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Arduino aims $35, WiFi-enabled hacker board at IoT apps

Apr 4, 2016 — by Eric Brown — 2,250 views

Arduino LLC debuted a $35 IoT focused MKR1000 board, supported with an Arduino IoT site, and soon, an Arduino Create code editor and Arduino Cloud platform.

At Arduino Day this week in Berkeley, Calif., Arduino LLC’s cofounders Massimo Banzi, David Mellis, and Tom Igoe hailed the company’s new MKR1000 board as combining the functionality of the Zero and the WiFi Shield. They were referring not to the Linux-driven Raspberry Pi Zero, but rather the microcontroller-based Arduino Zero follow on to the Uno, and the relatively new WiFi Shield for Arduino boards.

MKR1000 front (left) and back
(click images to enlarge)

Like the Zero, the MKR1000 is open source, and offers an Atmel, 32-bit Cortex-M0+ microcontroller unit (MCU), in this case a WiFi-savvy, SmartConnect-family ATSAMW25 chip. However, the MKR1000 breaks with the traditional Arduino form factor for a smaller, Internet of Things focused footprint that adds WiFi, LiPo charging, and a cryptographic chip. The WiFi capability comes in the form of an Atmel ATSAMW25H18 WiFi module.

Atmel ATSAMW25H18 WiFi module, without its shield
(click image to enlarge)

Arduino LLC also launched a new Arduino IoT community website within its site, featuring a new tutorial platform generated by According to a Make report, at Arduino Day the company announced a private beta release for an Arduino Create development environment centered around a web-based code editor. Arduino Create uses a browser plugin, letting developers upload sketches to any Arduino board connected to one’s computer directly from the browser.

MKR1000 (left) and the MKR1000 kit
(click images to enlarge)

Arduino Create will store sketches, and let you connect to services such as an upcoming alpha-stage Arduino Cloud platform. Arduino Cloud will use MQTT to communicate with WiFi- and crypto-enabled devices like the MKR1000.

The announcements were tied together with an IoT Manifesto, led by a renewed call for open source technology along with guidelines for sustainability and fairness. The latter relates to a promise not to share data or spy on users via Arduino Cloud.

Recovering from a community schism

The Arduino Day announcements represent a major relaunch of Arduino LLC after the Arduino company and community split into rival factions. On the other side is Federico Musto and Arduino co-founder Gianluca Martino, who converted the manufacturing arm of Arduino, called Smart Projects Srl, into a rival, Arduino-branded Arduino Srl.

Arduino Srl’s Arduino Yún Mini
(click image to enlarge)

In May of last year, Arduino Srl, which can be found at, announced a new version of the Linux-enabled Arduino Yún SBC called the Arduino Yún Mini, and later shipped a Linux-based Arduino TIAN board, among other new products. The Arduino TRE, which was announced back in 2013 with a more feature-rich Linux stack, appears to have slipped off the radar of either Arduino.

Around the same time as the Yún Mini arrived last May, Arduino LLC announced it had partnered with Adafruit for manufacturing. Arduino LLC also said that due to legal disputes with Arduino Srl, it would sell products outside the U.S. under the Genuino brand name. Over the year, it became clear that the bulk of the community was following Arduino LLC rather than Arduino Srl.

Arduino LLC’s Arduino Zero (left) and Arduino WiFi Shield 101
(click images to enlarge)

Last summer, Arduino LLC released the Arduino Zero, and retired some older products like the Leonardo. In December, it announced the MKR1000 — or rather the “Arduino MKR1000” in the U.S. and “Genuino MKR1000” elsewhere. The company said it would give away the first 1,000 units as part of a World’s Largest Arduino Maker Challenge with the backing of and recent open source gate crasher Microsoft. The winners will be announced later this month.

More MKR1000 details

With the MKR1000, rather than try to compete with the Raspberry Pi and other Linux-driven hacker SBCs, as Arduino Srl is attempting, Arduino LLC is sticking with the traditional microcontroller platform and aiming low. Instead of working with embedded OpenWrt Linux, as they would with the Yún, developers tap the usual Arduino IDE, available on Linux, Windows, and OS X. Arduino Srl, meanwhile, recently moved up to a different version, resulting in the first fork of the IDE.

The open spec MKR1000 appears to measure about 2.2 by 1.0 inches. The 48MHz ATSAMW25 chip is backed up with 32KB SRAM and 256KB flash. There’s a 2.4GHz WiFi module with a PCB antenna, as well as an ECC508 “CryptoAuthentication” chip.

As noted, there is now on onboard charging circuit for supported Li-Po batteries, which at a minimum are 3.7V, 700mAh. In a break with earlier Arduino boards, the 5V MKR1000 has an operating voltage of 3.3V. Higher voltages will “damage the board,” says Arduino LLC.

The MKR1000 is equipped with 8x digital I/O pins, 12x PWM, 7x ADC analog inputs and a 10-bit DAC. There are also single UART, SPI, and I2C pins.

Further information

The Arduino MKR1000 (U.S.) and Genuino MKR1000 (elsewhere) are available for $35, or 31 Euros at the Arduino LLC Arduino Store. More information may be found at the MKR1000 product page.

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10 responses to “Arduino aims $35, WiFi-enabled hacker board at IoT apps”

  1. Jeff Sadowski says:

    With a Raspberry Pi 3 at $35 I can not see messing with an Arduino for $35.

    • Alex says:

      The only benefits would be the simpler programming environment.

      • Jeff Sadowski says:

        Huh? Arduino has it’s own archaic language where as the pi is a full blown linux with standard C. The only thing is you need to buy a card but I have a lot of those cards lying around from old cell phones. And the old cell phone chargers will work for the pi as well.

    • Nelson Hoover says:

      It depends what your reasons are.

      Like Alex pointed out, the Arduino offers a considerably simplified environment and reduced complexity, at the expense of more advanced PC-like functionality, of course.
      But if you don’t need the added power the Pi offers or would rather not deal with a full OS, the Arduino is still an excellent choice.

      I personally use both SBC’s and microcontrollers, depending on what I’m building and how it’ll be used.

      • Jeff Sadowski says:

        You are right it does. Today I want everything accessible with standard tool sets and easily upgrade-able.
        I know they will come out with new security holes and new exploits and I know distros on top of the pi like ubuntu will keep up. I know that the number of tools I can throw at gpio will continue to make things easier for me to use any number of programming languages to control my gpio. I can easily use any number of web servers available for linux and incorporate php or python to control gpio with an easy web interface that I can access through any smart phone no apps other then a web browser required. Easy web facing gpio with easy to use web programming languages. In a world where security is constantly changing it seems like I need an easily upgrade-able system to keep up. I want my data encrypted.

    • Clóvis Fritzen says:

      Microprocessor is different from microcontroller. E.G: can you run a raspberry Pi @ 1mA? no! Can you run an Arduino @ 1mA? Yes!.

      • Jeff Sadowski says:

        Clóvis Fritzen: Thank you, that does shed some light on things. However, how much more would be drawn from powering boards to support ethernet? How much more would be drawn for good network logic? There might be some good applications of arduino, but when having to use network interfacing all the extra logic having to be built in when a true OS exists for the microprocessor with continual updates… the security concerns start to frighten me away. SSL would get very messy very fast (I don’t recall anything that elaborate programmed in to arduino libraries, if it was I wouldn’t use it). I could be wrong but with any network attached application I’d think you would start to increase the draw to maybe half the microprocessor’s draw or more and have 10 to 50 times the complexity of trying to keep up with relatively simple OS changes. Reading what I have from Snowden I am starting to agree with him that everything needs encrypted. I’ll stick with my tin foil hat thank you very much. And I do want everything online nowadays. Maybe have some local network unencrypted with simple protocols, and a router to the outside that takes care of encryption, formatting and all. Just thinking of simple protocols gets my head spinning thinking of all the work needed to get a dhcp address alone would be complex code. Sure its already written, but I think I’d fill the microcontroller’s logic with just trying to get info to and from it. I wouldn’t want to try anything as complex as simple php logic into an arduino. So the question becomes can I do it all with one microprocessor (so far I think I can) vs do I need an army of arduino’s for simple comm and one microprocessor for controlling them all.

  2. Seantheman says:

    256 KB of flash and 32 KB of ram is just too small these days. If you want the power savings then they should have a Bluetooth version as well. Which is more power efficient than WiFi. If Arduino wants to get into the SBC market, then they really have to up their game. When I see things like Chip for $9 with WiFi, Bluetooth, 512 MB of RAM and 4 gb of storage, then Arduino needs to really up their game. Even the latest Pi 3 which comes with a quad core 64 bit cpu, 512mb of ram, WiFi and Bluetooth. Then Adrunino is behind the times.

    • Nelson Hoover says:

      But the Arduino isn’t an SBC (Single-Board Computer). It’s a microcontroller and therefore doesn’t need lots of RAM or memory because it isn’t running a full OS like the CHIP or Pi does.

      Both types of board still have their place, but the difference between them is definitely narrowing as SBC’s get smaller/faster/cheaper with more/better IO and microcontrollers keep gaining larger more complex functionalities.

  3. Jerry says:

    How about ESP8266? This seems limited and expensive.

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