Author Archives: Sylvie Barak

IoT Expo 2014: A ThingTank worth attending

“I’ve got gadgets and gizmos a-plenty, I’ve got whozits and whatzits galore! You want thingamabobs? I’ve got twenty! But who cares? No big deal. I want more!”Arielle, aka The Little Mermaid, discussing the Internet of Things back in 1989.

Who doesn’t love connected things? Right? I mean, it’s one thing to have lots of things, but having lots of connected things that can interact and actually do, um, connected things…well, it’s an awesome thing! Really, it is.

And to celebrate the awesomeness of connected things, web communication company, Kaazing, is holding a conference (or ThingTank, if you will…) on May 5–6, at San Francisco’s Marriott Fisherman’s Wharf.

thingIoT Expo™ 2014 will be the first in a series of conferences being hosted by the firm, with a stellar list of guest speakers coming to tout all things IoT from the connected home, to smart meters, the connected car, smart grids, personal wellness and connected health. Lots to thing about.

For instance, did you know that by 2020, boffins reckon 5 billion people will be using the Web. By then, there will be 10x that number of connected ”things” – probably more.

For those of you not too sharp on the old mental arithmetic, that’s some 50 billion things with trillions of connections between them, always-on, always-connected, and always trying to communicate. Like a hyperactive two-year-old, but with trillions of dollars worth of money making potential.

“[IoT] is seen by many as the next wave of dramatic market growth for semiconductors. If you look at the different estimates made by market analysts, the IoT market will be worth trillions of dollars to a variety of industries from the consumer to financial, industrial, white goods and other market segments,” Reza Kazerounian, Senior VP and GM of the Microcontroller Business Unit at Atmel recently told EEWeb.

“As the semiconductor industry has transitioned from PCs to mobile, IoT will now rise to become the predominant market,” he explained, adding, “this transition will favor ultra-low power and integration of microcontrollers, wireless connectivity, security, touch technologies and sensor management products.”

So, as you can see, Atmel too has a thing about the Internet of Things!

That said, there’s still time to sign up for IoT Expo, and we hear there may even be some special discounts available to the early birds among you Johnny-come-latelys!

Contact to see if you’re eligible for special pricing, or just sign up directly via this link:

Interested in more content on the IoT? Check out Atmel’s extensive archives on the subject here.

Infographic: tracing the touchscreen back to the future

Just a few decades ago, touchscreen technology could only be found in science fiction books and film. However, touchscreens have become so ubiquitous that, today, most children believe displays lacking touch-based interactivity are broken.

Interestingly, the underlying technology for touchscreens can actually be traced back to the 1940s, although they weren’t even remotely physically feasible until at least 1965 when E.A. Johnson of the United Kingdom came up with what historians generally consider the very first finger-driven touchscreen. Nevertheless, it wasn’t until 1982 that the first human-controlled multitouch device was developed at the University of Toronto by Nimish Mehta.

It’s worth noting, at this juncture, that as humans, we have a particular fondness for touch.

Touch is apparently the first sense to develop in humans and may also be the last to fade. We’re also highly sensitive creatures, with five million touch receptors in our skin – 3,000 alone in a finger tip.

The infographic below outlines some of the more historic milestones in touchscreen history, along with some of the wackiest. For example, did you know the world’s largest touch screen is 10 meters long and can accept up to 100 multi-touch inputs at one time? No? Well you do now. This particular screen was developed by a group at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. Similarly, the “coolest” touchscreen ever made was developed by a Nokia Research Center team in Finland in 2010. Bringing a whole new meaning to “freeze frame,” Nokia created a 6.5 foot by 4.9 foot ice wall of touch.

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Of course Atmel has a few milestones of its own when it comes to touch. The firm snapped up Quantum Research Group Ltd., a developer of capacitive sensing IP, in 2008 and has been making its presence felt in the world of touchscreens ever since.

More recently, Atmel successfully developed, manufactured and shipped XSense, which can best be described as a high-performance, highly flexible touch sensor on extremely bendable, flexible plastic, allowing engineers to design devices with curved surfaces.

What’s the big deal about curves, you ask? Well, aside from them being sexier (ask any woman you know), curved screens actually cause a series of optical effects that result in improved contrast, color accuracy, readability, and overall image quality — especially under ambient light.

Another benefit of a curved screen is privacy, because when content is viewed from an off-center angle the content on screen is less visible.

Atmel’s XSense also allows for super accurate handwriting recognition with a stylus, which is useful if your handwriting is anywhere as bad as mine.

And, best of all, XSense is made right here in the USA; designed and manufactured in California and Colorado Springs.

Oh, and don’t forget, if you have a creative idea about what you’d do with a bendable, flexible touchscreen, why not enter our XSense design contest here for a chance to win $1500.

Bend your mind with Atmel’s XSense contest

We all know that bendable, flexible touchscreens are the future, and here at Atmel, we consider ourselves to be riding the crest of that curve with XSense, our high-performance, ultra-flexible touch sensor which allows for some crazy shaped, touch-able devices.

Go to any tech website today, and you’ll see the same ol’, same ol’ curved touchscreen phones and tablets. Cool stuff, but we can’t help feeling there’s got to be something more creative out there.

That’s why we’re inviting you to push past previous touch boundaries and create curved, pliable surfaces for anything you could imagine.


Sure, we have some ideas about how WE would use curved, flexible touchscreens. We want to hear what YOU would build with touch unleashed.

The sky’s the limit when it comes to creativity on this one, folks, so go crazy!

The top 10 creative ideas get automatically entered to become finalists and eligible for a grand prize of $1500!

But, better yet, if you reckon you could actually build whatever it is you’ve just thought up, there’s extra prize money on the line.

While you don’t need technical expertise to win our creative contest, if your design is built firmly around our Atmel Design Contest Sensor Specifications, you could win our XSense technical design contest for an additional $1500.

Or, if you’re feeling lazy, you can just browse other people’s designs and vote for your favorite. Easy!

Sir Mix A Lot hearts Atmel swag

Last week, the Atmel social team engaged in a bit of rap battle banter with our friends from Mouser Electronics and… of all people… Sir Mix A Lot.

Chiming in with some chipper rap rhymes, SMA, Anthony Ray, proved he had mad maker skillz to go with his other more famous talents. Taking advantage of the fact that Ray was performing in San Francisco Friday night, Atmel went to see the show, and bring some hardcore hardware swag for our new favorite bit banger.

Ray has some rather forward thinking ideas of his own when it comes to tech. Talking bendable, flexible touchscreens with Atmel backstage at the show, he showed a keen interest in creating the world’s first interactive full body music armor, as well as mixing decks that could be sliced and diced without impairing functionality. Imagine Mix’s surprise when we told him XSense, Atmel’s bleeding edge touch sensor product, could be just what he was looking for!

Check out some photos of Sir Mix A Lot with his Atmel goodies below:

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Infographic: Atmel’s secret maker sauce – AVR

Maker Faire Rome and World Maker Faire New York may be behind us, but Atmel is by no means finished making a big deal of the Maker Movement this year!

In fact, milling around with the most passionate (oddly dressed) people on the planet only ever serves to galvanize us to put that extra dash of passion into everything we do; into every chip and kit we produce. That’s because somewhere out there is a Maker who will take our kits or chips and build a 3D printer with them, or a nippy little vision sensor robot, or even a smart toilet (yes, seriously)!

It’s always easy to appreciate a finished product, of course. But us Atmelians know that it’s the components that allow people’s designs to really shine… much as a first class meal is only as good as the ingredients used.

Our secret ingredient, of course, is AVR; the little chip that can do big things and create infinite possibilities.

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(Click image to enlarge)

AVR was one of the first microcontrollers to use on-chip flash memory for program storage, pushing the envelope early on. Starting out as a PhD project in Trondheim, Norway, the technology has come a long way, both literally and figuratively!

Available in the tiniest of packages (the ATtiny20 is so small it can almost fit inside the ball of a ballpoint pen) and so low-power it makes Sleeping Beauty look like a fitness instructor, AVR has wowed makers from the get-go.

That’s why AVR was the first choice chip for Maker favorite Arduino. It’s now estimated that around one million Arduinos have been sold to date, and within the next 5 to 10 years, the Arduino will be used in every school to teach electronics and physical computing.

Not to mention how many quadcopters and crazy looking drones AVR powers. Ex Wired Editor, Chris Anderson, estimates that the DIY Drone community currently boasts over 15,000 drones, compared to just 7,000 “professional” drones in use worldwide by military forces. Power to the people, so to speak!

Is it any surprise Atmel almost bursts with pride whenever we find a new AVR project to tout? We’ve even created our own award for Makers with the most creative AVR vision (you’re free to submit your own projects, check out others or just vote for your favorites until the end of December!)

We hope you enjoy some of the fun facts we’ve dug up for our Maker AVR infographic even half as much as we enjoyed making it! Keep creating, folks!

Hot August Nights Fever? Atmel Automotive Infographic

People love their cars. It’s one of those near universal facts. Whether they live in big cities or small rural hamlets, drive a mini or a hummer, there is just something about the sexy vroom vroom of an engine that excites people on a primal level.

Perhaps it’s the destructive force in us that is drawn to what is basically a controlled explosion on wheels. Perhaps it’s something to do with an automobile’s sleek and contoured chassis – or the human need for speed.

Or maybe, it’s because there is a certain zen to be found in tinkering with an engine. Of souping up and optimizing an already lean, mean machine, and making it purr. Somewhere in all of us is an engineer who simply wants to solve puzzles – and what greater puzzle to solve than the many moving parts to be found under the hood?

We at Atmel are especially passionate about the automotive space, having been one of the first semiconductor companies to enter the market, embracing both the productive and the creative passion from the get-go.

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Telefunken (the pre- predecessor of Atmel Automotive) was founded as early as 1903, while the Heilbronn fab in Germany, acquired by Atmel in the 1980’s, was founded way back in 1960.

Atmel’s first success in automotive was (rather fittingly) the electronic ignition IC which, in 1979/1980, was installed in every Volkswagen car.

Another early milestone along Atmel’s automotive roadmap was, ironically, braking. A start-to-stop scenario, so to speak.

The market for connected vehicles is expected to grow to a whopping $53 billion by 2018, with consumers demanding more and more connectivity each year.

A study by Deloitte in 2011 determined that 46% of people between the ages of 18-24 cited connectivity as being “extremely important” to them when it came to cars, with 37% wanting to stay as connected as possible while in their vehicles. A resounding 65% identified remote vehicle control as an important feature in their next automotive purchase; while 77% favored remote diagnostics minimizing dealer visits. And let’s face it, who can blame them?

A 2013 study by Cisco went even further, positing that Vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications could enable cars to detect each other’s presence and location, helping avoid accidents, lower road costs and decrease carbon emissions. The report also found that intelligent cars would lead to 7.5% less time wasted in traffic congestion and 4% lower costs for vehicle fuel.

With over 1 billion passenger cars careening through the world’s streets already, increased digitization can’t come fast enough!

Today, Atmel supplies all 10 of the top 10 tier 1 automotive electronic suppliers in the world, not only with microcontrollers (MCUs), but with touch sensor technology too. Indeed, Atmel’s latest touch innovation, the bendable, flexible, printed wonder that is Xsense, has now been fully qualified and is ready to ramp, meaning sexy curved glass dashboards are closer than you’d imagine… Not bad for a feature originally developed as a piece of wood attached to the front of a horse drawn carriage to prevent mud from splattering the driver!

Atmel is also renowned for being a leading car access supplier, meaning we make the chips that enable cool remote keyless entry (RKE) systems with immobilizers, to reduce the risk of anyone stealing your steel beauty away from you. In fact, Atmel has already delivered over 250 Million ICs for this specific application, so that’s a whole lot of key fobs! Speaking of key fobs, here’s a fun fact; holding a remote car key to your head doubles its range because the human skull acts as an amplifier.

Moving from cool keyfobs to total hotness, it’s also worth noting that Atmel sells some of the highest temperature resistant parts in the market, some of which can handle heat of up to 200°C.

Last, but certainly not least, Atmel boasts the world’s largest portfolio of Local Interconnect Network (LIN) devices, for communication between components in vehicles. The firm’s devices have OEM approvals from all major car manufacturers worldwide, which is certainly something to be proud of.

So next time you find yourself on that long and winding road, kicking into high gear and hugging those curves, spare a thought for the components, because when it comes to cars, the devil really is in the details.

Atmel celebrates July 4th… infographic style

For many, the Fourth of July is all about the festivities and fireworks. Here at Atmel, it’s also a day when we pay tribute to one of the quintessential cornerstones of the nation’s economic engine – manufacturing.

As in other parts of the country, businesses related to manufacturing have always played an important role in Silicon Valley. Throughout most of the 20th century, it was the American manufacturing industry that helped create the foundation for the middle class. It was the engine responsible for propelling the US to global economic prominence, while setting the standard for quality; be it for cars, television sets, or semiconductors.

As manufacturing boomed, industrialization came to change the very fabric of American life, symbiotically.

Today, the semiconductor industry directly employs a quarter of a million people in the U.S. and supports more than one million additional American jobs. In 2012, U.S. semiconductor companies generated $146 billion in sales – helping to make the global trillion dollar electronics industry possible. To be sure, U.S. semiconductor companies currently represent over half the worldwide market and are responsible for one of America’s largest exports.

Even in troubled economic times, the U.S. has managed to add approximately 520,000 manufacturing jobs since January 2010 and supports 17.2 million manufacturing jobs as a whole, with post-recession American manufacturing outpacing other nations. Nearly 12 million (about 1 in 10) people in the U.S. are employed directly in manufacturing.

In 2012, U.S. manufacturing contributed to $1.87 trillion to the economy, up from $1.73 in year prior and every $1 of manufacturing activity returns $1.48 to the U.S. economy. In terms of cost savings, U.S. factories’ access to cheap energy equates to cheaper costs than overseas oil and pricey shipping.

Semiconductors – the little microchips controlling all modern electronics – are part and parcel of the American manufacturing landscape. As the building blocks of technology, they’re an integral part of America’s economic strength, national security and global competitiveness. Even more importantly, they’re used to develop the technologies helping us build a better future.

TIME Magazine recently wrote that new “Made in America” economics is centered largely around cutting-edge technologies, like 3D-printing and robotics, two industries near and dear to Atmel’s heart and that of the Maker Movement we support.

Last December, President Obama made his case for a reinvigorated manufacturing base, a vision that is not unachievable. According to Moody’s, if every American spent an extra $3.33 on U.S. made goods, it would create nearly 10,000 new American jobs.

Although Atmel is an international corporation, we’re awfully proud to be headquartered in Silicon Valley, just as we are to operate a major fab in Colorado Springs.

Happy July 4th to one and all!

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Atmel Makers make mainstream news

At Atmel, we’ve known for a while now that embedded computing is the future, but it’s nice to see the mainstream media catching on! 

ABC recently made it down to Maker Faire in San Mateo, where the crew spent a significant amount of time hanging out at the Atmel booth, talking Internet of Things and, of course, Arduino.

The ABC video even features our very own engineering rockstar, Bob Martin, who spent most of Maker Faire Hexbug hacking.


“There are billions of these parts out there now, it’s in everything,” said Martin.

CEO of Faraday Bicycles, Adam Vollmer also got some ABC airtime to explain the power behind the peddles.

“We got an ambient light sensor that looks at how bright it is, and turns the light on automatically, we’re going to have bluetooth, so it will talk to your phone, it will track where your bike is, how far you’ve ridden, you can adjust the pedal assist,” he explained.

ABC even managed to catch up with Arduino Co-Founder, Massimo Banzi to get his opinion on the open source board revolution.

“I see all this amazing stuff that people are doing, and I am constantly still finding moments where I go, wow,” Banzi said.

You can see more of ABC’s Maker Faire coverage here.

Super Mario question mark lamp lights up Maker Faire

The light of nostalgia was burning bright at Maker Faire last week, thanks to product designer Adam Ellsworth of 8bitlit and his Super Mario question mark block lamp.

The custom-made, touch-activated lamp brings your room one step closer to Mushroom Kingdom, not just with its funky yellow aesthetics, but also its classic Mario Bros. sounds.


Every time you touch (or punch) the lamp on, it rewards you with the classic coin “ding” sound, while every eighth punch triggers the extra life “1-UP” sound for added happiness.

The lamp is made from laser-cut plexiglass and uses four energy efficient LED lights. It comes attached to an 11 foot power cord, but can also double as a bedside lamp with the additional purchase of a custom acrylic stand. Best of all? It runs on Atmel’s AT Tiny Chip.


12 year old CEO shows off Atmel powered robots

Meet Quin, CEO and founder of QTechKnow. Unlike most CEOs, Quin is just 12 years old, but that hasn’t stopped him from running a wildly successful electronics blog, his own YouTube channel and amassing a ton of loyal friends and fans on Twitter. The mini maker has a major passion for electronics and especially Arduino, having racked up a plethora of advanced projects and even making his own PCBs.


Atmel caught up with Quin at Maker Faire in San Mateo last weekend to examine a couple of his creations, the Fuzzbot and the Android DiceBot.

Fuzzbot is an awesome, fast, fully autonomous small Arduino robot which uses the compact Pololu ZumoBot Chassis kit for a great drive system, and uses a Parallax Ping sensor to sense proximity, to make it fully autonomous.


Quin says he likes to think of the Fuzzbot as a cheap and hackable “mini Roomba” because it uses a Swiffer Duster on the back to pick up any unwanted dirt off of the floor.

Quin programmed the Arduino code using the simple Pololu ZumoBot library, and used the Ping library to interface with the Ping sensor.  The FuzzBot also has a pan/tilt servo for the Ping sensor, and can be used with the Servo Arduino library. You can check out the parts Quin used in the picture below:


DiceBot, on the other hand, is an electronic dice that fits into an Android figurine.  It has a 7-Segment display, a 74HC595 shift register, an accelerometer, and an ATmega328p (the Arduino microcontroller).


Quin said he used his Pineapple library to drive the 7-Segment LED with the 74HC595, his Quasi-duino core for the ATmega328p without the clock, and the free Arduino IDE to program the ATmega328p.

Here are the parts Quin used when putting together Dicebot: