I am using the MATLAB Arduino Support Package to create a setup where I can read force data from a load cell and positional data from an incremental encoder - then plot them on MATLAB. It must be done at the same time in order to produce a material stress-strain curve.

I am thinking of using the SPI Device functions to do this.

Can the data from the load cell and encoder be read synchronously?

  • Hint: What sample frequency do you wish to achieve? Can you synchronize sampling and then read in sequence? Can you read with a higher frequency and then average to match a wanted synchronized frequency? Commented May 19, 2016 at 20:12

2 Answers 2


Yes and No. Synchronously in development slang means step-by-step execution. Asyncronously mean by some event.

Arduino has only one core. Even if you use interrupt, Arduino can only execute one command at once.

Best way for you I guess would be read both on Arduino and combine into single value to read at once. Just reading both with readDigitalPin would give huge latency.

  • If I were to read both data inputs on Arduino and combine into a single value would there still be differences in time for those read values? Or can Arduino execute one command to both peripheral devices at the same time?
    – rtkilian
    Commented Feb 19, 2016 at 14:59
  • It is impossible to read both values at once with one microcontroller. Only if you combine it with external digital logic into single analog signal. But latency of reating both one by one on arduino microcontroller would be close to its frequency. Commented Feb 19, 2016 at 15:10

Truly parallel sampling is rarely needed. Especially if you can separate the triggering (latching) of a reading in the peripheral from the act of subsequently transferring the latched value over SPI, it is likely you can merely trigger both in quick turn and then read them out in slightly slower turn.

But if you truly need simultaneous reading, then you will need a workaround. The ATmega used in classic Arduinos only has one hardware SPI engine. But you can also implement a software or "bit bang" SPI master using arbitrary digital I/O pins.

Typically this is done with single-bit GPIO operations, but if you place the critical SPI signals for both chips (probably SCLK, the others are usually only sampled at changes in that) on distinct pins of the same GPIO port, then you can use whole port operations at raw AVR level (below the Arduino API level) to drive them at effectively the same time.

To make this work, you would do the following:

1) For each SPI peripheral, figure out exactly at what transition of what part of what access sampling occurs. Make sure to include any internal setup or latency within the chip in the determination.

2) Start the access to whichever peripheral takes longer using port-wide operations which preserve the status of bits not related to this peripheral.

3) Add the access to the peripheral which takes less setup before the sampling instant by starting to include the bits connected to that in the values to be changed in the port wide GPIO operation.

4) Use a similar port-wide operation to trigger the critical sampling operation for both devices at the same time

5) Continue with whatever followup each device needs, and stop updating its pins when no more operations are needed by that device.

Do be aware that some SPI devices, particularly those which are ADC's or having ADC type behavior internally, can be quite sensitive to jitter or timing variation in the clock edges. You may want to look at using an interrupt or even a hardware counter/time or the SPI peripheral to generate the SCLK edges, and operate the other signals with interrupt driven software slaved to that.

Again, in most cases true parallelism will not be needed. But if it is needed methods such as this can achieve it at the cost of intricate software.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.