Embedded Toolbox: GUIs, GUIs Everywhere with Qt for MCUs

October 18, 2019


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.