Arduino Day 2023: A Review of 2022

For Arduino Day 2023, we take a retrospective look at the many products, events, and collaborations that took place over the last year.

Celebrating the 10th Arduino Day

March 25th, 2023 will mark the 10th anniversary of Arduino Day, wherein Arduino showcases their latest products being released soon, highlights from the community, and various events/challenges. This year, as usual, 10 winners will be picked for the Arduino Day Community Challenge and win an Arduino Day Box packed with boards, kits, and other components. In addition to this challenge, there is also the Arduino Cake Challenge which asks community members to bake an Arduino-themed birthday cake to celebrate this important milestone. But even as we look forward to 2023, it is important to look back at what was achieved throughout the last year.

The new Arduino IDE 2.0

Originally released in late 2008, version 0012 of the Arduino IDE introduced many useful features that have become a mainstay in the Arduino IDE ever since, including basic highlighting, libraries, and the included avrdude toolchain for compiling code and uploading it to an attached board. Version 1.0 saw updates to the theme, certain built-in libraries, and with how compilation progress was reported.

But on September 14th, 2022, version 2.0 moved from beta to a stable version and brought about major changes. Features that almost any developer is familiar with, such as autocomplete, intellisense, dark mode, and a more responsive interface were all added. Projects can also be synchronized between a local IDE instance and the Arduino Cloud for seamless editing between devices. Last of all, libraries and the IDE itself can receive in-app updates, meaning no more visits to the downloads page when a new version is released.

A new Arduino Cloud command line interface

Because the internet of things (IoT) devices require management at-scale in order to be provisioned, receive updates, and send data, a new Arduino created their Arduino Cloud CLI tool. Through it, developers can easily interact with the Cloud API in a programmatic manner. In the end, the goal is to start with a single prototype, replicate its properties across many other physical devices, and then deploy them with the option to receive future updates over-the-air (OTA), either individually or en masse.

Programmable logic controllers and Opta

Programmable logic controllers, or PLCs, are industry-specific computers that have been hardened for use in manufacturing, robots, or other applications that require high reliability and fault tolerance. And due to the rise in demand for automation, and therefore PLCs, a dedicated Arduino PLC IDE was released that allows for PLC programs to be written in the five languages defined by the IEC 61131-3 standard.

Beyond the Portenta Machine Control board, Arduino came out with the Opta — their first micro PLC with Industrial IoT capabilities meant for rapidly scaling up automation projects in an open source format. There are three versions that each feature varying degrees of connectivity with the same processor, security, and code support: Opta Lite, Opta RS485, and Opta Wi-Fi. All models contain an STM32H747XI dual Arm Cortex CPU (1x Cortex-M7 and 1x Cortex-M4), 18MB of total RAM, 8 analog inputs, 4 high-power relays for switching AC sources, and an IP rating of 20.

MicroPython support

Python's popularity among hobbyists, students, and data scientists has made it a top choice for those getting into programming or coming from a non-hardware background where C/C++ reign supreme. Because of this fact, Arduino partnered with MicroPython's creator, Damien George, to integrate the embedded Python interpreter into a brand new IDE. Called Arduino Lab for MicroPython, the application features a Python-centric text editor, a button to connect to the target device, and several controls for modifying the behavior of the interpreter, including Run, Stop, and Reset. The lower half of the window displays the device's Read, Evaluate, Print Loop (REPL) interface for directly executing statements in an interactive manner.

Evolving the Project Hub

What began as a collaboration between Hackster and Arduino, the Project Hub has acted as a central space for makers to showcase their latest creations with the broader community. But on December 21st, 2022, Arduino announced that they are bringing the Project Hub completely in-house through a pair of migrations from the old system to the new one throughout early 2023.

Your phone, an ESP32, and the Arduino Cloud

Setting up and provisioning a new board within an IoT ecosystem is tedious and error-prone, as there are so many aspects that need to be configured before even sending a single message, such as reading sensor data, connecting over Wi-Fi, and creating dashboards. Arduino set out to make this process much easier through the Arduino Cloud, but it still left beginners confused on how to collect and send data from their device to the Cloud. A new feature, called "phone device," removes the need for a board, since all a user must do now is install the Arduino IoT Remote App, sign in, and start capturing data using the phone's onboard sensors.

One other mission of the Arduino Cloud is to make its features, including online editing, remote deployment, and management over the internet, available to not just Arduino boards. Due to its popularity as a low-cost IoT device, the ESP32 was a prime target for integration with the Arduino Cloud. So now, rather than having to dig out a USB cable and a locally stored sketch for programming the board, one can simply press a button in either the Arduino IoT Cloud management interface or in the Arduino Web Editor to deploy their project over-the-air (OTA).

The Nicla Voice

Measuring in at a mere 22.86x22.86mm, the Nicla lineup of tiny machine learning-centric boards has grown once more to include the Nicla Voice, a Bluetooth-capable device packed with impressive capabilities. Built on the Syntiant NDP120 Neural Decision processor, the board is ideal for running complex audio recognition tasks such as keyword spotting and event detection. In addition to the built-in microphone, the Nicla Voice also contains a six-axis motion sensor and a magnetometer for reacting to accelerations. Best of all, it is meant for always-on, ultra low-power operations that can be powered by a single battery.

Arduino x K-Way smart clothing

K-Way has been producing iconic outdoor jackets for over 50 years, and in October 2022, they introduced a partnership with Arduino to inspire the community to integrate machine learning capabilities and sensors into their clothing. Arduino themselves created a small pendant containing a Nicla Sense ME that ran an Edge Impulse-produced model to sense the surrounding environment. It could recognize in real-time if the air is polluted and the current weather conditions, as well as send that data via Bluetooth to a smart phone app. Other projects included sensing asthma risk, detecting falls, and tracking outdoor activities.

An improvement to the MKR IoT Carrier

Meant for use within the MKR IoT family of boards, and in particular, the MKR IoT Carrier, the MKR IoT Carrier Rev2 keeps the ease-of-use of its predecessor while also adding several new features. Both versions house a variety of environmental, inertial, and ambient light sensors, along with a central OLED screen and connectors for attaching even more modules via I2C or analog pins. Major differences include updated humidity and pressure sensors, a different IMU, and several repositioned components.

Portenta X8 and Max Carrier

As needs change over time and the desire for ever-increasingly powerful hardware grows larger, it is vital that products meeting those specifications are created to match. The Arduino Portenta X8 does just this by combining two processors, the NXP i.MX 8M Mini Cortex and the STM32H747XI into a single board for a total of nine CPU cores that run an embedded Linux distribution with onboard Wi-Fi and Bluetooth for greater flexibility and faster prototyping.

All of this computational power can then be added to the Portenta Max Carrier board which exposes many connectivity options such as Fieldbus, LoRa, RS232, USB, mPCIe, Ethernet, CAN, and more. As a bonus, it integrates seamlessly with the Arduino Cloud for OTA deployments and monitoring.

What's in store for the future?

The last year was filled with new product releases, community-driven efforts, and countless educational/fun events for students, hobbyists, and professionals alike. As we look forward to this year's Arduino Day, the rest of 2023 and beyond, it is exciting to imagine what Arduino and its community will come up with next!

Evan Rust
IoT, web, and embedded systems enthusiast. Contact me for product reviews, custom project requests, or contract roles.
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