Tag Archives: 6LoWPAN

Atmel’s SAM L21 MCU for IoT tops low power benchmark


SAM L21 MCUs consume less than 940nA with full 40kB SRAM retention, real-time clock and calendar, and 200nA in the deepest sleep mode.


The Internet of Things (IoT) juggernaut has unleashed a flurry of low-power microcontrollers, and in that array of energy-efficient MCUs, one product has earned the crown jewel of being the lowest-power Cortex M-based solution with power consumption down to 35µA/MHz in active mode and 200nA in sleep mode.

How do we know if Atmel’s SAM L21 microcontroller can actually claim the leadership in ultra-low-power processing movement? The answer lies in the EEMBC ULPBench power benchmark that was introduced last year. It ensures a level playing field in executing the benchmark by having the MCU perform 20,000 clock cycles of active work once a second and sleep the remainder of the second.

 

 ULPBench shows SAM L21 is lower power than any of its competitor's M0+ class chips

ULPBench shows SAM L21 is lower power than any of its competitor’s M0+ class chips.

Atmel has released the ultra-low-power SAM L21 MCU it demonstrated at Electronica in Munich, Germany back in November 2014. Architectural innovations in the SAM L21 MCU family enable low-power peripherals — including timers, serial communications and capacitive touch sensing — to remain powered and running while the rest of the system is in a reduced power mode. That further reduces power consumption for always-on applications such as fire alarms, healthcare, medical and connected wearables.

Next, the 32-bit ARM-based MCU portfolio combines ultra-low-power with Flash and SRAM that are large enough to run both the application and wireless stacks. Collectively, these three features make up the basic recipe for battery-powered mobile and IoT devices for extending their battery life from years to decades. Moreover, they reduce the number of times batteries need to be changed in a plethora of IoT applications.

Low Power Leap of Faith

Atmel’s SAM L21 microcontrollers have achieved a staggering 185.8 ULPBench score, which is way ahead of runner-up TI’s SimpleLink C26xx microcontroller family that scored 143.6. The SAM L21 microcontrollers consume less than 940nA with full 40kB SRAM retention, real-time clock and calendar, and 200nA in the deepest sleep mode. According to Atmel spokesperson, it comes down to one-third the power of competing solutions.

Markus Levy, President and Founder of EEMBC, credits Atmel’s low-power feat to its proprietary picoPower technology and the company’s low-power expertise in utilizing DC-DC conversion for voltage monitoring. Atmel’s picoPower technology employs flexible clocking options and short wake-up time with multiple wake-up sources from even the deepest sleep modes.

ULPBench aims to provide developers with a reliable methodology to test MCUs

ULPBench aims to provide developers with a reliable methodology to test MCUs.

In other words, Atmel has taken the low-power game beyond architectural improvements to the CPU while optimizing nearly every peripheral to operate in standalone mode and then use a minimum number of transistors to complete the given task. Most lower-power ARM chips simply disable the clock to various parts of the device. The SAM L21 microcontroller, on the other hand, turns off power to those chip parts; hence, there is no leakage current in thousands of transistors in that part.

Here is a brief highlight of Atmel’s low-power development efforts that now encompass almost every peripheral in an MCU device:

Sleep Modes

Sleep modes not only gate away the clock signal to stop switching consumption, but also remove the power from sub-domains to fully eliminate leakage. Atmel also employs SRAM back-biasing to reduce leakage in sleep modes.

Consider a simple application where the temperature in a room is monitored using a temperature sensor with the analog-to-digital converter (ADC). In order to reduce the power consumption, the CPU would be put to sleep and wake up periodically on interrupts from a real-time counter (RTC). The measured sensor data is checked against a predefined threshold to decide on further action. If the data does not exceed the threshold, the CPU will be put back to sleep waiting for the next RTC interrupt.

SleepWalking

SleepWalking is a technology that enables peripherals to request a clock when needed to wake-up from sleep modes and perform tasks without having to power up the CPU Flash and other support systems. For instance, Atmel’s ultra-low-power capacitive touch-sensing peripheral can run in all operating modes and supports wake-up on a touch.

For the temperature monitoring application, as mentioned above, this means that the ADC’s peripheral clock will only be running when the ADC is converting. When the ADC receives the overflow event from the RTC, it will request its generic clock from the generic clock controller and peripheral clock will stop as soon as the ADC conversion is completed.

Event System

The Event System allows peripherals to communicate directly without involving the CPU and thus enables peripherals to work together to solve complex tasks using minimal gates. It allows system developers to chain events in software and use an event to trigger a peripheral without CPU involvement.

Again, taking temperature monitor as a use case, the RTC must be set to generate an overflow event, which is routed to the ADC by configuring the Event System. The ADC must be configured to start a conversion when it receives an event. By using the Event System, an RTC overflow can trigger an ADC conversion without waking up the CPU. Moreover, the ADC can be configured to generate an interrupt if the threshold is exceeded, and the interrupt will wake up the CPU.

533

Low Power MCU Use Case

Paul Rako has mentioned a sensor monitor in his recent post in Atmel’s Bits & Pieces blog. Rako writes in his post titled “The SAM L21 pushes the boundaries of low power MCUs” about this sensor monitor being asleep 99.99 percent of the time, waking up once a day to take a measurement and send it wirelessly to a host. Such tasks can be conveniently handled by an 8-bit device.

However, moving to IoT applications, which constitute protocol stacks, there is number crunching involved and that requires a faster ARM-class 32-bit chip. So, for battery-powered IoT applications, Rako makes the case for 32-bit ARM-based chip that can wake up, do its thing, and go back to sleep. If a high-current chip wakes up 10 times faster but uses twice the power, it will still use less energy and less charge than the slower chip.

Next, Rako presents sensor fusion hub as a case study in which the device saves power by skipping the radio chip to send the data from each sensor and instead uses the ARM-based microcontroller that does the math and pre-processing to combine the raw data from all sensors and then assembles the result as a simple chunk of data.

Atmel has scored an important design victory in the ongoing low-power game that is now prevalent in the rapidly expanding IoT market. Atmel already boasts credentials in the connectivity and security domains — the other two key IoT building blocks. Its connectivity solutions cover multiple wireless arenas — Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Zigbee and 6LoWPan — to enable IoT communications.

Likewise, Atmel’s CryptoAuthentication devices come with protected hardware key storage and are available with SHA256, AES128 or ECC256/283 cryptography. The IoT triumvirate of low power consumption, broad connectivity portfolio and crypto engineering puts Atmel in a strong position in the promising new market of IoT that is increasingly demanding low power portfolio of MCUs to be matched with high performance.


Majeed Ahmad is author of books Smartphone: Mobile Revolution at the Crossroads of Communications, Computing and Consumer Electronics and The Next Web of 50 Billion Devices: Mobile Internet’s Past, Present and Future.

RIOTing with the Internet of Things

RIOT is an open-source operating system (OS) designed to power the rapidly evolving Internet of Things (IoT).

Licensed as LGPL, RIOT was initially developed by FU Berlin, INRIA and the HAW Hamburg. 

Indeed, the origins of RIOT can actually be traced back to FeuerWare, an operating system for fire crews and their wireless sensor networks.

The operating system — which is based on a microkernel architecture — supports both C and C++, as well as full multi-threading and real-time capabilities. RIOT provides utilities like cryptographic libraries, data structures, or a shell, different network stacks, and support for various microcontrollers, radio drivers, sensors, and configurations for entire platforms.

RIOT_network_architecture_dark_updated

The RIOT runs on both 16-bit and 32-bit hardware, with a native port allowing RIOT to run as a Linux or MacOS process. This helps facilitate the use of standard development and debugging tools such as the GNU Compiler Collection (GCC), GNU Debugger, Valgrind and Wireshark. RIOT runs on several platforms including embedded devices as well as common PCs, and supports multiple drivers, which offers out-of-the-box usage. The hardware dependent code is reduced to a minimum and abstracted from the kernel itself.

Among the architectures RIOT supports are ARM Cortex-M0, -M3 and -M4, as well as the ARM7. Subsequently, the IoT operating system is compatible with a number of boards like the Arduino Due (SAM3X8E), the Atmel ATmega2560 and the Nordic nRF51822 (ATSAM3U2C). RIOT also provides multiple network stacks, including IPv6, 6LoWPAN and standard protocols such as RPL, UDP, TCP and CoAP.

ArduinoDue_Front

Simply put, RIOT is free software, meaning Makers and engineers can redistribute and modify the OS. Software developed by the RIOT community is available under the terms of the GNU Lesser General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation, version 2 (LGPLv2).

Interested in learning more? As a community project, you can find RIOT’s source code on GitHub as well as download its latest release here.


Designing IoT devices with Thingsquare and SAM R21



As we’ve previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, a number of recent Thingsquare demos have been powered by Atmel’s versatile SAM R21 Xplained PRO evaluation board – illustrating the seamless integration of Thingsquare’s software stack with Atmel’s new SAM R21 ultra-low power wireless microcontroller (MCU).

According to Atmel Product Marketing Director Magnus Pedersen, the SAM R21 allows Atmel’s customers to easily develop connected lighting, smart metering and wireless sensor network systems based on true Internet-connectivity and open standards such as IPv6 and 6lowpan.

“Our customers are demanding complete, easy-to-use IoT solutions that can quickly bring a full system to market,” said Pedersen. “Our cooperation with Thingsquare is an example of that, with a web-based toolchain and open source firmware to offer our customers a fully integrated hardware and software solution for various IoT applications.”

Recently, a Thingsquare rep told Bits & Pieces that a number of engineers and Makers are choosing the SAM R21 and the Thingsquare system to build secure and future-proof Internet of Things (IoT) applications and connected devices.

“The Thingsquare system and the SAM R21 SoCs follow you throughout the entire process from idea to market,” the rep explained. 

”The system supports IPv6 / 6lowpan, wireless mesh networking, firmware updates and end-to-end encryption. You can also easily build smartphone applications to interact with your SAM R21-powered devices.”

Interested in learning more? To quickly set up a prototype, you can use the Thingsquare system with SAM R21 Xplained Pro boards, as described here. Of course, Thingsquare can also help with your entire software project as well.

For additional information, contact sales@thingsquare.com. For hardware-related questions, contact Atmel.

How to make the IoT a reality

ARM will be chairing a symposium on the sidelines of the upcoming Sensors Expo and Conference in Chicago on Jun 24th from 9AM to 5PM. Titled Making the Internet of Things a Reality: A Toolkit for Designing “Smart,” key speakers include Atmel’s Adrian Woolley, ARM’s Zach Shelby and Sensor Platforms CTO Kevin Shaw.

According to ARM’s Will Tu, Kevin Shaw will be kicking off the session with an overview of how IoT devices can evolve to optimize their interaction with humans – ultimately becoming invisible and predictive.

“We can see sensor fusion at work with smartphones, tablets and wearables and today as they apply the concept of contextual awareness of where a user is and what he or she might be doing,” Tu writes in a recent blog post. “From this awareness a device can respond to offer a service, enable features on a device, conserve valuable battery power or delight users in some novel way. Sensor fusion will bring the same type of value to embedded devices and  these software algorithms will be the key to unlocking the commercial value proposition of future IoT device.”

Next up is ARM’s very own Zach Shelby, a thought leader in the industry who has been heavily involved in connectivity from his early days as co-founder of Sensinode. Zach is currently a key contributor at the IETF for IoT standards with contributions in 6LoWPAN, routing, web services and security related standards, ETSI and OMA standardization on M2M and in several top international research programs.

Atmel’s Adrian Woolley will then discuss the hardware side of the IoT. A 25-year veteran of the semiconductor market, Woolley is the Director of Strategy and Business Development at Atmel’s microcontroller business unit. He has an extensive background in mobile and communication markets, along with a considerable amount of embedded experience in microcontrollers.

“When you are talking about hardware building blocks, Atmel can offer more than just MCUs; they also provide radio technologies,” says Shaw.

Interested in learning more? You can access the symposium’s official page here for additional details and registration information. Readers may also want to check out Atmel’s recent IoT SoMa panel on the subject herePatrick Sullivan’s EELive! 2014 presentation here and our extensive Bits & Pieces IoT article archive here.

A closer look at Atmel’s SAM R21 Xplained Pro

Atmel’s SAM R21 Xplained Pro evaluation kit allows developers to more easily design connected lighting, smart metering and wireless sensor network systems based on true Internet-connectivity and open standards such as IPv6 and 6lowpan.

Key hardware specs include:

  • Atmel’s ARM-based ATSAMR21G18A microcontroller (MCU)
  • Embedded debugger (EDBG) and USB interface
  • Programming and debugging on board SAM R21 via SWD
  • Virtual COM-port interface to target via UART
  • Atmel Data Gateway Interface (DGI) to target via SPI and TWI
  • Four GPIOs connected to target for code instrumentation
  • Digital I/O
  • Two mechanical buttons (user and reset button)
  • One user LED
  • Two extension headers
  • Three possible power sources
  • External power
  • Embedded debugger USB
  • Target USB
  • 32KHz crystal
  • 16MHz crystal
  • Atmel Software Framework support

The SAM R21 Xplained Pro was recently showcased at Atmel’s Embedded World 2014 booth by Thingsquare. Indeed, a number of Thingsquare’s demonstrations were powered by the evaluation board, illustrating the seamless integration of Thingsquare’s software stack with Atmel’s new SAM R21 ultra-low power wireless microcontroller (MCU).

As Atmel Product Marketing Director Magnus Pedersen notes, developers are demanding complete, easy-to-use IoT solutions that can quickly bring a full system to market.

“Our cooperation with Thingsquare is an example of that, with a web-based toolchain and open source firmware to offer our customers a fully integrated hardware and software solution for various IoT applications.”

Thingsquare CEO Adam Dunkels expressed similar sentiments.

“The addition of Atmel’s hardware solutions provides our customers additional options,” he said. “Atmel’s new SAM R21 wireless microcontroller is an important step forward in the emerging IoT space.”

The ATSAM R21 Xplained Pro board is available at the official Atmel Store, with Atmel currently sampling the ATSAM R21 series to select customers. Public sampling will be available the end of March with production quantities slated for July 2014. Pricing for the SAM R21? Starting at $2.75 in 10,000-piece quantities.

Interested in learning more? The SAM R21 device combined with the Thingsquare open source firmware is available at http://thingsquare.com and as a separate delivery via Atmel’s Studio 6 Gallery.

In related IoT news, Bits & Pieces readers may also want to check out the Atmel-backed 2014 IPSO challenge. Essentially, IPSO strives to advance the development and standardization of the Internet of Things (IoT).

The initiative challenges participants to submit working prototypes from innovative concepts in interfaces, interactions and applications which demonstrate the use of the Internet Protocol (IP) in real world sensor/control and machine-to-machine (M2M) applications. 

In 2014, IPSO and its sponsors will offer prizes and incentives worth over $50,000. All ten semi-finalists will be given the opportunity to demonstrate working prototypes to industry experts and investors at Sensors Expo 2014, the largest event devoted to sensor and actuator-integrated technology in North America.

Interested in learning more? You can click here for additional details.

Atmel announces Embedded World lineup



Next week, Atmel will be launching a number of new products to drive smart, connected devices in the era of the Internet of Things (IoT) at Embedded World 2014 in Nuremberg, Germany.

Some of the new products, along with interactive demos, will be showcased at the official Atmel booth located in Hall 4A / #4A-220 and include:

Solutions in Embedded Processing

Solutions in Connectivity



  • World’s first highly integrated, ultra-low power Wi-Fi IoT module powered by Atmel’s Cortex M0+ MCUs.
  • Atmel’s SAMR21, a new family of Cortex M0+ based ultra-low power wireless microcontrollers targeting ZigBee and 6LoWPAN.
  • A new series of automotive LIN (local interconnect networking) SBC (system basis chip) solutions to better connect in-vehicle systems.

Solutions in Software and Tools

Atmel will also be launching the new Studio 6.2 integrated development platform (in beta), which features a new debug probe with advanced debugging to accelerate time-to-market. In addition, Atmel is slated to showcase various demos in the embedded processing, connectivity and software/tools segments, including:

  • Capacitive touch capability with Atmel’s QTouch technologies – Highlights various home appliances to demonstrate conductive immunity and moisture tolerance, along with an Xplained Pro board and capacitive touch extension board.
  • New ARM MCU solutions – A SAM4E data logger with signal processing based on Atmel’s ARM Cortex-M4 MCUs and a SAM D20 global positioning system tracker based on Atmel’s ARM Cortex-M0+ MCUs.
  • SAM A5 MPU applications – A new SAMA5D3 Xplained board, a low-cost ARM Cortex A5 processor kit, a smart thermostat, a home automation and smart fridge demo with a 7” capacitive touch panel.

Other notable demos include Ivee Sleek Wi-Fi, a voice-activated assistance for the home that helps manage and control connected devices without hands; a finger print, voice-search, secure Bluetooth / USB drive that displays passwords; a tiny automatic camera and app that boasts a searchable and shareable photographic memory and a 5mm x 5mm Cortex-A5 System on Module card. 

A polyphase smart e-metering board based on a dual ARM Cortex-M4 core system-on-chip with an integrated metrology AFE will also be on display in the booth.

For Connectivity

  • 

Atmel’s Wi-Fi connectivity solutions – A Turtle Beach i60 headset and Roku 3 box used on a Vizio M-Series flat panel on display.
  • Upcoming ultra-low power IoT module – Integrates the company’s Wi-Fi technology with a Cortex M0+ core. We will be showcasing the latest Xplained PRO Starter demo kit using this soon-to-be-announced Wi-Fi IoT module.
  • 

The new SAMR21 family of wireless MCUs (supported by the new SAMR21 Xplained PRO evaluation kits) – Ideal as a platform for evaluating and developing the SAMR21 wireless MCUs.
  • ZigBee and open-source 6LoWPAN solutions with cloud services.


For Software and Tools



Along with the new Atmel Studio 6.2 and Atmel-ICE, we will be demoing our latest integrated development platform and advanced debug probe. We will also be highlighting a new SAMA5D3 Xplained cost-effective kit based on the ARM Cortex-A5 processor MPU, as well as the new Xplained Mini ultra-low cost evaluation kit with an Atmel 8-bit AVR, low pin-count MCU for less than USD $10. 

In addition, we plan on hosting several Arduino board demonstrations based on Atmel MCUs for our Maker community. And, by popular demand, Atmel will also be showcasing its advanced AvantCar demo, a next-generation automotive center console concept with curved touchscreens that illustrates the combined use of Atmel’s XSense, maXTouch, QTouch, and 8-bit AVR MCU technologies.

Meanwhile, Atmel’s low-power MCU Expert Bob Martin is scheduled to present “Differentiating and Optimizing for Static and Active Microcontroller Modes” during the hands-on workshop: “Applying Optimizing Techniques for Ultra-low Power Microcontrollers” (Class 07) on Wednesday, February 26. In this 9:00 am – 5:00 pm CET day-long session, Martin will be presenting at 9:15 am CET. Last, but certainly not least, Atmel will be announcing winners from its AVR Hero Design contest at the show.

interview-icon-mcuwireless-atmel-magnus

1:1 Interview with Magnus Pedersen of Atmel

TV: What do you do? How are you contributing to the realization and maturation of the Internet of Things (IoT)?

Atmel-MCU-Wireless-Magnus-Pedersen

Magnus Pedersen with the Philips Hue (a connected IoT enabled smart device). The Philips Hue Wireless Light Bulb promises full control of its functions over Wi-Fi, including per-light brightness and color settings, remote operation and geofencing capabilities. In addition, Philips includes a powerful GUI-driven app to custom tune lighting in nearly any environment.

MP:  I am currently working on new ultra low power wireless devices and systems compliant with the IEEE 802.15.4 standard, which supports wireless applications such as ZigBee and IPv6/6LoWPAN. Providing standards based reference designs and implementation helps our customers bring IoT devices quickly to the market.

TV: What products do you see becoming the potential glue for Internet of Things embedded designs?

MP: IoT in my mind is all about connectivity and there is a major trend towards wireless. There are many standards competing for designs in the IoT space, but I believe low power solutions like ZigBee, Bluetooth Smart and Wi-Fi will grab the lion share of the market for IoT devices.

TV: What are some of the challenges in building out MCU Wireless and Wireless/RF enabled devices to support enterprise initiatives?

MP: The primary challenge is the lack of standards for the upper layers, and to some extent, lack of infrastructure and gateways to gather data from the IoT devices – bringing the data back into the enterprise servers for analysis.

TV: What’s your favorite MCU wireless device and why?

MP: My current favorite is Atmel’s ultra low power family of wireless microcontrollers. It’s single die design, offering a high level of integration. Plus, it is designed with ultra low power consumption in mind. The ATmegaRFR2 family is quickly grabbing market share in some relatively new markets like wireless lighting control. Major players are putting a lot of efforts into ZigBee Light Link compliant systems these days.

AT256RFR2-EK

AT256RFR2-EK

TV: Can you think of a reference design and various other solution sets that have helped a customer realize his or her vision of embedded architecture and design? Specifically, one that meets all design and BOM requirements – while also exceeding quality and maximizing in B2B as well as customer end to end satisfaction?

MP: Atmel has been active in the ZigBee community for many years. We have certified ZigBee Stacks and referenced implementations for firmware and hardware that we are sharing with our customers. We have a very open policy to share source code, and we are even sharing our hardware design files for our customers to use, either as is, or modified to customer needs. This way, customers can leverage years of R&D that have already been invested in the reference designs – all while moving efficiently through evaluation, prototyping and actual products ready for mass-production.

TV: Is there any advice you can offer to our readers who are forced to make tough decisions when it comes to schedule and embedded projects? For designers, architects and manufacturing managers?

MP: Learn from the mistakes of others. You do not have time to make them all yourself! Make sure you engage with suppliers that have been in the game for a while and are willing to share past experiences in terms of hardware, communication stacks and reference designs. Relying on and working with an experienced supplier will save you from some of the traditional pitfalls and challenges in wireless designs.

TV: There are so many standards related to connectivity. I can imagine the early web and many early technology paradigms in similar nascent scenarios. Which protocol and stack do you endorse as the communicator for IoT embedded designs? Does it matter?

MP: I think you’re right – the IoT is still in it’s infancy and there are still quite a few standards competing for the same applications. In the ultra low power domain IPv6/6LoWPAN is promoted by the IPSO Alliance and the ZigBee solutions promoted by the ZigBee Alliance is now fairly mature and ready for prime time. A couple of years ago the smart energy domain was very interesting, but the fastest growth today is within wireless lighting control and home automation. Do a search for “Philips Hue” and you can see some of my favorite applications right now.

TV: IoT refers to connecting literally everything to the Internet. Do you agree with this sentiment? How soon do you think this will become a reality?

MP: Yes – I do agree. And that means we are talking about a set of solutions ranging from handsets and tablets to even smaller embedded and highly specialized devices with years of battery lifetime. We’re even seeing battery-less devices being driven by energy harvesting techniques.

TV: Is the Internet of Things going to be the biggest leverage point for IT as well as valued added chain to many industries? If so, what are some of the business challenges?

MP: IoT represents huge opportunities for existing industries and it will also represent great opportunities for startups to create new business. The latest forecast provided by Gartner indicates that there will be up to 30 billion connected devices by 2020, resulting in  $1.9 trillion in global economic value-add through sales into diverse end markets. Those are big numbers!

TV: Will competing communication standards get into the way of IoT emergence? Does lack of agreement equate to limited economies of scale? Is there a risk associated to choosing the wrong MCU Wireless device?

MP:  I do not think competing standards will create any issues. Some standards will fit better than others, and especially in consumer applications growth will be driven primarily by consumer demand, rather than standardization bodies or organizations. There is an obvious risk for the product vendors tied to this – selecting the wrong standard might prohibit growth and represent a fatal decision for both startups and even established companies.

TV: IoT is obviously about more than just connecting your toaster. What are some some examples for big industries and markets where IoT can bring added value and revenue? Explain at least to a B2B customer point of view for a Fortune 500?

MP: IoT is about making everyday life easier for everyone. It’s about the introduction of the smart home, HVAC and lighting solutions coming online. It’s about alarm systems and doorlocks and cameras – everything coming online. It is also a story about a generation of people being always online, almost to the point of being addicted to internet-access. I recently saw an update to the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs indicating that WiFi access is now becoming the most important requirement, perhaps even more important than food and water. I thought it was funny, but yes, there is probably some sense of truth in this as well – at least for some people.

Figure: Maslow 2.0

Figure: Maslow 2.0

 

It might not fair to give one example of products or companies, but if you look at communities like Kickstarter and search for IoT projects, there are an overwhelming number of ideas and projects.

TV: Is the IoT hype going to mature and actually become mainstream with an unfolding of emergent products that redefine the shape for products and services offered to a company? If so, tell me about some of the challenges and what can be done to make this transition easier?

MP: The IoT hype is going to mature and there will be new businesses in data collection, data transfer and data storage. New businesses will also be build around data analysis of  smartphones and tablet applications.

TV: Have you heard of Amara’s law?  We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run. What are the potentials in the short/long term for Internet of Things as we move forward?

MP: Devices that communicate with each other enable new opportunities. This can be a device(s) within a limited geography or area, while in the longer term these devices will be connected to the cloud and can then be accessed from anywhere.

TV: Describe some of the technology partnerships and reference designs that can act as mentors and education models for engineering teams seeking to revamp/evolve their products into the world of connectivity.

MP: Atmel is involved with numerous partners in the IoT domain. We’ve enjoyed long-term partnerships with standardization bodies such as IETF and IEEE, as well as the ZigBee Alliance. Atmel is also teaming up with marketing organizations such as the IPSO Alliance and The Connected Lighting Alliance. As a silicon vendor, there is also a need for additional resources at the application level and even hardware reference designs. Over the past few years, we’ve teamed with companies like MeshNetics in the ZigBee domain (their IP was acquired by Atmel in 2008), and Seninode for their embedded IPv6/6LoWPAN solutions. (Sensinode was recently acquired by ARM). A general goal is to provide complete reference designs for both hardware and firmware in order speed the design process on the customer side, and it is also the general idea that these designs should be available as open source.

TV: What are some of the challenges associated with extending the typical product to a connected product? What are the design constraints and challenges that can be learned from one another?

MP: Atmel recently conducted an IoT survey with our key customers, revealing few technical challenges. The evolving standards enable new businesses, but it also broadens the competition.

TV: What sort of recommendations and technical advice do you offer to help core engineering teams and architects build highly connective products that can be designed and produced in the  highest quality and lowest BOM available?


MP:
Being responsible for the low power wireless product line in Atmel, we’re bringing out standard compliant wireless solutions including RF transceivers, wireless microcontrollers, communication stack and profiles, and even certified hardware reference designs to kickstart customer projects and bring them quickly to market.

TV: What are you currently working on and most excited about?


MP:
As a marketeer for a large microcontroller and touch company, I have the opportunity to engage with products and solutions that are going to be introduced in the near future. Products that don’t exist yet – I find that part very exciting

TV: Are there any people or books that have inspired you lately?

MP: Steve Jobs. It is really amazing how he created killer products and applications, even thought we didn’t know that we wanted or needed them. The iMac, iPod, iPhone, iPad, and the Apps-store… Steve changed the world of handsets from Nokia/Blackberry dominance to the handsets as we know them today. I have also watched the speech he gave for Stanford University graduates back in 2005 many times. Steve Jobs urged the students to pursue their dreams and see the opportunities in life’s setbacks — including death itself. I think this was a really great speech in the sense that he asks us to think about what we really want to achieve in life, knowing that death is the only destiny we all share – no one has ever escaped it.

TV: How can we establish and negotiate technological priorities? In a world of limited bandwidth, the growth in connectivity will challenge our current network capacity to cope with data. We need a better way of understanding which services should be prioritized. For example, how can we make sure vital medical data or pluggable Internet of Things devices aren’t slowed by streaming and IoT enabled loose end points?

MP: I wouldn’t be too worried about this. Network capacity will continue to scale and various security mechanisms will deal with priorities and separate the vital networks and applications from the less critical ones.

TV: How can we take a long-term perspective on services and objects? We currently design for beginnings – getting people connected and tied into a system. How can we make sure people end relationships with service providers as easily? As more big-ticket items become connected (cars, fridges etc) and are sold on to new owners and users, this becomes increasingly important.

MP: As “things” becomes connected more and more consumers will make use of the new applications and systems. Ease of use and the willingness to change will be the keys. The consumers are a challenging set of customers as they will not accept systems and application not stable enough or easy to use. Companies offering such products will simply fail.

TV: How can we balance aspirations for the IoT with the reality of what it will be able to deliver? There are strong tensions between the aspirations and our vision of a technological future and the pragmatics of our everyday lives.

MP: I do not agree to the statement that there are strong tensions. We see enormous activity from entrepreneurs in the IoT space these days, and yet I think that this is just the very early beginning of a new mega-trend in the industry, as well as applications and services being provided to the consumers. Some of these ideas will fly and become great products, others will fail. And again, I think the consumers will be the judges when it becomes to the decision of what will be a success story and what will fail.

TV: Who represents who? Who stands up for, educates, represents and lobbies for people using the IoT or connected products? Is this the role of people centered designers? As a product extraordinaire, how can you help companies bring Internet of Things devices or connected smart products to life?

MP: That’s a really good question! With the indications I already mentioned from the analysts, (predicting a $1.9 trillion market in 2020), there are many groups and communities scratching their heads trying to figure out how to get their piece of this big pie. Some of the drive will come from the industry promoting their technology, but there will also be IoT solutions being demanded and pushed for by the consumers themselves.

TV: Who are the people using it? How do we define the communities and circles that use each product and their relationship to each other?

MP: As with most new products and solutions, quite a number of initiatives will be rolled out in high end products first. Some solutions are maybe more the limited audience of tech-freaks, but IoT is rapidly becoming a reality in everyones lives.

TV: What can we learn about IoT in everyday business communication, product design and product emergence?

MP: IoT opens up a huge space of new solutions, systems and products. We will move into a world of smarter devices, where the devices themselves are capable of communicating with other IoT devices. Some of these devices will even make decisions to interact with and control other devices without any input from human beings. Just look at the car-industry. High end cars are now able to park without a driver, they can position themselves in the lane, keep distance from the vehicle in front, and we’re about to get a fleet of cars that are able to communicate with each other, making decisions on our behalf. Some cars are also equipped with systems for automated emergency calls and even report the exact position it is calling from. These are examples of systems already available. Given the fact that the devices are connected they can also be reprogrammed to change behavior without any need for major hardware updates. This offers flexibility in design and helps keeps the platform up to date before a new hardware product design cycle needs to be kicked-off.

TV: How does rapid prototyping help drive new product developments and how does it fit with a people-centric or customer-centric methodology? How can government nurture efficiencies or disruption? Is it their role to help adopt innovation for the end customer?

MP: Rapid prototyping enables shorter development cycles, but it can also be used to spin multiple prototypes quickly to test various options and product configurations. This way you can execute modifications and changes early in the development stage and avoid costly redesigns at a later stage. This might represent the difference between a project failure and a successful product. Personally, I think governments should play an active role in innovation, making sure startups and even established companies have an environment where they can achieve sustainable growth. In the past we’ve even seen governments actively funding IoT projects during economic downturns, like what US government did back in 2009 – feeding hundreds of billion of dollars to the industry in order to create new jobs. Some of these funds went into smart energy projects rolling out smart meters as we have already seen in California.

TV: How can we track “Things” and what will this tell us about their use?

MP: There are a number of ways to track “things,” ranging from traditional GPS technology to various methods of range measurements and triangulation algorithms. This provides useful information about the device, or its owner, and can be used in many ways. I already mentioned automated emergency calls reporting a vehicle’s position, but the number of applications benefiting from location (positioning) services is really unlimited. From the retail industry for example, we see an increased demand for such services in connection to targeted commercials for each and every customer, as well as monitoring customer behavior in a shopping mall to maximize sales.

TV: What are the new interfaces and dashboards that will help people to interact with the IoT? How important will the distinction be between devices equipped with a screen (touch, etc) and those without? How does this play a role in the latest features of Atmel’s microcontrollers and microprocessors?

MP: User interfaces are extremely important. These interfaces have quickly evolved from traditional button and screens, to the touchscreen technology as we know it today. Touch screens and their related applications and user interfaces has proven very easy and intuitive to use, so it is quickly becoming the de-facto standard. This is obviously also the reason why Atmel as a company has invested heavily in touch technology over the last few years, ranging from capacitive buttons, sliders and wheels, to small and large touch screens. As more and more products utilize this technology, capacitive touch technology is rapidly becoming a standard building block in all Atmel microcontrollers.

TV: Who should ask where potential pain is in the business innovation belt? Is it the designer or business manager, or both?  Do we create value and value chains that reward creators or just end user customers? How can the designer and product creativity map to microcontroller functionality and capabilities?

MP: I think this needs to be reviewed by all parties involved. Innovation is an interactive process involving everyone from the designer to the consumer. Good products will also create value for everyone involved in the process – from the design kickoff until there is a finished product in the hands of the consumer. Selecting Atmel as a design partner ensures access to a family of microcontrollers capable of scaling in terms of resources and peripherals such as wireless connectivity and touch enabled user interfaces. It is a very important strategy for Atmel to be positively aligned with the customer when defining roadmaps and the next generation of microcontrollers. The only way we can make sure we have the right technology available at the right time is to define our future roadmaps in close cooperation with our customers.