Tag Archives: CES 2015

Zymbit wants to accelerate IoT development


Get your real-world Internet of Things ideas to market in days, not months. 


As the next frontier of the Internet approaches, the IoT represents a compelling opportunity across a staggering array of applications. That’s why the team behind Zymbit has developed an end-to-end platform of hardware and software devices that will enable Makers, engineers and developers alike to transform their ideas into real-world products in blistering speed.

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In an effort to deliver secure, open and interactive gadgets for our constantly-connected era, Zymbit is hoping that latest set of solutions will help accelerate adoption and interface with our physical world in a more secure, authenticated manner. The company — who we had the chance to meet at CES 2015 and will be on display in our Maker Faire booth — recently unveiled its Zymbit 1 (Z1), which is being billed as the first fully-integrated piece of IoT hardware that provide users with local and remote live data interaction, along with a low-power MCU, battery-backed operation.

“Z1’s motherboards incorporate some of the latest secure silicon from Atmel, providing accelerated processing of standard open security algorithms. A separate supervisor MPU takes care of security, while you take care of your application,” explained Zymbit CTO Alex Kaay.

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Based on the Atmel | SMART SAM D21, the Z1 motherboard is electronically robust with enhanced security provided via an ATECC108 crypto engine and an ATWINC1500 Wi-Fi controller — meaning, no additional parts are necessary. Ideal for those developing next-gen IoT projects, the modular board is super customizable and compatible with Atmel Xplained Pro wingboards, Arduino shields, Raspberry Pi B+, as well as ZigBee, cellular and POE options. The Zymbit team has even implemented discretely controlled blocks to simplify coding and to secure remote device management, while advanced power management supports battery, solar and POE operations.

The Z1 integrates all of the key components required to support a generation of global IoT applications. This includes easily transitioning between Arduino, Atmel and Raspberry Pi designs, integrated open software tools for seamless innovation, as well as a choice of wireless communication. For instance, Makers can design and implement their programs using the Zymbit’s Arduino Zero app processor and take advantage of a vast number of Arduino shields. Or, developers can connect their Raspberry Pi to utilize the various Zymbit services via SPI bus, allowing their B+ module to interact with a wide-range of “things.”

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The unique Zymbit architecture delivers three key pillars of security: authenticated data source with 72-bit ID serial number, protected data transmission with SHA 256 and private data transmission via a Wi-Fi embedded AES engine. This is accomplished through a dedicated hardware crypto engine that ensures only trusted data is exchanged between devices.

At the heart of Z1’s operation lies a network/Linux CPU, the Atmel | SMART SAMA5D4 MPU, tasked with its secure communication. Meanwhile, its security processes run within a supervisory, ultra low-power Atmel | SMART SAM L21 MCU, separately from its SAM D21 Cortex-M0+ I/O application MCU. This hardware is all housed inside a dynamically-constructed case, which features standard expansions and mounts perfect for any consumer, commercial or industrial applicable IoT product.

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Adding to its already impressive list of capabilities, Zymbit comes with a remote manager that makes it easy to connect and manage gizmos both securely and with transparency. This service enables users to SSH to their devices, whether they are on your desk or across the country. Publishing through Zymbit’s Pub/Sub Engine lets developers collect and share data one-to-one or one-to-many, with or without subscriber authentication. As you can imagine, this opens up an assortment of project possibilities, which range from changing Philips Hue color lighting with data streams to monitoring key parameters of a refrigeration system.

“We are providing some standard dashboard widgets that allow you to quickly view your device performance metrics and data-channels. Initially we are supporting time series charting, together with plugin metrics for Raspberry Pi, and Arduino Yún,” the team writes.

Interested in learning more? You can stay up-to-date with the Zymbit team’s progress here, watch our latest interview with one of the company’s co-founders below, and swing by our booth at Maker Faire Bay Area!

Quell is a wearable device that promises to relieve chronic pain


Medicine? What medicine? You may want to try the world’s first pain-relieving wearable instead.


InBody Band puts body composition at your fingertips


Now you can measure your body fat, muscle mass and so much more anytime, anywhere. 


It was nearly impossible to walk around the CES 2015 show floor without coming across some sort of fitness tracker or smartwatch. In such a competitive market, companies are continually looking for new ways to differentiate themselves from the wearable pack. And, while a vast majority of fitness trackers let you monitor caloric intake, steps and sleeping habits, a new gadget has set out to measure a user’s body composition as well.

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Recently launched on Kickstarter, the InBody Band is a snap-on device that features a simple touchscreen display and four sensors located on its front and back. Users simply place their fingers on the front-facing sensors and, combined with the data from your wrist, retrieve a reading in just seconds. The wearable uses a series of electronic pulses, and some proprietary algorithms, to analyze metrics such as muscle mass index and body fat percentage, while simultaneously clocking heart rate and tracking movement with the aid of its built-in 3D accelerometer.

Like other smart bands available today, the device can monitor real-time activity and sleep habits, as well as help set specific goals to achieve. Furthermore, the InBody Band is capable of distinguishing between walking and running, thus providing more precise information and feedback on your daily routine. It is also water-resistant enough to withstand some hand-washing or a quick shower even, however is not recommended for the pool or any other aquatic activities.

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Always on-the-go? The wrist-adorned piece will notify you by vibration of any incoming calls or text message via Bluetooth. Or, you can set an alarm for an event or appointment that requires a reminder.

Interested? Head over to its official Kickstarter page, where the team is currently seeking $50,000.

Video: Rob Valiton discusses the future of automotive at CES 2015


The car of the future could have a curved center display with tons of real estate for driver information and entertainment. 


It’s no surprise that automotive technology has emerged as an integral component of our digital lifestyle, as more and more consumers are looking to bring their mobile devices seamlessly into their vehicles. During CES 2015, ARMdevices.net had the chance to catch up with Rob Valiton, Atmel Senior Vice President & General Manager, to discuss the connected car — most notably, the next generation of infotainment user interfaces.

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With up to a hundred million lines of code, at least 30 MCU-controlled devices — and some with as many as 100 — the vehicle is the ideal application to bring smart, connected devices in the era of the Internet of Things (IoT). Not only will these automobiles be packed with futuristic functionality ranging from navigation and parking assistance to diagnosis and road conditions, they will become much more intuitive and integrated with smartphone-like interfaces. In order to provide this, the car of tomorrow will feature a curved center console display offering a large amount of real estate for information to drivers. And, the newly-announced AvantCar 2.0 will make this possible.

Luckily, the AvantCar 2.0 brings advanced connectivity into the vehicle through an advanced HMI console connected to a concept car highlighting car access, car networking, MCUs, audio-over-Ethernet, MHL support and security technologies. Focusing on user requirements, the fully-functional console concept boasts curved touchscreens using maXTouch touchscreen controllers and XSense flexible touch sensors, as well as Atmel’s QTouch with proximity sensing, and LIN networking for ambient lighting controls.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Digital photo frame doubles as an energy monitor


While it might look like an ordinary digital picture frame, it’s so much more.


A digital photo frame that shares memorable moments of your life and saves you money on your electric bill each month? Picture that! That is the premise behind CEIVA Energy’s HomeView digital picture frame, which allows users to keep tabs on home energy use, without the need for another display showing boring information about kilowatt hours.

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Founded in 2000 by former Disney executives, the Burbank, California company officially launched in 2011. Since its inception, the infiltration of smart devices throughout the home has led to an assortment of sophisticated thermostats, like the Google Nest and Honeywell Lyric, that can learn a homeowner’s energy consumption habits and automatically adjust the temperature accordingly to mitigate costs and unnecessary use.

While the idea of merging a digital photo display with energy data may seem a bit absurd, the team behind the frame believes it has developed a new, more intuitive alternative to increase customer engagement. And, as the smart home market continues to emerge, some consumers may find connected devices to either be too pricey or unnecessary, or the average consumer may just not be interested in another form of technology. What’s great about CEIVA HomeView is that it simply brings an accessory already found throughout your home into the digital-savvy era.

How it works is pretty simple. The frame displays a montage of photos uploaded by its owner on its 8-inch screen. Meanwhile, the ZigBee-enabled device wirelessly receives energy use data from the home’s smart meter. Once the information has been sent to and processed by CEIVA’s servers, the frame then displays home energy consumption approximately every 90 seconds. The data points are reduced to two or three numbers, not an entire chart or graphical representation that shares a bunch of confusing information. Instead, the gadget reveals useful things like electric rate and an estimated utility bill for that month.

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While receiving information about current and historical electricity, water and gas usage is a welcomed addition into any home, users can also invite friends and family to send photos directly to the frame, send pictures to a frame remotely via the web, email, camera phone, tablet and social media channels, as well as insert a memory card and view a camera’s photos in real-time.

One of, if not the, most important feature of the HomeView is its security — an imperative element as the number of smart home hacks are on the rise. Equipped with an Atmel ATECC108 crypto engine, CEIVA notes that the frame never be replicated and all communications to and from frame are uniquely assigned for that specific. In other words, only you can view information and control your devices. This is because the ATECC108 provides a full turnkey Elliptic Curve Digital Signature Algorithm (ECDSA) engine using key sizes of 256 or 283 bits, which are appropriate for modern security environments without the long computation delay typical of software solutions.

Want a HomeView frame for your home? Head on over to company’s official page here. In the meantime, watch as CEIVA’s Jack McKee and Jack Brooks provide a hands-on overview of their latest smart device below.

Video: Andreas Eieland talks Atmel | SMART SAM L21


Low power just got a whole heck of a lot lower.


During CES 2015, ARMdevices.net had the chance to catch up with Andreas Eieland, Atmel Senior Product Marketing Manager, to discuss the recently-revealed Atmel | SMART SAM L21.

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The SAM L21 not only boasts the performance of an ARM Cortex-M0+ core, it also consumes just one-third the power of comparable products in the market today. The Atmel | SMART MCU delivers ultra-low power running down to 35µA/MHz in active mode, consuming less than 900nA with full 32kB RAM retention. With rapid wake-up times, Event System, Sleepwalking and the innovative picoPower peripherals, the SAM L21 family is ideal for handheld and battery-operated devices for a variety of Internet of Things (IoT) applications.

In Eieland’s video below, the SAM L21 is powered from the heat of a hand through a Peltier Element. This is enough energy to modulate a music file and transmit it with AM modulation at 1MHz to the nearby radio receiver. This demo shows that the latest ARM Cortex-M0+ MCU is truly unique in supporting ultra-low power consumption in active mode without having to limit Flash or SRAM size.

(And, let us apologize ahead of time for the Rick Astley tune that’ll surely be stuck in your head. You’ll see what we mean around the 2:30 mark.)