Tag Archives: Atmel Gallery

Video: Building a GPS tracker with Atmel’s SAM D20 MCU



A GPS tracking unit uses the Global Positioning System to determine and record the precise location of a vehicle, device or individual. Key design requirements for a GPS tracker include a small form factor, low power consumption and flexible connectivity options.

Atmel’s versatile SAM D20 ARM Cortex-M0+ based microcontroller (MCU) can be used to power such a device, taking all of the above-mentioned design requirements into account.

Indeed, the SAM D20 MCU – embedded with serial communication modules (SERCOM) and low power consumption – provides the flexibility, connectivity and low power required for GPS tracker applications.

In terms of low power consumption, the SAM D20 boasts <150µA/MHz in active (CoreMark) and <2µA with RTC and full RAM retention. Meanwhile, the peripheral event system and intelligent peripherals with Atmel SleepWalking technology further reduces CPU activity and power sipping.

It should also be noted that the SAM D20 MCU offers design engineers 6 highly flexible serial communication modules (SERCOM), each configurable to operate as USART, I2C and SPI – thereby facilitating easy and flexible connection to external sensors, memories, PCs and wireless modules.

Atmel supports a wide range of dev tools and software, including FreeRTOS, Atmel Studio 6 (free IDE with GCC compiler), Atmel Software Framework (free SW libraries of production ready source code), Atmel Gallery (open to extensions) and the SAM D20 Xplained Pro Kit which is packaged with programmer and debugger, as well as connectors for expansion wings.

Interested in learning more? You can check out Atmel’s SAM D20 GPS tracker reference design here.

Atmel introduces next-gen ZigBit wireless modules

Atmel has introduced its second-gen lineup of ZigBit wireless modules. Based on the company’s latest wireless transceivers and wireless microcontrollers (MCUs), the new ZigBits offer a wider range of features and reduced power consumption.

zigbit1

According to an Atmel engineering rep, the ZigBit modules – equipped with an integrated chip antenna – can be easily installed in a variety of devices without the need for any RF design or RF layout expertise.

“Simply put, the wireless modules offer customers a complete out of the box wireless system, pretested and certified for FCC (North America), ETSI (Europe) and IC (Canada),” the engineering rep explained. “This is because the second-gen ZigBits facilitate an optimized design path from evaluation to development, testing and certification, up to the final wireless end-product.”

zigbit2

As noted above, Atmel’s ZigBit modules can be easily integrated in a wide variety of devices including wireless sensor and control applications; lighting control; home automation; thermostats; occupancy sensors and home displays; environmental monitoring and proprietary wireless systems up to 2000kb/s.

In addition, support for the second-gen ZigBit wireless modules has been added to the Wireless Composer, which is available via Atmel’s Gallery. Essentially, the Wireless Composer provides devs with a performance analyzer application – complete with intuitive displays to configure, command and monitor test data originating from the target device.

“The GUI is used to configure and execute packet error rate testing, perform energy density scans on the available channels and perform FCC testing for setting the device in continuous transmission mode,” the Atmel engineering rep continued. “The Wireless Composer supports all Atmel RF devices and can be easily adapted to execute performance measurements on the customer’s board.”

ZigBit wireless modules are available at Atmel’s official store and via local distributors, while samples can be ordered using the “Free Atmel Tools” service.The modules ship in single quantities and tape & reel of 200.

As we’ve previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, Atmel also offers developers a lineup of ZigBit Xplained PRO extensions and USB sticks for evaluation and application development using ZigBit wireless modules.

zigbitxpro

Basically, the ZigBit Xplained PRO extensions are designed to interface with any Atmel Xplained PRO series of evaluation boards using the standard 20pin connector. Of course, the boards can also act as a standalone wireless node using an external battery case.

zigbit3usb

It should be noted that ZigBit Xplained PRO extensions ship preprogrammed with a bootloader and Atmel’s Radio Performance Analyzer application for easy evaluation of key features and RF performance. The same goes for ZigBit USB sticks, which are ideal for use with the Wireshark packet sniffer available in Atmel Studio 6.

The ZigBit Xplained PRO extensions and ZigBit USB sticks are available at Atmel’s official store and via local distributors.

MEMSIC debuts eCompass Library for Atmel’s Xplained Pro

MEMSIC has announced an Electronic Compass (e-compass) library for Atmel’s popular Xplained Pro platform. According to John Newton, MEMSIC VP of Marketing, the e-compass library will help embedded developers create smarter, more connected devices for the rapidly evolving Internet of Things (IoT) and growing wearables market.

Indeed, the Electronic Compass extension provides a highly accurate, fully tilt compensated electronic compass with calibration that supports MEMSIC’s recently introduced MMC3416xPJ ultra low noise, low power magnetometer in a 1.6 x 1.6 x 0.6 package.

“Integrating sensors can be complex and time consuming. A thorough understanding of the theory of magnetics, sensor behavior, calibration and tilt compensation is required before the design can start, [while] the digital outputs of counts per gauss and counts per g need to be filtered and translated into a tilt compensated heading,” Newton explained.

“MEMSIC can simplify this integration on the Atmel Xplained platform by providing a calibration and Electronic Compass library as a Gallery program. In addition, the MMC3416xPJ provides a high dynamic range of 16 Gauss, which simplifies design by allowing more placement options on the board.”

Newton also noted that Atmel’s ultra-low power processor is an “ideal” match for the MMC3416xPJ magnetic sensor.

“Together they enable an ultra-low power and high performance e-Compass solution; our partnership with Atmel and their Gallery library will enable customers to bring new solutions to market quickly and efficiently,” he added.

The Electronic Compass library is slated to go live in Atmel’s Gallery later this month.

As we’ve previously discussed on Bits & PiecesAtmel’s comprehensive lineup of Xplained Pro boards offers engineers everything they need to start designing microcontroller (MCU) applications in minutes. First off, the boards are quite easy to connect, linking to PCs with just a USB cable.

As expected, the boards are automatically recognized by Atmel Studio, facilitating direct access to example projects and documentation. Meanwhile, hardware extension boards provide easy access to all functionality of the MCU.

Currently, Xplained Pro kits are grouped into three primary categories:

  • Evaluation kits – Lowest cost kits starting at $39 for evaluating MCUs and developing with example projects in Atmel Studio.
  • Starter kits – Low-cost bundle of MCU and extension boards starting at $99 for rapid application prototyping and development with Atmel Studio and Atmel Software Framework.
  • Extension kits – Boards with additional functionality, connecting to Xplained Pro MCU boards through standardized connectors.

On the evaluation side, Atmel offers the SAM D20 Xplained ProSAM4N Xplained ProSAM4S Xplained ProSAM4L Xplained Pro and the ATmega256RFR2 Xplained Pro. In terms of extension boards, there are the I/O1 Xplained ProOLED1 Xplained ProSLCD1 Xplained Pro and the PROTO1 Xplained Pro.

LED power management with Atmel’s XMega

LED lighting power management typically comprises power conversion, constant current regulation and fault handling. Key design considerations of LED power management include high integration capabilities, small form factor, energy efficiency, high temperature operation and support for a variety of standard lighting communication protocols.

atmelxmegalightingmanagement

“That is exactly why Atmel’s XMEGA E is highly integrated to support multiple LED driver topologies, all while leaving CPU resources for additional application functionalities,” an Atmel engineering rep told Bits & Pieces. “Plus, we offer a small form factor and dual high-speed 40ns analog comparators for current regulation, with multiple high speed 128MHz timers allowing generation of fast PWM.”

The XMEGA E also boasts dual digital to analog converters for peak current management, asynchronous event system for ultra-fast response and control loops, with a custom logic (XCL) block removing external logic components.

“In terms of energy efficiency, the XMEGA E, with its rich analog peripheral features, is capable of running a complicated power control algorithm (e.g. PFC) to achieve high power efficiency,” the engineering rep continued. “Plus, the XMEGA E offers ultra low power consumption as low as 100uA/MHz in active mode and 100nA in RTC/RAM retention. Last, but certainly not least, the XMEGA E qualifies for high temperatures at 105C and 125C.”

Atmel also offers support for multiple lighting communication protocols, such as DALI via the XCL block in XMEGA E (hardware), along with DMX, LWmesh, and interface to PLC, ZigBee Light Link, ZigBee Home Automation and other wireless protocols (software). In addition, developers have easy access to Atmel Studio 6.0, Atmel Software Framework and Atmel Gallery.

Want to learn more about designing LED power management platforms with Atmel’s XMega? Be sure to check out Atmel’s extensive lighting portfolio here.

Going beyond the IDE with Atmel

In today’s complex and feature-rich embedded world, a comprehensive microcontroller (MCU) software framework with an easy integration of software libraries and tools is becoming increasingly important for design teams.

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As Atmel’s Joerg Bertholdt notes, a truly integrated development platform comprises a combination of software and hardware – including the software framework and an app store.

“That is why Atmel offers the Xplained Pro evaluation kits, a development board and kit which works with Atmel’s IDE, software framework and Atmel Gallery,” the Director of Marketing, MCU Tools and Software, explained in recent Electronics Weekly article.

“The kits feature a range of professional ARM-Cortex-M4 based Atmel SAM4 microcontroller boards that are complemented by optional interface, display and prototyping boards. These boards are fully supported across Atmel Studio 6, Atmel Software Framework and Atmel Gallery, providing devs with immediate access to over 2,000 ready-to-run project examples.”

Simply put, Atmel’s comprehensive platform allows designers to more easily prototype and accelerate time to market.

“Moving beyond the traditional integrated development environment, the platform-based approach yields yet further developer productivity and efficiency,” Bertholdt continued.

“By combining the editor, compiler and debug functions with quick and easy access to a host of libraries, middleware and specialist tools the integrated development tools platform approach yields efficiencies across the whole design, development, test and prototype process.”

Bertholdt also discussed FreeRTOS, one of the real-time operating systems available in Atmel’s Gallery.

“By accessing FreeRTOs, designers can implement a hassle-free deployment in their application without having to worry about driver integration. Since this is integrated into ASF, it comes complete with a project configuration wizard and example projects to ease the application development process,” he added.

Interested in learning more about how going beyond the IDE with Atmel? Be sure to check out the full text of Joerg’s article here.

Getting real in a virtual world

We recently released the first simulator for our ARM-based SAM microcontrollers – allowing users to observe a cycle accurate simulation of Atmel’s new ARM Cortex-M0+ based SAM D20 MCU.

Essentially, it offers a cycle-accurate simulation of the entire MCU, not just the core but the peripherals as well (the digital ones, not the analog ones). The simulator – which includes all processor and I/O registers – is available as debug target just like a real MCU in the Atmel Studio development environment.

Yes, running code while watching the I/O registers certainly sounds sweet indeed. But how useful is it when nothing is connected to the pins of the MCU? Well, the simulator actually supports external file stimulus, meaning every pin of the MCU model can be read and written to based on a simple text file with full cycle accuracy. Perhaps most importantly, the stimuli is non-intrusive, allowing users to debug a system in “slow motion” – as the MCU and stimuli stop and start completely in synch.

Don’t feel like writing your own stimuli file or want to collaborate on using file stimuli? We’ve set up a project on Atmel Spaces – the collaborative workspace – with example stimuli files here.

Atmel Spaces

Atmel Spaces

Still, one can get the real SAM D20 on an Xplained Pro eval kit for $39 – so why bother with a virtual model?

For starters, a full-featured (time limited) trial version of the SAM D20 simulator is available for instant download in the Atmel Gallery. To try out the SAM D20, you don’t need to wait for hardware to be shipped.

SAM D20 simulator is available for instant download in the Atmel Gallery

SAM D20 simulator is available for instant download in the Atmel Gallery

The Xplained Pro board is populated with the largest device – the SAMD20J18 in a 64-pin package – whereas the simulator supports all SAM D20 device variants.

In addition, there are a few things you can’t – or don’t want – to do with the real device. With cycle accurate, non-intrusive file stimuli, you can run and debug the entire system in “slow motion.” On real hardware, when you hit a breakpoint, the MCU stops. However, any external component on your system continues to run. On the simulator with file stimuli, the entire system stops – and resumes – in synch. This gives you new debugging capabilities in application that can be destructive to the hardware, such as motor control or high current power switching.

Other key benefits of the simulator over real hardware include precise measuring of execution times (based on clock cycles), use in regression testing as well as easy and early custom board availability.

As noted above, the SAM D20 simulator is the first ARM simulator to be released by Atmel, but it certainly won’t be the last. To be sure, we plan on providing fully accurate simulator models of new chips even before physical engineering samples go live.

In an industry where everyone is angling for an advantage by bringing their products to market faster, being able to kick off development with a new MCU weeks or months before its physically available can be invaluable. So try it out – the  SAM D20 simulator is available here in the Atmel Gallery

News from the Gallery

News from the Gallery

By Joerg Bertholdt, Director of Marketing, Tools and Software, Atmel Corporation

We launched Atmel Gallery less than 6 months ago, the first app store of its kind to deliver integrated embedded tools and embedded software straight into a development environment, specifically for Atmel Studio 6.

We were excited to get into uncharted territory, but also anxious about the types of reaction we’d get from our customers. It’s time to see how we did.

With over 25,000 developers – and counting — signed up for a Gallery account, our expectations have by far been exceeded. The servers handled the big demands very well, proving the infrastructure design and scalability.

 Keil MDK-ARM Toolchain from Keil enables Atmel Studio to use its highly optimizing ARM compiler

Keil MDK-ARM Toolchain from Keil enables Atmel Studio to use its highly optimizing ARM compiler

With the February update of the XDK, the Extension Developer’s Kit, partners have been able to easily integrate embedded software and package integrations as projects that install directly into Atmel Studio. For example, developers who are interested in exploring commercial real-time operating systems, now have access to Micrium’s uC/OS and Segger’s embOS. Trial versions of these RTOSes are available as ready-to-run example projects for Atmel’s ARM Cortex-M4 based SAM4S devices.

Two popular extensions are compiler plug-ins. The Keil MDK-ARM Toolchain from Keil enables Atmel Studio to use its highly optimizing ARM compilerCodeVisionAVR allows the use of HP Infotec’s AVR compiler, which also includes CodeWizardAVR, a graphical peripheral configuration tool for AVR MCUs.

Besides development tools and embedded software extensions, training modules such as Integrating USB In Your Design have also been made available through the Gallery. With the XDK supporting the development of hardware extension boards for Atmel’s Xplained Pro kits, the drivers for the first Xplained Pro partner board will soon be delivered as an Atmel Studio project.

We’re six months in and happy to see the masses have adopted Atmel Gallery.

Are you a Gallery user? Let us know what you like, what you’d like to see improved or if there are additional extensions you would want to see. Just comment on this blog or send me an email to joerg.bertholdt@atmel.com.

Haven’t checked out the Gallery yet, just take a look at gallery.atmel.com. Don’t have Atmel Studio 6? It’s free, you can download it from atmel.com.

Are you an independent software vendor or developer and want to be part of the growing Atmel Studio ecosystem, join the Gallery as a developer; the XDK makes it easy to participate.