Arduino 101 Review

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Arduino 101 Review

Dear friends welcome to another Arduino Tutorial! Today we are going to take a first look at the impressive Arduino 101 board. It is the first Arduino board that uses an Intel Processor. The board offers some amazing features like a dual core processor and a Hardware Neural Network for Artificial Intelligence applications. Without any further delay, let’s get started!

Intro to the Arduino 101 review

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Today I am very excited because we are going to play with this new board the Arduino 101. This board was announced two years ago, and it was released last year, but I just received one. It was designed to be the successor of the Arduino Uno.

At first I was not impressed by the specs of the board and I hesitated to order one. But when a company like Intel enters the maker community their offering must be unique. So I decided to try it, mostly interested in its Bluetooth connectivity. Only when the board arrived I discovered that inside the Intel Curie chip there is also a Hardware Neural Network that we can use in our projects! Yes, that’s right! We can develop Artificial Intelligence programs with this board! I really don’t know why Intel or Arduino do not advertise this feature at all. The board costs around 30$ and website was kind enough to send me a sample board to test it.


Arduino 101:

OLED Display:


Power Bank:

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At first let’s take a look at the board. As you can see, the layout of the board is exactly the same with the layout of the Arduino Uno board. The chip uses 3.3V logic level but it is 5V tolerant. On the board we can see the Intel Curie chip, the Bluetooth Antenna some Logic level shifting chips and a Flash Memory Chip.
The Intel Curie chip is really interesting. I have created a simple table in order to be easier to see the most important features of this chip. It was developed by Intel for low-power wearable devices. There are two processors inside this chip both clocked at 32MHz. There is an ARC RISC processor and an x86 Quark processor. Both processors operate simultaneously. The ARC core executes the programs we develop and communicates with the x86 core that takes care of the Bluetooth Low Energy stack and USB communication.

The chip also offers Bluetooth LE connectivity, 24KBs of RAM memory, 196KBs of flash memory, 14 GPIO pins, SPI, I2C, UART, I2S busses, up to 6 ADCs, Gyroscope, A six axis Accelerometer and a Real Time Clock.

In my opinion the most interesting feature the chip offers is the Pattern Matching Engine! This Engine contains a 128 node Hardware Neural Network.

The Pattern Matching Engine of the Arduino 101

This Engine contains a 128 node Hardware Neural Network. The Neural Network has 2 modes, RBF (Radial Basis Functions) and KNN (K Nearest Neighbors) and two distance modes: L1 or LSUP. The Neural Network has the following features:

  • We can train a neuron with a 128byte vector
  • We can save the knowledge in the network
  • We can load the knowledge back into the network

In other words with the Arduino 101 board we can easily build Artificial Intelligence programs. Those programs will be executed really fast because we will be using a dedicated hardware Neural Network. We can also feed this Neural Network with data from the embedded sensors of the board to train it! Amazing stuff! Science fiction becomes reality! I will prepare a detailed tutorial on how to use the Neural Network of the Arduino 101 because I find it fascinating. I first need to study more about Neural Networks and Machine Learning, so stay tuned! We can build something really cool with this board..

Testing the Arduino 101 board

Compared to an Arduino Uno, the Arduino 101 is light years ahead! The technology inside the Intel Curie chip is very advanced! As you can see it outperforms the Arduino Uno in every field. From the specs we can see the Arduino 101 operates at a frequency which is double of the frequency that the Arduino Uno operates. So, in theory the Arduino 101 must be at least two times faster than the Arduino Uno. But is that the case?

In order to find out, I prepared a simple benchmark. Both boards must calculate the Pi with the same algorithm for the same number of iterations of the Algorithm. I have connected a small OLED display to display the results. As you can see the Arduino 101 needed 12,574 seconds to perform this task. The Arduino Uno on the other hand needed 26,2 seconds. That means the Arduino 101 is 2.1 times faster than the Arduino Uno in this example. In a future video I will perform a benchmark with all the boards I have available right now. I expect that the ESP32 is going to be at least 5 times faster the Arduino 101.










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