Category Archives: Events

The power of the platform in IoT and wearable designs


What IoT developers want? A candid look at the wearable designs shows how platform approach is helping design engineers confront daunting challenges in the IoT arena.


“Providers become platforms” is the second most prominent finding of the Forbes story entitled “The Five Most Disruptive Innovations at CES 2016.” Interestingly, all the five disrupting forces outlined in the story relate to the Internet of Things blaze one way or the other. A coincidence? Not really.

CES 2016 was mostly about demonstrating how the advent of a connected world is possible with the creation of an array of smart and interconnected devices. However, the IoT juggernaut, while exploring the true value of connectivity, also requires new business models, which in turn, makes time-to-market even more critical.

Smart badge brings efficiency in enterprise, hospitality and healthcare

Take smart wearable devices, for instance, which were arguably the biggest story on the CES floor this year. A wearable design comprises of one or more sensors, connectivity solution like a radio controller, a processor to carry out system-level functions, storage to log information, display and battery. And what IoT and wearable developers want?

A platform that allows them to facilitate the finished products quickly and efficiently. The design engineers simply can’t afford experimentation with the basic blocks as they need a precedence of basic hardware and software functions working efficiently and smoothly.

Anatomy of Wearable Design

First and foremost, wearable designs confront power constraints even greater than mobile devices. Not surprisingly, ultra-low-power MCUs lie at the heart of wearable designs because they combine flash, on-chip RAM and multiple interface options while intelligently turning power on and off during activity and idle periods, respectively.

The next design conundrum relates to the form factor because these devices are being worn, so they have to be small and light. That, in turn, demands even smaller circuit boards with a greater level of integration. Enter the IoT platforms.

Amid power, performance and form factor considerations, the choice of a right IoT platform means that designers will most likely get the basic building blocks right. And that will allow IoT developers to focus on the application, differentiation and customer needs.

That’s what Atmel is aiming for with the launch of a reference platform for cost-optimized IoT and wearable applications. Atmel’s ultra-low-power platform, which was announced over the week of CES, is aimed at battery-operated wearable devices requiring activity and environment monitoring.

Power has a critical role in the key IoT building blocks

IoT Developer Platform

Below are the key highlights of Atmel’s platform offering for the IoT and wearable designs.

Processor: Microcontroller’s low-power requirements make it a likely choice in wearable designs; MCUs that communicate and process sensor inputs draw very little power from the battery while asleep. Remember the L21 microcontroller that made headlines back in 2015 after leading the low-power benchmarks conducted by EEMBC ULPBench.

Atmel’s SMART SAM L21 MCU — based on ARM’s lowest power Cortex-M0+ processing core — scored 185 in the benchmark and was able to bring the power consumption down to 35µA/MHz in active mode and 200nA in sleep mode.

Communications: The BTLC1000 is an ultra-low power Bluetooth Smart (BLE 4.1) system-on-chip (SoC) that comes integrated with ARM Cortex-M0 core, transceiver, modem, MAC, power amplifier, TR switch, and power management unit (PMU). It can be used as a BLE link controller or data pump with external host MCU or as a standalone applications processor with embedded BLE connectivity and external memory.

Atmel claims that its BTLC1000 Bluetooth solution — a 2.2mm x 2.1mm wafer level chip scale package — is 25 percent smaller than the nearest competitor solution. And Electronic Products magazine has corroborated that premise by calling it the lowest power BLE chipset that consumes less than 4mA in RX and less than 3mA in TX at 0dbm.

Security: Atmel is among the first chipmakers to offer specialized security hardware for the IoT market. Its microcontrollers come integrated with anti-cloning, authentication and encryption features.

Display: Wearable devices often show data such as time, measurements, maps and notifications on a display, and here, capacitive touch provides a very intuitive form of interfacing with the information. Atmel’s MCUs can directly manage capacitive buttons through software libraries that the firm provides.

Furthermore, Atmel offers standalone display controllers that support capacitive button, slider and wheel (BSW) implementations. These touch solutions can be tuned to moisture environments, a key requirement for many wearable applications. Atmel’s maXTouch capacitive touchscreen controller technology is a leading interface solution for its low-power consumption, precision and sensitivity.

Sensors: The development framework for the wearable designs features BHI160 6-axis SmartHub motion sensor and BME280 environment sensor from Bosch. It’s worth noting that Bosch is one of Atmel’s sensor partners. However, wearable product designers are free to pick sensors of their choice from Atmel’s other sensor partners.

Software support: The software package includes RTOS, Atmel’s Studio 7 IDE and Atmel START, which Atmel claims is the world’s first intuitive web-based tool for software configuration and code generation. Moreover, Atmel Software Framework (ASF) offers communication libraries for Bluetooth radios.

Atmel's developer platform for IoT and wearable designs

The truth is that the design game has moved from hardware and software functional blocks to complete developer ecosystems since the iPhone days. Now the ecosystem play is taking platforms to a whole new level in the design diversity that comes with the IoT products.

The choice of a right IoT platform means that designers will most likely get the basic building blocks right, and then, they can focus on the application and customer needs. It also provides design engineers space for differentiation, a critical factor in making wearable devices a consumer success.

 

 

The Arduino MKR1000 rolls the Zero and Wi-Fi Shield all into one


The World’s Largest Arduino Maker Challenge will award 1,000 finalists with the newly-announced MKR1000 boards.


Well, the Arduino/Genuino family has just gained another member. Everyone, meet the MKR1000MKR1000, meet the ever-growing Maker community.

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This MKR1000 is a powerful board that combines the functionality of the Zero (Atmel | SMART SAM D21) and the connectivity of the Wi-Fi Shield. It is based on the ATSAMW25 — an Atmel SmartConnect edge node module specifically geared towards IoT — and offers the ideal solution for Makers seeking Wi-Fi connectivity with minimal previous experience in networking.

The combination of 32-bit computational power like the Zero, the usual rich set of I/O interfaces, low-power Wi-Fi with a CryptoAuthentication chip for secure communication, and the ease of use of the Arduino IDE make this board the perfect choice for emerging IoT battery-powered projects in a compact form factor. It should be noted, however, that unlike most Arduino and Genuinos, the MKR1000 runs at 3.3V.

Other key specs include:

  • MCU: Atmel | SMART SAMD21 Cortex-M0+
  • Power Supply: 5V
  • Flash: 256KB
  • SRAM: 32KB
  • Clock Speed: 32KHz, 32.768KHz, 8MHz and 48Mhz
  • Supported Battery: Li-Po single-cell, 3.7V, 700mAh minimum
  • Digital I/O Pins: 8
  • PWM Pins: 4 (D2-D5)
  • UART: 1
  • SPI: 1
  • I2C: 1
  • Analog Input Pins: 7 (ADC 8/10/12-bit)
  • Analog Output Pins: 1 (DAC 10-bit)
  • External Interrupts: 8
  • DC Current Per I/O Pin: 7mA

The newly-revealed board will be available for purchase beginning in February 2016; however, you can be one of the first 1,000 people to lay their hands on the MKR1000 by participating in the World’s Largest Arduino Maker Challenge, a collaboration between Hackster.IO, Microsoft, Adafruit and Atmel.

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This contest is designed to celebrate the burgeoning Maker community with exclusive prizes. Inventors, artists, hobbyists, professionals and developers alike are encouraged to create an innovative and original IoT application, ranging from environmental sensors to gaming, to augmented reality, to robotics or drones using the power of Arduino.cc boards and Windows 10.

The 1,000 Makers who submit the best project ideas will receive the brand-spanking new Arduino MKR1000 (U.S. only) and Genuino MKR1000 (outside the U.S.) boards. Earn bonus points by tapping into the power of the Microsoft Azure cloud to capture, analyze and visualize your data with Azure IoT Suite, Azure IoT Hub, Stream Analytics and Machine Learning.

From there, three finalists submitting the best completed projects will be awarded with a fully-funded trip to either Maker Faire Shenzhen, New York or Rome, a chance to present their creation at the Microsoft and the Arduino and Genuino booths, a professional video production of the project, as well as a whopping $500 gift certificate to Adafruit.

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The World’s Largest Arduino Maker Challenge is now live, and those wishing to partake in the contest can sign up/log into Hackster and enter to win the new MKR1000 board by pitching their idea.

Atmel’s second 2015 FAE training comes to an end


Taking a look back at the final FAE training of the year… 


We couldn’t have found a more appropriate, well-suited place to host our final internal three-day technical training of 2015 than Shenzhen, China. The city is constantly innovating, with IoT startups popping up on seemingly each street corner, throughout every tech shop, factory and Makerspace. This is a good context to present product updates, show off design tricks and run workshops from early morning to late night. We also network with old friends and make new ones, which further strengthens the teamwork, extends our knowledge base and builds confidence to help our customers bring their ideas to life.

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The buzz of the week was the highly-anticipated, full-day workshop on our uber mini Bluetooth Low Energy chipset (the BTLC1000) with overviews of the supported protocol stacks, silicon and software architecture, introduction from product marketing, as well as a hands-on session using Atmel’s standard Xplained development boards, the recently-launched Atmel Studio 7 and Atmel START.

At Atmel, we spread our love equally between wireless and low power. The world’s lowest power 32-bit MCU, the SAM L21, even saw the birth of a new sibling: the SAM L22. This particular board is feature-compatible with the SAM L21, but comes with an LCD controller and some nifty power-save features.

When it comes to IoT applications, performance plays an integral role so we spent time on the new low-power modes and security capabilities of the SAMA5D2. FAEs in a hurry could also complete the entire workshop and connect the SAMA5D2 to a cloud with the WILC1000 Wi-Fi module.

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To top off the event, we saw the debut of more wireless technologies with a complete 6LoWPAN stack emphasising security and authentication with Atmel’s wide range of CryptoAuthentication engines.

Still wondering if IoT is a big thing at Atmel? Well, duh! Between low-power MCUs, all major wireless connectivity protocols, security layers and a cloud ecosystem in place, we’ve got each of the necessary pillars covered.

Big thanks to Atmel’s training team, distributors, and of course, FAEs for making this event such a great success! Until next time!

A first look at Maker Faire Rome 2015


As the saying goes, “When in Rome, do as the Makers do!” 


It seems like yesterday that we were at the New York Hall of Science preparing for what was surely an incredible World Maker Faire 2015. And now just a few weeks later, the Atmel crew has arrived in Rome, all set to kick things off at the Sapienza University campus.

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Once again a Silver Sponsor of this year’s show, you’ll find several startups and Makers who’ve successfully demonstrated what it takes to go from “the MakerSpace to the MarketPlace.” In addition to big names like Bosch, those inside the Atmel booth will include:

Acme Systems

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Acme Systems designs and manufactures Linux-embedded boards, namely the Arietta G25 system-on-module with an Atmel AT91SAM9G25 at its core. One project in particular that you’ll want to check out is the team’s open source LED panel that interacts with a smartphone over Wi-Fi.

Arduboy

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A crowd favorite back at World Maker Faire, Arduboy is an open source, credit card-sized console that lets people play, create and share their favorite 8-bit games.

Intoino

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As seen on Indiegogo, Intoino‘s KITS provide a simple way for young Makers to learn coding and electronics while bringing their connected projects to life.

1Sheeld

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In case you missed them at Maker Faire Bay Area 20151Sheeld magically transforms your smartphone into one of 40 different reconfigurable Arduino shields.

Cosino

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Cosino is an open source platform comprised of flexible, easy to-use hardware and software components. The team will be showing off their latest projects based on the Cosino (SAM9G35) and Cosino Enigma (SAMA5D3) CPU modules along with their carrier boards and other GNU/Linux embedded systems.

Qtechknow

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Everyone’s favorite teenage CEO and whiz kid, Quin Etynre will once again be on hand with Qtechknow’s Arduino-compatible board, the Qduino Mini. But that’s not all, you’ll even be able to snap a black and white selfie in his thermal printer photo booth!

Bosch

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Heck, even major brands are tapping into the powers of the Maker Movement! Escaping dangerous dark or smoke-filled structures quickly is crucial for the firefighters who save thousands of lives on a daily basis. Tailored for those situations, Bosch will be demonstrating a prototype of their indoor navigation device that’s built around the mighty Arduino and BNO055.

Rewind: Atmel @ World Maker Faire 2015


Maker Faire New York, Maker Faire New York — a show (and tell) so good we had to say it twice.


Ah, Maker Faire. The only place that can you find everything from a 30-foot-tall, flame-throwing robot and a life-sized game of Mousetrap to a pancake printing machine and a floating head choir that sings when you press their keys.

Over the weekend of September 26th and 27th, tinkerers, modders and hackers of all ages flocked a jam-packed Atmel booth housed inside the always popular Maker Pavilion. There, we showcased a number of gizmos and gadgets that have successfully made its way “From the MakerSpace to the MarketPlace.” Meaning, this particular batch of startups have demonstrated what it takes to bring an idea from mere prototype to full-blown product, many by way of crowdfunding. Among those on display included the Kickstarter sensation and wrist-friendly Keyboardio, the credit-card sized gaming system Arduboy, 14-year-old Quin Etnyre and his Qduino Mini, former Pixar engineer Erin Thompson’s Modulo boards, Microduino’s super LEGO-like modules, and Zippy Robotics’ soon-to-launch Prometheus PCB milling machine. Oh, and who could forget big names like Bosch, Arduino and the one-and-only Massimo Banzi, too?

When it came to projects driven by our mighty AVR and Atmel | SMART MCUs, it didn’t stop at our booth either. In fact, countless others throughout the fairegrounds proudly showed off their embedded creations, with some of them even paying a special visit to our tent like PancakeBot, Zymbit, Dr.Duino and eight-year-old CEO Omkar Govil-Nair with his Arduino-based O Watch, to name just a few. On top of all that, several Atmel team members — Bob Martin, Henrik Flodell, Sander Arts and Artie Beavis — took the World Maker Faire stage to talk prototyping, Arduino, debugging, STEM and how to take your product mainstream.

So with another incredible event in the books, let’s take one last look back before flipping the page to Rome!

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8 out of the 10 Hackaday Prize finalists are powered by Atmel


Hackaday reveals the 10 finalists who are one step closer to a trip into space or some big bucks.


One simple idea can make a difference, but together we Makers can change the world. That was the premise behind this year’s Hackaday Prize, which encouraged participants to build something that matters.

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As our friends at Hackaday explain:

“The problems that these projects tackle come from many different angles. Some improve safety in extreme situations by giving emergency workers the ability to detect the presence of dangerous gases, or by helping to find unexploded munitions in war-torn areas. Others make improvements in transportation by working on transportation where infrastructure is poor, and looking toward the future of electric vehicle transportation. There are projects that tackle pollution through monitoring and also by scrubbing pollutants from indoor air. Improvements in wheelchair mobility and advancements in prosthetics can transform the lives of people living with loss of function. And feeding the world can start with more automated farming options, and becoming more efficient with farming methods. These are the problems the finalists have chosen to solve with their entries.”

Now, the pool of 100 semi-finalists has been narrowed down to 10 finalists who are one step closer to walking (or flying) away with the grand prize of a trip into space or $196,883. Plus, four others will claim top prizes each valued between $5,000-$10,000. These winners will all be revealed at the Hackaday SuperConference in San Francisco on November 14th and 15th.

And guess what? There’s a pretty good chance that this year’s winner will have Atmel inside… again. We can’t say that we’re too surprised either, as eight of the last 10 are embedded with AVR or Atmel | SMART MCUs. Here they are…

FarmBot

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This open source, automated precision farming machine and software package is designed for small-scale precision food production. Similar to 3D printers and CNC mills, FarmBot’s hardware employs linear guides in the X, Y, and Z directions that allow for tools, such as plows, seed injectors, watering nozzles and sensors, to be precisely positioned and used on the plants and soil. The unit itself is controlled by an Arduino Mega (ATmega2560) + RAMPS stack and a Raspberry Pi 2.

Eye Controlled Wheelchair

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The Eyedrivomatic system takes advantage of existing eye tracking technology to enable those who have lost the use of their muscles to operate their own wheelchairs. The system is comprised of a wheelchair-mounted computer running an accompanying app and software, which is connected to a 3D-printed, Arduino Uno (ATmega328) brain box. This command center receives and inteprets the program’s requests and controls a pair of servos that drive an electronic hand to move a joystick in the user’s desired location.

Gas Sensor For Emergency Workers

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Designed primarily for emergency response workers, these ‘grenade-like’ sensors can be thrown into dangerous areas to remotely report levels using their voice. With an Arduino Nano (ATmega328) at its core, each ball-shaped gadget is equipped with smoke, liquified petroleum gas and carbon monoxide sensors along with an inexpensive 433MHz transmitter for communication with any basic radio inside the potentially hazardous space.

LUKA EV

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The problem that LUKA is attempting to solve is a big one. Mindful that internal combustion engine cars pump billions of tons of pollutants into the atmosphere each year, this group of Makers hopes to provide an open source platform that’ll unlock the possibility for cost-competitive, all-electric automobiles to be built and sold locally, on a global scale. This electric vehicle is capable of achieving top speeds of around 80mph and a range of over 185 miles. Although the concept of an EV is far from new, using hub motors to power it isn’t so ordinary. What’s more, this project will introduce a revolutionary technology to the production line, reducing weight and eliminating a great deal of unnecessary parts along the way. LUKA will also help in energy storage, as your home can power LUKA or vice versa.

Portable Environmental Sensor

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The uRADMonitor is able to detect pollutants in the air that otherwise go unnoticeable, ranging from toxic chemicals to radioactive dust or radon. Packed with an array of powerful sensors and an ATmega128, this handheld battery-operated device connects to the Internet via an embedded Wi-Fi module and shares readings to its global network. The online data is then used to build graph, track stats and send automated notifications when certain thresholds are reached.

Light Electric Utility Vehicle

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Transportation is major issue in the developing world due to its lacking physical infrastructure, and unfortunately, off-road SUVs are outside the means of the average person. In an effort to make them more accessible to everyone, this light electric utility vehicle is capable of battling harsh environments and rugged terrain. The basic design of the vehicle is made of locally sourced components, and features a frame that can rotate at the point of articulation so that all four wheels are in constant contact with the ground. Steering is accomplished by differential motor control, while each wheel is powered by a single PMDC geared motor via a chain drive. Power comes from two large tubular gel batteries which are charged by solar panels. System control is accomplished by two Arduino Pro Minis (ATmega328) — the first handles the motor controller, the other monitors the current.

OpenBionics

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OpenBionics is an open source initiative for the development of affordable, lightweight prosthetic hands that can be easily reproduced using off-the-shelf materials and rapid prototyping techniques such as 3D printing. The fingers are constructed out of Plexiglas with silicone knuckles that are flexed by tendon cables running in sheaths and extended by energy stored in elastomeric material along their dorsal aspects. Each finger can be selectively locked in place using a differential based on the whiffletree mechanism, resulting in 16 combinations of finger positions with only a single motor. Combined with nine unique thumb positions, 144 unique grasp are possible with the prosthetic hand. Meanwhile, electronics are provided by an embedded Arduino Pro Micro (ATmega32U4).

Vinduino

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Given the water crises affecting California, wine growers are in need of low-cost, customizable and easy-to-maintain soil moisture monitoring systems. As luck may have it, Vinduino is an accessible measurement tool for irrigation management that isn’t just ideal for cutting irrigation costs for vineyard owners, it can be just as useful for a wide range of other agricultural applications, science class experiments or even to reduce the H2O consumption of your backyard sprinklers. The system consists of moisture sensors, an Arduino handheld device for taking sensor readings, and a series of irrigation valves, water pressure sensors and data loggers for managing the irrigation system.

Congratulations to all of the 2015 Hackaday Prize finalists, especially those using our chips! As we await next month’s announcement, head over to the contest’s official writeup to see more.

Take a black and white selfie with the Qduino Mini Photo Booth


The Qduino Mini is an ATmega32U4 based board with a built-in battery charger and fuel gauge that’s just as affordable as an Arduino, but a quarter of the size. 


Hot on the heels of a rather successful Kickstarter campaign, Quin Etynre continues to amaze us with his pure ingenuity and passion for creating things. As the quintessential example of what it takes to go from ‘MakerSpace to Marketplace,’ earlier this year the 14-year-old CEO introduced what he calls the Qduino Mini — a tiny Arduino-compatible board equipped with a built-in battery charger and fuel gauge that can let a user know when their LiPo needs a little more juice.

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Born out of his own frustrations of having to guess when a project was running out of power, the open source dev board is based on an ATmega32U4 — the same MCU that can be found at the heart of the Arduino Leonardo, which the Maker has used to tinker around with for quite awhile. The small device isn’t only packed with a charger circuit and fuel gauge, but possesses a lightweight, ultra-thin form factor as well. This allows for it to be programmed and have its energy restored simulatenously via USB. On top of all that, each Qduino is also breadboard-friendly and has two RGB LEDs: one for status, another that’s user programmable!

The Qduino Mini measures just 0.8″ x 1.5” in size and weighs a mere fraction of an ounce, making the shrunken down Arduino ideal for drones and high-altitude balloon projects, as well as a wide range of other gadgets like Etnyre’s incredibly popular B&W Photo Booth that had been on display inside our Maker Faire New York booth.

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How the selfie machine works is pretty straightforward. A user stands before a webcam mounted to a monitor, presses a button, and 20 seconds later, a thermal printer spits out an instant photo on receipt paper. The best part? It doesn’t require any ink! As you can imagine, this would be a perfect novelty item for any birthday party, prom, wedding or just for some fun around the office. (Heck, even AVR Man seems to enjoy it!)

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The system itself is comprised of a monitor and two green 3D-printed parts: a button and a thermal printer, both embedded with an Qduino Mini. Pressing the round button triggers a sketch, which in turn, processes the captured image from the webcam and sends it over to the thermal printer.

Pretty cool, right? But don’t just take it from us. Watch Etnyre explain it himself in the video below! Plus, those wishing to pre-order a Qduino Mini of their own can now do so over on SparkFun.