Building a remote process control node with Atmel’s SAM4L MCU

A remote process control node is an electronic device that monitors and controls manufacturing in factories, refineries and other industrial environments. Such nodes can either be linked to wired or wireless networks to communicate with a system controller.

Remote process control nodes typically require low active and standby power consumption, as many nodes are battery powered or have significant power restrictions. Plus, nodes are often in remote, inaccessible or physically dangerous locations, making changing batteries somewhat of a complex task.

Similarly, safe and predictable operation is a must, as is the need to detect and respond to alarms with the lowest latency possible. The same is true for secured communication and update capabilities, along with preventing commands and data from being overridden or altered by nefarious hackers.


Atmel’s versatile SAM4L (ARM) Cortex-M4 based MCU (microcontroller) lineup, paired with an ATZigBit RF module (or AT86RF231/232/233 RF transceiver), ATZigBit RF module and an AT30 EEPROM/temperature sensor, can be used to build a safe, secure and reliable remote process control node that more than fulfills the above-mentioned requirements.

“Atmel’s SAM4L offers low active and standby power consumption, safe and predictable operation, and secured communication and update to address the needs of a remote process control node,” an Atmel engineer told us.

“The SAM4L is fully functional down to 1.68V. In active mode, the total power consumption is as low as 90uA/MHz. In backup mode with RTC running, the current consumption is as low as 0.7uA. And last, but certainly not least, the DMA controller, event system and intelligent peripherals with SleepWalking dramatically reduce CPU activity and power consumption.”

It should also be noted that Atmel’s event system has a guaranteed response time, allowing the system to safely detect and respond to alarm conditions. An embedded AES/DES encryption engine ensures secure high data rate communications without waking the CPU, while a hardware-based random number generator (TRNG) facilitates truly secure node identification, along with firmware updates to help prevent hacking.

On the software side, engineers will have easy access to the SAM4L-EK full-featured kit and SAM4S software package for fast development and code evaluation. In addition, Atmel’s Studio 6 & Atmel Software Framework (ASF) supports all Atmel 8-bit and 32-bit MCUs. There is also a free IDE (integrated development environment) with compiler, free software libraries of production-ready source code and Common APIs for project portability.

Additional information about Atmel’s SAM4L MCU lineup can be found here.

1 thought on “Building a remote process control node with Atmel’s SAM4L MCU

  1. Pingback: Up close and personal with Atmel’s SAM4L Xplained Pro | Bits & Pieces from the Embedded Design World

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