ARDUINO 101: The Curie-Powered Sensor-Packed Arduino

Intel and Arduino have teamed up to generate a new single board computer, the Arduino 101. Scheduled for market availability in the first quarter of 2016, the Arduino 101 is powered by the Curie module from Intel. Aimed at educating youngsters in the emerging technologies, the SBC is packed with sensors, yet affordably priced.

Arduino 101 has the input and output capabilities of the classic Arduino UNO, but also includes hardware for Bluetooth wireless communication. In addition, Arduino 101 comes with a gyroscope and a 6-axis accelerometer.

Intel and Arduino are promoting their cobranded board for furthering their initiative, Arduino 101 in the Classroom. This is a computer science and design curriculum meant for educating students in the age group 11-14 years in emerging technologies. The Arduino 101 will also be following the hardware configuration of the Curie module. Contestants will be using this board during the upcoming reality television show, America’s Greatest Makers, by the Intel and Turner Broadcasting System.

Those familiar with the Arduino UNO will find Arduino 101 has the same form factor of 70x55x20mm. Differences are an on-board antenna on the bottom right-hand corner of the circuit board and a new main processor. This is the Intel Quark, a low-power 32-bit micro-controller also known as the Curie module. The specialty of this particular Quark is the Bluetooth communication hardware, the gyroscope and the 6-axis accelerometer are on its die.

Users can program the Arduino 101 in the same process they followed for the Arduino UNO. You write your code and compile it with the Arduino IDE, before uploading it to your board. To allow programmers utilize the unique features of the Curie module, Intel is expected to offer special libraries. Initially, Intel had packaged the Curie module in the size of a tiny button and it was supposedly meant for wearable projects. Later, they changed direction towards the Curie-powered Arduino.

Intel is following this go-to-market strategy for its system-on-chips. Intel also packaged an earlier SOC, the Edison. Intel also designed accessory boards for the Edison and Sparkfun produced these boards for Intel. Intel and Arduino had teamed up earlier for the Intel Galileo – the micro-controller board certified by Arduino had Arduino-compatible headers.

The specifications of the Curie indicate it is powered by 1.8V, the popular voltage of a coin-cell battery. However, to power the IO on the Arduino 101 properly, the voltage requirements as dictated by the Arduino ecosystem are at least 3.3V. Limitations imposed by the Arduino 101 design rule out the possibility of a coin-cell battery powering the Curie.

The Curie module also has a 128-node neural network built into it, which users could use for machine-learning applications. However, Intel will not be providing software support for the technology at the time of Arduino 101 launch. They may support it later.

David Cuartielles, the co-founder of Intel’s marketing of Arduino, will be using Arduino 101 in their Creative Technologies in the Classroom or CTC. Earlier, the curriculum used the Arduino UNO for teaching students in a playful way. Now, they will be using the Arduino 101 for teaching basic programming skills in electronics and mechanical design.