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HackEEG Arduino Driver

This is the Arduino driver code for the HackEEG Arduino Due shield for the TI ADS1299 EEG system-on-a-chip.

The TI ADS1299 is a 24-bit 8-channel ADC meant specifically for EEG, with 24x programmable gain amplifiers and much of the analog circuitry needed for EEG. It is capable of digitizing 16,000 samples per second at 24 bit resolution. The ADS1299-4 is a 4-channel version of the ADS1299; the ADS1299-6 is a 6-channel version.

Arduino drivers

The src/ directory contains an Arduino sketch and associated C/C++ files that make up a driver for ADS129x chips. So far it has only been tested on the ADS1299, but should work on the other models. This driver has been tested on the Arduino Due and Mega2560, but should also work on other Arduinos. The DMA mode can only be used on the Arduino Due.

The driver has a text-mode interface, so can be used without any client software – just open up a serial port to the SAM3X8E native USB port (line endings NL+CR). It also has a JSONLines mode for easy parsing by client programs and a MessagePack mode for efficient binary communication.

In MessagePack mode, using the Arduino Due's native SPI DMA, driver can read from the ADS1299 at 16,000 samples per second, and can send that data on to the host via the Arduino Due's USB 2.0 High Speed connection at the same rate.

By default the driver uses the Arduino library's software SPI (without DMA), and can read and send 8,000 samples per second in that configuration on the Arduino Due, either in JSON Lines mode or MessagePack mode. Other Arduinos will have lower performance.

When in MessagePack mode, MessagePack format is only used to transfer data in rdata and rdatac commands; all other communication takes place by JSON Lines.

In text mode, samples are encoded using the base64 encoding by default.


You must install the ArduinoJson library before compiling this driver.

Using the Driver

The commands that are available are:

  • RREG – read register. Takes two hex digits as an argument (one byte, for example: FF). Argument 1 is the register to read. Returns a single hex-encoded byte (for example, 0E) that represents the contents of the register.
  • WREG – write register. Takes two hex-encoded bytes as arguments, separated by a space. Argument 1 is the register to write, argument 2 is the register value.
  • RDATA – read one sample of data from the ADS129x chip. Returns 3 bytes of header, plus 3 bytes x number of channels (8 for ADS1298 or ADS1299), encoded using base64 or packed hex in text mode, and JSON Lines byte array, or MessagePack byte array, depending on the protocol
  • RDATAC – start read data continuous mode. Data is read into a buffer in the Arduino RAM, and streamed to the client one sample at a time, either in packed base64 format or packed hex format in text, JSON Lines byte array, or MessagePack byte array, depending on the protocol.
  • SDATAC – stop read data continuous mode.
  • VERSION – reports the driver version
  • SERIALNUMBER – reports the HackEEG serial number (UUID from the onboard 24AA256UID-I/SN I2S EEPROM)
  • LEDON – turns on the Arduino Due onboard LED.
  • LEDOFF – turns off the Arduino Due onboard LED.
  • BOARDLEDON – turns on the HackEEG Shield LED. (HackEEG shield has a blue LED connected to ADS1299 GPIO4)
  • BOARDLEDOFF – turns off the HackEEG Shield LED.
  • BASE64 – RDATA/RDATAC commands will encode data in base64.
  • TEXT – communication protocol switches to text. See the Communication Protocol section.
  • JSONLINES – communication protocol switches from text to JSONLines. This is a text-oriented serialization format with libraries in many languages. See the Communication Protocol section.
  • MESSAGEPACK – communication protocol switches from text to MessagePack for rdatac data only. This is a concise binary serialization format with libraries in many languages. See the Communication Protocol section.
  • HEX – RDATA commands will encode data in hexidecimal format.
  • HELP – prints a list of available commands.

General Operation

The ADS129x chips are configured by reading and writing registers. See the chip datasheet for more information about configuring the ADS129x and reading data from it.

If the host program (the program that reads data from the driver) does not pull data from the serial or USB interface fast enough, the driver will block on sending when the serial or USB buffers fill up. This will cause the driver to lose samples.

The driver uses the Arduino Native port for serial communication, because it is capable of 2 megabits per second or more.

In most applications, the Python 3 usage will go something like this:

#!/usr/bin/env python

SERIAL_PORT_PATH="/dev/cu.usbmodem14434401"  # your actual path to the Arduino Native serial port device goes here
import sys
import hackeeg
from hackeeg import ads1299

hackeeg = hackeeg.HackEEGBoard(SERIAL_PORT_PATH)
sample_mode = ads1299.HIGH_RES_250_SPS | ads1299.CONFIG1_const
hackeeg.wreg(ads1299.CONFIG1, sample_mode)
test_signal_mode = ads1299.INT_TEST_4HZ | ads1299.CONFIG2_const
hackeeg.wreg(ads1299.CONFIG2, test_signal_mode)
hackeeg.wreg(ads1299.CH7SET, ads1299.TEST_SIGNAL | ads1299.GAIN_1X)

# Unipolar mode - setting SRB1 bit sends mid-supply voltage to the N inputs
hackeeg.wreg(ads1299.MISC1, ads1299.SRB1)
# add channels into bias generation
hackeeg.wreg(ads1299.BIAS_SENSP, ads1299.BIAS8P)

while True:
    result = hackeeg.read_response()
    status_code = result.get('STATUS_CODE')
    status_text = result.get('STATUS_TEXT')
    data = result.get(hackeeg.DataKey)
    if data:
        decoded_data = result.get(hackeeg.DecodedDataKey)
        if decoded_data:
            timestamp = decoded_data.get('timestamp')
            ads_gpio = decoded_data.get('ads_gpio')
            loff_statp = decoded_data.get('loff_statp')
            loff_statn = decoded_data.get('loff_statn')
            channel_data = decoded_data.get('channel_data')
            print(f"timestamp:{timestamp} | gpio:{ads_gpio} loff_statp:{loff_statp} loff_statn:{loff_statn} |   ",
            for channel_number, sample in enumerate(channel_data):
                print(f"{channel_number + 1}:{sample} ", end='')


The driver running on the Arduino communicates with the ADS1299 chip via the SPI interface. For data rates from 250 to 8,192 samples per second, the driver can use the Arduino API's built in software SPI. This is simplest.

To use the 16,384 samples per second data rate, or to reduce CPU load on the Arduino Due, the driver can use the Arduino Due's Atmel SAM3X8E CPU's built-in SPI DMA (Direct Memory Access) controller. Using the SPI DMA offloads all SPI communication to the SAM3X8E DMA controller, freeing up the CPU to do other tasks like serial communication.

To enable this, change the following constants in SpiDma.cpp from this:

Arduino software SPI:


To this (HackEEG SPI DMA):


Then recompile and upload the driver sketch to the Arduino.

Communication Protocol

Text mode

The driver starts up in this mode. This mode is easiest to use when quick communication with the board is needed without a client program.

When the command TEXT is given, the driver communication protocol switches to text, and the response will be in text format. Commands can be given in lower or upper case, parameters separated by a space. Responses are given on one line, starting with a status code (200 for OK, errors are in the 300s and 400s.) Commands can be given in upper or lower case.

JSON Lines mode

Give the JSONLINES command to switch to this mode.

When the command JSONLINES is given, the driver communication protocol switches to JSON Lines format, and the response will be in JSON Lines format. Commands and Responses are a single map, with keys and values determine the command and parameters. The format is as follows (on separate lines for readability; in use, the entire JSON blob would be on its own line):


    COMMAND: "<command-name>",
    PARAMETERS: [ <param1>, <param2>, ... ]


    STATUS_CODE: <status-code>,
    STATUS_TEXT: "<status-text>",
    HEADERS: ["header1", "header2", ... ],
    DATA: [value1, value2, value3, ... ]

Here is an example exchange:

{"COMMAND" : "boardledon"}
{"STATUS_CODE" : 200, "STATUS_TEXT": "Ok" }

Headers are optional and may or may not be provided.

JSON Lines concise mode for rdata and rdatc responses

For rdata and rdatac responses, in order to send data at high speeds, a special response format is used that is similar to the MessagePack format:

    C: <status-code>,
    D: "<base64-encoded byte-array>"

In concise JSON Lines mode, status text is omitted. The data is sent as a base64-encoded byte array to minimize transformation of the data into human-readable form. This allows faster transfer. See below for the format of the decoded data byte-array.

Software library

The Arduino driver uses the ArduinoJson library for encoding and decoding JSON Lines data, except for rdata and rdatac messages– those use a custom, optimized sending routine.

MessagePack mode

Give the MESSAGEPACK command to switch to this mode.

When the command MESSAGEPACK is given, the driver communication protocol for rdata and rdatac data packets ONLY switches to MessagePack concise binary format. Commands are still given in JSON Lines format, and responses for all commands other than rdata and rdatac will be in JSON Lines. Responses for rdata and rdatac will be in MessagePack format. This mode is available to improve data transfer speed since the binary data from the SPI interface can be transferred as-is with no copying or transformation.

The format is as follows (on separate lines as JSON for readability, in use this would be packed as a binary structure):


    C: <status-code>,
    D: <byte-array>

In MessagePack mode, status text is omitted.

Software library

The Arduino driver uses the ArduinoJson library for encoding and decoding MessagePack data, except for rdata and rdatac messages– those use a custom, optimized sending routine.

Byte-array Format

The packed byte-array used for rdata and rdatac transfers has this format:

position function byte
00 timestamp 0
01 timestamp 1
02 timestamp 2
03 timestamp 3
04 sample number 0
05 sample number 1
06 sample number 2
07 sample number 3
08 channel 1 0
09 channel 1 1
10 channel 1 2
11 channel 2 0
12 channel 2 1
13 channel 2 2
14 channel 3 0
15 channel 3 1
16 channel 3 2
17 channel 4 0
18 channel 4 1
19 channel 4 2
20 channel 5 0
21 channel 5 1
22 channel 5 2
23 channel 6 0
24 channel 6 1
25 channel 6 2
26 channel 7 0
27 channel 7 1
28 channel 7 2
29 channel 8 0
30 channel 8 1
31 channel 8 2
  • timestamp is an unsigned long, the result of calling the Arduino's micros() function right before the sample is taken.
  • sample number is an unsigned long, the value is incremented for every sample received by the driver. It is reset every time you issue the start command. You can analyze the sample number sequence on the client to see if your client code is dropping or missing samples.
  • For an example Python decoding function, see _decode_data() in the file hackeeg/

HackEEG Python Client Software

There is HackEEG Python client software that can run on macOS, Linux, and Windows, and stream data to Lab Streaming Layer at 16,000 samples per second.


If you are looking for a full Arduino shield with analog input capability, you might be interested in the HackEEG Shield. The HackEEG shield is designed for use with the ADS1299.


This software would not be possible without the help of many people:

  • Kendrick Shaw, Ace Medlock, and Eric Herman (parts of the ADS129x.h header file and some parts of the ADS129x driver,
  • see OpenHardwareExG project for more info.
  • Chris Rorden (some parts of the ADS1298 driver)
  • Stefan Rado (SerialCommand library)
  • Steven Cogswell (SerialCommand library)
  • William Greiman (SPI DMA library)
  • Cristian Maglie (SPI DMA library)
  • Bill Porter (SPI DMA library)
  • Adam Rudd (Base64 library)
  • Benoît Blanchon (ArduinoJson library)

If I forgot to credit you, please let me know!

If you have questions, comments, or improvements, I would love to know them! Pull requests welcome!


Adam Feuer
Starcat LLC
Seattle, WA, USA


Arduino driver software for the HackEEG shield for the TI ADS1299 EEG system-on-a-chip







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