RoadTest: MyIoT: Infineon Shield2Go Boards for IoT
Evaluation Type: Development Boards & Tools
Did you receive all parts the manufacturer stated would be included in the package?: True
What other parts do you consider comparable to this product?:
What were the biggest problems encountered?: Most of these were, I think, user error. The initial installation process for the boards was initially ‘skipped’ (though not on purpose). Once corrected, the hardware could be identified in the Arduino environment and we could proceed. In addition, we noticed that the pins we received did not fit correctly into one of the boards (XMC 100B). This made some of the ‘quick step testing’ a little harder. Also we needed to locate a micro USB cable here as one did not come in the kit. Still, this is a minor issue and was resolved fairly quickly. A note here, we needed to find a second Micro USB cable for additional testing. The reason: we could not get the Arduino environment to ‘recognize’ the board at first. One of the suggestions in the Arduino forum was to ‘try’ another cable. Using the second cable allowed for immediate recognition of the port, and ultimately the board.
Pre information and overview:
Please recognize that our review below comes from a specific perspective: In essence, we wanted to create an Arduino based project around wearable technology.
My son Sam is 16. We are both interested in sensors and wearable technology. This summer, Sam completed an engineering camp at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology called Operation Catapult. While at camp, Sam worked on a project where they created a touch sensor checkerboard which allowed one to make a move by touching twice on a square. The user played ‘against’ the computer. This was his first experience with the Arduino software. While Sam was at camp, I was giving a presentation related to the use of wearable technology in physical therapy. I was talking about the devices and the data that could be gathered to improve care even further.
In other words, I was focused on sensors and wearable Tech, when I met up with Sam at the end of his camp and walked through the participant project displays. I had the opportunity to explore many creative science and engineering projects. I was fascinated with the possibility of learning even more about sensor technologies. Sam agreed to help and to share what he knew about the Arduino environment, if I ordered the sensors and other needed equipment. Our deal was set and I began looking for an easy project around this topic.
Shortly thereafter, I read of a ‘health band’ using sensors and the Arduino board at the following site: https://www.hackster.io/Technovation/health-band-a-smart-assistant-for-the-elderly-0fed12 . When ordering parts, I ordered two of everything, with the thought of creating two of these devices and then exploring variations with each device. Everything was going well until the Infineon DPS310 sensors arrived. My quick learning was that I was happy to have ordered four of these (instead of two) as these sensors are MUCH smaller than expected based on the pictures in the above project. Soldering wires to these sensors proved to be extremely challenging, even after ordering extra thin solder material and a ‘special’ new thin tip for the solder station. Yes, we were able to get a few wires to attach. However, we could not get the ‘complete set’ as described in the above article. In short, we were struggling to get to the ‘next step’ of our project.
After several attempts to contact the author of the above article, I began searching for additional information on how to solder the DPS310 chip. After no feedback on the Arduino side, I found my way to the Infineon website and a discussion thread related to the DPS310 and posted a request for information related to soldering on this chip.
One of the suggested solutions was the ‘kit’ we received for evaluation. From this suggestion, I learned of the DPS310 Shield2Go board, which was available, and we ordered two of these. Another author suggested we apply to be ‘Road Testers’ for the soon to be released kit, which was of great interest. We applied and were happy to learn we were selected.
We share the above information to add insight into our review below.
One quick ‘spoiler’: We are VERY happy with the kit and the possibilities…and especially happy not to need to solder in the same way! IF you have or work with children, these boards definitely make projects easier. This ease helps progress one’s interest in a project where they can learn about sensors, coding, and even improving a person’s life. If this description fits, then this kit is a definite ‘yes’ decision.
Everything arrived in a single box and well packed. Sam was excited to explore even more about the items inside and these were spread out for closer review. It was during this review that we noticed the additional WeMos WiFi card. Although we do not yet know the true functionality of this device, we discussed how this might be used in the wearable tech project we were exploring. This led to a variety of potential and related future projects or devices to ‘help’ with data collection during any kind of remote monitoring type of project. For instance, we discussed how a wearable health band might auto connect to the internet and share the raw data versus the plan we had to use Blynk and an iPhone to collect and share data (though not ‘raw’ data itself). We also discussed the possibility of a remote monitoring of, for example, the refrigerator door being opened. This could potentially send a signal over the internet and one could then remotely track the number of times in a day the door was opened. This kind of information might be valuable for remote monitoring of elderly that are living alone.
Regardless, we show a few pictures of the unboxing below, including the one where Sam pointed out the WeMos device.
Connecting the hardware:
There were several types of ‘pins’ included with each board. These proved to be the ‘lifesavers’ to us related to our initial challenge with soldering the DPS310 chip. Each board came with a set of pin type connectors in the box or the package. We truly appreciated this attention to detail. However, the red XMC 1100B board did not have pins in the package. In addition, we had trouble getting any of the pins that did come with the kit to fit (snugly) into these boards. Instead, most seem too loose for the holes. Maybe this is intentional. However, there would be great value to provide such pins when the end users want to work with Makr kits and even when they are newbies. Yes, the ‘loose’ pins can be soldered. However, for quick and easy testing, proper fitting pins would be helpful.
This type of ‘pin connector’ system had one great advantage in that we could easy connect the boards to one another for testing without the need for a breadboard. In addition, we realized that we could, if desired, solder the pins in place. We also realized this would be hundreds of times easier than soldering wires to the very small sensor itself. When working with ‘newbies’ on this kind of project, this ability is truly appreciated.
One additional note here: this ability to connect without soldering reminded me of the ‘snap circuits’ electricity exploration kits that became available a few years ago. In those kits, kids could quickly learn about the various components used in electrical circuits without having to first (slowly) connect wires. In other words, these pin connectors (along with the connector wires Sam requested early on) made moving forward with this project much easier. In our case, this was very much recognized and appreciated.
Note: As can be seen in this picture, we were trying to connect the DPS310 Pressure Shield2Go directly to an Arduino Nano board. The reason was an attempt to ‘complete’ the initial wearable project noted above. Later, I learned of the following warning on the GitHub site (https://github.com/Infineon/DPS310-Pressure-Sensor/wiki ). However, this creates a bit of confusion as the DPS310 Pressure Board is ‘working’ in that the LED is lighting correctly. I started to think this was related to the additional capacitors attached as long as the board is not ‘broken apart’ (alluded to later in this review). Bottom line here, we might damage the board over time and that would not be good. I also think this ‘warning’ should show at the top of their page vs the very bottom. Anyway, here is the warning so others are aware:
The DPS310 has a maximum rating of 4 V. Third party boards with 5 V logic, e.g. the Arduino Uno, cannot be connected to the DPS310 Pressure Shield2Go board directly, even if the power is connected to the 3.3 V pin as the interface lines, e.g. SDA/SCL, will still be driven by 5 V.
Please use appropriate level shifting for these boards
Upon re-reading the above warning, I am wondering if there is a difference in the Nano vs the Uno boards. I mention this because the warning is directly referencing the Uno and we were using a Nano. Just a thought
Another minor note: A micro USB cord was not included in the kit. Since two of the boards (XMC1100 Boot kit and the XMC 2GO) both had slots for this connection, an included cord might be helpful to end users. After looking a bit here, we found a cord to use. I recall reading in the past that some micro USB cords allow more power than others and this led to initial concerns with the cord we now had available to potentially over power the boards. In the end, we proceeded without problems. Both boards LED lights lit up and the boards are still fine.
Next, we learned of the ability to ‘stack’ the boards. Although this may not be a big issue with some projects, when we are talking about wearable devices, making the ‘kit’ smaller is helpful. One point we did note: in particular to wearable devices, stacking the boards higher than two causes the distance from the body to increase fairly significantly. This increase in height makes the device easier to accidently run into external objects. We know this height could be decreased by using only the ‘short height’ pins. However, only a limited number of these arrived with the evaluation kit. This is not a huge issue but is worth noting and we plan to explore further with shorter pins in the future. Alternatively, if we place the boards in a band and side by side, the sensors remain closer to the body and there is less opportunity to ‘run into’ these external objects. However, this makes for a ‘wider’ band. We show a few pictures of the ‘stacked’ boards here.
Another cool feature alluded to above, is the ability to ‘break’ the DPS310 sensor board. Initially, we thought this might make our tracker project ‘even smaller’. Since we had already purchased a couple of these, we chose to proceed with breaking and testing one of the boards for further testing. The board comes perforated for ease in identifying where the ‘break’ should occur. We initially thought we could snap this with our fingers. Next, we thought a little pressure on the table would complete the task. Finally, we realized we needed a wire cutting tool to complete this task. Even so, it is important to note that using the wire cutting tool did still result in a ‘clean’ break with the sensor still very useful.
In the next picture, one can see the separated board which leaves a very small profile board with the DPS310 sensor attached. Here, we have also attached four pins and additional wires. A couple of caveats we learned as we proceeded in this direction. First, it appears that ‘breaking the board like this also removes some of the functionality. Of primary concern, once broken there are only two capacitors that remain with the sensor. This may work in some applications. The bigger issue for us, who are new to this environment, is the power light is no longer included with the sensor! This meant we could not really “test” if the hardware was receiving power, per se. Instead we needed to connect the sensor to the rest of the project. Doing so caused problems for us in that the system could not detect the board. This resulted in extensive troubleshooting attempts and, in the end, we returned to using the entire board.
At this point, Sam was pulled away for a big school project. I started looking at the kit even further and reading online to learn more. Based on feedback in one of the threads, I found my way to these good instructions for installing these XMC Boards in the Arduino environment: https://github.com/Infineon/XMC-for-Arduino
Once on the page, one scrolls down to see the installation instructions. Following these steps, we were able to load the boards to the Arduino environment (see picture below). We also learned that “Arduino 1.8.0 might have problems with the XMC-for-Arduino releases”. My guess is this means the initial functionality is present (as we were able to do ‘blink’ tests and such) but the updating of these releases might not be functional at this time. Note: we are running Arduino 1.8.7 so this is something we needed to know.
This is where we began running into another problem. We had the XMC 1100B Board connected. The LED lights were working. And, the computer was not recognizing the port for the board.
This was odd. Then I switched to the XMC1002Go board. Still the same issue. I could not get my computer to recognize either board.
A note: I am running Windows 10 Pro on this computer. I thought this might be some of the issue. However, I found mention in one of the Arduino forums of the suggestion for using a different micro USB cable and decided to try this suggestion when I found another cable.
Success! The port then showed up with the XMC1100B Board. This showed as JLink CDC UART Port. I remembered one of the steps in the process of installing the boards was to download and install the Seeger JLink software so I was comfortable with this naming.
With the board installed and the port recognized, I moved to the next step. I wanted to look at the Board information under the Tools tab. And this is what I found:
So next, I went to the first program available in the ‘Example’ area under the ‘Examples for XMC100’ and did a ‘verify’ before ‘uploading’…and the first window showed a need for a firmware update. I said yes and proceeded.
The process continued, and I was happy to see the ‘Firmware updated successfully’ message.
And, I was happy to see the identification of the device as the XMC1100 in the bottom of the Arduino window. So I went back to the Tools tab to look at the ‘Board Information…and found the same message as earlier.
At this point, I switched back to the XMC2Go board which was also ‘recognized’ with the new cable, albeit with a ‘new’ com port. Again, when I attempted to get the ‘Board info’, I received the same message as earlier.
And again, when I ran the first program, I received the report that a new firmware version was available and again, I chose to install this update.
And again, although I could gather more information about the board in the ‘bottom’ of the Arduino screen, I was not ever able to get the additional information in this ‘Board info’ area. Even so, this does not seem to matter. I mention this as I was still able to run the other Arduino basic programs of ‘Blink’ and ‘Fade’ and both boards responded as expected. I was also able to get the ‘stackable’ process working with the XMC2Go and the SPS3102Go boards and the blinking lights.
Future Plans and Conclusion:
On the XMC1100B Boot Kit box/cardboard flap was the website www.infineon.com/xmc-dev . This site directed me to another page to install the DAVE 4 tool chain. I have downloaded this software and wish to explore this software a bit further. I wonder if this might be ‘easier’ to use than the Arduino software? Or, maybe the information is more specific to these sensors. I am not really sure and would like to learn more in that area.
Next steps from my son are to solder the connection so the sensors are able to be used for a kind of health tracker similar to what was described earlier. He says he wants to learn more about the ‘measurement of a step’ and would like to compare the 3D sensor to an accelerometer. In this process, he hopes to learn even more about how and why the various step tracking devices vary so much from one to another. I hope to be ‘along for the ride’ on that project because this is one of my questions as I learn, pilot test, and present on this topic of wearable technology in healthcare.
Thank you, Element 14, for the opportunity to be first time Road Testers. We have learned a lot and we recognize we have a lot more to learn. The sensors and board in this kit will help in this process. These can be used quite easily for learning and project development, especially when working with individuals new to the process.