Tag Archives: ARM ecosystem

mbed eval boards showcase focus on IoT software and connectivity

Chipmakers like Atmel are joining hands with ARM to bring the entire ecosystem under one roof and thus facilitate the creation of standards-based IoT products.

ARM’s mbed operating system is winning attention in the highly fragmented embedded software space by promising a solid software foundation for interoperable hardware and thus scale the Internet of Things designs by narrowing the development time.

Atmel has put its weight behind ARM’s mbed OS by launching the single-chip evaluation board for the IoT ecosystem in a bid to ensure low software dependence for the embedded developers. The leading microcontroller supplier unveiled the mbed evaluation platform at the recent ARM TechCon held in Santa Clara, California.

The mbed OS platform is focused on rapid development of connected devices with an aim to create a serious professional platform to prototype IoT applications. So IoT developers don’t have to look to software guys for help. The mbed stack features a strong focus on enhancing the IoT’s connectivity and software components.

Atmel mbed Xpro board

ARM is the lead maintainer for the mbed OS modules while it adds silicon partners, like Atmel, as platform-specific dependencies for the relevant mbed OS modules. Silicon partners are responsible for their platform-specific drivers.

Atmel’s mbed-enabled evaluation board is based on the low-power 2.4GHz wireless Cortex-M0+ SAM R21 MCU. Moreover, Atmel is expanding mbed OS support for its Wi-Fi modules and Bluetooth Low Energy products.

The fact that Atmel is adding mbed OS to its IoT ecosystem is an important nod for ARM’s mbed technology in its journey from merely a hardware abstraction layer to a full-fledged IoT platform. Atmel managers acknowledge that mbed technology adds diversity to embedded hardware devices and makes MCUs more capable.

Solid Software Foundation

There is a lot of code involved in the IoT applications and software is getting more complex. It encompasses, for instance, sensor library to acquire data, authentication at IoT gateways and SSL security. Here, the automatic software integration engine like mbed lets developers focus on their applications instead of worrying about integrating off-the-shelf software.

The mbed reference designs like the one showcased by Atmel during ARM TechCon are aimed at narrowing the development time with the availability of building blocks and design resources—components, code and infrastructure—needed to bootstrap a working IoT system. Atmel managers are confident that a quality software foundation like mbed could help bring IoT products to market faster.


Atmel’s mbed-enabled IoT evaluation board promises harmony between hardware and software. Apparently, chipmakers like Atmel are joining hands with ARM to bring the entire ecosystem — OS software, cloud services and developer tools — under one roof, and thus facilitate the creation of standards-based IoT products. Atmel’s mbed evaluation board clearly mirrors that effort to deliver a complete hardware, software and developer tools ecosystem in order to bring IoT designs quicker to market.

The platform comprises of mbed OS software for IoT client devices like gateways and mbed Device Server for the cloud services. ARM launched the mbed software platform in 2014 and Atmel has been part of this initiative since then.

mbed in Communications Stack

Additionally, Atmel has tied the mbed association to its SmartConnect wireless solutions to make the best of mbed’s networking stack in the Internet of connected things. The IoT technology is built on layers, and here, interoperability of communications protocols is a key challenge.

For a start, Atmel’s SAM R21-Xpro evaluation board is embed-enabled and is built around the R21 microcontroller, which has been designed for industrial and consumer wireless applications running proprietary communication stacks or IEEE 802.15.4-compliant solutions.

Next up, the evaluation board includes SAM W25 Wi-Fi module that integrates IEEE 802.11 b/g/n IoT network controller with the existing MCU solution, SAM D21, which is also based on the Cortex-M0+ processor core.

Furthermore, Atmel is offering an mbed-enabled Bluetooth starter kit that includes SAM L21 microcontroller-based evaluation board and ultra-low-power Bluetooth chip BTLC1000, which is compliant with Bluetooth Low Energy 4.1. Atmel demonstrated a home lighting system at the ARM TechCon show floor, which employed SAM R21-based Thread routers that passed light sensor information to an mbed-enabled home gateway. Subsequently, this information was processed and sent to the mbed Device Server using a web interface.

Majeed Ahmad is the 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 Keil ecosystem integrates the Atmel SAM ESV7

Keil is part of the ARM wide ecosystem, enabling developers to speed up system release to the market. 

Even the best System-on-Chip (SoC) is useless without software, as well as the best designed S/W needs H/W to flourish. The “old” embedded world has exploded into many emergent markets like the  IoT, wearables, and even automotive, which is no more restricted to motor control or airbags as innovative products from entertainment to ADAS are being developed. What is the common denominator with these emergent products? Each of these require more software functionality and fast memory algorithm with deterministic code execution, and consequently innovative hardware to support these requirements, such as the ARM Cortex-M7-based Atmel | SMART SAM ESV7.

AtmelChipLib Overview

ARM has released a complete software development environment for a range of ARM Cortex-M based MCU devices: Keil MDK. Keil is part of ARM wide ecosystem, enabling developers to speed up system release to the market. MDK includes the µVision IDE/Debugger and ARM C/C++ Compiler, along with the essential middleware components and software packs. If you’re familiar with Run-Time Environment stacked description, you’ll recognize the various stacks. Let’s focus on “CMSIS-Driver”. CMSIS is the standard software framework for Cortex-M MCUs, extending the SAM-ESV7 Chip Library with standardized drivers for middleware and generic component interfaces.

By definition, an MCU is designed to address multiple applications and the SAM ESV7 is dedicated to support performance demanding and DSP intensive systems. Thanks to its 300MHz clock, SAM ESV7 delivers up to 640 DMIPS and its DSP performance is double that available in the Cortex-M4. A double-precision floating-point unit and a double-issue instruction pipeline further position the Cortex-M7 for speed.

Atmel Cortex M7 based Dev board

Let’s review some of these applications where SAM ESV7 is the best choice…

Finger Printer Module

The goal is to provide human bio authentication module for office or house access control. The key design requirements are:

  • +300 MHz CPU performance to process recognition algorithms
  • Image sensor interface to read raw finger image data from finger sensor array
  • Low cost and smaller module size
  • Flash/memory to reduce BOM cost and module size
  • Memory interface to expand model with memory extension just in case.

The requirement for superior performance and an image sensor interface can be seen as essential needs, but which will make the difference will be to offer both cheaper BOM cost and smaller module size than the competitor? The SAM S70 integrates up to 2MB embedded Flash, which is twice more than the direct competitor and may allow reducing BOM and module size.

SAM S70 Finger Print

Automotive Radio System

Every cent counts in automotive design, and OEMs prefer using a MCU rather than MPU, at first for cost reasons. Building an attractive radio for tomorrow’s car requires developing very performing DSP algorithms. Such algorithms used to be developed on expansive DSP standard part, leading to large module size, including external Flash and MCU leading obviously to a heavy BOM. In a 65nm embedded Flash process device, the Cortex-M7 can achieve a 1500 CoreMark score while running at 300 MHz, and its DSP performance is double that available in the Cortex-M4. This DSP power can be used to manage eight channels of speaker processing, including six stages of biquads, delay, scaler, limiter and mute functions. The SAM S71 workload is only 63% of the CPU, leaving enough room to support Ethernet AVB stack — very popular in automotive.

One of the secret sauces of the Cortex-M7 architecture is to provide a way to bypass the standard execution mechanism using “tightly coupled memories,” or TCM. There is an excellent white paper describing TCM implementation in the SAM S70/E70 series, entitled “Run Blazingly Fast Algorithms with Cortex-M7 Tightly Coupled Memories” from Lionel Perdigon and Jacko Wilbrink, which you can find here.

This post has been republished with permission from SemiWiki.com, where Eric Esteve is a principle blogger as well as one of the four founding members of the site. This blog first appeared on SemiWiki on October 23, 2015.