Evaluation platform leverages DIL24 socket and power MCU to configure MEMS sensors

By Aalyia Shaukat, contributing
writer

 

Microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) technology is prolific
when it comes to implementing sensor nodes for IoT and wireless sensor networks
(WSN). These MEMS sensors allow for smaller form factors and low-power
consumption with often better performance than macroscale sensors and
actuators. Configuring this technology, however, has been a challenge for
designers due to the difficulty in interfacing with these components.

 

A few challenges for designers looking to integrate MEMS
devices into their products include the need for specialized adaptors and the
lack of an all-purpose
controller. Over the past several decades MEMS researchers and developers have
demonstrated an extremely considerable number of microsensors for almost every
possible sensing modality including temperature, pressure, inertial forces,
chemical species, magnetic fields, and radiation. Many of these micromachined
sensors have demonstrated performance exceeding those of their macroscale
counterparts. It is reasonable to expect that with improved MEMS performance
compared to existing solutions, an easier means of controlling it must be
developed.

 

The Profi MEMS Tool Development Platform

The STEVAL-MKI109V3 motherboard is a new motherboard that enables
the evaluation of STMicroelectronics’ MEMS products. The new board leverages a
powerful ARM Cortex – M4 microprocessor that allows it to simultaneously
communicate with multiple sensors and display results real-time. Readings from
the sensors are read by the motherboard and are displayed over a graphical user
interface (GUI) on a computer. The STEVAL MKI109V3 is cross-platform and can be
used with Windows, Mac, or Linux. The Profi
MEMS Tool is priced at $85.75, and is available direct from ST and its
distribution network. 

 

Software evaluation packages are
available for Linux, Mac, and Windows operating systems.

The Microcontroller

The STM32F401VET6 high-performance
microcontroller (MCU) is both powerful and energy efficient. The chips are
equipped with DSP, SIMD, and MAC instructions that simplify the overall system
design, software development, and debug ― making this system highly adaptable.
The MCU can also accelerate single precision floating-point operations up to
ten times over the equivalent integer software library with the optional
floating-point unit (FPU). The microprocessor has also achieved exceptional
32-bit performance with low dynamic power, delivering leading system energy
efficiency due to integrated software controlled sleep modes, extensive clock
gating, and optional state retention. All features of the ARM M4 are put to use
in the STEVAL-MKI109V3 motherboard.

The Motherboard

The new motherboard is meant for
developers, and is, therefore, all-purpose. The 32-bit microcontroller allows
for powerful processing that can easily handle a variety of sensors. The board
also features a DIL24 socket, which allows the mounting of all compatible
digital and analog output MEMS devices. An adjustable power supply also allows
the motherboard to be adapted to a variety of uses ― a trait which is
especially useful for developers designing varied IoT/WSN devices. The platform
is USB 2.0 full-speed compliant and allows for USB microprocessor device
firmware upgrades (DFU).

With sensors shrinking in size and
increasing in performance as well as the technological advancements in
processing power/capabilities, the demand for a versatile platform that can
support evolving hardware potentially allows for simpler prototyping and
product development.

STEVAL

The DIL24 socket (right-hand side
of PCB) allows for straightforward interfacing with various MEMS sensors (e.g.:
accelerometer, gyroscope, etc.). STMicroelectronics offers 17 different adapter
boards fitted with these sensors for commercial off-the-shelf COTS MEMS
compatibility.

The STEVAL-MKI109V3 motherboard
with its multi-purpose design can lower the barriers for entry in the design
and development of sensor nodes for a wide range of IoT applications including
industrial IoT (IIoT), agricultural IoT, and commercial IoT. The GUI allows for
simpler monitoring of multiple sensors and MEMS technologies.

While most open IoT platforms
offer radio modules for the development of the RF front-end (e.g.: XBee), there
are not very many platforms that enable the configuration of the respective
sensors that often go along with them. The implications of such a platform are
large as IoT devices continually grow in number and we see more and more
sensors integrated into products across multiple industries, including consumer,
industrial, and commercial.