Tag Archives: Andreas Eieland

4 reasons why Atmel is ready to ride the IoT wave


The IoT recipe comprises of three key technology components: Sensing, computing and communications.


In 2014, a Goldman Sachs’ report took many people by surprise when it picked Atmel Corporation as the company best positioned to take advantage of the rising Internet of Things (IoT) tsunami. At the same time, the report omitted tech industry giants like Apple and Google from the list of companies that could make a significant impact on the rapidly expanding IoT business. So what makes Atmel so special in the IoT arena?

The San Jose, California–based chipmaker has been proactively building its ‘SMART’ brand of 32-bit ARM-based microcontrollers that boasts an end-to-end design platform for connected devices in the IoT realm. The company with two decades of experience in the MCU business was among the first to license ARM’s low-power processors for IoT chips that target smart home, industrial automation, wearable electronics and more.

Atmel and IoT (Internet of Things)

Goldman Sachs named Atmel a leader in the Internet of Things (IoT) market.

Goldman Sachs named Atmel a leader in the Internet of Things (IoT) market

A closer look at the IoT ingredients and Atmel’s product portfolio shows why Goldman Sachs called Atmel a leader in the IoT space. For starters, Atmel is among the handful of chipmakers that cover all the bases in IoT hardware value chain: MCUs, sensors and wireless connectivity.

1. A Complete IoT Recipe

The IoT recipe comprises of three key technology components: Sensing, computing and communications. Atmel offers sensor products and is a market leader in MCU-centric sensor fusion solutions than encompass context awareness, embedded vision, biometric recognition, etc.

For computation—handling tasks related to signal processing, bit manipulation, encryption, etc.—the chipmaker from Silicon Valley has been offering a diverse array of ARM-based microcontrollers for connected devices in the IoT space.

Atmel-IoT-Low-Power-wearable

Atmel has reaffirmed its IoT commitment through a number of acquisitions.

Finally, for wireless connectivity, Atmel has cobbled a broad portfolio made up of low-power Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Zigbee radio technologies. Atmel’s $140 million acquisition of Newport Media in 2014 was a bid to accelerate the development of low-power Wi-Fi and Bluetooth chips for IoT applications. Moreover, Atmel could use Newport’s product expertise in Wi-Fi communications for TV tuners to make TV an integral part of the smart home solutions.

Furthermore, communications across the Internet depends on the TCP/IP stack, which is a 32-bit protocol for transmitting packets on the Internet. Atmel’s microcontrollers are based on 32-bit ARM cores and are well suited for TCP/IP-centric Internet communications fabric.

2. Low Power Leadership

In February 2014, Atmel announced the entry-level ARM Cortex M0+-based microcontrollers for the IoT market. The SAM D series of low-power MCUs—comprising of D21, D10 and D11 versions—featured Atmel’s signature high-end features like peripheral touch controller, USB interface and SERCOM module. The connected peripherals work flawlessly with Cortex M0+ CPU through the Event System that allows system developers to chain events in software and use an event to trigger a peripheral without CPU involvement.

According to Andreas Eieland, Director of Product Marketing for Atmel’s MCU Business Unit, the IoT design is largely about three things: Battery life, cost and ease-of-use. The SAM D microcontrollers aim to bring the ease-of-use and price-to-performance ratio to the IoT products like smartwatches where energy efficiency is crucial. Atmel’s SAM D family of microcontrollers was steadily building a case for IoT market when the company’s SAM L21 microcontroller rocked the semiconductor industry in March 2015 by claiming the leadership in low-power Cortex-M IoT design.

Atmel’s SAM L21 became the lowest power ARM Cortex-M microcontroller when it topped the EEMBC benchmark measurements. It’s plausible that another MCU maker takes over the EEMBC benchmarks in the coming months. However, according to Atmel’s Eieland, what’s important is the range of power-saving options that an MCU can bring to product developers.

“There are many avenues to go down on the low path, but they are getting complex,” Eieland added. He quoted features like multiple clock domains, event management system and sleepwalking that provide additional levels of configurability for IoT product developers. Such a set of low-power technologies that evolves in successive MCU families can provide product developers with a common platform and a control on their initiatives to lower power consumption.

3. Coping with Digital Insecurity

In the IoT environment, multiple device types communicate with each other over a multitude of wireless interfaces like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Low Energy. And IoT product developers are largely on their own when it comes to securing the system. The IoT security is a new domain with few standards and IoT product developers heavily rely on the security expertise of chip suppliers.

Atmel offers embedded security solutions for IoT designs.

Atmel, with many years of experience in crypto hardware and Trusted Platform Modules, is among the first to offer specialized security hardware for the IoT market. It has recently shipped a crypto authentication device that has integrated the Elliptic Curve Diffie-Hellman (ECDH) security protocol. Atmel’s ATECC508A chip provides confidentiality, data integrity and authentication in systems with MCUs or MPUs running encryption/decryption algorithms like AES in software.

4. Power of the Platform

The popularity of 8-bit AVR microcontrollers is a testament to the power of the platform; once you learn to work on one MCU, you can work on any of the AVR family microcontrollers. And same goes for Atmel’s Smart family of microcontrollers aimed for the IoT market. While ARM shows a similarity among its processors, Atmel exhibits the same trait in the use of its peripherals.

Low-power SAM L21 builds on features of SAM D MCUs.

A design engineer can conveniently work on Cortex-M3 and Cortex -M0+ processor after having learned the instruction set for Cortex-M4. Likewise, Atmel’s set of peripherals for low-power IoT applications complements the ARM core benefits. Atmel’s standard features like sleep modes, sleepwalking and event system are optimized for ultra-low-power use, and they can extend IoT battery lifetime from years to decades.

Atmel, a semiconductor outfit once focused on memory and standard products, began its transformation toward becoming an MCU company about eight years ago. That’s when it also started to build a broad portfolio of wireless connectivity solutions. In retrospect, those were all the right moves. Fast forward to 2015, Atmel seems ready to ride on the market wave created by the IoT technology juggernaut.

Interested? You may also want to read:

Atmel’s L21 MCU for IoT Tops Low Power Benchmark

Atmel’s New Car MCU Tips Imminent SoC Journey

Atmel’s Sensor Hub Ready to Wear


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.


ARM @ Atmel’s EELive! ToT booth

ARM’s Andy Frame stopped by Atmel’s EELive! 2014 ToT booth to chat with our very own Andreas Eieland (@AndreasMCUguy), who looks after Atmel’s SAM D Cortex-M0+ based family of devices.

As you can see, Frame snapped a great picture of Andreas standing next to Atmel’s tricked-out Tech on Tour Truck which travels around the US showcasing a wide range of Atmel-powered products, including those based on ARM’s Cortex-M and Cortex-A5.

ARM’s Ronan Synnott was also at Atmel’s EELive! booth giving a presentation about ARM’s DS-5 support for Atmel SAMA5D3 devices. Ronan described how, with DS-5 Professional Edition, ARM provides a leading-edge software development tool chain for bare-metal, RTOS and Linux based projects. 

For the SAMA5D3 devices, ARM offers full debug support out of the box when used in conjunction with DSTREAM or ULINKproD JTAG debug units, the Streamline System Performance Analysis tool and the highly optimizing ARM C compiler.

We hope to hear more from Ronan over the next few weeks, so be sure to check Bits & Pieces for additional embedded news and reports.

Meanwhile, Atmel’s Tech on Tour trailer will be headed to Austin, Texas on April 8th. We’ll be talking about low-power system design using Atmel’s ARM-based SAM4L MCU, touch and wireless solutions, as well as offering an introduction to Atmel’s versatile SAM D20 microcontroller.

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Interested in learning more? You can register here and check out future ToT stops here.

Atmel’s MCU maestro talks IoT

Atmel Sr. Product Marketing Manager Andreas Eieland (@AndreasMCUguy) recently sat down with Graham Pitcher of NewElectronics to discuss the Internet of Things (IoT). As Pitcher notes, the IoT is exerting a major influence on the evolution of microcontroller (MCU) technology in 2014 and beyond.

“In broad terms, the IoT comprises three elements: edge devices, which often perform one dedicated function; hubs or fusion devices, which integrate data from edge devices; and larger processing elements,” said Pitcher. 

”It’s the first two categories which are currently focusing the minds of MCU developers. The reason? The IoT demands two things above all others – minimal power consumption and the lowest possible cost.”

Eieland concurred.

“Being able to have the right features at the right power consumption will be critical,” he said. “Edge devices will need to run from harvested energy or for their full lifetime from a single battery.”

According to Eieland, MCUs will ultimately have to consume less than 1µA and less than 200nA in deep sleep.

“Atmel makes 8051 based MCUs, but if you want to connect to ZigBee, for example, our AVR cores are a better choice,” he explained. “But we also have a Cortex-M0+ part that competes in that sector.”

In terms of specific product examples, Eieland highlighted Atmel’s close collaboration with Bosch Sensortec on the development of the BNO055.

“There are six dice in the package, including a SAM D20 MCU,” Eieland confirmed.

“It’s a good example of how we are working with sensor manufacturers to get the most size efficient solutions possible.”

Eieland also commented on low geometry processes, noting that refinement of existing technology may very well be sufficient.

“We don’t think we want to go to 55nm because leakage at that node will be significant. Processes in the range from 100nm to 150nm may well be suitable, with one more product generation needed to evolve the low power aspects,” he concluded.

SAM D20 hits EDN’s Hot 100 list

Atmel’s SAM D20 microcontroller (MCU) was recently spotted on EDN’s 2013 Hot 100 Products list. Based on ARM’s powerful Cortex M0+ core, the SAM D20 builds on decades of innovation and experience in embedded Flash microcontroller (MCU) technology. Indeed, Atmel’s SAM D20 lineup sets a new benchmark for flexibility and ease-of-use, while combining the performance and energy efficiency of the ARM Cortex-M0+ core with an optimized architecture and peripheral set.

“We’ve learned a lot about microcontrollers (MCUs) since Atmel launched the first 8051 micro in 1995 and the first AVR in 1996,” Atmel Sr. Product Marketing Manager Andreas Eieland (@AndreasMCUguy) told ARM’s Andrew Frame in July.

“A lot of this know-how is included in the new SAM D20 family: from simple things that make the devices easy to develop with like making the devices pin and code compatible, to more advanced system integration technologies.”

According to Eieland, there are a number of reasons why Atmel decided to move forward and bring a Cortex-M0+ based family to the market.

“First of all, we are a dedicated ARM partner and already have Cortex-M3, Cortex-M4 and Cortex-A5 products available, as well as products based on the ARM9 and ARM7 cores, so ensuring a complete ARM portfolio for our customers by extending the product offering downwards with a Cortex-M0+ was a natural thing to do,” he said.

“Secondly, the Cortex-M0+  market space is growing and we want to make sure that those developers who need more computational power than what you find in an 8 or 16-bit solution can find a product fit with Atmel. And last, but certainly not least, we are confident that mixing our AVR knowledge with an industry standard core allows us to bring a really good, unique and easy to use product to the market.”

As we’ve previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, Atmel’s SAM D20 family is ideal for a wide range of low-power, cost-sensitive industrial and consumer applications including board management controllers, GPS trackers, optical transceivers, appliance UI control units and intelligent remotes.

According to Atmel engineering manager Bob Martin, the SAM D20′s power-saving techniques include an event system that allows peripherals to communicate directly with each other without involving the CPU – with SleepWalking peripherals waking the CPU only upon a pre-qualified event.

“In terms of peripheral flexibility, a serial communication module (SERCOM) is fully software configurable to handle I2C, USART/UART and SPI communications,” he explained. “Meaning, with multiple SERCOM modules on a device, designers can precisely tailor the peripheral mix to their applications.”

Meanwhile, the SAM D20′s QTouch Peripheral Touch Controller offers integrated hardware support for buttons, sliders, wheels and proximity – as well as supporting both mutual and self-capacitive touch (without the need for external components), along with noise tolerance and self-calibration.

Additional key hardware specs include high-precision, 12-bit analog and internal oscillators; 8 16-bit timer/counters; 32-bit real time clock and calendar; real-time performance; peripheral event system, as well as flexible clocking options and sleep modes.

As noted above, the SAM D20 lineup boasts 6 serial communication modules (SERCOM) that can be configured to act as an USART, UART, SPI or I2C. On the scalability side, Flash memory densities range from 16KB to 256KB, with devices available in 32-, 48- and 64-pin QFP and QFN package options.

“In a nutshell, the SAM D20 family extends the lower end Atmel Cortex portfolio, closing the gap between the AVR XMEGA and the Cortex-M3 and Cortex-M4 products,” Martin continued. “The SAM D20 – the first series in this new family – offers 48MHz operation (1.77 CoreMark/MHz), single-cycle IO access and supports a pin-toggling frequency up to 24MHz along with an 8-channel event system. In terms of low-power sipping, we’re looking at <150µA/MHz, ~2µA RAM retention and RTC as well as options between internal and external oscillators and on-the-fly clock switching.”

Interested in learning more? Additional information about Atmels’ s SAMD20 MCU series can be found here.

Atmel @ 2013 World Maker Faire: Day 2

On day one of the 2013 World Maker Faire in NYC, Atmel showcased a number of uber-cool exhibits and demos, including Hexbugs, the wildly popular Makerbot 2 3D printer, Pensa, ArduLab and Fuzzbots.

Atmel’s booth in the Arduino pavilion continued to draw large crowds on day two of the Faire, with 12-year-old Maker and CEO Quin Etnyre proudly showing off the Educator’s Choice award and open source maven Eric Weddington displaying his Editor’s Award for a slick bunny suit demo of how Atmel AVR MCUs are made, from start to finish.

Meanwhile, Andreas Eieland (aka Atmel’s “MCU Guy”) talked a little SAM4N with attendees, while Atmel’s Bob Martin offered up some more Hexbug hacking to eager booth visitors.

Martin later took a break from the Atmel booth to give an electronics presentation titled “Prototyping is as Easy as Uno, Due, Tres.”

Although the 2013 World Maker Faire may be drawing to a close, Atmel continues to challenge Makers, designers and engineers to develop new AVR-powered gadgets and gizmos with commercial potential.

So do you think you have what it takes to be a Master Maker?

If you do, be sure to check out Atmel’s ongoing AVR Hero Maker Faire Contest. We’ll feature the projects and the people will vote, with the Master Maker receiving a $1,000 cash prize, one-year discount on Atmel products, four tickets to upcoming (local) Maker Faires and some cool Atmel swag!

Chalk Talk with Atmel’s MCU maestro

Connecting your device to the rapidly expanding Internet of Things (IoT) opens up a wide world of potential new capabilities. In this episode of EE Journal’s Chalk Talk, Amelia Dalton chats with Andreas Eieland (Atmel) about some amazing new devices that can dramatically simplify the task of getting your next design into the IoT party.

chalktalkembed

As Eieland notes, the first ARM Cortex-M0+ powered lineup from Atmel is the general purpose SAM D20 family – ranging all the way from 32 pin devices with 16KB of embedded Flash to 64 pin 256KB devices.

“We have learnt a lot about microcontrollers (MCUs) since Atmel launched the first 8051 micro in 1995 and the first AVR in 1996,” Eieland explained. “A lot of this know-how is included in the new SAM D20 family: from simple things that make the devices easy to develop with like making the devices pin and code compatible, to more advanced system integration technologies.”

As previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, 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 lead IDATE analyst Samuel Ropert, the IoT actually aims to go beyond M2M by enabling any object to connect and leverage the Internet (Internet of Objects – IoO) even if it does not contain the electronics required to connect directly to the Internet; it connects to the internet with the use of an intermediate device.

“[Based on] this definition, 15 billion things (machines, connected devices and objects) were connected to the Internet in 2012, up from 4 billion in 2010. In 2020, there will be 80 billion where IoO will represent 85% of the total IoT, ahead of communicating devices with 11% and M2M with only 4%,” Ropert added.

An MCU or MPU, that is the question: Part 2

In part one of this series, Bits & Pieces discussed a number of differences between an MCU and MPU, including memory and power consumption methodology. In part two of this installment, we take a closer look at processing power, UI, TFT controllers, connectivity and real-time/deterministic behavior.

thinkbeyondcore

As previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, an ARM Cortex-M4-based microcontroller such as Atmel’s SAM4 MCU is rated at 150 DMIPS (Dhrystone MIPS ) while an ARM Cortex-A5 application processor (MPU) such as Atmel’s SAMA5D3 is capable of delivering up to 850 DMIPS.

“One way of estimating the DMIPS required is by looking at the parts of the application that may be performance hungry. Running a full operating system (OS), such as Linux, Android or Windows CE would demand at least 300 – 400 DMIPS,” Frédéric Gaillard, product marketing manager and Andreas Eieland, senior product marketing manager, told Bits & Pieces.

“For many applications, a straightforward RTOS might suffice and an allowance of 50 DMIPS would be more than adequate. Using an RTOS also has the benefit that it requires little memory space; a kernel of just a few kB being typical. Unfortunately, a full OS demands a memory management unit (MMU) in order to run; this in turn specifies the type of processor core to be used and require more processor capability.”

Gaillard and Eieland also noted that DMIPS allowance needs to be reserved on top of any OS and other communication and control tasks for running applications that are more number-crunching intensive enough. Meaning, the more numeric-based the application, the more likely a MPU is required.

The user interface (UI), say Gaillard and Eieland, is also a serious consideration for engineers, whether the intended application is targeted at consumer electronics or industrial automation. Indeed, consumers have grown accustomed to colorful and intuitive graphical UIs, with industrial applications increasingly using this method of operator interaction (although the operating environment can limit how much this is warranted).

“For the UI there are a number of factors. Firstly, is a processing overhead required? For a UI library such as Qt, which is widely used on top of Linux, an overhead of 80 – 100 DMIPS might suffice,” the two explained.”The second factor is to do with the complexity of the UI. The more you have animations, effects, multimedia content, the more changes are applied to the image to be displayed, the more processing power and memory you need.”

Of course, requirements do scale up with the resolution, which is why UI-centric applications are probably best suited for an MPU. On the other hand, a simpler UI with pseudo-static images on a lower resolution screen can easily be addressed by an MCU. Indeed, MPUs typically include an embedded TFT LCD controller, while very few MCUs are packaged with this feature. Meaning, the TFT LCD controller, along with a number of external driver components, have to be added externally to MCUs.

“Yes, some Flash MCUs are now hitting the market with TFT LCD controllers embedded, although there still must be enough embedded SRAM memory available to drive the display. For example, the QVGA 320 x 240 16-colour format requires 150 kB of SRAM to feed and refresh the display,” Gaillard and Eieland noted.

“This is a fairly high amount of SRAM to dedicate; so extra memory might be required – further adding to the BOM and bridging the gap with the MPU solution. More complex and advanced graphical UIs, especially using screens larger than 4.3-inches, would stipulate an MPU. If MPUs are seen to dominate when it comes to run a UI on a color TFT screen then MCU are the kings for segment or dot matrix LCD control and other screens with serial interfaces.”

In short, the decisions involved in selecting either an MCU  or MPU-based approach are varied, with engineers carefully weighing a number of factors, including performance, capability and BOM (budget).

Broadly speaking, MCUs  tend to be used in cost-optimized solutions where a tight control of BOM and power saving is essential. MPUs are typically chose for functionally, as well as rich and high performance applications. In contrast, MCUs tend to be deployed in ultra low power applications such as remote controls, consumer electronics and smart meters where the design emphasis puts longevity of battery life and none or little UI interaction. And lastly, MCUs are also used where a highly deterministic behavior is needed, while MPUs are ideal for OS-based industrial and consumer applications that might be compute intensive, requiring multiple high-speed connectivity or a rich UI.

“Selecting a vendor offering highly compatible MCU  and MPU products where you can easily migrate up and down and maximize software reuse provides the best return on investment over time,” Gaillard and Eieland added.