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Troubleshooting I2C Interface

I2C, or Inter-Integrated Circuit, is a chip-to-chip interface supporting two-wire communication. Instrument Control Toolbox™ I2C support lets you open connections with individual chips and to read and write over the connections to individual chips.

The Instrument Control Toolbox I2C interface lets you do chip-to-chip communication using an Aardvark or NI-845x host adapter. Some applications of this interface include communication with SPD EEPROM and NVRAM chips, communication with SMBus devices, controlling accelerometers, accessing low-speed DACs and ADCs, changing settings on color monitors using the display data channel, changing sound volume in intelligent speakers, reading hardware monitors and diagnostic sensors, visualizing data sent from an I2C sensor, and turning on or off the power supply of system components.

Supported Platforms

You need to have either a Total Phase Aardvark I2C/SPI Host Adapter or an NI-845x adapter board installed to use the I2C interface.

The I2C interface is supported on these platforms when used with the Aardvark host adapter:

  • Linux® – The software works with Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4 and 5 with kernel 2.6. It may also be successful with SuSE and Ubuntu distributions.

  • Microsoft® Windows® 64-bit


For R2018b and R2018a, you cannot use the Aardvark adapter for I2C or SPI interfaces on the macOS platform. You can still use it on Windows and Linux. For releases prior to R2018a, you can use it on all three platforms, including macOS.

The I2C interface is supported on these platforms when used with the NI-845x host adapter:

  • Microsoft Windows 64-bit

For updates to the list of currently supported platforms for MATLAB®, see System Requirements.

Adapter Requirements

You need to have either a Total Phase Aardvark I2C/SPI Host Adapter or an NI-845x adapter board installed to use the I2C interface. The following sections describe requirements for each option.

Aardvark-specific Requirements

To use the I2C interface with the Aardvark adapter, make sure you install the following software.

  1. Install the Total Phase USB Drivers for Windows or Linux. Verify that the Aardvark adapter appears in the Windows Device Manager under the USB section.

  2. Uninstall any existing Aardvark Software API on your computer. Download and install the Instrument Control Toolbox Support Package for Total Phase™ Aardvark I2C/SPI™ Interface. For more information, see Install the Total Phase Aardvark I2C/SPI Interface Support Package.

Make sure that the Aardvark adapter is connected to your computer using the USB connector.

Optionally, you can also check that the Aardvark adapter is working properly in the Total Phase Control Center Serial Software.

NI-845x-specific Requirements

To use the I2C interface with the NI-845x adapter, download the hardware support package to obtain the latest driver, if you do not already have the driver installed. If you already have the latest driver installed, you do not need to download this support package.

If you do not have the NI-845x driver installed, see Install the NI-845x I2C/SPI Interface Support Package to install it.

Configuration and Connection

  1. Make sure that you have the correct instrument driver installed for your device. Refer to your device’s documentation and the vendor’s web site.

  2. Make sure your device is supported in Instrument Control Toolbox. See Is My Hardware Supported?.

  3. You must have a Total Phase Aardvark host adapter or an NI-845x adapter board installed to use the i2c interface. Install the appropriate support package if you have not already. See Adapter Requirements.

    Make sure that your I2C adapter board is plugged into the computer running MATLAB. You can verify that you have one of the adapters installed by using the instrhwinfo function with the i2c interface name.

    If you do not see either aardvark or ni845x listed, you need to install one of the support packages or install the driver directly from the vendor.

  4. Make sure that Instrument Control Toolbox recognizes your device, by using the instrhwinfo function with the i2c interface name, and your adapter name, either aardvark or ni845x. For example:

    instrhwinfo('i2c', 'Aardvark')
    ans = 
              AdaptorDllName: [1x127 char]
           AdaptorDllVersion: 'Version 3.0.0'
                 AdaptorName: 'aardvark'
           InstalledBoardIds: 0
       ObjectConstructorName: 'i2c('aardvark', BoardIndex, RemoteAddress);'
               VendorDllName: 'aardvark.dll'
     VendorDriverDescription: 'Total Phase I2C Driver'

    You will need the information displayed to create the i2c object. If your device is not displayed, check the previous steps.

  5. Make sure you can create the i2c object. You must provide three arguments to create the object. BoardIndex is usually 0, and Vendor is either aardvark or ni845x. The RemoteAddress is specific to your device. Read the documentation of the chip in order to know what the remote address is. For example, in this case we create an object to communicate with an eeprom chip at remote address 50h:

    % Vendor = aardvark
    % BoardIndex = 0
    % RemoteAddress = 50
    eeprom = i2c('aardvark', 0, '50h');


    You can also see what the remote address of the chip is by scanning for instruments in the Test & Measurement Tool. In the tool, right-click the I2C node and select Scan for I2C adaptors. Any chips found by the scan are listed in the hardware tree. The listing includes the remote address of the chip.

  6. If you do not get an error, the object was created successfully. To verify, you can look at the object properties, using the name you assigned to the object, eeprom in this case.

  7. Make sure you can connect to the device, using the fopen function with the object name.


    If you do not get an error, the connection was made successfully. If you do get an error, follow the steps in the error message and/or check the previous steps listed here.

  8. When you have connected, you can communicate with your device. See Transmitting Data Over the I2C Interface for an example of reading and writing to a chip.