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Arduino-driven IoT platform supports Grove and MikroBus

Jan 27, 2017 — by Eric Brown 1,629 views

PatternAgent’s “thingSoC Grovey” family of Arduino and ESPx-driven IoT hubs connect to Grove and MikroBus Click IoT modules, as well as an RPi or Edison.

On Crowd Supply, Oregon-based PatternAgents LLC has begun selling an open source family of Arduino-compatible thingSoC Grovey boards, adapters, and hubs built around a common “thingSoC” socket system for easy prototyping of IoT designs. The Crowd Supply campaign is offering a $10 adapter that supports the Teensy Arduino clone, as well as thingSoC compatible hubs for I2C, GPIO, ADC, and LEDs.

thingSoC Grovey boards (left) and Grovey Sensor Kit
(click images to enlarge)

The product line also includes PatternAgent’s Grovey One Arduino Uno clone, and other boards built around Espressif’s ESP8266 and ESP32 wireless SoCs and the Cypress PSoC4L mixed signal SoC. There are also kits with multiple sensors and other modules. All the products ship Mar. 31.

The thingSoC Grovey is notable for supporting the two major third-party ecosystems for sensors, radios, motors, servos, actuators, peripherals and other IoT modules: SeeedStudio’s Grove and Mikroelectronika’s Mikrobus Click. Many Linux-based hacker boards tap one or the other of these families, but usually not both, and most Arduino boards support only Grove. The thingSoC Grovey supports both, while also plugging in its own smaller homegrown family of thingSoC devices.


The support for both Grove and Mikrobus means users can draw on the strengths of both platforms, such as the wider selection of radios found on Mikrobus Click modules, says PatternAgent. This mix-and-match capability, as well as the modular nature of the product line in general supports more re-use of components and less electronic waste, says the company.

Other somewhat similar IoT socket schemes that support Arduino include MediaTek’s LinkIt Smart 7688 and LittleBits’s CloudBit. Unlike the thingSoC Grovey, however, these two are primarily Linux driven SBCs.

Grovey Teensy (left) and thingSoC socket pinout
(click images to enlarge)

The default core of the system is the Grovey Teensy 3.2 Adapter, which can load the turbocharged, Cortex-M4-based Teensy 3.1 and 3.2 Arduino clones from fellow Portlandian hackers PJRC. Although the Grovey One Arduino Uno clone figures prominently in PatternAgents’s comparison chart (see below), it’s only available on Crowd Supply as part of the $450 Grovey Freedom Kit. This kit also includes a Teensy 3.2, the Espressif ESP8266 and ESP32 boards, and all the aforementioned hubs except for the NeoLED hub, which supports PatternAgents’s own PSoC4-based NeoLED lighting modules.

thingSoC Grovey comparison chart
(click image to enlarge)

These two Arduino boards are not the only “brains” you can use to control the thingSoC Grovey peripherals. You can also use the two ESPx wireless modules or the Grovey PSoC4L, all of which can also be used as peripheral devices. In addition, adapters enable the Grovey boards to be used as peripherals to other Arduino compatible boards, as well as the Linux-driven Raspberry Pi or Intel Edison Kit for Arduino.

thingSoC Grovey boards connected to Raspberry Pi (left) and Intel Edison Kit for Arduino
(click images to enlarge)

All the devices interconnect with thingSoC connectors and connector packs, which enable the stacking of thingSoC and MikroBus peripheral boards. Most, such as the Teensy and I2C hubs, also mention support for Grove peripherals.

The open source thingSoC spec (currently v0.2) defines a physical, hardware socket system for interoperable PCBs, as well as a data-centric firmware model for automatic device discovery and a software API.

Grovey I2C Hub (left) and Grovey NeoLED Hub

(click images to enlarge)

ThingSoC supports low speed interface standards like I2C, SPI, and UART, as well as higher speed interfaces like USB 3.0, GbE, and PCIe. The spec works with many existing standards and IDEs, such as Arduino, rfDuino, Raspberry Pi, BeagleBone, and X-Bee.

The thingSoC Grovey system can be programmed with the Arduino IDE, as well as the drag-and-drop MQTT, Blynk, and Cayenne IoT development platforms. On the hardware side, all schematics, layouts, and 3D models are available online.

Here’s a brief rundown on thingSoC Grovey hubs and boards:

  • Grovey I2C Hub — $25 — Connect 4x of the same I2C sensor, display, or peripheral at 3.3V or 5V without having to change I2C address settings or hassle with level shifting.
  • Grovey GPIO Hub — $25 — Connect 4x GPIO sensors, displays, or other Grove peripherals. Select either 3.3V or 5V, and the hub adds 8x additional GPIO lines with 5V level shifting. The hub includes 4x independent power control circuits for power saving, plus 4x independent LEDs
  • Grovey ADC Hub — $25 — Connects 4x analog sensors with 12- or 16-bit ADC precision. Select either 3.3V or 5V operation, and the hub adds 4x analog-to-digital lines with 5V level shifting.
  • Grovey NeoLED Hub — $25 — Connect 8x WS2812 color LEDS, and use 8x hubs to drive 64x programmable LEDs. Add a LED string connector pack for easy LED interfacing.
  • Grovey USBUART — $25 — This dual-channel USB/UART bridge can be configured for USB to UART, GPIO, I2C, SPI, JTAG, or CapSense. It’s like having two FTDI adapters in one.
  • Grovey PSoC4L — $25 — This PSoC4 module features USB and Li-Po battery power and charging functions, as well as a USB bootloader and a command line interpreter.
  • Grovey ESP8266 Wi-Fi — $20 — WiFi module
  • Grovey ESP32 Wi-Fi and BlueTooth — $30 — WiFi and Bluetooth module

Further information

The thingSoC Grovey devices are available on Crowd Supply through Mar. 1, with shipments due by Mar. 31. Packages range from $10 for a Grovey Teensy adapter to $15 for $25 each for most of the Grovey hubs (see prices above). You can spend $450 for a Grovey Freedom Kit that includes most of the boards as well as a Grovey Uno board. More information may be found at the thingSoC Grovey Crowd Supply page and PatternAgents website.

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