Before I complete my Roadtest review I thought it worth blogging about my early experiences getting started with this IoT device kit which Cypress refer to as
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First impressions count, as they say, so well done to Cypress as no complaints about the packaging. They have included the product’s key features on the top of the box, and underneath is a website link and a list of resources for training and technical support to help you learn about the device and develop some useful solar powered BLE applications.
When you open up the box and the first thing you’ll see is the most important piece of the kit to help get you started, which is the Quick Start Guide. Underneath this leaflet you will then find the following:
- The energy harvesting Motherboard, which includes the S6AE101A PMIC and the CYBLE-022001-00 EZ-BLE PRoC modules;
- A BLE-USB Bridge, which includes CY8C58LP PSoC 5LP and CYBL10162 PRoC BLE modules;
- A small Solar Module (Panasonic AM-1801), 2 jumper wires, a 220 μF Capacitor and a 10Ω Resistor; and
- A USB Standard-A to Mini-B cable
Following the Quick Start Guide
It only takes a few minutes to complete steps 1 to 4 on page one. Happy days as it does exactly what it says on the tin. The instructions are clear and the product works!
Then turning the page you are provided with steps 5 and 6. Unfortunately these two steps are not well structured and are quite confusing to follow. They almost appear as an afterthought as other more relevant less time consuming options could have been used instead. My reasons for this observation are as follows.
Step 5 informs you how to get some projects, documents and design files downloaded onto your computer. This step can be a real time consumer if you have never been on the Cypress website before. It certainly caught me out initially.
The issue stems with where you are directed by the quick start guide, namely www.cypress.com/energy-harvesting
This landing page is not suited for a quick start guide as it provides no easily identifiable link to these projects, documents and design files. The webpage itself provides a detailed introduction to Energy Harvesting PMICs, which is nice to know when you have time for some background reading, but is not really relevant to me whom as a new owner of the kit, is simply looking to get the files, as instructed by my QS Guide, so that I can quickly move on to Step 6.
I have to say it took me a while to find these files as it was certainly not obvious for a person who had never actively spent time on the Cypress website looking for project files and specific documentation before. I’ve now learnt that navigating through vast amounts of web pages (and checking PDF design documents & application notes) on the Cypress website is an art in itself.
As no links were provided at the top half this landing page, you would then think that the “Getting Started” tab at the bottom of this page (as shown in the image above) would be an obvious place to look. But I was wrong. You actually have to click the “Kits” tab first.
When clicking on this tab you are presented with options to buy a range of PMIC related products. At first I thought I was in the wrong place, but with a bit of guess work and trial and error I clicked on the “learn more” button for my product and was taken to a new web page, which really should be the landing page for this quick start guide in the first place.
At the bottom of this page is a section called “Related Files” (see image below). Here you are basically offered two options of either downloading the project files only or downloading these with all the associated software (a 3rd option is provided if you want this information on a DVD). In my case, not having any of the software, I chose the latter. Thankfully once you have logged in, the download process is clean and efficient.
Then once I had gone through all the trouble of downloading these files I was left pondering what to do next and how this relates to step 6.
Step 6 is too generic in my opinion and not very well presented for a quick start guide as it starts with a reference to Miniprog3, which is not provided in the kit. My immediate reaction was, oh great I now need to purchase this Miniprog3 to get anywhere even though it is optional. Point 2 on the other hand is much more relevant and should be the starting point of step 6. Step 6 then closes by directing the reader to the comprehensive User’s Guide.
So what changes could be made to steps 5 and 6? From my perspective as a new user, I would have first liked to see how the product functions via a few demo’s which would also demonstrate the ease in which one uploads new firmware.
Hence all that is really needed for step 5 is instructions on how to get the PMIC software folder onto your computer. This folder is essentially a standalone folder which provides the new user with some useful tools. There is the Bootloader_Host_GUI_exe sub folder which contains the UARTBootloaderHost application used to upload new firmware, and all the necessary cyacd demo files. There is also the Teraterm sub folder which provides a handy serial monitor tool for those users who may not have one on their computer, and then there is the PMIC demo application itself which demonstrates distance detection and how temperature + humidity sensor data is captured.
It may also help if sections 7.1 and 8 as well as the appendix (section 11) of the user guide are provided as a separate instruction PDF guide stored in this folder for reference.
Once I had completed these demos, which thankfully are very well explained in the user guide, I was much more confident to then embark on learning how to develop the actual firmware using PSoC Creator. Hence step 6 would then cover topics such as where to get the IDE, how debugging works and the optional debugging tool and then where to get relevant reference documents.
So, sorry Cypress, while each webpage and PDF document is of top quality, the hierarchy of information provided and overall structure of the website, which one needs to use for navigating and learning, could be better designed. Similarly, the search engine which is absolutely essential is not always helpful as the listing provided does not always appear most relevant and I could not find a means to then refine my search using my own new search terms within my initial search results.
As I finish writing this, I am pleased to say that my initial impressions about the product remain, which is that this is an impressive well-engineered compact IoT device kit.
However, I am left still pondering how one gets to field test more than one of these great PMIC + BLE combo devices if you are not able to purchase the motherboards directly. I could not find them online. It seems a bit wasteful to purchase multiple kits as you would then have too many BLE-USB bridge modules and for field performance testing purposes you would want to test different solar panels so you would not want that one included by default. If the motherboard was made available it would also help if the header pins were not soldered as in some circumstances you may wish to solder this yourself in the reverse direction or use 2.54mm PCB receptacles instead. So Cypress maybe you should consider making a bare bones motherboard available for purchase to facilitate early field testing as it would help the developer.
My next update will be the final road test review which will cover a basic comparative product review, and then my experience with the application development process and the actual use of the product.