The Texas Instruments product management team knew they were on to something as they prepped for the November '09 launch of the eZ430 Chronos low-power wireless MCU development kit, but they had no idea that within weeks it would surpass the 5,000-unit mark and in doing so leave previous kit-launch records in the dust.
"We knew we had a hit," said Adrian Valenzuela, TI's MSP430 marketing manager, "but this has far exceeded our expectations." The previous record was 1,000 kits in that same timeframe.
The kit itself (view full presentation here) has a host of advanced features. It's based on the company's CC430 low-power wireless MCU and includes a three-axis accelerometer, temperature, pressure and altitude sensors, voltage and battery sensors, a two-wire JTAG interface, 96-segment LCD and a buzzer. It's also supported by a complete hardware and software development community.
All are excellent, but what separates the kit from its TI predecessors, or any such kit to date, is its form factor: it comes as a fully functional sports watch for $49.
|The eZ430 Chronos integrates a customizable wireless development kit into a fully-functional sports watch. Yes, you can develop applications while diving at a depth of up to 30 m.|
The form factor has its drawbacks, of course. First, it could be easily dismissed as a marketing 'gimmick' that may not appeal to 'true' embedded system developers, and its small size limits the connectivity options that might typically come on a kit with a full breakout board.
However, according to Valenzuela, the form factor's appeal to hardcore developers is that, "It's a pretty polished demo vehicle that developers can take from the lab to the real world without too much effort." As for the limitation on physical connectivity options, the BlueRobin and SimpliciTI wireless interface and protocol stacks allows ready connectivity to external breakout boards.
The combination of features, support and form factor has hit home with career developers, hobbyists and tinkerers alike, said Valenzuela, and so far Yahoo groups have appeared along with accelerating activity on TI's own site (www.ti.com/chronos ) and wiki. The wiki has had over 13,000 visits to date.
Editor's Note: Due to the kit's broad appeal, TI has agreed to present a course on developing with the Chronos at the up-coming Embedded Systems Conference in San Jose in April--and will be giving away 200 kits at that event, as well as subsequent ESC events in Chicago and Boston.