Getting Started with the A111 Pulsed Radar Sensor
Does your project require high-precision, cutting-edge distance, speed, motion, and/or gesture sensing? We're not talking ultrasonic, or even infrared here, but 60GHz radar! Say hello to our tiny, pulsed radar friend the Acconeer A111!
The A111 is a single-chip solution for pulsed coherent radar (PCR) -- it comes complete with antennae and an SPI interface capable of speeds of up to 50MHz. Applications for PCR include distance-sensing, gesture, motion, and speed detection. The sensor can monitor one-or-more objects at distances of up to two meters.
Our breakout board for the A111 includes a 1.8V regulator, voltage-level translation, and it breaks out all pins of the pulsed radar sensor to both 0.1-inch and Raspberry Pi-friendly headers.
To use the A111 you'll need either an ARMv7 or an ARM Cortex-M4 -- the closed-source SDK currently only supports these architectures. This tutorial will explain how to use the radar sensor with a Raspberry Pi -- a platform based on an architecture supported by the A111's SDK.
The A111 Breakout includes a 20-pin, 2x10 female header, which should mate to Raspberry Pi's of any generation. If you'd rather manually wire the A111 to your Raspberry Pi and about 9 male-to-female wires should do the trick.
You have several options when it comes to working with the Raspberry Pi. Most commonly, the Pi is used as a standalone computer, which requires a monitor, keyboard, and mouse (listed below). To save on costs, the Pi can also be used as a headless computer (without a monitor, keyboard, and mouse). This setup has a slightly more difficult learning curve, as you will need to use the command-line interface (CLI) from another computer.
If you aren’t familiar with the following concepts, we recommend checking out these tutorials before continuing. Using the Pi as a headless setup or with VNC can be useful when developing applications with the Pi.
Raspberry Pi SPI and I2C Tutorial
Raspberry Pi 3 Starter Kit Hookup Guide
Headless Raspberry Pi Setup
How to Use Remote Desktop on the Raspberry Pi with VNC
Sensor and Crystal
The breakout board is populated with the A111 IC and an external 26MHz crystal oscillator. The IC comes with two antennae and uses mmWave radio to sense objects via radar pulses.
|A111 Populated on Top||Crystal Oscillator Populated on Back|
2x13 Female Header
To keep the size of the board small, there is a 2x13 female header soldered on the board to easily mate with a Raspberry Pi's standard header.
This should only cover the part of the 2x20 male headers on the Pi.
Additional Pins Broken Out
Just above the 26-Pin header, there are additional pins broken out for SPI, interrupt, enable, and power if you need access to the pins. The A111 IC requires an input voltage of 1.8V, so a voltage regulator is populated on the back. Additionally, the I/O logic level is 1.8V, so a logic converter is included to translate the signals.
|Voltage Regulator||Logic Level Converter|
The overall board size is 1.30in x 1.55in. There are two additional mounting holes spaced 0.10 inches away from the edge of the board.
The A111 Pulsed Radar Breakout is designed to sit directly on top of a Raspberry Pi. Again, it doesn't span all 40 (2x20) pins of a Raspberry Pi B+ (or later), but the 26-pin — 2x13 — header should be compatible with any Pi.
Connect the shield to a Raspberry Pi ensuring that the "Pi Display" text on the breakout matches up with the display header on your Pi. The sensor should be facing up after plugging it in.
Or, if you'd like to manually wire the breakout up to a Pi, here is the pin-out we'll use through the rest of this tutorial:
|Breakout Pin||Raspberry Pi Pin Name||RasPi Hardware Pin Number|
|GND||GND||6, 14, 20, etc.|
When connecting to the additional pins broken out next to the Raspberry Pi's I/O, make sure to not accidentally connect anything higher than 3.3V since it is only 3.3V tolerant.
Configure Your Pi
Raspbian and SPI
This tutorial assumes you've already set up a Raspberry Pi with Raspbian. For help installing the Debian-based OS on your Pi, check out the docs on Raspberrypi.org. Or -- better yet! -- check out our Headless Raspberry Pi Setup tutorial.
You'll also need to enable SPI on your Pi. For help with that, check out our SPI on Pi tutorial.
We are going to assume you already have a Raspberry Pi up and running with Raspbian. We'll also assume that it is connected to the Internet. If not, check out our starter kits and tutorials on setting up a Raspberry Pi.
Raspberry Pi 3 Starter Kit Hookup Guide
April 11, 2016
Make sure to update the image so that we have the latest distribution. Enter the following commands in the command line individually to update your image.
language:bash sudo apt-get update sudo apt-get dist-upgrade
User Configuration Settings
Once you are set up, I highly recommend changing your default login and password: (username: pi, password: raspberry). The Raspberry Pi Configuration tool is a quick way to change your password as well as setup the network, language, keyboard, etc. There are two methods to adjust the settings. You can use the GUI by heading to the Pi Start Menu > Preferences > Raspberry Pi Configuration > Interfaces. For the old school heads, you can also use the raspi-config tool by typing the following command using the command line and then go through the menus to update your information.
language:bash sudo raspi-config
You'll want to enable the SPI pins using the tool to read sensor with SPI. If you are using hte GUI, simple select Enable and click on the OK button. If you are using the raspi-config, follow the prompts to finish setting up the SPI. For more information, check out our tutorial to set up the SPI pins on a Pi.
|Enabling SPI via Desktop GUI||raspi-config tool for SPI in the Terminal|
You'll need to restart your Pi for the changes to take effect.
Get the SDK
The software development kit (SDK) for the A111 is, unfortunately, locked behind a closed source blob that currently only supports Cortex-M4 and ARMv7 platforms. However the folks over at Acconeer have agreed to host the latest version of their SDK with our example code within SparkFun's Pulsed Radar Example Code repository on Github. To download the SDK from Acconeer, visit Acconeer's "Developer" page on your Raspberry Pi's browser.
You'll need an account in order to have access to the files. Click on the link at the bottom of the page to create one or log in. Or click on the shortcuts below.
Once you are logged in, the "SW Download" tab will include additional links to download the SDK. Scroll down the webpage to the section for the XC111. Acconeer is constantly updating and improving the software. We used v1.8.6 of the software when writing this tutorial so the version may be different from the version that you download. Click on the Download button for v1.8.6.
Read through the license, agree, and click on the Download acconeer_rpi_xc111 button for the software. Depending on your browser, you may need to refresh the page and repeat the directions before the button is active.
Once downloaded, head to directory where you downloaded the ZIP. You can use the GUI or you can use the terminal to unzip the SDK using the following commands (included are commands to install unzip). Just make sure to update the file name with the version that you downloaded. Assuming that you are in the Downloads folder, you will be using the following command in the Terminal.
language:bash unzip acconeer_rpi_xc111_v1_8_6.zip -d a111
cd to the "a111/rpi_xc111/..." directory to prepare to build the example software. Depending on the version that you downloaded, the path might be slightly different. Make sure to use the
ls to verify the contents of the unzipped a111 folder if you have issues navigating through the directory.
The A111 SDK includes source code, archived libraries, include files, and documentation for using the A111 pulsed radar sensor. Here's a quick overview of what's included with the SDK:
- doc — Doxygen-generated documentation for the A111 API and source code.
- include — Header and API files which describe how to interact with the pre-compiled A111 libraries.
- lib — Pre-compiled A111 static archives. API for these files are provided in the "include" directory.
- out — Compiled board and example object and executable files.
- rule — Recursive Makefile rules for board and example files.
- source — C source files for custom boards and example applications.
- makefile — Top-level makefile. Recursively calls files in the "rule" directory to build example and board files.
Adding Custom Example and Board Files
The SparkFun A111 Breakout's default pins will not work with those of the SDK's examples. To build and run an example with this board, we have an example board definition, make scripts, and example applications. Click the button below to download these files from the GitHub repo. The code currently works for v1.8.6.
Once downloaded, head to the folder where you downloaded the example code and unzip the files. You can use the GUI to extract by right clicking and selecting Extract Here. Or you can use the following command if you are using a Terminal. Make sure to use the
cd so that you are in the same folder as the ZIP file.
language:bash unzip SparkFun_Pulsed_Radar_A111_Example_Code-master.zip -d SparFun_Pulsed_Radar_A111_Example_Code-master
Once extracted move the files provided from the ../SparkFun_Pulsed_Radar_A111_Example_Code-master/sparkfun-a111-source to ...a111/rpi_xc111. We recommend opening a separate window using the GUI to drag and drop the files into the file path. This will add the SparkFun examples into the respective paths. You'll get a window that pops up. Click the Overwrite button for each window that pops up to add the files into their respective folders.
Build and Run the Test Sketch
In the terminal, executing the make file — and it's recursive dependencies — should build all of the examples you may use with the A111. To build all board and example files, navigate to the SDK's top-level directory (in this case, it should be similar to ...Downloads/a111/rpi_xc111) where your makefile is located and type
make in the terminal. You should see something similar to the output below.
If you have any trouble building the board and example files, ensure that you have gcc and make packages installed. (E.g.
apt-get install make gcc)
Running the Example Applications
Once compiled you can run the example applications. Navigate to the .../out folder with the
cd in the terminal window. You can run the example by clicking on the executable or typing the following command. We recommend typing the command in the terminal to view the data. A few of the applications will automatically close the window after taking sensor data if you choose to click on the executable.
Once you type (or paste the command in the Terminal), hit Enter on your keyboard to execute the command.
This will run our modified distance-detector example application. For simplicity, it will show the distance of an object that is in front of the antennae.
By placing an object in front of the sensor, the distance should vary based on what the A111 can detect. The application will continue running in the terminal window until CTRL + C is pressed.
Running Other Examples
In addition to the distance detector basic, the SDK includes a few extra examples. To execute these files, run them from the out directory:
- sparkfun_detector_motion — If there is an object moving in front of the sensor, it will output a true. Otherwise, the output is false.
- sparkfun_detector_obstacle — Checks to see if there is an object in the way.
- sparkfun_detector_service_iq — Advanced version of the envelope service, which includes phase information for very small variations in distance. The output will be in polar coordinates.
- sparkfun_detector_power_bins — Demonstrates how to use A111 "power bins," which are still, kind of, a mystery to us...
- sparkfun_distance_detector_peak — This application will begin by calculating raw peak-distances, with a maximum of ten reflections. The example will briefly estimate minimum and maximum threshold.
Make sure to read through the comments in the code (located in the source folder), datasheet, user guide, and associated documents from Acconeer for more information before writing your own custom code for the A111.
Resources and Going Further
Now that you've successfully got your A111 pulsed radar sensor up and running, it's time to incorporate it into your own project! For more information, check out the resources below:
- Schematic (PDF)
- Eagle Files (ZIP)
- Board Dimensions
- GitHub Repos
- SFE Showcase
Need some inspiration for your next project? Check out some of these related tutorials: