Arduino SPI Communication Example


This tutorial describes how to set up and use the on-chip Serial Peripheral Interface (SPI) of the Arduino Board. Most AVR devices come with an on board SPI and can be configured according to requirements. This tutorial contains, theoretical background and the steps to configure the SPI to run in both master mode and slave mode.

A Serial Peripheral Interface (SPI) bus is a system for serial communication, which uses up to four conductors, commonly three. One conductor is used for data receiving, one for data sending, one for synchronization and one alternatively for selecting a device to communicate with. It is a full duplex connection, which means that the data is sent and received simultaneously. The maximum baud rate is higher than that in the I2C communication system.

General Description of the SPI

The SPI allows high-speed synchronous data transfer between the AVR and peripheral devices or between several AVR devices. On most parts the SPI has a second purpose where it is used for In System Programming (ISP).
The interconnection between two SPI devices always happens between a master device and a slave device. Compared to some peripheral devices like sensors, which can only run in slave mode, the SPI of the AVR can be configured for both master and slave mode. The mode the AVR is running in is specified by the settings of the master bit (MSTR) in the SPI control register (SPCR). Special considerations about the SS pin have to be taken into account for Multi Slave Systems.
The master is the active part in this system and has to provide the clock signal a serial data transmission is based on. The slave is not capable of generating the clock signal and thus can not get active on its own. The slave just sends and receives data, if the master generates the necessary clock signal. The master, however, generates the clock signal only while sending data. That means the master has to send data to the slave to read data from the slave.

SPI uses the following four wires −

  • SCK − This is the serial clock driven by the master.
  • MOSI − This is the master output / slave input driven by the master.
  • MISO − This is the master input / slave output driven by the master.
  • SS − This is the slave-selection wire.

The following functions are used. You have to include the SPI.h.

  • SPI.begin() − Initializes the SPI bus by setting SCK, MOSI, and SS to outputs, pulling SCK and MOSI low, and SS high.
  • SPI.setClockDivider(divider) − To set the SPI clock divider relative to the system clock. On AVR based boards, the dividers available are 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64 or 128. The default setting is SPI_CLOCK_DIV4, which sets the SPI clock to one-quarter of the frequency of the system clock (5 Mhz for the boards at 20 MHz).
  • SPI.transfer(val) − SPI transfer is based on a simultaneous send and receive: the received data is returned in receivedVal.
  • SPI.beginTransaction(SPISettings(speedMaximum, dataOrder, dataMode)) − speedMaximum is the clock, dataOrder(MSBFIRST or LSBFIRST), dataMode(SPI_MODE0, SPI_MODE1, SPI_MODE2, or SPI_MODE3).

We have four modes of operation in SPI as follows −

  • Mode 0 (the default) − Clock is normally low (CPOL = 0), and the data is sampled on the transition from low to high (leading edge) (CPHA = 0).
  • Mode 1 − Clock is normally low (CPOL = 0), and the data is sampled on the transition from high to low (trailing edge) (CPHA = 1).
  • Mode 2 − Clock is normally high (CPOL = 1), and the data is sampled on the transition from high to low (leading edge) (CPHA = 0).
  • Mode 3 − Clock is normally high (CPOL = 1), and the data is sampled on the transition from low to high (trailing edge) (CPHA = 1).
  • SPI.attachInterrupt(handler) − Function to be called when a slave device receives data from the master.

Now, we will connect two Arduino UNO boards together; one as a master and the other as a slave.

  • (SS) : pin 10
  • (MOSI) : pin 11
  • (MISO) : pin 12
  • (SCK) : pin 13

The ground is common. Following is the diagrammatic representation of the connection between both the boards −

Let us see examples of SPI as Master and SPI as Slave.

Arduino SPI as Master

Master unit sends hello world data to slave unit.

#include <SPI.h>

void setup (void) {
   Serial.begin(115200); //set baud rate to 115200 for usart
   digitalWrite(SS, HIGH); // disable Slave Select
   SPI.begin ();
   SPI.setClockDivider(SPI_CLOCK_DIV8);//divide the clock by 8

void loop (void) {
   char c;
   digitalWrite(SS, LOW); // enable Slave Select
   // send test string
   for (const char * p = "Hello, world!\r" ; c = *p; p++) 
      SPI.transfer (c);
   digitalWrite(SS, HIGH); // disable Slave Select

Arduino SPI as Slave

Slave unit waits for data as soon as data is arrived process variable becomes true, indicating there is data in buffer. in main loop we read this buffer and send to serial terminal.

#include <SPI.h>
char buff [50];
volatile byte indx;
volatile boolean process;

void setup (void) {
   Serial.begin (115200);
   pinMode(MISO, OUTPUT); // have to send on master in so it set as output
   SPCR |= _BV(SPE); // turn on SPI in slave mode
   indx = 0; // buffer empty
   process = false;
   SPI.attachInterrupt(); // turn on interrupt

ISR (SPI_STC_vect) // SPI interrupt routine 
   byte c = SPDR; // read byte from SPI Data Register
   if (indx < sizeof buff) {
      buff [indx++] = c; // save data in the next index in the array buff
      if (c == '\r') //check for the end of the word
      process = true;

void loop (void) {
   if (process) {
      process = false; //reset the process
      Serial.println (buff); //print the array on serial monitor
      indx= 0; //reset button to zero


Open serial monitor of slave, you will see “Hello, World”.

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