On their own website(www.arduino.cc) the developers of Arduino term it as "an open-source electronics platform based on easy-to-use hardware and software". So, the word Arduino comes with a lot of meaning depending on where it is used. Arduino refers to a range of microcontroller boards, an IDE and a programming language. In this article, our focus is mainly on the microcontroller board.
The Arduino microcontroller boards are mainly based on the Atmel AVR MCU series. Arduinos are very beginner friendly yet flexible enough for expert's usage. The boards' main purpose is for prototyping. However, they are finding application in some industries. They come with various means of programming and debugging.
Apart from its ease of use, the boards are relatively cheap; they have become very popular due to this. Therefore, it is fairly easy to get support from the community when you get stuck at a point. The Arduino language is a dialect of C/C++. This means it is largely based on those languages. Most C/C++ code will run on Arduinos with little fiddling.
Arduinos come in various form factors to address various needs. They include: Uno, Leonardo, Nano, Micro, Mini, Mega, Zero, Due, M0 Pro, MKR Vidor and many others that can be seen on their official website.
The most popular of these is the Arduino Uno. The Uno is beginner friendly. Arduino Uno is a microcontroller board based on the ATmega328P. It has 14 digital input/output pins (of which 6 can be used as PWM outputs), 6 analog inputs, a 16 MHz quartz crystal, a USB connection, a power jack, an ICSP header and a reset button. It contains everything needed to support the microcontroller; it only needs to be connected to a computer with a USB cable or powered with an AC-to-DC adapter or battery to get started. It can be tinkered with without worrying much about doing something wrong. The worst case scenario is that the chip gets fried and it can replaced for a few dollars, well in our case cedis.
The Lilypad which is specially designed for wearables development is also a commonplace for those who fancy that kind of environment. There are two variants of this: the low power version which is built around the ATmega168 and there is one built around the ATmega328V. This board has a circular formfactor.
This makes for easy integration into wearable projects. It is just an Uno in a circular shape in many regards.
The MEGA 2560 is built for more complex projects. With 54 digital I/O pins, 16 analog inputs and a plethora of high-end computational specs, it can be considered as an Uno on steroids. According to arduino.cc, it is the recommended board for use in 3D printers and robotics projects. It is almost as beginner friendly as the Uno but for physical size.
It is based on the beefier Atmega 2560 with a flash memory of 256KB compared with the relatively meagre 32KB of the Uno.
There's the Arduino MKR Vidor 4000. It's targeted at applications in IoT. It is highly customizable. This allows the designer to integrate it into his/her work. The MKR VIDOR 4000 is highly configurable and powerful, and it can perform high-speed digital audio and video processing.
The hardware comes an 8 MB SRAM; a 2 MB QSPI Flash chip — 1 MB allocated for user applications; a Micro HDMI connector; an MIPI camera connector; and Wifi & BLE powered by U-BLOX NINA W10 Series. It also includes the classic MKR interface on which all pins are driven both by SAMD21 and FPGA. It also has a Mini PCI Express connector with up to 25 user programmable pins.
Since it's almost barebone in some sense, it requires some advanced programming expertise and microcontroller knowledge to handle. It is not very beginner friendly; though that assertion is relative. There are other MKR family members like the MKR GSM and WAN.
The is a board built for the IoT space. It has a microcontroller and a microprocessor on board. The microprocessor runs a Linux OS. This enables it to run advanced applications and network connections. Connecting to a wireless or wired network is easy with a Yún Web Panel.
It has an Ethernet port and WiFi antennas for easy connection to your LAN and WLAN. Given its flexibility, it requires some knowledge in dealing with the Linux OS to squeeze all the computing juice out of it.
Based on the boards we've had an overview of, the Uno is the most versatile for the purpose of learning IoT development. Thus its largely the one we are going to use unless otherwise stated.
Rene Novor X.K
At Mor-Lan Technologies, we aim at developing the best solution to the most pressing problems we face here in Ghana and Africa at large when it comes to information technologies. Producing high quality products is our focus here!