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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CueCat meets Arduino, works with HID boot code

CueCat meets Arduino

CueCat meets Arduino

Soon after posting Arduino barcode scanner article I started receiving questions about CueCat. Many of these cat-shaped devices were distributed free of charge in the US at the end of the dot com craze and even though company which developed and distributed them went out of business long time ago, the USB CueCats are still available for very reasonable price. Declawed CueCat with USB interface can be purchased for as little as $13 total in the US and non-modified ones for even less; at the same time, typical no-name handheld barcode scanner goes for around $25 on eBay and will be shipped from China.

I tested “declawed” USB CueCat with my code – it initializes as HID boot keyboard and works very well. No modifications are needed to the sketch from the previous article – just plug in the device and start scanning. CueCat reads many different barcode systems, including UPC and ISBN. Since CueCat is in constant scanning mode (no button needs to be pressed to initiate a scan), it can be used for applications like automated inventory control or as a part of a motion feedback circuit in CNC/robotics project.

One last advantage of CueCat I’d like to point out is low power consumption. As can be seen on a title picture, an Arduino, USB Host Shield, CueCat and HD44780-compatible LCD display can be run from a small LiPo boosted to 5V by Mintyboost from Adafruit Industries with its output connected to Arduino USB port.

CueCat is compact and inexpensive barcode scanner still available for sale despite being discontinued many years ago. It is implemented as USB HID boot device and supported by USB Host library. If you were living in the US in 2000, chances are you already have one or even several of these cat-shaped devices laying around – try it with my code and let me know if you have any issues.