I use the Arduino compatible chipKIT WF32 board. I want to transfer structure data between my board and a Linux PC. Can I do it like the following?

struct data d;
char *tx = (char*)d;

Even if the above code works, the data type size in Arduino and on Linux will vary. Is there a way to serialize the data, like Protocol Buffers on Arduino?

  • 1
    Casting to a char* will make Serial.print expect a null terminated string. So the amount of data transferred will depend on the next zero byte in memory(arbitrary). – user2973 Apr 7 '15 at 15:49

The following solution isn't strictly portable, but it should work as long as both ends are little-endian (most platforms).

You can use the GCC attribute packed to tell the compiler not to pad the fields like this:

struct __attribute__ ((packed)) my_struct {
  char c;
  int32_t n;

Then you can send your struct like this:

Serial.write((uint8_t*) a_my_struct_ptr, sizeof(my_struct));

On the receiving end you just copy the received data to a similarly packed struct. If you would rather use Python over C/C++ you can use the struct module to unserialize the data.

I just googled your product and the MIPS processor is bi-endian, but I will assume that it is configured for little-endian by default. You can try and see if ints keep their value after transmit. Also remember to use explicit size types such as int16_t, uint64_t, etc.

  • This may get messy - is an int 32 bits on the chipkit reflecting its processor's actual word width, or is it 16 bits for compatibility with ATmega-insipired Arduinos? It probably makes sense to use explicit width types on both ends. – Chris Stratton Apr 8 '15 at 12:41
  • Yes you are right I forgot to consider that, I've updated the answer to use fixed size types. – user2973 Apr 8 '15 at 20:32
  • Is the sizeof struct really equal to the size of structure in memory? I think memory padding would pad empty bytes between variable. Correct me if I am wrong. Thanks. – Lion Lai Aug 13 '18 at 18:17
  • @lionlai The __attribute__ ((packed)) makes sure no padding is applied. If padding was used, you would get into trouble trying to send data from eg. an 8 bit platform to a 32 bit one. However, sizeof does represent the size of the structure in memory including padding. Try this on eg. x86 printf("%d\n", sizeof(struct {uint8_t a; uint32_t b;})); It should print 8 (remember to include stdint.h). – user2973 Aug 15 '18 at 7:56

I usually send structures from arduino via serial port to PC and use the memcpy function to do it. Let's say you have the struct data d (as pointed by the comments the memcpy as unnecessary. Use cast or union):

 struct data state;
 len = sizeof(state);
 Serial.write((uint8_t *)&state,len);

It is useful to create a starting and ending character to delimit your important data and make sure you receive all data and good information. Let me give you one of my recent work example:


void send_state(){
 len = sizeof(state);
 Serial.write((uint8_t *)&state, len);

In this example the struct state is preceded with "S" (start) and succeeded with "E". Then in python, for example, you can get the data using the unpack function. In my case:


# wait for data from arduino
myByte = port.read(1)
if myByte == 'S':
    data = port.read(39)
    myByte = port.read(1)
    if myByte == 'E':
        # is  a valid message struct
        new_values = unpack('<c6BH14B4f', data)


See if arduino sends data in little endian. The one I have used to send it.

  • What do you hope to achieve by re-buffering the data especially on the transmit side? It is already in memory, so if you have a reason for making a copy of it, that should be stated. – Chris Stratton Apr 22 '17 at 17:52
  • Thanks for pointing out. Indeed it is not necessary (and even stupid). I do not really remember any particular reason for that, but looking at it after all this time, I would guess it was some newbie mistake due to compile error related to the Serial.write expecting uint8_t and I (stupidly) made that work around. The simple cast should be enough or more safely, as I've been learning here, using unions right? – brtiberio Apr 27 '17 at 17:43

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