Tag Archives: ATxmega32E5

Sun-believable! Sol Chip powers the IoT 24/7 with solar energy

Sol Chip’s IoT platform provides low-power communication module, with self-sustaining solar energy technology.

The Internet of Things calls for a lot of wireless devices, which in turn require wireless connection and power in order to operate. Typically speaking, wireless gadgetry is powered predominantly by batteries with limited life expectancy that inevitably deplete over time and need replacement. If we can get these devices to communicate with each other without the inconvenience of wires and installations, why can’t we do the same when it comes to powering them? Luckily, one company has already thought of a solution.


Meet Sol Chip — an Israeli startup that specializes in energy harvesting and communication platforms solutions for the IoT — who has created a power management unit that yields light energy to supply continuous and sustainable energy and communication of sensors’ data. The Sol Chip Com (SCC-M433) is a new autonomous monitoring platform that will eliminate the need to carry out maintenance procedures performed on battery-operated systems. Operable in sunlight and low-light environments, the batteries are a result of the cross pollination of solar cell and microchip technologies.

Not surprisingly, Sol Chip is driven by Atmel’s extremely low-powered MCUs (ATXmega32D3 and ATXmega32E5) in each of its various products. Specifically, the SCC-M433 features a solar battery with more than 10 years of maintenance-free operation, a network of wireless mesh nodes for coverage ranging up to 1,500 meters and 433Mdz radio frequency for outdoor applications.

Based on a patented IP, SCC-M433 integrates all required components into a single unit to operate 24 hours a day during summer and winter. Once an analog or digital sensor is connected the SCC-M433, data can be transferred to the cloud, allowing a user to keep tabs on and analyze the information. Sol Chip’s technology utilizes a low-cost manufacturing flow, thereby increasing overall efficiency while reducing operation costs by 60%.


“Extreme low-power microcontrollers enable us to design new cutting edge technology and be the leaders in our industry,” explains Dr. Shani Keysar, Sol Chip’s founder and CEO.

The product design was initially derived from a smart irrigation system that enabled growers to achieve higher yields, while diminishing the amount of water, cutting resource consumption and decreasing costs. Sol Chip’s more recent technology can easily fit other use cases where wireless mesh network is necessary, such as smart cities, structural health monitoring and asset tracking.

Intrigued? You can check out Sol Chip’s solar batteries and various applications here.

This wearable device gives you an extra sense for better orientation

Inspired by birds, TheSixthSense is an ankle device that gives wearers a better sense of direction. 

Release a homing pigeon thousands of miles from home, and it’ll find its way back using its innate ability to sense the Earth’s magnetic field. Following the same principles, Maker Sebastian Foerster has developed what he calls “an extra sense for a better orientation.”


Initially inspired by his father’s balance disorder, TheSixthSense is an ankle-worn device that uses vibration motors to help guide a wearer in the right direction. Ideally, a gadget like this could one day prove to be invaluable for the visually-impaired, for those with a lack of orientation and in environments where there is limited visibility.

The wearable itself is comprised of a small, two-layer circuit board featuring an ATxmega32E5 at its core, along with an accelerometer, a magnetometer, a LiPo charger, a 2.5V LDO regulator and some MOSFETs to drive the set of vibration motors. TheSixthSense is also equipped with a 700 mAh LiPo battery, which boasts a life of about 30 hours before needing to be recharged. To program the system, Foerster employed Atmel Studio and the Atmel Software Library.

TheSixthSense must be calibrated before wearing. Once completed, the program is ready for magnetometer readings. Simply push its small button and turn the PCB around the different axis; push again and the calibration data is written to the EEPROM section. Beyond that, an accelerometer is used to make a tilt compensated compass, which means the exact position of the PCB on the anklet doesn’t matter all that much.


“However, the inconstant movement speed of the foot is a problem. When you walk the ground vector is moving with the acceleration of your feed. Since the acceleration is raising and falling in one step an additional filter is required to determine the true ground vector,” the Maker explains.

Once the magnetometer output is read, the two vectors can be used to calculate the angle to magnetic north. Afterwards, the correct motors are activated and set to the desired intensity.

“For my first test, I used four motors. As it turns out, four motors don’t work well enough when it comes to exact positioning. The shin isn’t sensitive enough to detect the small differences between two vibration sources. The solution for my second prototype is to use eight motors,” he adds.


“At the time, TheSixthSense works well and it is rather comfortable. I have been wearing it for three days during my time in the office and nobody could hear the vibration,” Foerster writes. “Nevertheless, in a noise free environment, it is loud enough to be heard by other people in the same room. It can be easily washed since all of the electronic parts can be taken out of the belt.”

Looking ahead, the Maker hopes to improve its filter, test adaptive vibration time, create a case for the circuit board and battery, as well as integrate Bluetooth Low Energy connectivity. More on TheSixthSense, which is currently a semi-finalist in this year’s Hackaday Prize, can be found on its project page here.

Getting started with Atmel’s ATxmega32E5

Atmel’s ATxmega32E5 is a high-performance, low-power 8/16-bit AVR XMEGA microcontroller combining 32KB ISP flash memory (plus 4KB boot code section) with read-while-write capabilities, 1KB EEPROM, 4KB SRAM, 8-channel event system, a programmable multi-level interrupt controller, 26 general purpose I/O lines and one 16-bit real time counter.


“The MCU also boasts three flexible 16-bit timer/counters with compare modes and PWM, two USARTs (with SPI Master mode), one Two-Wire Interfaces (TWI) with SMBUs Level 1 support, one Serial Peripheral Interface (SPI) and one 16-channel/12-bit 300kSPS A/D converter with optional differential input with programmable gain,” an Atmel engineering rep told Bits & Pieces.

“In addition, there is one two-channel 12-bit 1MSPS D/A converter, two analog comparators with window mode, a programmable watchdog timer with separate internal oscillator, accurate internal oscillators with PLL and prescaler and programmable brown-out detection.”

Meanwhile, an XMEGA Custom Logic module (XCL) consisting of two independent 8-bit timer/counters and two lookup tables used for defining glue logic rounds out the above list of features.

“Essentially, it is designed to reduce bill of material (BOM) and PCB size as the XCL can replace external circuitry such as delay elements, RS-latches, D-latches, D-flip-flowps chip-select logic, AND, NAND, OR, NOR, XOR, XNOR, NOT, MUX AND/OR/XOR logic gates,” the engineering rep continued. “Together with the USART, the XMEGA Custom Logic module can be used to enable customized communication protocols. Simply put, by executing powerful instructions in a single clock cycle, the device achieves throughputs approaching 1 MIPS per MHz,  neatly balancing power consumption and processing speed.”

To accelerate development with the ATxmega32E5 microcontroller, Atmel offers the XMEGA-E5 Xplained, a hardware-based platform that allows engineers to more easily evaluate the device. The kit offers a range of features that enable devs to quickly kick off projects with ATxmega32E5 peripherals, as they learn how to integrate the AVR device in various designs.

Aside from the ATxmega32E5 microcontroller, key XMEGA-E5 Xplained features include:

  • OLED display with 128×32 pixels resolution
  • Ambient light sensor
  • Analog filter
  • Digital I/O
  • Two mechanical buttons
  • Two user LEDs
  • Four expansion headers
  • Board controller with USB interface
  • One power LED and one status LED

Interested in learning more? The XMEGA-E5 Xplained can be purchased from Atmel’s official store here.