Making Things do stuff

Tag: electronics

LED matrix displays and Android Things

In this post I will demonstrate how to use an LED matrix display with Android Things. I want to use an LED matrix display for my bus stop sign project. I have been using a character LCD which doesn’t give much visual impact. LED matrix displays are big and bright and can be seen clearly from a greater distance than character LCD displays.


That’s better


The hardware for this project consists of:

  • An Android Things development board
  • an  stm32 development board (Blue Pill)
  • 3 32×64 LED dot matrix boards daisy chained together
  • a 5V power supply

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Create custom I2C peripherals for Android Things

In this experiment I will demonstrate how to use an external MCU to manage tricky time-constrained tasks on behalf of Android Things. Using an ATTiny85 microcontroller I’ll interface a Dallas 1-wire temperature sensor, the ubiquitous DS18B20, to a Raspberry Pi running Android Things.


The DS18B20 temperature sensor

Background (why)

Since the introduction of Android Things some have questioned the limits of Android Thing’s GPIOs. Collecting data from the Raspberry Pi running Raspbian or similar will show that GPIOs on Android Things are too slow for some applications. Discussions about GPIO speed highlight a point about operating systems in general and Android Things in particular. Android Things is not a real time OS. It will miss deadlines. It will not respond to interrupts predictably enough to satisfy some of the tasks that people may be expecting it to perform. The problem here is not the OS, but the expectations.

As mentioned in this SO answer one possible solution to this problem is to have an external helper MCU handle the hard real-time stuff. Great, but what is all this real-time stuff about?

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Hardware or Software?

Picture this. You’ve seen a thing on the Internet. Someone has made something. It’s cool. There’s a fritzing diagram and the source code on github. You want to make the thing yourself. You collect the parts needed to reproduce the thing. You study the diagram. You hook everything up carefully. You run the software, and, and, nothing. It doesn’t work. Why, dammit, why?

Before you turn to StackOverflow, or submit a bug report, you need to collect information about the problem you’re having. But how? Where do you start? What can you do?

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