Tag Archives: 8-bit Flash MCUs

Understanding the IoT

The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to a future world where all types of electronic devices link to each other via the Internet. Today, it’s estimated that there are nearly 10 billion devices in the world connected to the Internet, a figure expected to triple to nearly 30 billion by 2020.

According to Alain Louchez of the Georgia Institute of Technology, interest in the IoT has accelerated dramatically in 2013. A number of initiatives – annual conferences, forums, new journals, standards groups and public consultations – have recently kicked off around the world, confirming the growing importance of connected objects.

“IoT is many things to many people. It is often cloaked with various names, depending on the context. For example, machine-to-machine communications (M2M), ubiquitous computing, cyber-physical systems, industrial Internet, smart grid and smarter planet are a few examples of expressions used to describe IoT,” Louchez explained.

“[However], the development of any IoT solution requires the combination of myriad technologies and expertise, from the sensing and actuating stage to the transformation of data into actionable information. For IoT to thrive, education, training and awareness must become a top priority for businesses, governments and academia.”

Louchez also recommended that more colleges and universities integrate IoT technology into their respective curricula.

“China is one of the first countries to understand the need for well-adapted educational programs to support IoT acceleration. Many Chinese universities already offer degrees in Internet of Things Engineering. Note that the fundamental technical knowledge necessary to prepare for IoT can be found in universities with programs in ubiquitous computing, interactive computing, human–computer interaction, cyber-physical systems and M2M networking,” he continued.

“These programs are inherently dynamic because they need to keep pace with a rapidly changing industry. With the arrival of Big Data, generated in no small part by IoT and associated technologies, ‘data science’ has become a hot topic in academic circles. The information extraction is central to IoT and cannot be ignored by IoT architects.”

Finally, Louchez noted that smart roads, home automation and fitness-data collection are examples that can be used to explain the power of IoT on practical terms to both businesses and consumers.

“IoT is about the radical transformation of society, which won’t happen overnight. Education, training and awareness are some of the highly visible prerequisites, and critical to IoT’s success. The faster we come to grips with this, the faster IoT will move to mainstream adoption,” he concluded.

As we’ve previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, the rapidly evolving IoT represents perhaps the greatest potential growth market for semiconductors over the next several years. And that is precisely why Atmel remains focused on designing the absolute lowest power sipping products, particularly with regards to microcontrollers (MCUs).

“Atmel is well positioned for the rapidly evolving IoT as our portfolio includes ultra-low power WiFi capability and an extensive lineup of microcontrollers (MCUs). As applications become more interconnected and user interfaces become richer, MCUs must handle and transfer ever-growing levels of data. To boost performance for these smart, connected applications, Atmel’s 8-bit Flash MCUs integrate a wide range of classic communication peripherals, such as UART, SPI and I2C,” an Atmel engineering rep told Bits & Pieces.

“Plus, our higher-performance 32-bit MCUs and embedded MPUs (eMPUs) feature Ethernet and full-speed and high-speed USB, while also providing extension ports for external communication modules such as WiFi or cellular modems. Simply put, Atmel MCUs are designed to deliver maximum performance and meet the requirements of advanced applications. That is why we offer highly integrated architecture optimized for high-speed connectivity, optimal data bandwidth and rich interface support – making them ideal for powering the smart, connected products at the heart of the IoT.”

Atmel MCUs: High performance for the IoT

Atmel microcontrollers (MCUs) are designed to deliver maximum performance and meet the requirements of advanced applications. That is why our MCUs offer highly integrated architecture optimized for high-speed connectivity, optimal data bandwidth and rich interface support – making them ideal for powering the smart, connected products at the heart of The Internet of Things (IoT).

Essentially, the Internet of Things (IoT) refers to a future world where all types of electronic devices link to each other via the Internet. Today, it’s estimated that there are nearly 10 billion devices in the world connected to the Internet, a figure expected to triple to nearly 30 billion by 2020.

“As applications become more interconnected and user interfaces become richer, microcontrollers must handle and transfer ever-growing levels of data,” an Atmel engineering rep told Bits & Pieces. “To boost performance for these smart, connected applications, Atmel’s 8-bit Flash MCUs integrate a wide range of classic communication peripherals, such as UART, SPI and I2C. Plus, our higher-performance 32-bit MCUs and embedded MPUs (eMPUs) feature Ethernet and full-speed and high-speed USB, while also providing extension ports for external communication modules such as WiFi or cellular modems.”

More specifically, Atmel’s ARM-based SAM9G45 eMPU  boasts high-speed 480 Mbps USB Host and Device Ports with on-chip transceivers, Ethernet MAC and SDIO/SD Card/MMC interfaces – offering developers an easy way to manage large amounts of data and interconnection both between systems and printed circuit boards (PCBs) inside a system. Indeed, the SAM9G45 eMPU is fully compliant with both EHCI and OHCI standards, enabling easy porting of USB host drivers to the SAM9G45.

Similarly, Atmel’s 32-bit AVR and AT91SAM devices are also well-suited for a wide range of standards-based high-speed USB applications. To be sure, the peripheral DMA controller found in the AVR XMEGA and AVR UC3 facilitates efficient data transfers between peripherals and memories with minimal CPU intervention. This eliminates CPU bottlenecks, allowing AVR microcontrollers to achieve transfer rates of up to 33 MBit/s per SPI and USART port with only a 15 percent load on the CPU.

“In addition, Atmel offers a complete line of IEEE 802.15.4-compliant, IPv6/6LoWPAN based, ZigBee certified wireless solutions,” the engineering rep continued. “They are based on our extensive family of RF transceivers, 8-bit and 32-bit AVR, and ARM microcontrollers. As expected, to ease development and speed time to market, Atmel offers a variety of free software stacks, reference designs, wireless modules and development kits.”

In terms of ensuring sufficient data bandwidth, Atmel’s 32-bit MCUs and eMPUs contains a set of parallel data buses where each bus master controls its own dedicated bus connected to all the slaves. This lets the devices support tremendous data bandwidth and removes processing bottlenecks. Atmel 400 MHz eMPUs also feature a high data speedway architecture based on a peripheral DMA (direct memory access) and distributed memory architecture that, together with a multi-layer bus matrix, enables multiple simultaneous data transfers between memories, peripherals and external interfaces without consuming CPU clock cycles.

Meanwhile, select models of Atmel’s 32-bit microcontrollers feature additional SRAM blocks connected to the multi-layer databus or tightly-coupled with the CPU, enabling devices with multiple high-speed communication interfaces to transfer more data by allowing each peripheral to use all of the available bandwidth of any one of the SRAMs. Combined with the peripheral DMA controller, this allows large blocks of data to be transferred with minimal load on the CPU.

It should also be noted that Atmel’s versatile and expansive MCU portfolio can be used to power a wide range of sophisticated interfaces. Examples include industrial applications, such as home and commercial building automation, data loggers, point-of-sale terminals and cash registers, in-house displays for energy metering, alarm systems and medical equipment – all are joining the “smart” revolution currently enjoyed by portable media player and smartphone markets.

So in addition to ubiquitous Internet connectivity, a central aspect of The Internet of Things, the way in which individuals interface and interact with equipment is fundamentally changing. This is prompting hardware designers to increase the processor performance to several 100 MIPS, the peripheral data rates to tens of Mbps and on and off-chip bandwidth to Gbps. As such, the memory size scales with the software to several Mbytes in cases of an RTOS-based implementation or tens of Mbytes for Linux or Microsoft Embedded CE.

Last, but certainly not least, videos are replacing static images. To address this demand, the Atmel SAM9M10 eMPU embeds a high-performance hardware video decoder and 2D accelerator, delivering a high-quality user experience, all while preserving the full processing power of the central processing unit for the application.

“Simply put, we are continuing to build on its legacy of innovation and highly integrated designs, to deliver a solid combination of performance, flexibility and efficiency to support the machine-to-machine (M2M) communications and evolution of the ‘industrial Internet,'” the engineering rep added.