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GPIOs are commonly used in router devices for buttons or leds. They only safely supply or sink (pull to GND) a maximum of 4mA aprox., and the voltage is usually 3V when active. Only two states are posible: high or low. Depending on how a device is activated by a GPIO, active low or active high is defined.

  • active high: the device is activated when the GPIO is HIGH
  • active low: the device is activated when the GPIO is LOW

In this image you can see how a GPIO is wired to buttons or leds, to work as active low or high

GPIOs can be used for complex tasks:

kernel module description
1-wire kmod-w1-master-gpio 1-wire bus master
PWM kmod-pwm-gpio pulse width modulator
SPI kmod-spi-gpio bitbanging Serial Peripheral Interface
kmod-mmc-over-gpio MMC/SD card over GPIO
I2C kmod-i2c-gpio bitbanging I2C
LIRC GPIO blaster
no official module yet
Linux Infrared Remote Control
Rotary encoder kmod-input-gpio-encoder GPIO rotary encoder
rcswitch-kmod rcswitch-kmod (not yet packaged in OpenWrt) 433 MHz RC power outlets (switches)

You can connect 5V digital signal sensors if you use a voltage devider to get a 3.3V range signal.You need to get acces to GND and 5V-power from the router and connect the sensor to them. Sensor signal output is in the 5V range, connect it to the voltage devider!

GPIO Interrupts

GPIO interrupts are useful when a GPIO is used as input and you need to manage high signal frequencies. Without interrupts, GPIO inputs must be managed using the polling method. With polling you cannot manage signal inputs with high frequencies.

Not all boards have GPIO interrupts. For example bcm63xx SoCs haven't GPIO interrupts and that's because their buttons are polled. As a result of this, some input drivers listed above won't work in these boards.


In linux GPIOs can be accesed through GPIO SYSFS interface: /sys/class/gpio/

In this example we will use GPIO29 and use it as a switch.

First step is making GPIO available in Linux:

echo "29" > /sys/class/gpio/export
then you need to decide if it will be input or output, as we will use it as a switch so we need output
echo "out" > /sys/class/gpio/gpio29/direction
and last line turns GPIO on or off with 1 or 0:
echo "1" > /sys/class/gpio/gpio29/value

To control GPIOs you can use gpioctl-sysfs. Also manually or with this simple script you can control GPIOs not used by buttons or leds.

    printf "\ <gpio pin number> [in|out [<value>]]\n"
if [ \( $# -eq 0 \) -o \( $# -gt 3 \) ] ; then
    printf "\n\nERROR: incorrect number of parameters\n"
    exit 255
#doesn't hurt to export a gpio more than once
(echo $1 > /sys/class/gpio/export) >& /dev/null
if [  $# -eq 1 ] ; then
   cat /sys/class/gpio/gpio$1/value
   exit 0
if [ \( "$2" != "in" \) -a  \( "$2" != "out" \) ] ; then
    printf "\n\nERROR: second parameter must be 'in' or 'out'\n"
    exit 255
echo $2 > /sys/class/gpio/gpio$1/direction
if [  $# -eq 2 ] ; then
   cat /sys/class/gpio/gpio$1/value
   exit 0
if [ $VAL -ne 0 ] ; then
echo $VAL > /sys/class/gpio/gpio$1/value 

Finding GPIO pins on the PCB

Sometimes you do not know where the physical GPIO pins are on your device's PCB. In that case, you can use this little script and a multimeter to find out.

cd /sys/class/gpio
for i in `seq $1 $2`; do
echo $i > export; echo out >gpio$i/direction
nums=`seq $1 $2`
while true; do
  for i in $nums; do
     echo 0 > gpio$i/value
  sleep 1
  for i in $nums; do
     echo 1 > gpio$i/value
  sleep 1

  1. Start with ./gpio 0 30, which means pin 0 to 30
  2. Press ctrl-c to stop the script, then check which GPIOs have been created: find /sys/class/gpio/gpio*
  3. Restart the script and measure with a multimeter which pins "blink".
  4. When you find one, then cut the 0-30 range from above in half;
  5. Repeat until you have identified the gpio number
doc/hardware/port.gpio.txt · Last modified: 2015/03/01 12:01 by danitool