Atmega32u4 MCU takes center stage in wearable tech challenge

Known as “FLORA,” Adafruit’s wearable electronics platform is built around Atmel’s Atmega32u4 MCU. The microcontroller boasts built-in USB support, eliminating the need for pesky special cables and extra parts.

According to Adafruit’s Limor Fried, FLORA is extremely “beginner-friendly.” Indeed, the device is difficult to accidentally destroy by connecting a battery backwards, thanks to a polarized connector and protection diodes. Meanwhile, an onboard regulator ensures even connecting a 9V battery won’t result in damage or tears.

Numerous Makers are using FLORA to design a wide range of creations, a fact that has caught the eye of the folks at element14. To be sure, the Newark Corporation recently issued a challenge to engineers and Makers to develop their own piece of wearable technology. The platform of choice for the contest? Adafruit’s versatile FLORA kit.

“Wearable technology is incredibly popular at the moment. Yet, we’re still waiting for a product that brings wearable technology together with clothing and that’s what makes this competition and the Adafruit kit stand out,” explained Dianne Kibbey, Global Head of Community, element14.

“In this challenge we’re calling on our talented community to create something new in wearable technology that will make a difference to the everyday lives of the user. From tracking the vulnerable or elderly to finding a lost handbag in a nightclub, wearable technology is only just getting started and has the potential to do so much and this is why we’re all really looking forward to seeing the submissions in this competition.”

As previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, Atmel is right in the middle of the wearable tech revolution. First off, Atmel’s SAM4S and tinyAVR MCUs are inside the Agent smart-watch which recently hit Kickstarter. Atmel MCUs have also tipped up in a number of Maker projects for wearable tech, like the LED pocket watch we featured earlier this month.

Clearly, wearable tech is getting a long overdue makeover, as Internet-linked computers are woven into formerly brainless attire such as glasses, bracelets and shoes.

“We are heading for the wearable computing era,” Gartner analyst Van Baker told the AFP. “People are going to be walking around with personal area networks on their bodies and have multiple devices that talk to each other and the Web.”

Ben Arnold, director of industry analysis for consumer technology at NPD, expressed similar sentiments.

“Traditional technology companies will have to start paying attention to how sensors are enabling us to live,” he added. “Consumers are ultimately going to become more aware of their data in the digital ether. I suspect wearables are going to disrupt the way tech firms are doing business now.”

12 thoughts on “Atmega32u4 MCU takes center stage in wearable tech challenge

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