Monthly Archives: May 2020

Level Playing Shield

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

Hello everyone, and welcome back to another Friday Product Post here at SparkFun Electronics. This week we have revised versions of our Qwiic shields for Thing Plus and Arduino Nano to include headers with every order, a new version of the popular Raspberry Pi LoRa Gateway, and a simple 2x18 header. Let's jump in and take a closer look.

SparkFun Qwiic Shield for Thing Plus

SparkFun Qwiic Shield for Thing Plus


The SparkFun Qwiic Shield for Thing Plus is a quick and easy way to enter into SparkFun's Qwiic ecosystem with your Thing Plus or Feather boards. Since the Thing Plus and Feather footprints are interchangeable, you can use this shield with any Arduino development board that uses the two! This shield connects the I2C bus (GND, 3.3V, SDA and SCL) on your Thing Plus to four SparkFun Qwiic connectors (two mounted horizontally and two vertically). The Qwiic ecosystem allows for easy daisy-chaining so, as long as your devices are on different addresses, you can connect as many Qwiic devices as you'd like.

This shield now comes with headers!

SparkFun Qwiic Shield for Arduino Nano

SparkFun Qwiic Shield for Arduino Nano


The SparkFun Qwiic Shield for Arduino Nano is very similar to the Thing Plus version above, but instead of being Feather-compatible, it is meant to attach on top of Arduino Nano boards. Also, like the Thing Plus Shield, the Arduino Nano version comes with headers.

LoRa Raspberry Pi 4 Gateway with Enclosure

LoRa Raspberry Pi 4 Gateway with Enclosure


The LoRa Raspberry Pi 4 Gateway is a professional-grade gateway with the hacker in mind. While other low cost gateways are single channel, the LoRa Raspberry Pi Gateway comes with a fully assembled, heat-sinked concentrator capable of multi-channel, multi-node communication, all running in a friendly, hackable Raspberry Pi environment.

Female Header - 2x18

Female Header - 2x18


This is a 2x18-pin female header. Each pin has a spacing of 0.1 inches.

That's it for this week! As always, we can't wait to see what you make! Shoot us a tweet @sparkfun, or let us know on Instagram or Facebook. We’d love to see what projects you’ve made!

Never miss a new product!

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Sourcing in the Time of COVID-19

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

Today I'd love to talk about the problem at hand and how smaller outfits and makers can navigate it. Obviously the important part of all of this is staying safe and healthy, which is why I have no qualms about the issue we're facing. However, it's definitely created more work for us here at SparkFun, and has affected projects I'm working on outside of SparkFun as well.

Unless you're a larger company, you're likely in a position where getting the parts for your product or project has become more difficult. How difficult it is really depends on the parts and amounts, and the "why" depends on several different aspects. Let's talk about some that might come up.

Chain Reaction

You're not alone - manufacturing closed down across the board, so in some cases, your supplier's suppliers are running into issues. We actually had this happen with a power supply we buy that couldn't be built due to a part that was out of stock with long lead times. For something like a power supply, that's upwards of 10 components that each represent a potentially lengthy lead time. Sometimes it's not an issue, but when the part is unique or the product is a priority, then you need to get creative.

International Shipping Package in front of Door

New product evaluation packages have been shipping directly to my house as I've been working from home. I'm sure the number of international packages have the delivery folk wondering...


Shipping is also a big issue. Backlogged orders, preferential shipping for more important shipments (medical supplies), and decreased shipping ability in general is making things difficult, especially at the international level. This has the potential to put you in a more difficult situation: do you wait on the parts, hoping they get to you in a timely manner, or do you risk buying from another source and hope it gets there quicker than the original order (at this point potentially buying double what you need)? The uncertainty behind shipping can be a huge headache.

Shift in Demand

I bet you didn't think back in January it would be this difficult to get a webcam. The pandemic has created large swings in demand and where it's focused. Manufacturers are scrambling to keep up with demand on devices like IR thermometers, which may not have been properly planned for. Apart from the reasons above, there are always going to be lead times, so companies can't simply crank production to 11. Even if you're not directly working on a similar product (or even using a similar sensor), it could still have an effect on your ability to get the parts you need.

Being a Small Fish in a Big Pond

When you're talking about electronics in general, it's easy to fall into this category. The bigger consumer electronics manufacturers are making sure the two months of manufacturing that was lost isn't going to affect their ability to deliver the numbers they need to hit their goals (think Apple being short on the next iPhone at launch). These companies will leverage their volume business to make sure their orders get priority in shipping and manufacturing. I'm even hearing of some companies buying out manufacturing capabilities for the next two years. This means your product becomes second class when it comes to what makes into the cargo ship or onto the production line.

Is this Permanent?

No, in fact most of these things often happen separately. Work strikes at ports, sudden shifts in demand, manufacturing closures, and other similar occurrences all happen here and there with similar effects. What makes this different is all the effects happening at once, so your once clean-cut purchasing and sourcing track now resembles more of a maze.

The important thing to remember is that this is temporary. Take the lessons from it, but the supply chain will one day return to normal. I think the most we'll see is a move away from just-in-time manufacturing in the short term.

How to Navigate This

Many of us at SparkFun are navigating something of this magnitude for the first time, like most of you. Hopefully it has had very little effect on you, as I would assume has been the case for most (remember, we're talking electronics here, not toilet paper). But with the volume of parts that move through SparkFun, we've found a few ways give you a better chance of getting what you need on time. It comes down to either using the lower-risk suppliers or looking to the less popular ones.

When I say lower risk, I'm referring to the risk mentioned in the first part of the article. Your best option is going to be parts that are already built (in-stock), require minimal logistics (domestic shipping), and can be ordered immediately. If you're thinking of the cheap-fast-good explanation, these will be the "fast." For us in the United States, it's going to be companies such as Mouser, Digikey or Newark.

These are all sites that ship from domestic locations with stock on hand, and your stock is reserved the second you place an order. While the last part may not seem important, it is in relation to the small fish/big pond stuff we talked about earlier. It's easy for us small guys to get put on the back burner to appease the bigger companies. This won't happen with a system like the ones on those sites. If you're a bigger buyer/company, manufacturer reps might be a go-to as well, but the key question to ask is whether there is stock on hand.

Sometimes the amount you need isn't readily available from these sites or companies - that's when you need to start looking to the smaller, less popular retailers. Everyone is going to search the names they know first, so dig a few Google search pages back.

Take the webcams mentioned above, for example: the first places sold out were probably Amazon, Newegg, B&H Photo and the big box stores. Think about the more targeted uses for a webcam - you'll find specality online stores for things like VOIP or Home Security. If there's stock to be had, these will likely be the places to find it.

Getting into electronics components becomes a little harder for these sites, but Octopart is your friend, and you might end up finding another great fall-back supplier (secondary suppliers should be a big lesson for everyone through this).

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GoodBoy is a robot dog that runs on Arduino

via Arduino Blog

Daniel Hingston wanted to build a four-legged walking robot for several years, and with current coronavirus restrictions he finally got his chance. His 3D-printed robodog, dubbed “GoodBoy,” is reminiscent of a miniature version of Boston Dynamics’ Spot, which helped inspired the project. 

It’s extremely clean, with wiring integrated into the legs mid-print. Two micro servos per leg move it in a forward direction, controlled by an Arduino Uno.

Obstacle avoidance is provided by a pair of ultrasonic sensor “eyes,” allowing it to stop when something is in its path. An LDR sensor is also implemented, which when covered by its human minder commands it to present its paw for shaking.

Be sure to check out a short demo of GoodBoy below! 

Wireless Remote Weather Station with micro:bit

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

Did you install your micro:climate kit in a remote, hard-to-reach location and need to pull weather data easily from the comfort of your own home? Or, maybe you want to add a timestamp. With the radio blocks, a second micro:bit and the gator:RTC, you can obtain these readings wirelessly with ease.

Check out the tutorial to add additional functionality to your micro:climate kit!


Wireless Remote Weather Station with micro:bit

May 11, 2020

Monitor the weather without being exposed to it through wireless communication between two micro:bits using the radio blocks! This is useful if your weather station is installed in a location that is difficult to retrieve data from the OpenLog. We will also explore a few different ways to send and receive data.

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This cycling game is controlled by a real bike

via Arduino Blog

What is one to do when stuck indoors due to bad weather or other circumstances, without the ability to ride your beloved bicycle? If you’re game designer Jelle Vermandere, you build your own cycling simulator as seen in the clip below. 

Vermandere not only created a computer simulation in Unity, but a custom Arduino Uno rig that allows him to use his actual bike as the controller.

The game features procedurally-generated maps, along with competitors using Vermandere’s own likeness scanned in as the model. When the racing begins, wheel speeds are sensed via a magnetic window sensor and steering is handled by a LEGO potentiometer rig. 

The game (without its unique interface) is playable now on your browser, while code is available on GitHub.

Edge Impulse makes TinyML available to millions of Arduino developers

via Arduino Blog

This post is written by Jan Jongboom and Dominic Pajak.

Running machine learning (ML) on microcontrollers is one of the most exciting developments of the past years, allowing small battery-powered devices to detect complex motions, recognize sounds, or find anomalies in sensor data. To make building and deploying these models accessible to every embedded developer we’re launching first-class support for the Arduino Nano 33 BLE Sense and other 32-bit Arduino boards in Edge Impulse.

The trend to run ML on microcontrollers is called Embedded ML or Tiny ML. It means devices can make smart decisions without needing to send data to the cloud – great from an efficiency and privacy perspective. Even powerful deep learning models (based on artificial neural networks) are now reaching microcontrollers. This past year great strides were made in making deep learning models smaller, faster and runnable on embedded hardware through projects like TensorFlow Lite Micro, uTensor and Arm’s CMSIS-NN; but building a quality dataset, extracting the right features, training and deploying these models is still complicated.

Using Edge Impulse you can now quickly collect real-world sensor data, train ML models on this data in the cloud, and then deploy the model back to your Arduino device. From there you can integrate the model into your Arduino sketches with a single function call. Your sensors are then a whole lot smarter, being able to make sense of complex events in the real world. The built-in examples allow you to collect data from the accelerometer and the microphone, but it’s easy to integrate other sensors with a few lines of code. 

Excited? This is how you build your first deep learning model with the Arduino Nano 33 BLE Sense (there’s also a video tutorial here: setting up the Arduino Nano 33 BLE Sense with Edge Impulse):

  • Download the Arduino Nano 33 BLE Sense firmware — this is a special firmware package (source code) that contains all code to quickly gather data from its sensors. Launch the flash script for your platform to flash the firmware.
  • Launch the Edge Impulse daemon to connect your board to Edge Impulse. Open a terminal or command prompt and run:
$ npm install edge-impulse-cli -g
$ edge-impulse-daemon
  • Your device now shows in the Edge Impulse studio on the Devices tab, ready for you to collect some data and build a model.
  • Once you’re done you can deploy your model back to the Arduino Nano 33 BLE Sense. Either as a binary which includes your full ML model, or as an Arduino library which you can integrate in any sketch.
Deploy to Arduino from Edge Impulse
Deploying to Arduino from Edge Impulse
  • Your machine learning model is now running on the Arduino board. Open the serial monitor and run `AT+RUNIMPULSE` to start classifying real world data!
Keyword spotting on the Arduino Nano 33 BLE Sense
Keyword spotting on the Arduino Nano 33 BLE Sense

Integrates with your favorite Arduino platform

We’ve launched with the Arduino Nano 33 BLE Sense, but you can also integrate Edge Impulse with your favourite Arduino platform. You can easily collect data from any sensor and development board using the Data forwarder. This is a small application that reads data over serial and sends it to Edge Impulse. All you need is a few lines of code in your sketch (here’s an example).

After you’ve built a model you can easily export your model as an Arduino library. This library will run on any Arm-based Arduino platform including the Arduino MKR family or Arduino Nano 33 IoT, providing it has enough RAM to run your model. You can now include your ML model in any Arduino sketch with just a few lines of code. After you’ve added the library to the Arduino IDE you can find an example on integrating the model under Files > Examples > Your project – Edge Impulse > static_buffer.

To run your models as fast and energy-efficiently as possible we automatically leverage the hardware capabilities of your Arduino board – for example the signal processing extensions available on the Arm Cortex-M4 based Arduino Nano BLE Sense or more powerful Arm Cortex-M7 based Arduino Portenta H7. We also leverage the optimized neural network kernels that Arm provides in CMSIS-NN.

A path to production

This release is the first step in a really exciting collaboration. We believe that many embedded applications can benefit from ML today, whether it’s for predictive maintenance (‘this machine is starting to behave abnormally’), to help with worker safety (‘fall detected’), or in health care (‘detected early signs of a potential infection’). Using Edge Impulse with the Arduino MKR family you can already quickly deploy simple ML based applications combined with LoRa, NB-IoT cellular, or WiFi connectivity. Over the next months we’ll also add integrations for the Arduino Portenta H7 on Edge Impulse, making higher performance industrial applications possible.

On a related note: if you have ideas on how TinyML can help to slow down or detect the COVID-19 virus, then join the UNDP COVID-19 Detect and Protect Challenge. For inspiration, see Kartik Thakore’s blog post on cough detection with the Arduino Nano 33 BLE Sense and Edge Impulse.

We can’t wait to see what you’ll build!

Jan Jongboom is the CTO and co-founder of Edge Impulse. He built his first IoT projects using the Arduino Starter Kit.

Dominic Pajak is VP Business Development at Arduino.