatible MCU powered by a small solar panel.



An integrated platform that brings the power of the cloud to the edge of the network, enabling you to observe, learn and capture actionable insights from existing physical ‘things’ in your environment.

Sense HAT


An add-on for the Raspberry Pi equipped with a gyroscope, an accelerometer, a magnetometer, a temperature sensor, a barometric pressure sensor and a humidity sensor, as well as a five-button joystick and an 8×8 RGB LED matrix — all powered by an LED driver chip and an ATtiny88 running custom firmware.



A HAT with an Arduino-compatible processor that responds quickly to real-time events, while letting the Raspberry Pi do all of the heavy lifting.



A cost-effective, Arduino-compatible board with built-in Wi-Fi.



A little board designed for wearable devices that features a BNO055, an ATmega328P and a CR2032 coin-cell battery.

 XeThru X2M200 and X2M300


A pair of adaptive smart sensor modules that can monitor human presence, respiration and other vital information.

LinkIt Smart 7688 Duo


An Arduino Yún-friendly platform powered by an ATmega32U4 and MediaTek MT7688 SoC.



A small, inexpensive controller with an embedded OLED display and Wi-Fi connectivity that you can program using existing tools like the Arduino IDE.



A next-generation, Arduino and Raspberry Pi-compatible dev kit for robotic motion structure systems and 3D printers that boasts an Atmel | SMART SAM D21 at its core.



A dedicated security peripheral for the Arduino and was made in collaboration with SparkFun’s previous hacker-in-residence, Josh Datko. This shield adds specialized ICs that perform various cryptographic operations which will allow you to add a hardware security layer to your Arduino project.



An add-on board that makes it easy to secure your Raspberry Pi and Linux applications.

Flip & Click


A two-sided, Arduino-like board with an AT91SAM3X8E for its heart.



An open source toolchain for embedded hardware security research including side-channel power analysis and glitching. The board uses a Spartan 6 LX9, along with a 105 MS/s ADC, low-noise amplifier, an Atmel | SMART SAM3U chip for high-speed USB communication, MOSFETs for glitch generation and an XMEGA128 as a target device.



An Arduino Leonardo-like board with built-in NFC that lets you replace your keys with any smartphone, NFC ring or proximity card.



An inexpensive, open source and shrunken-down version of the Arduino Zero that boasts a 32-bit ATSAMD21G18 running at 48MHz and packing 32K of RAM.



An open source, Arduino-compatible board with an ATmega32U4, ESP8266 Wi-Fi module and lithium-ion battery support.



An ATmega32U4-powered, 8-bit synthesizer that enables you to create NES, C64 and Amiga-style chiptune music by simply connecting a MIDI device.

Zodiac FX


An OpenFlow switch that is powerful enough to develop world-changing SDN apps yet small enough to sit on your desk. Based on an Atmel | SMART SAM4E, the unit includes four 10/100 Fast Ethernet ports with integrated magnetics and indicator LEDs along with a command line interface accessible via USB virtual serial port.

Goldilocks Analogue


A board that brings sophisticated analog and audio input, output and storage capabilities to the Arduino environment.



A super small and expandable IoT system for Makers.



A smart display that features an Atmel | SMART SAM D21 MCU operating at 48MHz and packing 32K of RAM, along with a 1.5” 128×128 pixel OLED screen and a microSD slot.



An Arduino crammed inside an SD card.

… and how could we not mention this?

The WTFDuino!


Do you feel like today’s MCUs are too simple and sensible? Well, one Maker decided to take a different approach by “undesigning” the Arduino into a banana-shaped processor whose form factor is impossible to breadboard and whose pins are incorrectly labelled.


Which hardware, languages and APIs are used the most at hackathons?

Devpost ranked the APIs, languages and technologies that student hackers used during the 2014-2015 academic year.

Thanks to the burgeoning Maker Movement, the number of hackathons has surely risen in recent years. The next generation of programmers, engineers and designers all come together for a few sleepless days, fueled by pizza, Red Bull and coffee, to devise new and exciting gadgetry either of their choosing or based on parts provided by one of the sponsors. These weekend-long events organized by and for students are surging in size, scale and frequency, popping up in some of today’s booming tech centers ranging from Silicon Valley to New York. At hackathons, time is a valuable thing. This, of course, means that participants must strive to generate code and piece hardware together as quickly as possible.


Which programming languages are the most popular? What has become the go-to hardware? Which APIs and platforms do people utilize most frequently? This is what Devpost —  formerly known as ChallengePost — sought to find out. In order to accomplish this, the online community and competition platform collected data and ranked the technologies and programming languages that student hackers have turned to the most throughout the 2014-2015 academic year.

Devpost examined project tags from a sample of over 13,000 student hackers who participated in 160 hackathons and submitted 9,898 projects, either in hackathons or on their Devpost portfolios. The technologies tagged in projects include languages, various APIs, frameworks, databases, IDEs, libraries and hardware, among several others. For each category, the company reported the top five tags.

While you can check out the entire report here, we’ve highlighted some of the more interesting findings below.

When it came to mobile platform, the crowd favorite was Android with 38.2% followed by iOS at 22.7% and Windows Phone at a distant 4.9%. As for programming languages and frameworks, HTML and CSS topped the list with JavaScript, Python, Java and C/C++ not far behind. Outside of the top five included PHP, Objective-C, C#, Swift, JSON, Ruby, XML, Ajax, Shell and Processing.


In terms of hardware, the easy-to-use Arduino unsurprisingly found itself atop the leaderboard ahead of Myo, Pebble, Leap Motion and Oculus Rift. Other notables included Raspberry PI (#6), Intel Edison (#7), Particle (#9) and Tessel (#18).


The use of standard libraries and preexisting tools is paramount in getting a project up and running quickly. And so, many developers rely upon popular APIs and SDKs. According to DevPost, the most popular programs used by students included Twilio for messaging, Facebook for social, Venmo for payments, Google Maps for geo, Spotify for music and Unity for gaming. The rankings reveal that Node.js was extremely popular during the academic year, more so than app frameworks like Flask, AngularJS, Ruby on Rails and Django.


Interested in more? You can explore Devpost’s complete findings here.

MESH is a DIY platform lets Makers create smart projects for the IoT

Hack the real world using MESH in just minutes. 

Designed by a team of engineers at Sony’s Seed Acceleration Program, MESH (Make, Experience, SHare) is a DIY platform that allows Makers to create their own smart projects.


The platform is comprised of hardware building blocks of sorts that connect to each other via Bluetooth Smart and Low Energy, and contain software that can be programmed via a simple Graphical User Interface (GUI) to define a function. The Button Tag is used to make shortcuts or controllers, the LED Tag to create colorful notifications or lighting sequences, while the Acceleration Tag to detect motion patterns. The GPIO, or General Purpose Input Output Tag, is for advanced users and features digital and analog input/output that can sync other sensors or actuators such as light sensors, motors and written circuits with a conductive pen.


MESH makes it easy, fun and convenient for anyone without engineering or coding skills to build their own inventions. In fact, the MESH Tags can be attached to just about anything, ranging from trash cans, closet doors and mailboxes. This enables Makers to design some innovative projects, like trash can that says “thank you” when someone disposes waste, a closet light that turns on when opened or a mailbox that sends an alert when the postman arrives.


With the visual design app Canvas’ drag-and-drop interface and wireless functional Tags, MESH doesn’t require any coding when developing a connected objects. When pairing Tags, users simply move the corresponding icons for the Tags on the iPad app and draw a line between the two they wish to connect. There is also a SDK for those seeking more advanced customization, which provides developers with the option of writing their own software Tags to work with the MESH hardware.

In the future, the team plans to add other Tags including a thermo-hygrometer, IR receiver/transmitter, light and UV sensor, CO2 sensor, motion sensor, DC motor, and vibrator. It should also be noted that the team did mention that it made several prototypes using rapid prototyping tools, most notably Atmel based Arduino boards and 3D printers.


The DIY concept behind MESH certainly represents a new theme emerging throughout the Maker Movement, as seen with earlier projects like BITalino and the WunderBar (whose team we had the chance to meet during World Maker Faire 2014 and CES 2015). Interested in learning more? MESH has launched an Indiegogo campaign, where it is currently seeking $50,000.

Drag & drop programming with Pepino

The recently unveiled Project Pepino is a comprehensive drag and drop development environment for Makers.

Created by Tovi Levis, the open source Pepino comprises both a hardware platform and software layer.


On the hardware side, Pepino boasts a custom-designed board powered by Atmel’s popular ATmega328 microcontroller (MCU).


Additional key hardware specs include:

  • 8 digital inputs/outputs
  • 4 LEGO sensors
  • 2 analog inputs
  • 2 Motors
  • I2C Bus
  • LCD Display
  • 3D Printed Case

Meanwhile, the software environment is hosted on a Raspberry Pi (model B) that connects to the Atmel-powered board.


Levis says he created Pepino as a final project for his degree at the Afeka College of Engineering in Israel, with source code and installation instructions expected to go live at some point in the near future.

Although additional details are still scarce at this point, you can check out Project Pepino’s official page here.

Dual port RAM interface debugs NES games

While writing a game for his old-school NES console, Andrew Reitano realized that live debugging on real hardware would definitely be a step up from the usual software-based fare.

The original solution? Firing variable information out the second controller port to serial every NMI. However, Reitano ultimately decided to take a shot at designing a new Atmel-powered PCB to interface with the console.

“The board routes the left port of the dual port RAM (Cypress CY7C136) to the DIP footprint on the NES and the right port to an AVR (ATmega164 MCU), this allows me to read and write any location at runtime without bus conflicts,” Reitano explained in a recent blog post.

“Control is provided through the UART and two additional pins are soldered directly to the 2A03 to control /NMI and /RESET. AVR control code was written mainly in C with some assembly sprinkled across for the memory control portions.”

The ATmega164 – tasked with “waiting” for serial commands – performs a number of functions including:

  • Read/write of any memory location
  • Quick dump of an entire 256-byte page
  • Freezing of memory addresses (rewriting a single value constantly in the busy loop)
  • Single frame stepping by controlling the NMI
  • Remote reset of console
  • Applying auto increment to tables to a single variable (fun for sine waves on x/y positions)

“[I] had pretty great results with using 250000 baud with the Genesis flasher project which is plenty fast for what I’m trying to do here,” he added. “As far as I can tell from the datasheet leaving CE low shouldn’t have an effect on the opposite port but it most certainly does. Next revision could definitely use a few pullups on the AVR side, other than that I’m pretty happy with the layout.”

Interested in learning more? You can check out the project’s official page here.

Generating random numbers with an ATtiny45

A HackADay forum member by the name of Karl wanted a hardware-based random number generator. His two primary criteria? Keeping costs low and ensuring sufficient generation of arbitrary numbers.

The solution? Atmel’s ATtiny45 microcontroller (MCU), paired with a USB/serial converter, three wires and a DIP socket.

“Some projects either require expensive parts (geiger tube), are quite big (lava lamp), or are not random enough. Also most of the projects require some soldering experience, which can be a problem for newbies,” Karl explained in a HackADay forum post.

“I was not happy with the options I found. Luckily I stumbled upon the Entropy library for AVR’s. I checked the results from authors’s web site. I also did a few tests on my own by creating a 1mb sample of random data. I was pleased with the quality of the random numbers.”

As HackADay’s Brian Benchoff explains, the AVRentropy uses the watchdog timer’s jitter in AVR microcontrollers to provide cryptographically secure random numbers.

“Setting up the circuit was easy – an ATtiny45 microcontroller was connected to an [inexpensive] USB to serial converter. Three wires, and the circuit is complete. The code was simple as well; it’s just a call to initialize the entropy and write the bits to the serial port,” Benchoff added.

“There are a few drawbacks to this build. Because the entropy library must wait until enough entropy is gathered, it can only produce about two 32-bit numbers per second. That’s all Karl needed for his application, though, and with an enclosure made from a wine cork and marble, he has the prettiest and smallest random number generator around.”

Interested in learning more about a hardware-based platform to generate numbers based with an ATtiny45? You can check out the original forum post here.

The golden age of hardware is here

Writing for the LA Times, Chris O’Brien says consumer electronic start-ups have entered a “golden age” characterized by the removal of costly barriers traditionally responsible for blocking market entry.

As O’Brien notes, start-up hardware companies were a prominent part of CES 2014, with TechCrunch holding its first ever “Hardware Battlefield” at the show. Meanwhile, Eureka Park, the traditional start-up corner of CES, hosted approximately 200 companies prominently displaying their wares.

“After years of focusing on Web-based start-ups, which seemed cheap and easy to launch, there is a long list of factors that are making it easier for entrepreneurs to shift to making physical electronic things,” writes O’Brien. 

”The cost of many components such as sensors has fallen dramatically. In addition, boutique manufacturing operations have sprouted across the U.S. and Asia that offer low-cost options for building small batches of new products.”

In addition, notes O’Brien, the rise of powerful, inexpensive 3D printers like the Atmel-powered Makerbot and RepRap facilitate the rapid prototyping of products for both engineers and DIY Makers.

“If you had an idea and wanted to get it out into the world, you used have to be a tycoon in an industry,” says MakerBot CEO Bre Pettis. “Now you just need an idea and the willingness to fail until it works.”

It should be noted that Brady Forest, who runs the Highway1 (highway1.io) incubator in San Francisco, recently expressed similar sentiments in a San Diego Daily Transcript article authored by Phil Baker.

“New, open platforms such as the [Atmel-based] Arduino make it easier for anyone to make something,” explains Forest, who runs the Highway1 (highway1.io) incubator in San Francisco.

“However, a startup needs to learn how to create something that can be made — when they aren’t in the factory and do it tens of thousands of times. Mistakes in manufacturing can be costly and the wrong misstep can kill a company before it even gets to market.”

Baker, who also penned “From Concept to Consumer” for the Financial Times Press, notes that one of the major challenges faced by young hardware companies is bringing their invention to market.

“As [difficult] as it is to invent, engineer and manufacture a product, finding a way for it to be seen and purchased can be many times harder. And new solutions need to be found,” Baker concludes. “But there’s reason to be optimistic for our country. With so many new products being developed by so many innovators new channels will be found. As I told the class at Highway 1, there’s never been a better time to develop hardware products.”

There’s never been a better time to develop hardware

Writing for the San Diego Daily Transcript, Phil Baker says there has never been a better time to develop hardware products. Baker, who penned From Concept to Consumer” for the Financial Times Press, notes that crowdsourcing websites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo are being used to raise required funding, with many ventures having raked in $100,000 or more.

In addition, the advent of desktop 3D printers, most of which are equipped with Atmel microcontrollers (MCUs), allow engineers and Makers to rapidly accelerate the traditional prototyping process. Indeed, a new concept can now be iterated in hours, rather than weeks.

“New, open platforms such as the [Atmel-based] Arduino make it easier for anyone to make something,” explains Brady Forest, who runs the Highway1 (highway1.io) incubator in San Francisco. “However, a startup needs to learn how to create something that can be made — when they aren’t in the factory and do it tens of thousands of times. Mistakes in manufacturing can be costly and the wrong misstep can kill a company before it even gets to market.”

Unsurprisingly, venture capitalists are starting to take notice of the ongoing hardware revolution.

“Because consumer hardware companies are extremely monetizable because of both the front-end solution and the back-end data they collect, they are a new field for startups and there are plenty of entry-level opportunities in which to invest,” says Derek Footer, managing partner of Origo Venture Capital LLC. “They provide an opening for the San Diego/Baja region to develop a real entrepreneurial sector solidly based on local advantage.”

Nevertheless, says Baker, one of the major challenges faced by young hardware companies is bringing their invention to market.

“As [difficult] as it is to invent, engineer and manufacture a product, finding a way for it to be seen and purchased can be many times harder. And new solutions need to be found,” writes Baker. “But there’s reason to be optimistic for our country. With so many new products being developed by so many innovators new channels will be found. As I told the class at Highway 1, there’s never been a better time to develop hardware products.”

Zcapture: Atmel + Arduino = Open Source 360 photography

The Arduino-based Zcapture – which recently surfaced on KickStarter – is designed to provide a low-cost, high-quality product that can be modified, hacked or customized to fit individual needs.

According to Zcapture creator Jared Bouck, the device is positively “disruptive” to an emerging industry of 360 driven content creation – illustrating a better way of doing things while providing information in a user-centric medium.

“The humble beginnings of Zcapture came from my own personal interest in experimentation about 8 years ago with Basic Stamp programming. Roughly 4 years ago I discovered the Arduino NG and fell in love with the [Atmel-powered] Arduino platform from the point of view that anyone could learn it and use it. Immediately I set to work to build and refine the Zcapture system based on this robust platform,” Bouck explained in a Kickstarter post.

“[Remember], I have been deeply involved in web development for 15 years and a great majority of that time has been focused on eCommerce development and design. In that time I have always found that the lack of meaningful product information is a killer when presenting a product in a meaningful way to have them purchase.”

So how does Zcapture work? Well, the system comprises three tightly integrated components – hardware, software and HTML.

“This allows you to easily go from item to website in as little as 15 minutes,” said Bouck. “[Plus], the design and functionality of each system has been designed to be as easy to implement as possible with intuitive controls so that just about anyone can set-up, connect and shoot amazing 360 shots.”

Indeed, Zcapture is designed to operate 100% autonomously – without the need to be connected or controlled from a computer. It also boasts features like optical isolation from camera equipment and active cooling to ensure cool and stable operation.

“Makers will love how easy Zcapture is to use. Gone are the days of a project build with static photos,” he added. “Now instructions can be step-by-step in 360, allowing the reader to see all the intricacies of your project. Even better is the ability to show off your project complete and polished.”

The Zcapture is compatible with most SLR cameras that support an external shutter control, working natively with all Cannon and Nikon Camera models out of the box. It should be noted that for the base KickStarter model, Zcapture will only be supporting Canon and Nikon cameras, although stretch goals will be set for the inclusion of additional cameras, as well IR header support for most point and shoot cameras.

Interested in learning more? Be sure to check out Zcapture on Kickstarter here.