32-bit Arduino like board with WiFi for cloud-powered embedded app development

February 16, 2015 // By Lee Goldberg, EDN
Digilent's chipKIT WiFire board is powered by a Microchip 32-bit 200 MHz MCU. The Wi-Fi equipped Arduino-compatible platform has been paired with Imagination Technologies' Flow Cloud service development tools in an effort to make creating cloud-powered embedded applications practical for the average developer – a not-so-simple task which has eluded several other player in the IoT market.

Although a lot of "experts" have promised that the IoT's ability to connect low-cost embedded systems to powerful cloud-based services is a "game-changer", or "(insert today's hot buzzword)" for smart lighting and other distributed systems, I've found there's usually a wide gap between those promises and a working system. That gap is strewn with obstacles that can be as simple as the hardware not being up to the task, as frustrating as poorly-integrated design tools, or as confusing as a complex, poorly-documented set of digital rituals an embedded system must follow to access a cloud-based service. My brief road test of the WiFire board and the cloud-app developer resources from Imagination Technologies suggests that it's well-equipped to avoid the hazards lurking access to the IoT which can overtake an unwary embedded system.

WiFire is a pin-compatible variant of an Arduino board which replaces the standard 8-bit AVR MCU with Microchip’s 200 MHz, 32-bit PIC32MZ MCU, and adds an on-board 802.11b/g Wi-Fi module (also from Microchip). Since my first meaningful encounter with the Arduino platform and its development environment had been a couple of years ago on an earlier Microchip/Digilent Arduino board, I was really excited when Eric Lawson, my prime contact at Microchip, offered to let me test-drive one of the first WiFire boards to come off the production line.


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