The Atmel-ARM connection

Atmel currently offers the broadest portfolio of MCUs (microcontroller units) based on the two most popular 8- and 32-bit architectures – AVR and ARM. 

“Flexible, highly integrated Atmel ARM-based MCUs are designed to optimize system control, user interface (UI) management and ease of use,” Atmel Digital Marketing Manager Tom Vu told Bits & Pieces.


“Indeed, the ARM Cortex-M3 and M4 based architectures share a single integrated development platform (IDP)—Atmel Studio 6. This platform provides time-saving source code with more than 2,000 example projects, access to debuggers/simulators, integration with Atmel QTouch tools for capacitive touch applications and access to the Atmel Gallery online apps store for embedded software or extensions.”

Vu also noted that Atmel’s ARM-based MPUs range from entry-level devices to advanced integrated devices with extensive connectivity, refined interfaces and a plethora of security options.

“Whether you are working on new, existing or legacy designs, a wide range of Atmel ARM-based devices provides the latest features and functionality. These devices also feature the lowest power consumption, a comprehensive set of integrated peripherals and high-speed connectivity,” he added.

As previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, Atmel’s SAM4 and SAMA5D3 ARM-based MCUs are used to power a number of industrial and consumer devices including thermostats, remote process control nodes, smart glucose meters, gateway concentrators, bar-code scanners and portable outdoor equipment.


Earlier this week, Atmel rolled out its SAM D20 MCU, a comprehensive product lineup based on ARM’s Cortex -M0+. Essentially, the new microcontroller series combines the performance and energy efficiency of an ARM Cortex-M0+ based MCU with an optimized architecture and peripheral set and 8-bit AVR for ease of use – enabling Atmel to reach new markets.

According to Atmel engineering manager Bob Martin, the SAM D20 offers a “truly differentiated” general-purpose lineup that is ideal for a wide range of low-power, cost-sensitive devices, including GPS trackers, appliance controllers, intelligent remotes and optical transceivers.


“The SAM D20’s power-saving techniques include an event system that allows peripherals to communicate directly with each other without involving the CPU, while SleepWalking peripherals wake up the CPU only upon a pre-qualified event, reducing overall power consumption,” Martin told Bits & Pieces.

“In terms of peripheral flexibility, a serial communication module (SERCOM) is fully software configurable to handle I2C, USART/UART and SPI communications. Meaning, with multiple SERCOM modules on a device, designers can precisely tailor the peripheral mix to their applications.”

Bits & Pieces also asked Andreas Eieland, Atmel Sr. Product Marketing Manager, to describe his favorite SAM D20 features.

“Personally, I like the Peripheral Touch Controller and SERCOM. The PTC is by far the easiest way to add capacitive buttons, sliders wheels and proximity to an application. Plus, there is no need for external components and very little SW overhead, as the module is self calibrating – supporting up to 256 channels,” said Eieland.

“Previously, if you wanted 4 UARTs you had to buy a device equipped with 4SPIs and 4 I2Cs. However, the SAM D20’s SERCOM module allows users to configure the SERCOMs to what they need, meaning devs no longer have to pay for serial interfaces they do not use. Lastly, the SERCOM module is fitted with a multiplexer, offering flexibility in regards to what pin different signals are outputted on, thereby simplifying board layout and reducing board area.”

Meanwhile, Brian Hammill, Atmel Sr. Staff Field Applications Engineer, said he most appreciates the SAM D20’s high end analog to digital converter feature.

“The hardware averaging feature facilitates oversampling, making high resolution at sample rates that apply to many real-world sensor requirements reality without extra software overhead,” he explained,


“Sensor nodes in the Internet of Things (IoT) collectively generate a tremendous amount of data. When you’ve got that much data, it had better be good. And reducing the CPU cycles cuts energy use, especially important in applications that use energy harvesting or are battery powered.”

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