Implementing a Sensor Driver

This guide describes the steps necessary to implement a capsule in Tock that interfaces with an external IC, like a sensor, memory chip, or display. These are devices which are not part of the same chip as the main microcontroller (MCU), but are on the same board and connected via some physical connection.

Note: to attempt to be generic, this guide will use the term "IC" to refer to the device the driver is for.

Note: "driver" is a bit of an overloaded term in Tock. In this guide, "driver" is used in the generic sense to mean code that interfaces with the external IC.

To illustrate the steps, this guide will use a generic light sensor as the running example. You will need to adapt the generic steps for your particular use case.

Often the goal of an IC driver is to expose an interface to that sensor or other IC to userspace applications. This guide does not cover creating that userspace interface as that is covered in a different guide.

Background

As mentioned, this guide describes creating a capsule. Capsules in Tock are units of Rust code that extend the kernel to add interesting features, like interfacing with new sensors. Capsules are "untrusted", meaning they cannot call unsafe code in Rust and cannot use the unsafe keyword.

Overview

The high-level steps required are:

  1. Create a struct for the IC driver.
  2. Implement the logic to interface with the IC.

Optional:

  1. Provide a HIL interface for the IC driver.
  2. Provide a userspace interface for the IC driver.

Step-by-Step Guide

The steps from the overview are elaborated on here.

  1. Create a struct for the IC driver.

    The driver will be implemented as a capsule, so the first step is to create a new file in the capsules/src directory. The name of this file should be [chipname].rs where [chipname] is the part number of the IC you are writing the driver for. There are several other examples in the capsules folder.

    For our example we will assume the part number is ls1234.

    You then need to add the filename to capsules/src/lib.rs like:

    
    #![allow(unused_variables)]
    fn main() {
    pub mod ls1234;
    }
    

    Now inside of the new file you should create a struct with the fields necessary to implement the driver for the IC. In our example we will assume the IC is connected to the MCU with an I2C bus. Your IC might use SPI, UART, or some other standard interface. You will need to adjust how you create the struct based on the interface. You should be able to find examples in the capsules directory to copy from.

    The struct will look something like:

    
    #![allow(unused_variables)]
    fn main() {
    pub struct Ls1234 {
        i2c: &'a dyn I2CDevice,
        state: Cell<State>,
        buffer: TakeCell<'static, [u8]>,
        client: OptionalCell<&'a dyn Ls1234Client>,
    }
    }
    

    You can see the resources this driver requires to successfully interface with the light sensor:

    • i2c: This is a reference to the I2C bus that the driver will use to communicate with the IC. Notice in Tock the type is I2CDevice, and no address is provided. This is because the I2CDevice type wraps the address in internally, so that the driver code can only communicate with the correct address.

    • alarm:

    • state: Often drivers will iterate through various states as they communicate with the IC, and it is common for drivers to keep some state variable to manage this. Our State is defined as an enum, like so:

      
      #![allow(unused_variables)]
      fn main() {
      #[derive(Copy, Clone, PartialEq)]
      enum State {
          Disabled,
          Enabling,
          ReadingLight,
      }
      }
      

      Also note that the state variable uses a Cell. This is so that the driver can update the state.

    • buffer: This holds a reference to a buffer of memory the driver will use to send messages over the I2C bus. By convention, these buffers are defined statically in the same file as the driver, but then passed to the driver when the board boots. This provides the board flexibility on the buffer to use, while still allowing the driver to hint at the size required for successful operation. In our case the static buffer is defined as:

      
      #![allow(unused_variables)]
      fn main() {
      pub static mut BUF: [u8; 3] = [0; 3];
      }
      

      Note the buffer is wrapped in a TakeCell such that it can be passed to the I2C hardware when necessary, and re-stored in the driver struct when the I2C code returns the buffer.

    • client: This is the callback that will be called after the driver has received a reading from the sensor. All execution is event-based in Tock, so the caller will not block waiting for a sample, but instead will expect a callback via the client when the same is ready. The driver has to define the type of the callback by defining the Ls1234Client trait in this case:

      
      #![allow(unused_variables)]
      fn main() {
      pub trait Ls1234Client {
      	 fn callback(light_reading: usize);
      }
      }
      

      Note that the client is stored in an OptionalCell. This allows the callback to not be set initially, and configured at bootup.

    Your driver may require other state to be stored as well. You can update this struct as needed to for state required to successfully implement the driver. Note that if the state needs to be updated at runtime it will need to be stored in a cell type. See the cell documentation for more information on the various cell types in Tock.

    Note: your driver should not keep any state in the struct that is also stored by the hardware. This easily leads to bugs when that state becomes out of sync, and makes further development on the driver difficult.

    The last step is to write a function that enables creating an instance of your driver. By convention, the function is called new() and looks something like:

    
    #![allow(unused_variables)]
    fn main() {
    impl Ls1234<'a> {
        pub fn new(i2c: &'a dyn I2CDevice, buffer: &'static mut [u8]) -> Ls1234<'a> {
            Ls1234 {
                i2c: i2c,
                alarm: alarm,
                state: Cell::new(State::Disabled),
                client: OptionalCell::empty(),
            }
        }
    }
    }
    

    This function will get called by the board's main.rs file when the driver is instantiated. All of the static objects or configuration that the driver requires must be passed in here. In this example, a reference to the I2C device and the static buffer for passing messages must be provided.

    Checkpoint: You have defined the struct which will become the driver for the IC.

  2. Implement the logic to interface with the IC.

    Now, you will actually write the code that interfaces with the IC. This requires extending the impl of the driver struct with additional functions appropriate for your particular IC.

    With our light sensor example, we likely want to write a sample function for reading a light sensor value:

    
    #![allow(unused_variables)]
    fn main() {
    impl Ls1234<'a> {
        pub fn new(...) -> Ls1234<'a> {...}
    
        pub fn start_light_reading(&self) {...}
    }
    }
    

    Note that the function name is "start light reading", which is appropriate because of the event-driven, non-blocking nature of the Tock kernel. Actually communicating with the sensor will take some time, and likely requires multiple messages to be sent to and received from the sensor. Therefore, our sample function will not be able to return the result directly. Instead, the reading will be provided in the callback function described earlier.

    The start reading function will likely prepare the message buffer in a way that is IC-specific, then send the command to the IC. A rough example of that operation looks like:

    
    #![allow(unused_variables)]
    fn main() {
    impl Ls1234<'a> {
        pub fn new(...) -> Ls1234<'a> {...}
    
        pub fn start_light_reading(&self) {
            if self.state.get() == State::Disabled {
                self.buffer.take().map(|buf| {
                    self.i2c.enable();
    
                    // Set the first byte of the buffer to the "on" command.
                    // This is IC-specific and will be described in the IC
                    // datasheet.
                    buf[0] = 0b10100000;
    
                    // Send the command to the chip and update our state
                    // variable.
                    self.i2c.write(buf, 1);
                    self.state.set(State::Enabling);
                });
            }
        }
    }
    }
    

    The start_light_reading() function kicks off reading the light value from the IC and updates our internal state machine state to mark that we are waiting for the IC to turn on. Now the Ls1234 code is finished for the time being and we now wait for the I2C message to finish being sent. We will know when this has completed based on a callback from the I2C hardware.

    
    #![allow(unused_variables)]
    fn main() {
    impl I2CClient for Ls1234<'a> {
        fn command_complete(&self, buffer: &'static mut [u8], error: Error) {
            // Handle what happens with the I2C send is complete here.
        }
    }
    }
    

    In our example, we have to send a new command after turning on the light sensor to actually read a sampled value. We use our state machine here to organize the code as in this example:

    
    #![allow(unused_variables)]
    fn main() {
    impl I2CClient for Ls1234<'a> {
        fn command_complete(&self, buffer: &'static mut [u8], _error: Error) {
            match self.state.get() {
                State::Enabling => {
                    // Put the read command in the buffer and send it back to
                    // the sensor.
                    buffer[0] = 0b10100001;
                    self.i2c.write_read(buf, 1, 2);
                    // Update our state machine state.
                    self.state.set(State::ReadingLight);
                }
                _ => {}
            }
        }
    }
    }
    

    This will send another command to the sensor to read the actual light measurement. We also update our self.state variable because when this I2C transaction finishes the exact same command_complete callback will be called, and we must be able to remember where we are in the process of communicating with the sensor.

    When the read finishes, the command_complete() callback will fire again, and we must handle the result. Since we now have the reading we can call our client's callback after updating out state machine.

    
    #![allow(unused_variables)]
    fn main() {
    impl I2CClient for Ls1234<'a> {
        fn command_complete(&self, buffer: &'static mut [u8], _error: Error) {
            match self.state.get() {
                State::Enabling => {
                    // Put the read command in the buffer and send it back to
                    // the sensor.
                    buffer[0] = 0b10100001;
                    self.i2c.write_read(buf, 1, 2);
                    // Update our state machine state.
                    self.state.set(State::ReadingLight);
                }
                State::ReadingLight => {
                    // Extract the light reading value.
                    let mut reading: u16 = buffer[0] as 16;
                    reading |= (buffer[1] as u16) << 8;
    
                    // Update our state machine state.
                    self.state.set(State::Disabled);
    
                    // Trigger our callback with the result.
                    self.client.map(|client| client.callback(reading));
                }
                _ => {}
            }
        }
    }
    }
    

    Note: likely the sensor would need to be disabled and returned to a low power state.

    At this point your driver can read the IC and return the information from the IC. For your IC you will likely need to expand on this general template. You can add additional functions to the main struct implementation, and then expand the state machine to implement those functions. You may also need additional resources, like GPIO pins or timer alarms to implement the state machine for the IC. There are examples in the capsules/src folder with drivers that need different resources.

Optional Steps

  1. Provide a HIL interface for the IC driver.

    The driver so far has a very IC-specific interface. That is, any code that uses the driver must be written specifically with that IC in mind. In some cases that may be reasonable, for example if the IC is very unusual or has a very unique set of features. However, many ICs provide similar functionality, and higher-level code can be written without knowing what specific IC is being used on a particular hardware platform.

    To enable this, some IC types have HILs in the kernel/src/hil folder in the sensors.rs file. Drivers can implement one of these HILs and then higher-level code can use the HIL interface rather than a specific IC.

    To implement the HIL, you must implement the HIL trait functions:

    
    #![allow(unused_variables)]
    fn main() {
    impl AmbientLight for Ls1234<'a> {
        fn set_client(&self, client: &'static dyn AmbientLightClient) {
    
        }
    
        fn read_light_intensity(&self) -> ReturnCode {
    
        }
    }
    }
    

    The user of the AmbientLight HIL will implement the AmbientLightClient and provide the client through the set_client() function.

  2. Provide a userspace interface for the IC driver.

    Sometimes the IC is needed by userspace, and therefore needs a syscall interface so that userspace applications can use the IC. Please refer to a separate guide on how to implement a userspace interface for a capsule.

Wrap-Up

Congratulations! You have implemented an IC driver as a capsule in Tock! We encourage you to submit a pull request to upstream this to the Tock repository. Tock is happy to accept capsule drivers even if no boards in the Tock repository currently use the driver.