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Avnet’s Azure Sphere kit offers MikroE Click and Grove expansion

Jul 15, 2019 — by Eric Brown 902 views

Avnet’s $75 “Azure Sphere MT3620 Starter Kit” is built around a compute module that runs Microsoft’s Linux-based Azure Sphere distro on a MediaTek MT3620. The kit offers multiple sensors plus MikroE Click and Grove connectors.

When we were reporting last week on NXP’s upcoming, Cortex-A35 based i.MX8 variant, which is optimized to run Microsoft’s Linux-based Azure Sphere stack for secure IoT, we noticed that there’s a new alternative to Seeed’s Azure Sphere MT3620 Development Kit for trying out Azure Sphere. Like Seeed’s kit, Avnet’s Azure Sphere MT3620 Starter Kit is built around the only Azure Sphere certified SoC that’s currently available: MediaTek’s MT3620.

Azure Sphere MT3620 Starter Kit
(click images to enlarge)

The Azure Sphere MT3620 Starter Kit is built around a 33 x 22mm Sphere MT3620 module equipped with the MT3620 SoC. The SoC has a 500MHz Cortex-A7 core with 4MB SRAM and dual 200MHz Cortex-M4F chips with 64KB RAM. There’s also a separate chip that supports dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n.

Seeed’s Azure Sphere
MT3620 Dev Kit

One of the MCUs is dedicated to the Microsoft Pluton Security Subsystem, which is designed to interact with Microsoft’s Azure-based Azure Sphere Security Service. The Pluton subsystem creates a hardware root of trust, stores private keys, and executes complex cryptographic operations. In addition, the Linux-based Azure Sphere OS provides additional Microsoft security.


The Sphere MT3620 module is further equipped with an RTC and a 2.4/5GHz 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi radio and antenna. There are 3x ISU interfaces pre-configured for UART, SPI, I2C, as well as 3x 12-bit ADC inputs (or 3 GPIOs). You also get 9x PWM outputs (or up to 24 GPIOs).

Block diagrams for the Sphere MT3620 module (left) and Starter Kit
(click images to enlarge)

Like the Seeed kit, Avnet’s Azure Sphere MT3620 Starter Kit appears to lack any memory beyond the minimal allotment on the MT3620 SoC. Avnet says the module offers “flash and SRAM,” but this appears to refer to the memory on the SoC itself.

The carrier board connects the Sphere module I/Os to 2x MikroElektronika Click sockets, as well as an I2C-based Grove connector for hooking up thousands of Click and Seeed Grove sensor and I/O modules, respectively. By comparison, the Seeed kit has an MT3620 Grove Shield to connect Grove modules, but no MikroE connectors.

Azure Sphere MT3620 Starter Kit detail view
(click image to enlarge)

The carrier board also provides a connector that supports the addition of a 128 x 64 OLED graphical display. In addition, there’s a 3D accelerometer and gyro and temperature, ambient light, and pressure/barometric sensors.

A micro-USB port provides 5V power and supports debugging via a USB-to-UART interface. The board provides 5V to 3.3V regulation, battery support, user and reset switches, and LEDs. The kit can be programmed in C using Microsoft’s Visual Studio IDE and the Azure Sphere SDK.

Further information

The Azure Sphere MT3620 Starter Kit is available now for $75. More information may be found on Avnet’s product page.

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