Hardware Abstraction Layer


The Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL) in Mynewt is a low-level, base peripheral abstraction. HAL provides a core set of services that is implemented for each MCU supported by Mynewt. Device drivers are typically the software libraries that initialize the hardware and manage access to the hardware by higher layers of software. In the Mynewt OS, the layers can be depicted in the following manner.

|            app            |
|          (n)drivers       |
|     HAL     |     BSP     |
  • The Board Support Package (BSP) abstracts board specific configurations e.g. CPU frequency, input voltage, LED pins, on-chip flash map etc.

  • The Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL) abstracts architecture-specific functionality. It initializes and enables components within a master processor. It is designed to be portable across all the various MCUs supported in Mynewt (e.g. Nordic’s nRF51, Nordic’s nRF52, NXP’s MK64F12 etc.). It includes code that initializes and manages access to components of the board such as board buses (I2C, PCI, PCMCIA, etc.), off-chip memory (controllers, level 2+ cache, Flash, etc.), and off-chip I/O (Ethernet, RS-232, display, mouse, etc.)

  • The driver sits atop the BSP and HAL. It abstracts the common modes of operation for each peripheral device connected via the standard interfaces to the processor. There may be multiple driver implementations of differing complexities for a particular peripheral device. The drivers are the ones that register with the kernel’s power management APIs, and manage turning on and off peripherals and external chipsets, etc.

General design principles

  • The HAL API should be simple. It should be as easy to implement for hardware as possible. A simple HAL API makes it easy to bring up new MCUs quickly.

  • The HAL API should portable across all the various MCUs supported in Mynewt (e.g. Nordic’s nRF51, Nordic’s nRF52, NXP’s MK64F12 etc.).


A Mynewt contributor might write a light-switch driver that provides the functionality of an intelligent light switch. This might involve using a timer, a General Purpose Output (GPO) to set the light to the on or off state, and flash memory to log the times the lights were turned on or off. The contributor would like this package to work with as many different hardware platforms as possible, but can’t possibly test across the complete set of hardware supported by Mynewt.

Solution: The contributor uses the HAL APIs to control the peripherals. The Mynewt team ensures that the underlying HAL devices all work equivalently through the HAL APIs. The contributors library is independent of the specifics of the hardware.


To include the HAL within your project, simply add it to your package dependencies as follows:

    . . .

Platform Support

Not all platforms (MCU and BSP) support all HAL devices. Consult your MCU or BSP documentation to find out if you have hardware support for the peripherals you are interested in using. Once you verify support, then consult the MCU implementation and see if the specific HAL interface (xxxx) you are using is in the mcu/<mcu-name>/src/hal_xxxx.c implementation. Finally, you can build your project and ensure that there are no unresolved hal_xxxx externals.