panStamp was one year old in June but we forgot to prepare a decent celebration... To be honest, we were thoroughly working on our new line of wireless modules so we preferred to postpone the party. OK but, what do we have up our sleeves? It's not a secret, we were creating a new panStamp with all the benefits of the current line plus a set of new features which will make our modules and boards even more competitive and suitable for the professional market. The following is a picture of one of our new prototypes:
Figure 1 : CC430-based panStamp compatible with Energia
The new modules are entirely based on a CC430F5137 SOC (made by Texas Instruments). This means that microcontroller and radio front-end are now integrated into a single IC capable to provide a nice list of characteristics:
As you may have noticed from the pictures, new modules will not include the pin headers Moreover, they will incorporate a set of SMD footprints on the bottom layer for optional components such as an additional SRAM memory, accelerometer and other sensors. This will make new panStamps simpler to work with even in the absence of a carrier board.
Figure 2 : panStamp prototypes with ez430 programmer
The above picture shows a prototype connected to an ez430 programmer. We have not developed a serial or wireless bootloader yet so we have to rely on external programmers during our developments. You can forget about that horizontal pin socket, it will not appear in the final version.
OK but what about the programming environment? How can we work with a pure Texas Instruments solution and still keep compatibility with the Arduino fashion? The response is Energia, an open source initiative created to port Wiring (the IDE used by Arduino) for the MSP430 family of MCU's and LaunchPad boards and also port most libraries already created for Arduino.
Figure 3 : panStamp sketch loaded and compiled from Energia
Unfortunately the CC430 SOC's are not currently in the list of supported microcontrollers by Energia. The good news is that CC430's have a MSP430 "inside" so porting the existing core functions is not so complex. And we are doing so, thanks to Zac Manchester, from KickSat, who provided us with an initial port of Energia for the CC430 IC and a very valuable support (thanks again Zac). For anyone interested, we are maintaining our own fork of Energia here but the guys from Energia have already told us about their interest to merge our work back to the official version soon.
Commercial release of this new line of panStamps is planned for September-October. In the meantime, "classic" panStamps based on the Atmega328p are still available from our web store and we will make both versions coexist for some months.