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I have worked with IMU and an Arduino before to build a motion/activity tracker. Even after making it wireless, the whole system is quite big due to the individual breakout boards that hold those chips and sensors.

My goal is to make this thing smaller and after some research, I thought I could use AVR Atmega chip as the main brain and connect all sensors to it.That was the plan until I read about those commercially available fitness trackers that use ARM chips. Now I am a bit confused and would appreciate your feedbacks regarding this matter.

My questions are:

  1. What are the advantages and disadvantages of building this with AVR Atmega vs. ARM?
  2. How about circuit design? If I were to buy individual chips and make my own PCB board, do you think this is doable by someone like me? (Not an expert)
  3. What are the things that I need to make this work? For example, for the atmega, i think I need the avr-isp programmer. How about ARM? What about the softwares? Any other items?

Thank you for your feedback.

Update: I have edited my questions.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ It sounds like you've already got a working system, albeit built with breakouts? That would seem to answer your question 1 in the affirmative, if so. \$\endgroup\$ – Nick Johnson Nov 24 '15 at 7:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes sorry, I will rephrase the question. Thanks for pointing it out. \$\endgroup\$ – goddar Nov 24 '15 at 8:27
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My suggestion would be to start by designing an integrated version of your current solution, by designing your own PCB. Once you have that working, you can decide if there's benefit to you in switching architectures to another type of processor.

ARM processors are significantly more capable than AVRs, being 32bit instead of 8bit, typically having more RAM and flash, and operating at higher frequencies. All of this is more or less irrelevant, however, if you have a working solution on your current architecture; these are reasons to switch only if you need the additional capabilities.

What software and tools you need for an ARM based processor depends on which one you select. ARM is an architecture, but different implementations require different toolchains and hardware tools. For instance, if you use a PSoC based processor, you'll need a Miniprog3 (a type of JTAG programmer) and Cypress's PSoC Creator software. If you go this route, you should find a class of processors that suits, and buy a dev board to start experimenting with.

And yes, it's entirely practical for you to take the next step of making your own PCB.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the feedback Nick. I've read before that ARM is an architecture. Does it mean thay they only sell the design blueprint and let other companies manufacture it? \$\endgroup\$ – goddar Nov 25 '15 at 9:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ If you were in my shoe, how would you approach this situation? For instance, I can see that the next logical approach is to shrink the size by designing my own pcb and using all the same chips. Are there other ways to achieve this? In the future, how can I learn to build this circuit myself without having to buy arduino and the sensor breakout boards to test whether they can work first? \$\endgroup\$ – goddar Nov 25 '15 at 10:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @goddar I'd do just that - design a PCB using the same parts as the breakouts you're using (minus anything duplicated, like multiple regulators for the same power rail). Teaching yourself is a huge topic, but start by reading datasheets and appnotes about the ICs you want to use. \$\endgroup\$ – Nick Johnson Nov 25 '15 at 10:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks Nick. Am I posting this in the right forum? I was hoping for more feedbacks as that would help me expand my perspective on this topic. My background is in mechanical, so my view and my angle of approach is very limited. \$\endgroup\$ – goddar Nov 25 '15 at 12:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ @goddar Sure, but if you have further questions, you should post them as separate - specific - questions. I'd suggest starting down this route, then posting if you get stuck. \$\endgroup\$ – Nick Johnson Nov 25 '15 at 12:27

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