Multimaster vs Polled I2C Throughput, Good Implementations?

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I'm considering whether to use a polled vs multimaster I2C network to
connect a main controller to a few subsystems (in the same box).  I propose
to use a standard interface such as I2C because I need the flexibility to
mix and match (my custom-made) modules in various configurations.  I also
need to maximize throughput, and keep latency reasonable.

Am I better off polling, which costs some bandwidth for the poll messages,
or am I better off making the low latency devices masters and transmitting
when needed.   How much does throughput suffer due to multiples masters
contending for the bus?  Also to manage latency, I assume I would have to
keep all transmissions short since there is no way of interrupting a

Another question:  Can anyone comment on the quality of the I2C (or SMBUS)
hardware inplementation in Atmel and Cygnal microcontrollers?  Any brands of
microcontrollers to avoid?

Note:  I've also considered the CAN protocol which is more suitable in some
ways, but it seems like overkill to connect a few local devices, and further
limits the choice of microcontrollers.

- Chris

Re: Multimaster vs Polled I2C Throughput, Good Implementations?

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There is no general answer to this question.

You will have to calculate your worst case latency and service
requirements for several different systems.  Then you will need
to estimate the software overhead for both polling and multi-master
and calculate collision frequencies.

If you can you are better off with a single-master system: much
simpler and deterministic.  Calculate if you can live with polling,
if so then I would go that way and not look back.

I do not know what your system is like.  If message size and inter-
arrival times are variable you may need to investigate queuing
theory.  In general the average communication load should not
exceed ~1/3 of peak load.

Nicholas O. Lindan, Cleveland, Ohio
Consulting Engineer:  Electronics; Informatics; Photonics.
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Re: Multimaster vs Polled I2C Throughput, Good Implementations?
Be careful of the devices you choose.
The PIC16F876 will only clock stretch on transmit, not receive.
This limits the entire systems maximum clock rate to PICs ability.
Supposedly the PIC16F876a fixed that problem, and now clock stretches on
both TX and RX.

IMO, I2C is a pain in the rear to implement compared to UART based
If you plan on doing multi-master I2C arbitration, double the pain factor.

If you can find a high baud rate that all your modules can co-exist happily
consider going with RS232 or RS485. Go I2C only when you have no other

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