Embedded Toolbox: GUIs, GUIs Everywhere with Qt for MCUs

October 18, 2019 Brandon Lewis

Thanks to the smartphone revolution, everyone wants interactive graphical user interfaces on everything. Unfortunately, just because something integrates a processing element or has a network connection doesn't mean it can support a flashy GUI.
Or does it?
Historically, the types of GUIs we're talking about have required applications processors, better known in the embedded engineering world as microprocessors. These integrate the clock speed and memory to support GUIs that run on top of full-blown operating systems.
Lower in the food chain sit microcontrollers (MCUs), which run small-footprint real-time operating systems or, sometimes, no RTOS at all. They don't posses nearly the performance or memory to run sophisticated user interfaces like those created within the Qt framework for high-end thermostats and in-vehicle displays. 
But if you can't bring the MCU to the GUI, sometimes you have to bring the GUI to the MCU.
Qt recently announced Qt for MCUs, a lightweight GUI development environment that uses the familiar QML language but compresses the executables into packages that can run on 32-bit micros. It currently supports MCU offerings from ST Microelectronics, NXP, and Renesas, and provides demos for applications like touchscreen thermostats and vehicle instrumentation clusters.
In this episode of Embedded Toolbox, Qt's own Aurindam Jana walks us through the new GUI development tool, building a dynamic instrument cluster along the way. Get ready for GUIs everywhere.
To start bringing sleek user interfaces into your next small-footprint design, sign up for a free Qt for MCUs evaluation pack at https://www.qt.io/qt-for-mcu.
Questions? Leave a comment. 

About the Author

Brandon Lewis

Brandon Lewis, Editor-in-Chief of Embedded Computing Design, is responsible for guiding the property's content strategy, editorial direction, and engineering community engagement, which includes IoT Design, Automotive Embedded Systems, the Power Page, Industrial AI & Machine Learning, and other publications. As an experienced technical journalist, editor, and reporter with an aptitude for identifying key technologies, products, and market trends in the embedded technology sector, he enjoys covering topics that range from development kits and tools to cyber security and technology business models. Brandon received a BA in English Literature from Arizona State University, where he graduated cum laude. He can be reached by email at brandon.lewis@opensysmedia.com.

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