Tag Archives: BTLC1000

Atmel wireless connectivity supports industrial IoT revolution


The BTLC1000 exhibits the lowest BLE power consumption in the industry.


With both this year’s CES and Embedded World now behind us, it’ll be interesting to see which of the gadgets unveiled during these shows find a way to market — some will go to production, others won’t. I am skeptic about the smart shoe offering self-fastening mechanism… And during these two weeks, the IoT revolution has silently progressed in industrial automation. (You will be surprised if you read some very serious white papers extracted from the Internet of Things series published by Bosch.)

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While attendees flocked to Vegas, progresses were made in industrial automation thanks to hard work being done in Germany. In fact, these two worlds — consumer oriented and industrial — are both relying on wireless connectivity, including products from Atmel: the ATWILC1000, ATWILC1500 or ATWILC3000 supporting Wi-Fi and ATBLC1000 supporting BTLE 4.1,which  was recently crowned “Product of the Year” from Electronic Products.

According to Bosch’s white paper “Leveraging the Internet of Things: Companies can streamline business processes for stakeholders across the extended enterprise,” we realize that Bosch’s managers have brainstormed about the IoT to extract the added business value for the enterprise, like for example, “in manufacturing, data automatically collected from smart and connected products, give companies meaningful feedback as to how products should be reengineered, and provides opportunities for additional revenue through selling services.”

In order to become smart and connected, industrial products need to integrate either a Wi-Fi connection supported by ATWINC1500, or a Bluetooth supported by the very tiny (see above) ATBTLC1000.

IoT-scalability-courtesy-Bosch

Shows the requirements for scalability on two current customer PoCs at Bosch Software Innovations. These PoCs start in year one with a very low umber of connected devices and sensors. However, in a short space of time, they scale massively upward for commercial launch and rollout.

From the above graphic, extracted from another white paper from Bosch, “Realizing the connected world-how to choose the right IoT platform,” we can derive two crucial information. The first is the fact that IoT is already a reality in the industrial market segment, not really known to be fashion driven like could be consumer electronic. The second information is about scalability. In both examples, the number of connected devices was very low, but in a short space of time they scale massively, reaching 500k devices for the first and up to 3 million for the other. A single industrial automation application can generate a very good semiconductor business, including sensors, MCU and wireless connectivity device. In our previous blog, we have investigated the ATWINCxx00 family bringing Wi-Fi connectivity to any embedded design. Let’s take a look at the award winner ATBTLC1000 device supporting BT 4.1 connectivity.

Atmel's BTLC1000

The BTLC1000 is an ultra-low power Bluetooth SMART (BLE 4.1) SoC with an integrated ARM Cortex-M0 MCU, a transceiver, a modem, MAC, PA, TR Switch, and a power management unit (PMU). It can be used as a BLE link controller or data pump with external host MCU, or as a standalone applications processor with embedded BLE connectivity and external memory. If we look at the key features list:

  • BLE4.1 compliant SoC and protocol stack
  • Lowest BLE power consumption in industry
  • Smallest BLE 4.1 SoC — Available in WLCSP (2.26×2.14mm) or QFN ( 32p 4×4 mm)
  • Optimized system cost — High level of integration on chip reduces external Bill of Material significantly
  • Wide operating Voltage range — 1.8 – 4.3V
  • Host Interface — SPI or UART
  • Certified modules — FCC, ETSI/CE, TELEC
  • Enterprise Development support & tools with the ATBTLC1000 Xplained Pro

The main reasons why the Atmel BTLC1000 has won the Electronic Design award are power, cost and certification. This chip not only exhibits the lowest BLE power consumption in the industry, it’s also the smallest BLE 4.1 SoC (see picture) offering optimized system cost, thanks to high level of integration. If companies like Bosch supporting industrial automation segment for years (if not centuries) start to be seriously involved into smart connected IoT systems, no doubt that ATBTLC1000 and ATWILC1000 devices have a bright future…


This post has been republished with permission from SemiWiki.com, where Eric Esteve is a principle blogger and one of the four founding members of the site. This blog first appeared on SemiWiki on January 10, 2016.

The power of the platform in IoT and wearable designs


What IoT developers want? A candid look at the wearable designs shows how platform approach is helping design engineers confront daunting challenges in the IoT arena.


“Providers become platforms” is the second most prominent finding of the Forbes story entitled “The Five Most Disruptive Innovations at CES 2016.” Interestingly, all the five disrupting forces outlined in the story relate to the Internet of Things blaze one way or the other. A coincidence? Not really.

CES 2016 was mostly about demonstrating how the advent of a connected world is possible with the creation of an array of smart and interconnected devices. However, the IoT juggernaut, while exploring the true value of connectivity, also requires new business models, which in turn, makes time-to-market even more critical.

Smart badge brings efficiency in enterprise, hospitality and healthcare

Take smart wearable devices, for instance, which were arguably the biggest story on the CES floor this year. A wearable design comprises of one or more sensors, connectivity solution like a radio controller, a processor to carry out system-level functions, storage to log information, display and battery. And what IoT and wearable developers want?

A platform that allows them to facilitate the finished products quickly and efficiently. The design engineers simply can’t afford experimentation with the basic blocks as they need a precedence of basic hardware and software functions working efficiently and smoothly.

Anatomy of Wearable Design

First and foremost, wearable designs confront power constraints even greater than mobile devices. Not surprisingly, ultra-low-power MCUs lie at the heart of wearable designs because they combine flash, on-chip RAM and multiple interface options while intelligently turning power on and off during activity and idle periods, respectively.

The next design conundrum relates to the form factor because these devices are being worn, so they have to be small and light. That, in turn, demands even smaller circuit boards with a greater level of integration. Enter the IoT platforms.

Amid power, performance and form factor considerations, the choice of a right IoT platform means that designers will most likely get the basic building blocks right. And that will allow IoT developers to focus on the application, differentiation and customer needs.

That’s what Atmel is aiming for with the launch of a reference platform for cost-optimized IoT and wearable applications. Atmel’s ultra-low-power platform, which was announced over the week of CES, is aimed at battery-operated wearable devices requiring activity and environment monitoring.

Power has a critical role in the key IoT building blocks

IoT Developer Platform

Below are the key highlights of Atmel’s platform offering for the IoT and wearable designs.

Processor: Microcontroller’s low-power requirements make it a likely choice in wearable designs; MCUs that communicate and process sensor inputs draw very little power from the battery while asleep. Remember the L21 microcontroller that made headlines back in 2015 after leading the low-power benchmarks conducted by EEMBC ULPBench.

Atmel’s SMART SAM L21 MCU — based on ARM’s lowest power Cortex-M0+ processing core — scored 185 in the benchmark and was able to bring the power consumption down to 35µA/MHz in active mode and 200nA in sleep mode.

Communications: The BTLC1000 is an ultra-low power Bluetooth Smart (BLE 4.1) system-on-chip (SoC) that comes integrated with ARM Cortex-M0 core, transceiver, modem, MAC, power amplifier, TR switch, and power management unit (PMU). It can be used as a BLE link controller or data pump with external host MCU or as a standalone applications processor with embedded BLE connectivity and external memory.

Atmel claims that its BTLC1000 Bluetooth solution — a 2.2mm x 2.1mm wafer level chip scale package — is 25 percent smaller than the nearest competitor solution. And Electronic Products magazine has corroborated that premise by calling it the lowest power BLE chipset that consumes less than 4mA in RX and less than 3mA in TX at 0dbm.

Security: Atmel is among the first chipmakers to offer specialized security hardware for the IoT market. Its microcontrollers come integrated with anti-cloning, authentication and encryption features.

Display: Wearable devices often show data such as time, measurements, maps and notifications on a display, and here, capacitive touch provides a very intuitive form of interfacing with the information. Atmel’s MCUs can directly manage capacitive buttons through software libraries that the firm provides.

Furthermore, Atmel offers standalone display controllers that support capacitive button, slider and wheel (BSW) implementations. These touch solutions can be tuned to moisture environments, a key requirement for many wearable applications. Atmel’s maXTouch capacitive touchscreen controller technology is a leading interface solution for its low-power consumption, precision and sensitivity.

Sensors: The development framework for the wearable designs features BHI160 6-axis SmartHub motion sensor and BME280 environment sensor from Bosch. It’s worth noting that Bosch is one of Atmel’s sensor partners. However, wearable product designers are free to pick sensors of their choice from Atmel’s other sensor partners.

Software support: The software package includes RTOS, Atmel’s Studio 7 IDE and Atmel START, which Atmel claims is the world’s first intuitive web-based tool for software configuration and code generation. Moreover, Atmel Software Framework (ASF) offers communication libraries for Bluetooth radios.

Atmel's developer platform for IoT and wearable designs

The truth is that the design game has moved from hardware and software functional blocks to complete developer ecosystems since the iPhone days. Now the ecosystem play is taking platforms to a whole new level in the design diversity that comes with the IoT products.

The choice of a right IoT platform means that designers will most likely get the basic building blocks right, and then, they can focus on the application and customer needs. It also provides design engineers space for differentiation, a critical factor in making wearable devices a consumer success.

 

 

Atmel launches ultra-low-power platform for IoT and wearable devices


This platform integrates the ultra-low-power SAM L21 with a BTLC1000 SoC and a software ecosystem into a small, flexible form factor.


Just in time for CES 2016, Atmel unveiled a complete, ultra-low-power connected platform for cost-optimized IoT and wearable applications. This new platform features the world’s lowest power ARM Cortex-M0+, the Atmel | SMART SAM L21, and award-winning BTLC1000 Bluetooth Smart SoC, making it the perfect solution for battery-operated devices requiring activity and environment monitoring.

Atmel-Ultra-Lowend-Wearable%20Board-Angled-2

Key components for the low-power connected platform — the Atmel | SMART SAM L21 MCU and the BTLC1000 — achieve industry-leading standards. The SAM L21 boasts a staggering ULPBench score of 185, the highest recorded score for any Cortex-M0+ while running the EEMBC ULPBench, the industry marker for low power, with a power consumption down to 35µA/MHz in active mode and 200nA in sleep mode. Atmel’s Bluetooth Smart solution is 25% smaller than the closest competing solution packaged in a 2.2mm x 2.1mm Wafer Level Chipscale Package, enabling designers to build ultra-small industrial designs for next-generation connected IoT and wearable applications.

Atmel’s low-power platform is a design-ready unit showcasing the company’s broad portfolio of ultra-low-power smart, secure and connected products, and partner technologies. Embodied in a 30mm x 40mm form factor, the platform integrates the Atmel | SMART ultra-low power MCU, Bluetooth Smart low-energy connectivity, capacitive touch interface, security solution, complete software platform, real-time operating system (RTOS), a BHI160 6-axis SmartHub motion sensor and a BME280 environmental sensor from Bosch Sensortec. The platform can be powered by a simple coin cell utilizing extremely low power consumption, and manufacturers can also leverage Atmel’s extensive list of sensor partners.

To simplify the design process, the platform is compatible with Atmel’s flagship Studio 7 IDE, along with Atmel START, the world’s first intuitive web-based tool for software configuration and code generation.

“As a leading provider of ultra-low power IoT solutions, we know that out-of-the-box, easy to implement reference platforms are a necessity to help accelerate the adoption of wearable applications, and enable a rapid time-to-market for new product ideas,” says Andreas Eieland, Atmel Director of Product Marketing for the Microcontroller Business Unit. “Atmel’s new reference platform allows our customers to develop differentiated solutions for cost-optimized, yet competitive, markets including healthcare, fitness, wellness and much more. We continue to help drive the IoT and wearable market with simple, ultra-low power platforms with complete hardware and software solutions.”

Rewind: 50 boards you’ll want to know about from 2015


Here’s a look at a bunch of boards that caught our attention over the last 12 months. Feel free to share your favorites below! 


“Hardware becomes a piece of culture that anyone can build upon, like a poem or a song.” – Massimo Banzi

Arduino Zero

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A 32-bit Arduino powered by the Atmel | SMART SAM D21.

Arduino Wi-Fi Shield 101

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An IoT shield with CryptoAuthentication that enables you to wirelessly connect your Arduino or Genuino with ease.

Arduino MKR1000

Chip

A powerful board that combines the functionality of the Zero and the connectivity of the Wi-Fi Shield.

Atmel | SMART SAM L21

SAM_L21_XPRO_Angle2-1

A game-changing family of Cortex-M0+ MCUs that deliver power consumption down to 35 µA/MHz in active mode and 200nA in sleep mode.

BTLC1000

BTL

An ultra-low power Bluetooth Smart SoC with an integrated ARM Cortex-M0 MCU and transceiver.

Atmel | SMART SAMA5D2

ult

An ARM Cortex-A5-based MPU that offers great features integrated into lower pin count packages, making it ideal for applications where security, power consumption and space constraints are key considerations.

Atmel | SMART SAM S70/E70

SAM

An ARM Cortex-M7-based MCU with a floating point unit (FPU) that’s ideal for connectivity and general purpose industrial applications.

ATmegaS128

ATme

A space-ready version of the popular ATmega128.

Adafruit Feather

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A new line of development boards that, like it’s namesake, are thin, light and let your ideas fly. Expect Feather to become a new standard for portable MCU cores.

Adafruit METRO 328

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An ATmega328-driven processor packed with plenty of GPIO, analog inputs, UART, SPI and I2C, timers, and PWM galore – just enough for most simple projects.

Arduino GEMMA

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A miniature wearable board based on the ATtiny85.

Adafruit Bluefruit LE Micro

2661-00

A board that rolls the versatility of the ATmega32U4 and the wireless connectivity of the SPI Bluefruit LE Friend all into one.

SparkFun Stepoko

Stepoko_Tutorial-21_red

An Arduino-compatible, 3-axis control solution that runs grbl software.

SparkFun SAM D21 Breakout

SAM

An Arduino-sized breakout for the ATSAMD21G18.

Bosch Sensortec BMF055

bmf055_440

A compact 9-axis motion sensor, which incorporates an accelerometer, a gyroscope and a magnetometer along with an Atmel | SMART SAM D20 ARM Cortex M0+ core.

BNO055 Xplained Pro

NO

A new extension board, which features a BNO055 intelligent 9-axis absolute orientation sensor, that connects directly to Atmel’s Xplained board making it ideal for prototyping projects for IoT apps.

SmartEverything

Board_SM_586_grayok

A prototyping platform that combines SIGFOX, BLE, NFC, GPS and a suite of sensors. Essentially, it’s the Swiss Army knife for the IoT.

Qduino Mini

MCU

A tiny, Arduino-compatible board with a built-in battery connector and charger built-in, as well as a fuel gauge.

Tessel 2

tessel2-800x600

A dev board with a SAM D21 coprocessor, reliable Wi-Fi, an Ethernet jack, two USB ports and a system that runs real Node.js/io.js.

LattePanda

LattePanda

A Windows 10 single-board computer equipped with an Intel Atom x5-Z8300 Cherry Trail processor, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of storage and an ATmega32U4 coprocessor.

LightBlue Bean+

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An Arduino-compatible board that is programmed wirelessly using Bluetooth Low Energy.

Makey Makey GO

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A thumbdrive-shaped device that can transform ordinary objects into touch pads.

Hak8or

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An uber mini, DIY board based on an Atmel | SMART AT91SAM9N12 that runs Linux via a USB drive.

Modulo

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A set of tiny modular circuit boards that takes the hassle out of building electronics.

Microduino mCookie

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A collection of small, magnetically stackable modules that can bring your LEGO projects to life.

The AirBoard

airboard

A compact, open source, wireless and power efficient dev board designed to learn, sketch and deploy prototypes out in the field.

Autonomo

sodaq

A matchbox-sized, Arduino-compatible MCU powered by a small solar panel.

Helium

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An integrated platform that brings the power of the cloud to the edge of the network, enabling you to observe, learn and capture actionable insights from existing physical ‘things’ in your environment.

Sense HAT

astropi-Pi

An add-on for the Raspberry Pi equipped with a gyroscope, an accelerometer, a magnetometer, a temperature sensor, a barometric pressure sensor and a humidity sensor, as well as a five-button joystick and an 8×8 RGB LED matrix — all powered by an LED driver chip and an ATtiny88 running custom firmware.

Ardhat

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A HAT with an Arduino-compatible processor that responds quickly to real-time events, while letting the Raspberry Pi do all of the heavy lifting.

Wino

Bild

A cost-effective, Arduino-compatible board with built-in Wi-Fi.

pico-Platinchen

pico1

A little board designed for wearable devices that features a BNO055, an ATmega328P and a CR2032 coin-cell battery.

 XeThru X2M200 and X2M300

Xen.png

A pair of adaptive smart sensor modules that can monitor human presence, respiration and other vital information.

LinkIt Smart 7688 Duo

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An Arduino Yún-friendly platform powered by an ATmega32U4 and MediaTek MT7688 SoC.

Piccolino

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A small, inexpensive controller with an embedded OLED display and Wi-Fi connectivity that you can program using existing tools like the Arduino IDE.

ZeroPi

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A next-generation, Arduino and Raspberry Pi-compatible dev kit for robotic motion structure systems and 3D printers that boasts an Atmel | SMART SAM D21 at its core.

CryptoShield

CryptoShield_6

A dedicated security peripheral for the Arduino and was made in collaboration with SparkFun’s previous hacker-in-residence, Josh Datko. This shield adds specialized ICs that perform various cryptographic operations which will allow you to add a hardware security layer to your Arduino project.

ZYMKEY

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An add-on board that makes it easy to secure your Raspberry Pi and Linux applications.

Flip & Click

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A two-sided, Arduino-like board with an AT91SAM3X8E for its heart.

ChipWhisperer-Lite

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An open source toolchain for embedded hardware security research including side-channel power analysis and glitching. The board uses a Spartan 6 LX9, along with a 105 MS/s ADC, low-noise amplifier, an Atmel | SMART SAM3U chip for high-speed USB communication, MOSFETs for glitch generation and an XMEGA128 as a target device.

KeyDuino

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An Arduino Leonardo-like board with built-in NFC that lets you replace your keys with any smartphone, NFC ring or proximity card.

Neutrino

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An inexpensive, open source and shrunken-down version of the Arduino Zero that boasts a 32-bit ATSAMD21G18 running at 48MHz and packing 32K of RAM.

WIOT

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An open source, Arduino-compatible board with an ATmega32U4, ESP8266 Wi-Fi module and lithium-ion battery support.

Obscura

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An ATmega32U4-powered, 8-bit synthesizer that enables you to create NES, C64 and Amiga-style chiptune music by simply connecting a MIDI device.

Zodiac FX

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An OpenFlow switch that is powerful enough to develop world-changing SDN apps yet small enough to sit on your desk. Based on an Atmel | SMART SAM4E, the unit includes four 10/100 Fast Ethernet ports with integrated magnetics and indicator LEDs along with a command line interface accessible via USB virtual serial port.

Goldilocks Analogue

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A board that brings sophisticated analog and audio input, output and storage capabilities to the Arduino environment.

NodeIT

ar

A super small and expandable IoT system for Makers.

Pixel

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A smart display that features an Atmel | SMART SAM D21 MCU operating at 48MHz and packing 32K of RAM, along with a 1.5” 128×128 pixel OLED screen and a microSD slot.

SDuino

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An Arduino crammed inside an SD card.

… and how could we not mention this?

The WTFDuino!

wtfduino_banana_arduino_by_calum_knott_1-620x465

Do you feel like today’s MCUs are too simple and sensible? Well, one Maker decided to take a different approach by “undesigning” the Arduino into a banana-shaped processor whose form factor is impossible to breadboard and whose pins are incorrectly labelled.

 

Atmel’s second 2015 FAE training comes to an end


Taking a look back at the final FAE training of the year… 


We couldn’t have found a more appropriate, well-suited place to host our final internal three-day technical training of 2015 than Shenzhen, China. The city is constantly innovating, with IoT startups popping up on seemingly each street corner, throughout every tech shop, factory and Makerspace. This is a good context to present product updates, show off design tricks and run workshops from early morning to late night. We also network with old friends and make new ones, which further strengthens the teamwork, extends our knowledge base and builds confidence to help our customers bring their ideas to life.

H2-2016-FAE-Training

The buzz of the week was the highly-anticipated, full-day workshop on our uber mini Bluetooth Low Energy chipset (the BTLC1000) with overviews of the supported protocol stacks, silicon and software architecture, introduction from product marketing, as well as a hands-on session using Atmel’s standard Xplained development boards, the recently-launched Atmel Studio 7 and Atmel START.

At Atmel, we spread our love equally between wireless and low power. The world’s lowest power 32-bit MCU, the SAM L21, even saw the birth of a new sibling: the SAM L22. This particular board is feature-compatible with the SAM L21, but comes with an LCD controller and some nifty power-save features.

When it comes to IoT applications, performance plays an integral role so we spent time on the new low-power modes and security capabilities of the SAMA5D2. FAEs in a hurry could also complete the entire workshop and connect the SAMA5D2 to a cloud with the WILC1000 Wi-Fi module.

IMG_0847

To top off the event, we saw the debut of more wireless technologies with a complete 6LoWPAN stack emphasising security and authentication with Atmel’s wide range of CryptoAuthentication engines.

Still wondering if IoT is a big thing at Atmel? Well, duh! Between low-power MCUs, all major wireless connectivity protocols, security layers and a cloud ecosystem in place, we’ve got each of the necessary pillars covered.

Big thanks to Atmel’s training team, distributors, and of course, FAEs for making this event such a great success! Until next time!

The smallest, lowest power Bluetooth Smart solution has arrived


The Atmel SmartConnect Bluetooth platform delivers the industry’s lowest power, smallest footprint and most integrated system solution on the market. 


Earlier this year, we unveiled an ultra-low power Bluetooth Smart solution for the burgeoning Internet of Things. And now, we’re excited to announce that the Atmel SmartConnect BTLC1000 is shipping in production quantities.

r3-MemoryAT21CS01_Concept3.ai-2 (1)

Consuming less than 4mA in RX and less than 3mA TX at 3.6V, the industry’s lowest power, smallest footprint Bluetooth Smart solution is capable of increasing battery life by as much as one year or more for certain applications. Pushing the limits of space constrained areas, the BTLC1000 boasts an unprecedented 2.2mm x 2.1mm Wafer Level Chipscale Package (WLCSP) — significantly smaller than any other on the market today. This, of course, makes it ideal for the rapidly growing IoT and wearables spaces, including portable medical equipment, activity trackers, human Interface devices and gaming controllers. What’s more, the tiny solution supports beacons and other application standards for leading smartphone operating systems.

For those unfamiliar with the BTLC1000, the ultra-low power Bluetooth Smart SoC features an integrated Atmel | SMART ARM Cortex-M0 MCU and Bluetooth transceiver. The device can be used as a BLE link controller that connects as a companion to any Atmel AVR or Atmel | SMART MCU. Plus, it can even be employed as a standalone apps processor with embedded BLE connectivity and external memory.

Ble

In addition to all that, the BTLC1000 can come as a production-ready and fully-certified module for FCC ETSI/CE and IC regulations, thereby facilitating product design and reducing overall time-to-market.

Atmel’s BTLC1000 can be powered by a number of different battery types, ranging from coin cell, AA and AAA to Lithium polymer, without the need for external power management circuitry. The SoC utilizes an innovative radio and DSP architecture that delivers extremely low power consumption along with high performance, as well as provides a cost-effective solution for many Bluetooth Smart-based applications by integrating the BLE Radio and Baseband with an ARM Cortex-M0 MCU. The need for very few external components minimizes the total system solution cost.

Bl

To accelerate a designer’s development, an all-inclusive BTLC1000 XSTK starter kit is now available ($99) to evaluate the Atmel BTLC1000 with the Atmel | SMART SAM L21 Xplained PRO host MCU evaluation board. Beyond that, the BTLC1000 XPRO extension board ($25) can be ordered individually and can be plugged into any of the supported Atmel host MCU Xplained boards to easily add Bluetooth Smart connectivity.

Leadership in IoT connectivity with Bluetooth Smart


Kaivan Karimi, Atmel VP and GM of Wireless Solutions, provides insight into the Internet of Things and the role of BLE connectivity. 


It has been a year since my last blog at my old gig, and what a year it has been. I am now at Atmel managing the wireless MCUs business unit, and with my team busy building the best in class portfolio of cloud-ready wireless MCUs and MPUs. Last year was a great ride, and things will only get better from here onward, as we now have established a solid IP base, a best-in-class execution engine, and a great ecosystem of partners to collectively offer cost-optimized Internet of Things (IoT) edge-node system solutions.

Six years ago when a few of us in the industry were evangelizing what in those days we called “Industrial Wireless” (and now dubbed IoT), we always talked about role of hierarchical gateways, connecting the “edge nodes” or “things” to the “cloud.” Some of those “things” use your smartphone as their gateway of choice to connect to the cloud, while others will use a new generation of “smart gateways” to manage cloud-based services. Even in the case of the new smart gateways, some of the things connected to them may get “provisioned” using your smartphone. With smartphones almost ubiquitously having integrated Bluetooth Smart Ready, one can see how BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy – aka Bluetooth Smart) plays an important role in the connectivity infrastructure of IoT.

Communication

This year’s CES was as amazing as ever with even more attendees, exhibits and technology than in 2014. As usual, a sea of tech gadgets shouting at you while you walking through the halls, “Look at me and remember me because I am the next best things since slice bread and I am here to stay!” And, sometimes that actually happens (HD Television – CES 1998) and sometimes it doesn’t (3D Television- CES 2009).

CES 2015 was a special one for me, and served as a sort of coming out party for our new wireless lineup. There, we announced a pair of products: a standalone Bluetooth Smart SoC and a dual-mode Wi-Fi/Bluetooth platform. (I will spend more time on our combo chip in the near future, but wanted to focus this blog on our BLE chip.)

It started when we met with our engineering team and discussed our target spec for our new BLE SoC. It was simple; last year the small German mixed signal company had the best-in-class BLE solution in the market. Based on the marketing material they had readily available on the web, their solution had the best peak transmit and receive current (less than 5mA), it had the best leakage current of 600 nA (in certain mode), and it was the smallest SoC out there 2.5×2.5mm WLCSP. Furthermore, the solution also listed the usual suspect key applications as smartphone accessories, PC and tablet peripherals, sport and fitness tracking, health monitoring, self-tracking, watches, remote controls, 3D glasses, etc.

As it turned out, by mid-last year the engineering team of the German company forced their marketing team to match their peak active current numbers to the reality of the chip, as well as adjust their leakage current to reality for adequate memory retention. The leakage current listing is related to the amount of memory you need to retain for the modem to go back to the original state after coming back to active mode, and best in class BLE modems need minimum 8K of memory space to retain their state, and anything less than that would require reestablishing the link, which burns a lot more power. Listing your leakage current for anything less than 8K of memory retention is misleading. Needless to say, the spec being advertised for that chip are now different than their original product brief.

In any business best-in-class doesn’t come easy, and is as it is said to be the result of a lot of sweat and tears… So when we told our team that we wanted them to beat those spec by 30%, with samples for March 2015, you can imagine the looks we got in return. The team however took it upon themselves to beat our targets. The result: BTLC1000. Announced at CES, notable features from the press release included:

  • Bluetooth Smart solutions set new low-power standards with at least 30% power savings compared to existing solutions on the market in dynamic mode
  • Packaged in extremely small 2.1mm x 2.1mm WLCSP package to enable design flexibility for all devices
  • Solution can be combined with any Atmel MCU for a complete IoT platform

In the body of the announcement we also mentioned “sub-1µA in standby mode, while delivering the industry’s best dynamic power consumption, increasing battery life by as much as one year for certain applications.” Since this blog is not under NDA, I cannot get into more details on exact numbers, only that they are real, and they do indeed beat the relevant best-in-class BLE product specifications out there by >30%. Like true IoT products, this product is built from the ground up for IoT applications and battery operations, and not a generic modem repurposed and rebranded as an IoT product.

BTLC

Small footprint such as 2.1mmx2.1mm facilitates innovative form factors for a variety of classes of products, while also enables adding BLE functionality to your existing products using other types of wireless connectivity for provisioning only.

A common misconception for the Internet of Things is that everyone calls IoT the era of “always on” connectivity. However, in reality most of the “things” in IoT spend most of their life in “off” mode, and only based on an event, or predetermined policy at certain intervals of time they wake up, hence leakage current is extremely important. A lot of the BLE-related products use lithium coin cells which are made to work with standard current draws of 1 to 5 mA. There are many factors such as the discharge rate, the discharge profile (constant vs. periodic burst such as burst peak current), operating temperature, humidity, the associated DC/DC converter, etc. that effect the battery life. According to one of our Japanese customers who also was in battery manufacturing business, while these batteries can tolerate peak currents of much higher than 5mA (e.g. the BLE chip from the company in Scandinavia, the one from the Cambridge based company that just changed hands, the one from the company from Texas, etc.), every time that you cross the 5mA threshold, you reduce the life of the battery. That is why less than 5mA peak current matters.

SmartConnect

Our BLE solution will be offered using our SmartConnect framework and methodology, which black boxes the complexities associated with using wireless connectivity, and let the MCU programmers focus on their application development, not needing to become wireless connectivity experts to participate in the IoT market.

At Atmel, we are also known for our activities within the Maker community, particularly Arduino users. As a result, we have already started giving access to the Maker community to our wireless products using our Arduino Wi-Fi shield, which was released back in September 2014. Just imagine what kind of innovations can come from tinkerers, hobbyists and developers if you give them access to our BLE Arduino shield. Some of the IoT categories such as wearables, health and fitness, and portable medical electronics, among others, have already chosen BLE as their wireless connectivity of choice to communicate with the smartphones at their gateway of choice. I am sure the Maker community will come up with additional categories.