The Internet of Things (IoT) is a rapidly growing field limited only by the creativity of the system designer. However, connecting and creating a custom solution of microcontrollers (MCUs), connectivity, and sensors is often a task that takes more time and effort than imagined. Two main problems exist with any system integration. First, the hardware, different MCU and sensor evaluation boards often use different connectors. Second, the software “glue” code is not easily available for all combinations of MCUs and sensors, and each combination must be paired up individually. Renesas’ Quick-Connect IoT platform solves these issues by providing standard hardware and software “building blocks” to enable quick prototyping of IoT systems.
The Quick-Connect IoT platform provides a standard Pmod™ connector across most of Renesas’ evaluation boards to ensure hardware connectivity. The platform also takes a modular approach to software making it portable between MCU families and includes the common middleware for sensors and connectivity in the integrated development environment (IDE) software package.
Figure 1 below shows an air quality IoT system created using an MCU evaluation kit combined with several sensors using I2C and a Wi-Fi module communicating over UART. The Quick-Connect IoT platform supports I2C, SPI, UART, and GPIO interfaces as well as 3.3V and 5V operating voltages. In addition, we recognized that some sensors are analog and cannot be supported by Pmod and some systems require multiple devices and voltage rails. For these more complex sensor systems, we use either a Clickboard™ or Arduino shield which are supported by most Renesas MCU boards.
In developing this concept, we realized the need for a couple of extra I/O pins beyond the I2C Type 6 Pmod defined by Digilent®. It seemed logical that if they had an expanded SPI and UART, there should be an expanded I2C, and so, with the help of Digilent, a Pmod Type 6A expanded I2C was born. It should be noted that pins 1 through 6 are backward compatible with Type 6. In addition, Type 6A can be broken down to Type 6 and Type 1 (GPIO) by a simple cable available from Digilent.
If you chose the Renesas RA MCU Family, Quick-Connect IoT is selectable as a new stack and middleware. Likewise, if you use the RX MCU Family you can choose the sensor as a component in the Smart Configurator. In either case, the IDE code generation process enforces the I2C dependency and assists you in setting up the driver and port pins. When you are done, you are ready to write application code, adding your “secret sauce” to make your product unique for your customer.
NOTE: The RL78 MCU Family has no configurator, so the middleware is compatible with the I2C driver created by Code Generator.
Renesas has a very large portfolio of processors and sensors, so on release of the Quick-Connect IoT platform, we started support on the sensors most in demand by our customers and with the most complex libraries and middleware, the gas sensor family. These sensors include the indoor air quality ZMOD4410, outdoor air quality ZMOD4510, and refrigerator air quality ZMOD4450. Of course, what air quality solution would be complete without a humidity and temperature sensor, the HS3001.
For the “Connect” part, several connectivity solutions exist within the Flexible Software Package (FSP). Wired versions such as USB, UART and Ethernet along with several RF connectivity solutions such as Bluetooth® Low Energy (Bluetooth LE) and Wi-Fi are supported.
With the infrastructure in place in the IDE, watch for additional peripherals and connectivity solutions to be added with each release.
For more information on Renesas’ Quick-Connect IoT platform, visit www.renesas.com/quickconnect.
Visit the winning combinations page, www.renesas.com/win to see more solutions where the Quick-Connect IoT platform can be used to help accelerate your designs to get to market faster.