Independent platform i.e. independent ecosystem

Introduction
Most manufacturers of developer kits primarily intended for hobbyists of electronics (but also for professional use) produce the same by creating their own ecosystem. Secondly, virtually all have modules for one and the same thing, but the difference is that they differ in connector, i.e. the way they connect to the development board. The connectors and the way they are organized actually define the ecosystem. If you look a little better, you can notice that in the embedded world there is actually no standard that will clearly define how one board must look like, what its connectors look like, where the power is located, where is the processor, etc. So there is no standard that defines it, and all manufacturers take it for themselves to organize their ecosystem as they think it is best. The situation is completely different in the PC industry where you have a clearly defined standard of how a motherboard, for example the ATX format must look like, where is the memory location, where slots, slot space, power connectors, etc. In the PC industry everything is defined by the standard, in the embedded industry it is not, and you can see different solutions and different ecosystems.
Arduino ecosystem
Italian startup, one of the best, took about ten years to break into the market, sales of their products grew under the exponential law, today they are a defect standard in terms of electronics hobby but also professional use. To be understood immediately, Arduino is not a standard on paper such as the already mentioned ATX standard for motherboards of PCs, but many have adopted it to be, and so unofficially it has become the standard confirmed by the manufacturers of embedded development boards such as Intel and Freescale. For example, Intel started with its Galileo series of development boards based on the Intel® Quark SoC X1000 Application Processor, 32-bit Intel Pentium-class system on a chip (specification), using the Arduino connector solution to make the same board as Arduino compatible. All the so-called Arduino shields can be used with the Intel Galileo embedded development board, Figure 1.
Figure 1. Intel Galileo

On the other hand, as far as Arduino is concerned, the defacto, the Arduino UNO R3 is the most common development environment for dealing with the hobby, prototype electronics, Figure 2. It is based on Atmel's ATmega328P microcontroller and also uses an additional Atmega16U2 micromontroller running USB to Serial software because the same MCU has an integrated USB controller. The benefit of this solution is that the Atmega16U2 microcontroller can also be programmed with the so-called DFU programmer, i.e. Device Firmware Update software that allows you to replace the firmware microcontroller in a very simple way and convert your Arduino into something else, what you need. You can use the LUFA USB Library for programming. Arduino has really made a good move with this, because you can actually play with two microcontrollers on the Arduino UNO R3 board, because before using it, you used the hardware solution of FTDI Chip company, the so-called USB to Serial integrated circuit for which is exclusively needed Windows OS Driver.
Figure 2. Arduino UNO R3

MikroElektronika ecosystem
On the other hand, our domestic manufacturer of embedded development systems MikroElektronika from Belgrade, also has its ecosystem based on a certain set of connectors. On the basis of the same, a whole arsenal of different click plates has been created that serve to develop everything you can think of as far as electronics is concerned. Figure 3 shows the EasyPIC Fusion v7 development board where you can note two types of external module connectors, click plates (here we primarily look for external module connectors): microBUS connector and male pin header PORT connectors that are organized as DIL i.e. Dual in Line connectors. There are click plates for both types of connectors. MikroElektronika has in turn become a defect standard as well as Arduino, but we must understand that this is not a standard on paper. With many MicroChip development embedded environments, you can just see using microUSB connectors, Figure 4 - Microchip Technology PIC32MM USB Curiosity Development Board (DM320107).

Figure 3. EasyPIC Fusion v7

Figure 4. DM320107 - The PIC32MM USB Curiosity Development Board features 2 MikroElektronika mikroBUS expansion interfaces, a USB micro B connector, and two X32 Interfaces that facilitates access to the PIC32 Audio Codec Daughter Card.


Independent platform ie. independent ecosystem
Arduino and MikroElektronika are prototype platforms, which is why they are called development boards, these are not ready solutions that will be used as final but, on the contrary, solutions that serve you to develop prototypes and new electronic devices. Only when the prototype develops and confirms the tests is followed by device design, electrical scheme, PCB design, etc. Most embedded devlopers and people dealing with electronics have more development boards than different manufacturers. However, the question arises why you buy different modules for one and the same thing from two different manufacturers (to complete your job) when you can instead purchase one module independent of other ecosystems and apply it to each development dashboard you have at your disposal ? Zilsel-Invent has just decided to design and manufacture (through third parties, services specializing in the production of PCB tiles based on your design) independent modules that can be used with each developer board you have at your disposal. Therefore, you spend less money on buying a module, and you can use the same on different systems. In order to develop an independent platform, you must use a protoboard that is an integral part of the PCB, the module itself, because you can not put the connectors you think you need. Instead, a protoboard is used, which allows you to create a custom connector, i.e. a custom connector, and then interfere with a particular dashboard. If you need a new connector of a different type, the protoboard will easily enable you to do the same. Independent platform ie. The ecosystem just gets you developing prototype devices independent of the control logic, i.e. MCUs, CPUs, SoCs, Development boards, etc. Just make an independent module and apply it wherever you need it, Figure 5 - SERPENT II platform independent DC motor driver, pay attention to the protoboard.

Figure 5. SERPENT II DC Stepper Motor Driver, independent ecosystem with prototype board.

Author: Vladimir Savić
Translator: Nera Marković - nera.markovic(at)zilsel-invent.com


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