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I'm doing a Road Test of the Zero Gecko starter kit for element14

 
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I was selected by element14 as one of the road testers of a Zero Gecko low power microcontroller starter kit with sensor board.
The conditions are: they send you the board for free, and in return you have to write a review within two months.

This kit has a microcontroller that is specialized in low energy operation.

Here's my progress so far:

Prep for road testing the EFM32™ Zero Gecko Starter Kit



Part 2: unboxing and checking the demo applications, first debug cycle



Part 3: checking the different energy modes



Part 4: the tutorials




I'm not finished yet. There is a number of things that I still have up my sleeve. I'm not sure if I'll cover them all, but this is what I'd like to do:

  • Road Test idea 4: talk to an i2c slave - how easy is it to develop something
  • Road Test idea 5: wake up from various sleep modes via GPIO async interrupt
  • Road Test idea 6: wake up from energy levels with the bus pirate/i2c address matching




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    Bartender
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    Nice review videos. I'm impressed by how low that current draw is.
    In your experience, is this one of the lowest or have you come across even lower ones?
     
    Jan Cumps
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    in its range (32bit 20+MHz) it isn't the one with the absolute lowest power. There are others that are just below it. But it's the combination of very low power and very quick wake-up from sleep mode that is special on this one. It wakes up so fast from sleep mode that it can react on an event and react immediately.
    And it's the best in industry with that combination at the moment.

    If you don't neeed the processing power, there are 8bit microcontrollers that are even more low power. It's always a trade-off for embedded controllers.
     
    Karthik Shiraly
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    Thank you for that info, Jan.
     
    Jan Cumps
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    I've completed my roadtest. My day time job is managing SAP ERP project development, so the gap between running server farms and operating micro-controllers is significant
    I'm rather charmed by the low power capabilities of the zero gecko. The demo I created below spends a humble 520 nA (yes: nano-amperes) on average semi-sleeping and waiting for events that wake it up. That's years of battery life on a single coin cell. Respect.



    My full roadshow review on element14 can be found here.
    I also like the Road Test concept. You apply with an idea that explains how you are going to validate a design. You get the product for free* with the condition that you submit a review.
    That makes you rather independent (there is a condition that you have to do the review in two months. If you don't do that you're not eligible for further tests. But positive or negative reviews do not influence your future chances to do another one)

    * that didn't take in account the eager Belgium authorities that have sent me a tax charge for the commercial value of the imported product
     
    Karthik Shiraly
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    a humble 520 nA (yes: nano-amperes) on average semi-sleeping and waiting for events that wake it up. That's years of battery life on a single coin cell...


    That's seriously impressive!

    I also like the Road Test concept. You apply with an idea that explains how you are going to validate a design. You get the product for free* with the condition that you submit a review.


    After reading your writeup and those of other road testers, I'm now tempted to apply. But then again I'm just a hobbyist without formal electronics education, so I'm not sure if I should.
    Maybe I'll lurk around in that section for a while and see how these road tests are done.

    tax charge for the commercial value of the imported product


    This happened to me too with an imported single board computer. Shipping + delivery + customs duty added nearly 33% to the actual price of the board!
    I've realized hobby electronics is overall a rather expensive hobby here in India. Thankfully, it's quite fun too!
     
    Jan Cumps
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    In my spare time I've been doing some more experiments with the kit. I've ported an SD card FAT32 library to the microcontroller,
    and used its hardware AES encryption/decryption module.

    Both exercises took a few hours to do. I started with an example for a closely related processor each time.
    I'm still amazed at the amount of code you can fit in a 32 KB Flash, 4 KB RAM processor.
     
    Jan Cumps
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    edit: and I did this hack of the example project that's pre-loaded on the starter kit:
     
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