openPICUS Presentation – Press release

Posted by openPicus | On: Mar 21 2010

openPICUS project officially takes off

It happened this January when we started hard talking about wireless and embedded electronics tasting some good wine at Campo de’ Fiori in Rome. The main point was a lack of an easy to program module which runs not only the wireless stack, but the application as well. We decided our brand new device would be smart and low cost to allow ideas to crossover the labs walls and to enter the real market. It also would be socially oriented following OPEN HARDWARE philosophy from the draft phase. That’s how PICUS was born.

In Roman mythology, Picus was one of the first kings of Latium (the region of Italy in which the city of Rome was founded). Italic people believed Picus was the son of the god of war Mars. After being turned by the witch into a woodpecker Italic tribes attributed to the bird divine qualities, connected with Picus’s original skills at augury. One of the function he performed was to lead the deduction of colonies with his flight.

An open hardware by a principle should be shared. On our blog contributors are talking freely about each project detail – from product naming to socket boards.

openPICUS as a hardware platform offers to students (we are looking for University groups as well) an opportunity to experience in their thesis an interaction with iPhone and Android.

The first 50 pcs of the starter kit will be shipped for FREE to those who contribute with the best ideas to the project.

openPICUS main characteristics:

CPU Microchip PIC 24F 16 bit 44 pins QFN 64K Flash 8K Ram)
Wireless (Bluetooth / Wi-Fi)
Power 5V or 3,3V
Main connections: UART, Digital Inputs, Digital Outputs, Analog Inputs, PWMs, SPI display, I2C
Connector: 26 Ways IDC header (male) suitable for TH mounting or flat cable
SMT: 26 Pins for direct soldering PICUS to a PCB

PICUS gives a possibility to upload software by a serial port (you do not need a Microchip programmer).
Bluetooth offers SPP, OBEX, Headset profiles.
Wi-Fi gives an access to the integrated webserver, TCP socket, embedded FTP and email clients.
We are planning to realize a visual development tool to enable using of PICUS even without any software experience.

Bird’s nest
PICUS will have a range of “nests”: boards with several kinds of sensors and with or without a display where PICUS will perform the wireless part and the CORE Cpu, all in one.

Application scenario
openPICUS will be the core and the wireless part of Internet of things, sensors, wireless messaging, standard converters, home and industrial small automation and more.


  1. Peter says:

    Which PIC do you intend to use?

    I don’t see any mentioning of USB while there are quite a few pics that support USB directly or even USB-OTG. Using ICSP you can program a usb bootloader which allows easy updating of the firmware through the usb port.

    Serial ports are less and less available on laptops from today so usb could be a nice alternative. With a mini usb connector, it does not even have to take much boardspace.

  2. picus says:

    we decided to use Serial port since the PIC 24F provides 2 ports. This family has enough power to support wireless application and the still on the market there are lot of serial devices on embedded.

    I agree that on the programming side USB would be nicer, but we plan to make the starter kit using a simple FTDI converter.

    2 Ports are needed because 1 is for the bluetooth module control (HCI UART) and the second will be for the “external world”.

    The PICUS philosophy will be: lowest space and cost for the module, low cost development kit (with this USB converter) and then low cost final product. We want PICUS to be the core of real systems, not just for prototypes.

  3. Peter says:

    ok, makes sense. It could be that there are pics with usb and 2 serial ports but that may no longer match with other design decisions (like pin count, other peripherals, … :)

    What is actually the current status of this project? Still in design phase or do you already have some kind of prototype that you are experimenting with?

  4. picus says:

    The PIC with USB and 2 Serial ports are not matching with the size of module, pin count and the cost is too high (and seems that are not so easy to find on the market)

    We almost finished the schematic and we’ll pubblish it in the next days.
    The we need to discuss about the starter kit: we want to understand if it’s better a complete flexible kit or a minimum one (cheaper).

    Prototypes will come in max 10 days

  5. Which modules are you planning to use for Wif and Bluetooth? Is the pic24F able to drive at least a 1Mbps Wifi connection?
    My suggestion is to use a motherboard with the microcontroller and a small external one with the radio modules. This will simplify the microcontroller board project and make the system more user-configurable.
    You can also think about making radio modules at 868MHz and 433MHz that are also currently used frequencies in this kind of applications.

  6. picus says:

    we are planning for WIFI to use the ZEROG ZG2100 module that support 802.11 up to g, even if it has max 2Mbps

    We want to make a unique module (Cpu+wireless) since with separate solution we’ll have higher cost and bigger size (and it’ll be like Arduino in that way).

    We want to realize a module that is possible to use as it is also in real market, so developers can enter in the market with their ideas with a low cost solution.

    Bluetooth module is a taiwanese one, certified, Class 1 with HCI UART firmware (the bluetooth stack will run on the PIC)

    868Mhz and 433Mhz can be a good idea for a step 2, since right now we want a solution compatible with cellphones and PCs, but maybe later we can talk about M2M communication

  7. Maurizio says:


    I think it would be a good idea to do everything with “PPS” have the programming of all pins output dynamics.
    With PPS openPicus would be the most versatile system on the market

    Best Regards.

  8. picus says:

    the power of PPS is amazing and I think our team will follow your idea, many thanks!

  9. Alejandro says:

    Ciao Picus, sono italiani? 😀

    How could I get one starter kit, and so contribute to this opensource project?

    I am very interested.
    I have studied .asm languaje for a long time and published some papers taking advange of it.


  10. picus says:

    the first wifi modules will be available middle april.
    the best support for our project is to use it and publish your projects oj our website

  11. Alejandro says:

    Perfect, and… are you simulating the code? Because if you want I cold help using proteus by debugging peripherals as eusart, spi display, etc.

    Also, I don’t know how expensive are the modules that you are planning to use, but it could be an option to use MRF24J40A by Microhip as an aditional module. It has SPI interface, and it’s a 2.4 GHz IEEE Std. 802.15.4.

  12. picus says:

    Alejandro we plan to use simulator and sure your help is welcome!

    We plan for now to make 2 versions : WIFI and BLUETOOTH.

    Wifi RF module is around 20 euro, Bluetooth RF module around 10.

    We’ll see if the developers will need also 802.15.4 and we’ll make also this version, no problems.

  13. Alejandro says:

    Just perfect, I will be waiting the programs, more info, and boards to start simulation and testing


  14. picus says:

    Thanks David
    we made yesterday a great meeting here and we’ll go ahead with an open protocol for sensors (also born in Rome) called Quadraspace

    Good news are coming!

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