Tag Archives: arm microcontroller

StoryHome is a connected storytelling device

This device is like Hallmark’s recordable storybooks for the Internet of Things era.

Everyone can agree that one of the most exciting things about being a kid is having a vivid imagination. Back in the day, one of the ways to stimulate those creative ideas was through bedtime stories. Aside from strengthening the bond between parents and their children, these tales were an excellent way to gradually ease a young one into their nightly slumbers. Though recent advancements like Skype and FaceTime on mobile devices are helping keep loved ones together like never before, the magical aura around listening to a narrative as you hit the hay has been lost.


This is what led to the development of StoryHome. The white, eggplant-shaped device, which resembles a Russian nesting doll, was designed as a simple way for families to connect and share stories with one another. This enchanted audio system enables users to tell and record, listen and play, as well as store some of their fondest memories.

How it works is pretty straightforward. A grandparent or another loved one plugs in the unit to their Internet router or connects to their Wi-Fi network, and presses a button to begin recording. This is uploaded to the company’s cloud service, and transmitted to a child’s companion device. Before bed, the gadget begins to glow, prompting a young one to pick it up and listen. What’s more, unlike those Hallmark recordable storybooks, everything remains stored in the cloud where those recordings can be managed, edited and organized using a web-based portal via smartphone or PC. Users can even invite extended family members to link their StoryHomes together.


While it may not beat having a parent tuck a child into bed, this product certainly makes for a great alternative for when mom or dad is away on business, vacation, or simply steps out of the house at night.

Based on an ARM-based processor, each StoryHome features a microphone, a speaker and a 3.5mm audio jack for easy listening, a micro-USB connector, Flash memory for more than four hours worth of stories and messages, a built-in battery that can last up to several days on standby, as well as a magical RGB LED interface for visual notifications.


Think this gadget would be put to good use in your home? Head over to its official Kickstarter page, where the Campfire UG team is currently seeking $153,804. Should their funding goal have a happy ending, delivery is expected to get underway in February 2016.

Glow lets you feel the beat while lighting up the street

Tron-like Glow headphones pulse to the music and your heart. 

Anyone who has ever attended an electronic dance concert or a nightclub knows that music and vibrant lights go together like a rama lamma lamma ka dinga da dinga dong. Well, a Bay Area-based startup is now converging these two into a slick set of earbuds that have officially launched on Kickstarter.


Aptly dubbed Glow, the first-ever smart headphones with laser light pulse brilliantly (in red, green and blue) to the beat of your favorite music or to the rhythm of your heart. An intuitive 5-way controller communicates with your phone over Bluetooth LE, allowing you to not only play/pause tunes, but activate apps such as Google Now, make calls, send texts and snap pictures as well.


The earbuds’ cords are comprised of Corning’s Fibrance material, which conducts laser light through flexible glass fibers. The pliability of Fibrance allows Glow to maintain its brightness and light uniformity no matter how much you curve, wrap and twist it. At the core of its remote lies an ARM-based MCU along with a built-in microphone, a 5mW laser diode, a tactile switch, a microUSB slot, and a LiPo rechargeable battery.


Currently live on Kickstarter, Glow has already well exceeded its $100,000 goal. However, the team notes that some of its desired features require additional development efforts and hitting a number of stretch goals will ensure that they can be implemented. If the crowdfunding campaign hits $500,000, the team will add bring full iPhone support. If it reaches $750,000, the startup hopes to make Glow dance to your steps and movement using the device’s built-in accelerometer. $1 million? The headphones will then include a built-in heart rate monitor.

“Music is already a very expressive medium, so having light synchronize with the music makes the experience that much better,” a company rep explained.

After watching the video above, we couldn’t help but reminisce about the ATmega32U4 based motion-activated speed suit we featured on Bits & Pieces last year. Similar to Glow for safe late night runs, the DIY suit completely illuminated when the wearer began to run, while flashed every time the wearer walked.

Preview: Atmel to enhance the IoT experience at ESC Brazil 2014

The World Cup and RoboCup have both come to an end. The Summer Olympics are still another two years away. So why are we heading to Brazil next week? The Embedded Systems Conference, of course! Held August 26-27th in São Paulo, Atmel is excited to be an exhibiting sponsor of this year’s ESC, which will bring together over 5,000 engineers from the vibrant Latin American embedded community.

Whether you live nearby or plan on swinging over to the Transamerica Expo Center, be sure to mark “stopping at Booth E 20” on your daily planner. There, you’ll have a chance to ask Atmel’s Tech Experts your toughest design questions, learn about industry trends, and see live demos of the newly-unveiled Atmel® | SMART™ product line. Experience firsthand how our latest solutions can help achieve high-performance standards, while meeting your power consumption expectations. With our configuration options, you’ll be able to implement our chips in all sorts of applications, ranging from smart metering to wearables. Atmel products are driving a vast majority of IoT and Maker devices in the market today, all of which will be on display during the two-day show.


We’ll be showcasing our complete offering of microcontrollers and microprocessors together with the all-important adjacent technologies like connectivity, sensor solutions, capacitive touch sensing and Atmel CryptoAuthentication devices. Here are several of the smart and secure ‘things’ you can expect to see this week:

Atmel AVR for IoT

Atmel AVR® MCUs are superior in terms of power consumption and are a better suited battery-powered application than any 32-bit MCU. The demo shows the AVR with a wireless connection running of battery. A graphical display also shows power consumption data.


Atmel | SMART SAM D20 QTouch Robustness

The Atmel | SMART SAM D20 QTouch® Robustness showcases not only the high touch performance of this device but also best-in-class conducted immunity and moisture tolerance required in home appliance and industrial applications.

Atmel SmartConnect

The Atmel SAM W23 includes the industry’s lowest-power Wi-Fi tailored for IoT use cases. It is positioned as an add-on turnkey solution for retrofit or new development with a highly scalable MCU approach that leverages the Atmel portfolio.


Thingsquare Open Source 6LoWPAN using Atmel | SMART SAM R21

The Atmel | SMART SAM R21 shows the latest generation of ultra-low-power ARM Cortex® M0+ based wireless MCU combined with an open source IPv6/6LoWPAN embedded communication stack provided by Thingsquare. The application targets ultra-low power-applications in home and building automation. The solution is also ideal for gas and water meters, which demand years of maintenance-free operation on a single battery cell.


Atmel | SMART SAM D20 GPS Tracker

The GPS asset tracker reference design with GSM connectivity is controlled through SMS messages and can support features like geo fencing, automated alarms, panic button and position tracking to SD card. It uses an accelerometer to determine if the GPS should be enabled or not, allowing lower power consumption. The high number of serial communication interfaces on a small, low power device makes the Atmel | SMART SAM D20 a perfect fit for asset tracking applications.

Atmel | SMART SAMA5D3 Qt-based Applications

The Atmel | SMART SAMA5D3 is a versatile, high-performance, low-power embedded MPU shown here in home automation and smart fridge applications. The demo also shows the SAMA5D3’s UI capability and system performance on a WVGA screen resolution.


Atmel QTouch

Atmel | SMART SAM D21+ QT1 Xplained Pro demonstrates high-performance Atmel QTouch button, slider and wheel use for easy integration in any application requiring human control. The SAM D20 + QT2 Xplained Pro demonstrates QTouch Surface ideal for any consumer or wearable application.

Atmel CryptoAuthentication Devices

The Atmel CryptoAuthentication ATSHA204A is an easy to use, low-power hardware key storage device. The demo shows symmetric authentication between the drill (host) and client (battery). Each contains an ATSHA204A with identical stored secret keys. The drill sends a random number“challenge”to the battery, which processes that with its secret key to send a coded response back to the host to verify if the stored secret keys indeed match.

Also, don’t miss Sander Arts, Atmel VP of Corporate Marketing, present on how Atmel is fueling the Maker Movement. Arts will share insights into Atmel-based Arduino boards, the growth of the worldwide Maker community, as well as how Atmel microcontrollers were there from the outset, providing simple but powerful MCUs as the hardware side of the equation. Discover why a countless number of artists, designers, inventors, engineers, musicians and even students are turning to Arduino boards designed around Atmel AVR® or Atmel | SMART MCUs to transform their ideas into fully-functional “things.” Details on the session can be found below!

Title: Atmel and the Maker Movement
Presenter: Sander Arts, VP of Corporate Marketing, Atmel Corporation
Date / Time: Tuesday, August 26th @ 5:00 pm
Location: Makers Club

So there you have it, folks! Don’t forget to visit Booth E 20, pick up your Atmel Xplained Mini Kit, chat with a tech expert and of course, partake in a number of hands-on demos!

Atmel powers the EMF 2014 Badge

Undoubtedly, you have a desk drawer filled with conference identification badges that you saved as souvenirs — some may spark up a bit of technostalgia, while a majority of them probably should’ve been thrown out years ago. Needless to say, none possess the functionality of the newly-unveiled TiLDA MKe badge created for Electromagnetic Field 2014 later this month.


Described as a camping festival with a power grid and high-speed Internet access  — or in simpler terms “a temporary village of geeks”  — EMF Camp 2014 focuses on cultivating a marketplace of ideas that is unfettered by outside influences. Impressively, teams of dedicated volunteers run the entire conference. For this year’s event, these volunteers have created one of the coolest badge designs we have ever encountered.

According to its organizers, the TiLDA MKe badge is a full-blown Arduino-based computer with an LCD screen and wireless connectivity. The badge, which is powered by an Atmel AT91SAM3X8E, allows attendees to browse the latest schedule which is automatically updated by a network of radio base stations across the site. In addition, it will also have a few other practical applications, including a handy torch-mode (with dedicated button) for locating your tent in the dark, a rain alarm, and as many fun applications as they can write in the remaining weeks. “We might even port some classic games for you to play on your way home,” the EMF Camp blog reveals.


The following hardware has been included on the badge:

  • Atmel ATSAM3X8E
    • This is the same chip as the Arduino Due and gives us the base platform for the badge
    • 32-bit ARM Cortex M3 * 84MHz
    • 512KBytes Flash RAM
    • 96KBytes of SRAM
  • A 128×64 pixel monochrome LCD display
  • Ciseco SRF Radio
    • 868Mhz RF Transceiver
    • Simple UART interface
    • Low power sleep mode
  • MPU-6050 3-axis Accelerometer and 3-axis gyro
    • I2C interface
    • Tri-Axis angular rate sensor (gyro) with a sensitivity up to 131 LSBs/dps and a full-scale range of ±250, ±500, ±1000, and ±2000dps
    • Tri-Axis accelerometer with a programmable full scale range of ±2g, ±4g, ±8g and ±16g
    • Digital Motion Processing™ (DMP™) engine offloads complex MotionFusion, sensor timing synchronization and gesture detection
  • PMIC & LiPo
  • Joystick
  • Buttons
  • RGB LED’s
  • IR
  • Arduino Headers
  • Pads for wearable tech

Every attendee will receive a TiLDA upon arrival, which they can take home afterwards and use it to experiment with programming. Cleverly, some of these workshops will actually be about ways that you can use and modify this Atmel-based badge. The compatibility of the TiLDA MKe will hopefully motivate attendees to experiment with the technology long after their conference is experience is over. It’s safe to say this badge won’t sit in a desk drawer for long!

Electromagnetic Field 2014 will take place in Bletchley, UK August 29-31, 2014. For more information, you can head to the conference’s full site here or access the code and TiLDA design itself on github.

The value of microcontrollers (MCUs) with dual-bank flash

Written by Brian Hammill

Atmel, along with a number of other industry heavyweights, recently introduced a slew of Cortex-M microcontrollers (MCUs) equipped with a dual-bank flash feature.  While single bank flash is sufficient for numerous applications, the dual-bank feature offers significant value in specific scenarios. So let’s discuss the added benefit of dual-bank flash.

Fig 3: Dual bank flash provides a fail safe method of implementing remote firmware upgrades

Dual bank flash provides a fail safe method of implementing remote firmware upgrades

First, we need to understand the role of flash in a MCU.  Just under 100% of the time, the flash memory in your MCU is in read mode.  The processor core is almost always fetching instructions to execute out of the flash. Exceptions? When code is being run from RAM, internal or external, or ROM.  Meaning, with typical flash memory, you cannot read while you are writing to it.  As such, during firmware upgrades and data storage operations, the processor core cannot execute code from the flash.  Either the processor has to wait for the write operation to complete, or the core can continue to execute from other physical memory such as RAM or ROM.

In Atmel’s single bank SAM3 and SAM4 family flash MCUs, this problem has been solved in a somewhat novel manner by providing flash programming code in the factory programmed ROM.  This means that whenever the firmware engineer wants to write the flash, it will buffer the data to be written and make a call to a routine in ROM.  The processor core will then be executing from ROM while the flash is being written.  Since flash erase and programming operations can take milliseconds (a very long time for a MCU core running at up to 150 MHz), the ROM routine may have to sit in a do nothing loop while the flash operation completes.

Admittedly there are limitations, but this method generally works just fine for systems with external storage such as serial flash – retaining downloaded firmware images until they can be written to the internal flash.  It also works well in systems which infrequently write a few bytes of data to the flash.

Firmware upgrades can be risky, especially in applications where firmware images are downloaded across slow unreliable wireless links – or where systems are prone to power failures. In a single bank flash system, ensuring a reliable firmware upgrade means there is a part of the flash that you never erase or write over. The code contained in that part of the flash knows how to detect corrupted code in the rest of the flash.

Using a checksum, CRC, or even a digital signature are common ways to determine the validity of the flash image on boot or reset.  If the check comes out bad, the code in the part of flash that is never over-written knows to look for a backup image and attempt to reprogram the application.  The backup image can be located in an external memory such as a serial flash or if there is enough space, in an unused part of the internal flash.

Managing backup images in internal flash or external serial flash can be done reliably in a well planned system with single bank flash.  The key is well-planned, although the firmware engineer has to jump through some hoops because changing the interrupt table ordinarily means you have to change the very lowest flash addresses.  Plus, you cannot keep that part of flash unchanged over the life of the product in the field.  So it is necessary to have the fixed interrupt vectors point at defined locations where the actual interrupt service routines are located.  And finally, the actual ISRs can be changed when the application is changed by a firmware update, although this can lead to size restrictions or wasted flash space between the ISRs.