Time after time, we've all been in a situation where we would like to prototype some cool ideas or perhaps produce, for example, an embedded control module to operate a mechanical device we’ve designed. The simplest of these tasks can take days to plan, construct, and test all of the individual components one would have gathered to use.
Enter the PIEP from E3 Embedded Systems LLC.
PIEP (Processor Independent Embedded Platform) -- still in Kickstarter funding -- is a new compact, modular, embedded development tool that allows a convenient way to combine the choice of different processor architectures. And that’s what makes it innovative. Unlike previously available development tools that work with dedicated processors, the PIEP uses interchangeable processors on daughter boards for work in different architectures. The full kit that arrived contained Atmel/ARM, Freescale, and Microchip PIC processors. The daughter board snaps easily into place via a 200-pin connector onto the motherboard, making for a quick and painless transition.
The PIEP motherboard with processor boards from Atmel/ARM, Freescale, and Microchip.
Click here for larger image
(Source: EE Times/Alan Roche)
A large selection of peripherals, which are both stackable and highly configurable, is available. These attach easily onto the motherboard. They can be stacked up to three high on each side, making it possible to use a maximum of 36 peripherals. They each connect to the motherboard with a 10-pin connector. There are currently 20 available that include: 3-digit numerical display, accelerometer, breakout board, buzzer, CAN bus driver, digital port expander, digital-to-analog converter, EEPROM board, H-Bridge, motion sensor, real-time clock, relay board, SCI to RS232, SCI to USB, SPI to SCI, switch and LED, temperature and relative humidity, terminal board, and thermocouple board, with more planned in the near future.
Enthusiasts and hobbyists will welcome the fact that there is also an Arduino shield adapter available, which attaches to Arduino computer boards and allows you to integrate a number of the PIEP peripheral modules. I tried to use the shield adapter and had some issues during the initial checkout. I ended up having to contact tech support -- a reminder that this is still a pre-release product with minor bugs to work out.
Click the image below to see more photos of the PIEP board.
The concept for this project is truly innovative and, when fully initiated with the public, has boundless possibilities, not only for developers but in education as well. As a tool for learning embedded control concepts it can be invaluable. Imagine the time and resources saved being able to switch architectures using the same tool without having to reconfigure your peripherals from scratch.
Over all, the PIEP looks like a winner. It is just the beginning of a revolution that will help to change and standardize embedded formats in the future.
You can support E3 Embedded Systems' Kickstarter campaign to help develop the PIEP.
—Alan Roche is an engineer who tinkers in electronics and astronomy.