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Arduino Portenta for IoT Development

By Maurizio Di Paolo Emilio

At the cost of $99.99 for its elite version, the new Arduino Portenta H7 was announced at CES. The new board is the first solution in a series for industrial IoT. At its heart is the STMicroelectronics STM32H747 microcontroller, with a dual-core Cortex-M7 and Cortex-M4 on the chip, operating at 480 MHz and 240 MHz, respectively, and a temperature range of –40°C to 85°C.

Laurent Hanus, ecosystem marketing manager at STMicroelectronics, said that Arduino Portenta H7 reflects the exceptional performance of the STM32H747, also offering the usability of the new platform for cloud applications.

Arduino Uno arrived in 2005. The technology par excellence in Italy has become one of the pillars of the maker movement. Many things have changed in recent years. The collapse of hardware prices and the arrival of boards that run MicroPython and JavaScript have changed the ecosystem of open hardware in a profound way. The form factor inherited from Arduino Uno is still around and will surely remain in the minds of developers, but the newer Arduino boards use the more modern MKR form factor.

The Arduino MKR family was born for engineers and makers to offer an extremely fast time to market for the industrial market. What sets the MKR boards apart from the others in the Arduino family is, in addition to the family form factor of 67.64 × 25 mm, the integrated connectivity and potential for any project involving the internet of things.

The fundamental step toward change began with the Maker Faire in Rome, where it was done with the Arduino Pro Development Environment, a definite step ahead of the Arduino IDE. Despite this, the Arduino team also made available in Altium Designer a series of symbols to reduce the time between prototyping and production.

Today, with the new Portenta H7 module, we are preparing for a new maker market. The module is able to run Arduino code natively and can support running Arduino code on the open-source IoT Arm Mbed OS to provide enterprise-grade features while maintaining the familiar Arduino development environment. In addition, it can run Python and JavaScript code, making it more accessible to a wider range of developers.

Portenta H7 has low-power cores capable of processing video from a camera and displaying it on the USB-C connector with DisplayPort. It also has the ability, through the M4 cortex, to perform system tasks such as sensor acquisition and power management. In its complete configuration, Portenta H7 features 32 Mbytes of SDRAM in addition to 1 MB of processor, 128 MBytes of flash in addition to 2 MB of processor, and Ethernet, high-speed USB, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 5.0 (Figure 1).

The wireless module can manage the protocols simultaneously. The Wi-Fi interface can be used as an access point, and Bluetooth supports Bluetooth Classic and BLE. The MKR form factor ensures scalability for a wide range of applications by merely updating the Portenta board to the one suitable for your needs.

Figure 1: Arduino Portenta [Source: Arduino]
Figure 1: Arduino Portenta (Source: Arduino)

“Portenta H7 is the perfect match for crossover applications where considerable computing power is required, but power constraints are very tight,” said Fabio Violante, CEO of Arduino. “Applications include machine learning/AI, motor control, IoT gateways, edge computing, human-machine interfaces, and more.”

The module is directly compatible with most Arduino libraries and can run TensorFlow Lite, JavaScript, MicroPython, Mbed OS, and, of course, Arduino. This means that the solution is able to perform real-time tasks without the need to run real-time operating systems. Cortex M7 has more computational power than most Linux-based processors but consumes even less than some other microcontrollers. At the same time, the M4 core can be used to reduce power consumption further and perform additional tasks without the complexity of multitasking.

“The scalability of the board allows, for high-volume applications, custom-tailoring the cost/feature balance, providing a solution to every need,” said Fabio. “Last but not least, all these features are going to be available through the renowned Arduino simplicity.”

The new Portenta family has been designed to offer scalable processing with complex technologies while maintaining a small footprint. The high number of pins allows reducing the size of the final application while offering good robustness and signal integrity.

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