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Exchanging data between USB devices and Android phone using Arduino and USB Host shield

CueCat connected to Android phone

CueCat connected to Android phone

Today, I’d like to show how to exchange data between USB device and ADK-capable Android phone. I will be using CueCat barcode scanner as source device; the data will be received by the phone and displayed on a screen using Arduino Terminal Android application.

A phone is USB device, too, and since two USB devices are unable to communicate to each other directly, I’m using Arduino board equipped with USB Host shield to relay data between devices. The sketch which runs on Arduino is a mix of two other pieces of code, one from ADK terminal emulator article and another one from an article explaining interfacing with a barcode scanner. Refer to these articles if you have questions about a specific piece.

Below is a full text of an Arduino sketch. It can be pasted from this page in Arduino IDE, compiled, and loaded into the board. It is also included in the examples section of USB Host library rev.2.0 distribution on gitHub. The library itself shall be installed in Arduino IDE tree as well.

To receive data from Arduino you’ll need Arduino Terminal application installed on your phone. The source code of application is also available – it is released under GPL2, if you make modifications to the code, please make them available for other people!

Finally, we will need some hardware – an Arduino board, USB Host shield, a USB hub, “declawed” CueCat or any other HID boot barcode scanner, as well as ADK-compatible Android phone. We will also need a 5V power supply capable of providing ~700ma of electrical current. I will show arrangement of all necessary pieces after explaining the sketch code.


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Android ADK terminal emulator for Arduino

ADK Teminal

ADK Teminal


This is a little Android application providing basic terminal emulator functionality over ADK interface. Its primary purpose is to be able to use Android phone as laptop replacement while debugging Arduino projects in the field. It can also be used to provide simple alphanumeric display. Victor Serbo, my long time friend, helped develop this application. It can be downloaded from here and currently in beta – as soon as code stabilizes I will make source code available. [EDIT] The source code is now available. It is released under GPL2, if you modify it, please make your modifications available.[/EDIT]

When Arduino is connected to the phone via USB Host Shield, it can send characters to the application’s screen and receive characters typed on application’s keyboard. Standard CR and LF control codes are also recognized so it is possible to output, for example, single line with changing content. Additionally, the appearance and behaviour of the screen can be customized – font size and type, foreground and background colors, local echo, screen rotation and more. The app has been thoroughly tested on Nexus One and Nexus S phones and works well.

Two demo sketches has been posted to gitHub. The functionality of term_test can be seen on title picture – strings sent from Android are output back on the screen. The term_time sketch demonstrates single line output. Below is brief explanation of ways to provide input/output on Arduino. I’ll start with term_test; all necessary functionality is implemented in loop().

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Andriod ADK-compatible USB Host Library release.

UHS Charging Android

UHS Charging Android


Android Open Accessory Development Kit, announced on Google IO the other day is a hot topic. Android Open Accessory support, introduced in Android 3.1 (tablet OS) and backported to 2.3.4 (phone OS), allows external USB devices to interact with Android phone/tablet switched to so-called “accessory” mode. Because phones are USB functions (AKA devices) this accessory device must act as USB host. Arduino USB Host Shield has been around for couple of years providing USB Host functionality for standard and Mega form factor official Arduinos, as well as several clones. Luckily for all Arduino enthusiasts out there, Google decided to adopt this very architecture for hardware component of ADK. As a result, said enthusiasts now have well defined and documented code layer to interact with Android devices, ready to run on Arduino board of their choice. Well, almost.

The ADK code is targeted for ADK hardware component, which is just Arduino Mega 2560 and USB Host Shield combined on a single PCB. However, they decided to move some pins around; as a result in order to use the code with standard “Arduino plus Shield” setup certain code modifications are necessary. One such modification has been posted on Romfont. I tried it and the code works well, however, this approach has issues. First, it creates yet another distro. Second, the code modification exercise would have to be repeated each time Google releases new version of ADK. Finally, it’s difficult to have both standard and Google USB librares installed in Arduino IDE at the same time. Given all that, I decided to take different approach.

Google’s variant of USB Host Shield library differs very little from official library. The only significant difference is newInTransfer() member function of USB class, which returns real length of received packet. In order to support AndroidAccessory component in official library, I simply added this function to the library code and made a new release – it is now available on gitHub. I placed it into “dev” branch for now – it will be moved to “master” after a period of testing.


Continue reading Andriod ADK-compatible USB Host Library release.