Tag Archives: element14

These 20+ everyday objects have gone from mundane to magical


The wizarding world of Harry Potter won’t be the only place you’ll find enchanted objects. 


According to MIT Media Lab researcher David Rose, the term “enchanted object” is used to describe any everyday object with extraordinary functions.

“We are now standing at the precipice of the next transformative development: the Internet of Things. Soon, connected technology will be embedded in hundreds of everyday objects we already use: our cars, wallets, watches, umbrellas, even our trash cans. These objects will respond to our needs, come to know us, and learn to think on our behalf.”

enchantedobjectsposter

Entitled “Enchanted Objects: Design, Human Desire, and the Internet of Things,” Rose’s latest book depicts the blueprint for a better (or shall we say ‘smarter’) future, where efficient solutions come hand in hand with technology that delights our senses. Not only are these innovative things fun and alluring, they may hold the key to better satisfying our needs and improving our lives.

“The big lesson here for companies is that they need to embrace and start designing for this world of enchanted objects,” Rose said in a recent BI:Tech interview. “It will mean a key change for how we interact with technology, and it’s a great opportunity for all of these traditional product companies.”

As we prepare for this embedded future where microcontrollers will give once-ordinary objects super “powers,” we’ve decided to explore some of the items currently in existence today. From a pill bottle that can alert you when you’ve skipped your medication to an umbrella that says whether it’ll rain, these gadgets provide us with a glimpse into smarter society — one where fairy tale enchantment becomes a reality.

And, with this state of ambience ever so close, our friends at element14 are challenging hobbyists, designers and engineers alike to add some magic and mystic back into the realm of everyday objects using the new Atmel | SMART SAMA5D4 Xplained Ultra, Arduino Yún (ATmega32U4) and Arduino Uno (ATmega328), among several other kits.

“The Internet of Things may hit a roadblock: namely, the lack of secure communications between objects and individuals could lead to a situation in which data is being shared without explicit consent and exploited for malicious purposes,” element14 adds. “Therefore any Internet of Things challenge we will undertake in the future will have a security aspect: we will want to see that appropriate security measures have been built into the solutions. Bonus points will be given for clear demonstrations of this in the finished project.”

They couldn’t be more correct. When the world around us becomes increasingly more connected, each and every thing will also need to be secure. Without security, there is no way to trust that the authenticity of things and integrity of its data. Due to the drive for bigger data, the cloud and smart communicating, things are becoming ambient; and, because those things all require security, security itself is becoming ambient as well. Fortunately, as Atmel’s resident security expert Bill Boldt explains, there’s an easy way to spread protection to each of the nodes: CryptoAuthentication.

These so-called enchanted objects are broken down into six caterogies, each based upon human desires. The segments include omniscience (the desire to know all), telepathy (the desire for human connection), safekeeping (the desire to protect), immortality (the desire to be healthy), teleportation (the desire to move effortlessly) and expression (the desire to make).

Like Arthur C. Clarke once said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Vitality GlowCap

the-vitality-glowcap-reminds-you-to-take-your-medications-by-lighting-up-making-chirping-sounds-and-eventually-sending-you-a-text-message-you-can-share-your-medication-data-with-a-remote-loved-one-a-professional-caregiver-and-your-pharmacy

Always seem to forget to take that pill in the morning or before bed? This smart cap will remind you to take your medications by lighting up, making chirping sounds, and eventually sending you a text message. You can share your medication data with a remote loved one, a professional caregiver, and even your pharmacy. No more calling to refill those prescriptions!

The Ambient Umbrella

the-ambient-umbrella-has-a-handle-that-will-glow-if-snow-or-rain-is-in-the-forecast-reminding-you-to-grab-it-on-your-way-out-the-door

What if your umbrella had a handle that would glow if snow or rain was in the forecast? You’ll never forget to grab it on your way out the door again!

Google Latitude Doorbell

the-google-latitude-doorbell-created-at-the-mit-media-lab-chimes-a-tune-when-a-family-member-is-approaching-the-house-each-family-member-has-their-own-tune.jpg

Created at the MIT Media Lab, the Google Latitude Doorbell chimes a tune when a family member is approaching the house. Each family member has their own tune. Have some fun with it: Imagine setting it to play “Master of the House” from Les Misérables as you approached the door, or the Jaws theme song for your mother-in-law.

The Ambient Orb

the-ambient-orb-tracks-real-time-data-for-the-stock-market-pollen-count-traffic-congestion-and-more-and-glows-specific-colors-to-let-you-know-if-the-data-looks-good-or-bad

When you think of David Rose and ambient object, this “magical” orb is often times the first thing that pops into mind. This device tracks real-time data for the stock market, pollen count, traffic congestion, and more, and glows specific colors to let you know if the data looks good or bad.

SunSprite

sunsprite-is-a-small-clip-that-measures-the-amount-of-bright-light-you-take-in-during-the-day-in-order-to-help-you-improve-your-energy-levels-sleep-cycle-mood-and-more.jpg

Feel like you’re walking on sunshine? This small will let you know whether you’re actually taking in enough bright light during your day, in order to help you improve your energy levels, sleep cycle, mood, and so much more.

Energy Joule

the-energy-joule-tracks-energy-prices-by-glowing-red-if-prices-are-high-yellow-if-prices-are-average-and-green-if-prices-are-low

Let’s face it, energy bills are the worst — especially those living in extremely cold climates in the winter and warm in the summer. To better help you save a buck or two, the Energy Joule can track energy costs by glowing red if prices are high, yellow if prices are average, and green if prices are low.

The Facebook Coffee Table

CoffeeTable

‘Like!’ This innovation is bringing coffee talk into the digital era. The incredibly social-savvy table listens to your conversations and displays photos from your Facebook page whenever they are appropriate to the conversation. Think Mark Zuckerberg meets Minority Report.

MemoMi

memomi-is-a-mirror-that-records-the-outfits-you-try-on-so-you-can-compare-them-and-decide-what-to-buy-or-wear.jpg

Never quite sure as to which outfit to buy? Ladies, you’re in luck. This smart mirror records the outfits you try on, so you can compare them and decide what to buy or wear. Never have to go back and forth again.

Amazon Trash Can

the-amazon-trash-can-created-at-the-mit-media-lab-scans-any-objects-youre-throwing-away-and-automatically-re-orders-them-from-amazon.jpg

Forget to replace the toilet paper? Run out of milk? Need laundry detergent? This trash can can now scans any object you’re disposing and automatically reorder it from Amazon.

Pandora Chair

the-pandora-chair-created-at-the-mit-media-lab-plays-different-music-based-on-your-level-of-incline-if-youre-sitting-upright-the-chair-will-play-upbeat-music-if-youre-leaning-back-it-will-play-something-peaceful.jpg

This gives a whole new meaning to ‘musical chairs!’ The Pandora Chair is designed to play music based on your level of incline. Envision the possibilities: Sit back, relax and enjoy the tunes of the caribbean. Or, sit upright, intensely focus on your work while listening to some “Eye of the Tiger.”

Vessyl

vessyl-is-a-smart-cup-that-identifies-what-kind-of-liquid-youre-drinking-and-lets-you-know-how-many-calories-and-how-much-sugar-fat-protein-sodium-and-caffeine-are-in-that-drink.jpg

As our days get too busy, it can quickly become too difficult to manage our liquid intake. Luckily, a smart cup can do that for you — it knows what kind of fluid you’re drinking and track how many calories and how much sugar, fat, protein, sodium, and caffeine are in that beverage.

The Skype Cabinet

the-skype-cabinet-created-at-the-mit-media-lab-allows-you-to-simply-open-a-wooden-door-and-connect-to-a-friend-or-loved-one-via-skype-a-proximity-sensor-allows-the-cabinet-to-glow-when-a-friend-is-available.jpg

Tired of always having to grab the computer, flip it open and sign into Skype? Thanks to this project from MIT Media Lab, all you have to do is simply open a wooden door to telconnect with a friend or loved one. No more setup, bad lighting, or those irritating headphones.

TrakDot

trakdot-is-a-luggage-tracker-that-you-place-inside-your-suitcase-you-can-then-see-the-location-of-your-luggage-by-using-the-trakdot-app-which-connects-to-the-tracking-device.jpg

NOTHING, we repeat NOTHING is worse than losing your luggage while traveling. This smart luggage tracker can slide right inside your suitcase and inform you of its whereabouts using its companion app, which connects to the tracking device.

Energy Clock

Clock

Are the culprit in your household’s excessive energy consumption? This innovative clock shares real-time feedback on the amount of energy your home is using. It learns your consumption habits, then offers some subtle feedback on how you’re tracking against yourself.

Goji Smart Lock

20130603114032-Side_image

As we inch closer to a Jetsons-like future, of course there will be smart locks! Easily lock and unlock your door with your smartphone, after snapping pictures of visitors at your door and automatically sending real-time picture alerts to your device.

Nabaztag

Nabaztag-rabbit-an-internet-rabbit

Yes, this is exactly what it looks like: a WiFi-enabled rabbit. Unlike Peter Cottontail, this device tells you the time, a recap of the week, RSS news feeds, a report on the air quality or traffic, an MP3 alarm clock, a weather forecast, a stock ticker, and even e-mail alerts.

Good Night Lamp

tmp566261011321978880

In essence, the Good Night Lamp is a physical social network. The lamps, which come in a set of two, work in unison. Turning on the larger one not only emits light but triggers on the little one as well. This connectivity allows you to keep in touch with people all over the world without having to pick up the phone.

Tagg Dog Collar

pet_tracker

Tagg is a GPS device that attaches to the collar of your dog. The system enables pet owners to define a safe zone around there home and instantly receive text and email alerts when the pet leaves that zone. What’s more, the wearable also monitors their activity and fitness by measuring the amount of activity in their day.

Mimo Baby Shirt

20131216-restdevices_mimo-0334-copy

Boston-based startup Rest Devices has developed a smart baby onesie for parents. Founded by a group of former MIT students, Mimo monitors the respiration, skin temperature, body position, sleeping and activity levels of infants. Meaning, those with newborns will soon no longer have to worry about getting up and frequently checking on the baby throughout the night, instead only when necessary.

Nest Thermostat

nest-thermostat-auto-away

The Nest Thermostat doesn’t need to be programmed, and is equipped to learn and remember your temperature habits. Meaning, the device turns itself down when you’re away to help save energy and can change the temperature from anywhere using your smartphone, tablet or laptop.

HAPI Fork

specs-5forks

The smart fork, which was introduced at last year’s CES, uses electronic sensors to monitor your eating habits. Designed by HAPILABS, the ARM Cortex-M0 embedded utensil tracks the number of bites, intake speed as well as notifies you to step away from the dinner plate. This information is then uploaded via USB or Bluetooth to an online dashboard to analyze your progress.

Narrative Camera

camera_narrative-clip-teardown-02

The future for anyone who wants to tell their own story has never looked brighter. That is because of the Atmel | SMART SAM9G25 powered Narrative Clip — a tiny, automatic 5-megapixel camera paired with an app that offers users access to a “photographic memory” which is both searchable and shareable. Clip it onto your shirt and let it snap away, recording all your daily activities in 30-second increments.

Feeling inspired? Head over to element14’s official contest page here to get started. The grand prize winner will receive a trip to World Maker Faire 2015 in New York.

IR reflow oven for your prototype PCBs

When you use solder paste to assemble your prototype PCB (printed circuit board) you need a stencil or hypodermic needle to apply the paste to the pads on the board. Then you use an IR (infra-red) reflow oven to melt the solder. Scott Fritz, an Atmel IC designer on the third floor, found this neat home-made controller that turns a cheap toaster oven into an IR reflow oven. I assume the name Reflowster is a combination of the words “reflow” and “toaster.”

annotated_reflowster

The Reflowster will do closed-loop control of a cheap toaster over so you can do IR reflow soldering on your prototype circuit boards.

The Reflowster is an Arduino-based controller that that gives you predicable and repeatable heating and cooling profiles to melt the solder paste and connect up all the components on your board. They got their start on Kickstarter, and have actually shipped, so all the Kickstarter people are rewarded. Now the Reflowster folks are starting to offer the product to the general public.

PCB-POOL_IR-reflow-controller

The Reflow controller V3 PRO from PCB POOL in Europe is another product meant to work with a toaster oven.

I have mentioned a similar reflow controller made by the fine people at PCB-POOL in Europe. That article also described how my buddy Wayne Yamaguchi was using a toaster oven a decade ago to make his PCBs. Wayne did not use a controller. He just did a whole bunch of tests until he was satisfied he was getting good whetting and solder fillets on his circuit boards.

The great thing about the Reflowster is that it is a closed-loop controller. It is actually measures the temperature of the oven, and then controls the power to it so that the heating and cooling match the profiles recommended by component makers like Atmel (pdf).

Atmel-IR-reflow-profile

Precise temperature control is needed to do quality lead-free soldering.

While I love, admire, and respect my buddy Wayne Yamaguch’s “theory of experiments” approach, you might really need the Reflowster. If you want to use different ovens, or have changing wall voltage, or the boards you are soldering are different sizes or have a different set of components on them, you want a closed-loop controller. If the chips have a big pad on the bottom, the die-attach-paddle, you need reflow. The other big factor is lead-free solder. Many of the crazy analog engineers I hang out with still use tin-lead solder for prototypes. It looks better, it feels better, and lead solder is more reliable. We also pull the solder off the reel by biting it gently and tugging, so we don’t have to set the soldering iron down. Lead poisoning might explain why we are all crazy. But if you are sane and insist on using lead-free solder, the preciseness of reflow control is important.

Solder-stencil-squeegee-Wintech-Electronics

Solder paste application is like silkscreening T-shirts. Instead of silk the stencil is stainless steel. Instead of ink you use solder paste. Instead of T-shirts you do printed circuit boards.

Solder paste has its own hassles. You should refrigerate open containers so the little solder balls do not oxidize and change the reflow parameters. I am not sure the same caveat applies to when you use a big hypodermic to apply the solder paste. There the hassle is you have to do it one pad a time. A solder stencil is a thin stainless steel sheet where the PCB fab house has etched through all the areas where there is supposed to be solder. Sometimes called the “cream layer” Its not exactly the solder mask art, but it is pretty close, depending on your particular design. I know you can set up OrCAD 9.2 to do it, and I am sure other CAD packages can make it, or the PCB fab house can create one from your solder mask layer art.

Solder-stencil_PCB-stencilsunlimited

Here is a typical solder stencil from Stencils Unlimited. With one swipe of a squeegee you apply solder paste to the pads for your chips and passive components.

The fine folks at Sunstone used to offer a free stencil, now it looks like they charge a little. Most fab houses can supply one. Assembly houses like Screaming Circuits or Advanced Assembly have the relationships with board houses to they can make your stencil when they assemble your boards. If you are really masochistic, and have a high-powered CO2 laser cutter handy, you can make your own stencils. You can also live in a cave and use flint tools, but I prefer to operate a little higher on the food chain. The LPKF laser mill can make your stencils as well.

Solder-stencil_QFN-32_Proto-Advantage

This solder stencil from Proto-Advantage lets you apply solder paste for a QFN-32 chip.

There are also hybrid approaches. You can buy cheap solder stencils just for high-pin-count chips on your board. You squeegee the solder paste onto the board for each of those parts, Then you can use a hypodermic for the passive components or hand-solder them after you reflow the big chips.

If you are a big-time engineer on a big-budget project then just contact Screaming Circuits or Advanced Assembly or you local board assembly house (not PCB fab, but board assembly). I know Screaming Circuits can do it all since they have teamed up with Sunstone and Digi-Key. Just send Screaming Circuits the fab Gerber and fab files which they send to Sunstone, the assembly drawing and insert file which they use themselves, and the BOM (bill of material) they order the parts with from Digi-Key. They can do quick-turn and they can ship anywhere in the world.

So the prototyping ecosystem is like this:

  • If you are a hobbyist use DIP (dual-inline plastic) chips with 0.1 inch lead spacing and through-hole passive components. You might use surface mount chips on DIP breakout boards.
  • If you are a pro-hobbyist or low-budget engineer buy a temperature-controlled Weller soldering iron or a Metcal and a good stereo microscope. Now you can hand-solder surface mount boards. For chips with bottom pads you have to either heat the whole chip with a big soldering iron, use a heat gun, or try to wick the solder in from vias you design in on the backside of the board.
  • If you are a hobbyist doing low-volume manufacturing or a medium-budget engineer, go to solder stencils and reflow ovens.
  • If you are a hobbyist that hit it big or a big-budget engineer, use the board house to order the parts, get the PCB fab, and assemble and maybe even test your board.
TQM Solutions knows that total quailty managemnt means you not only have a mountain of documentation, but that you organize that mountain.

TQM Solutions knows that total quality management means you not only have a mountain of documentation, but that you organize that mountain.

Note that last item. See, as an engineer, your real job is to make a set of documentation so the design can get manufactured by non-engineers and non-technicians and non-hobbyists. Its nice you are a hands-on person. Heck, its critical you are a hands-on person to be a good engineer. But your real responsibility is making sure the CAD files are correct. it might speed things up if you make a first-spin board yourself, and its neat if you make the board on an LPKF mill and you can get parts from the factory floor or Radio Shack or a salvage yard.

Salvage-yard-electronics-Weird-Stuff-Warehouse

I used to design products with parts I found cheap at places like Weird Stuff Warehouse in Silicon Valley. Then one of my designs went to production but Weird Stuff had sold off all the parts I had used. Now I select parts from distributors.

The great thing about using Screaming Circuits and Sunstone and a distributor like Mouser or Arrow or Newark or DigiKey is that you are proving out your documentation. You make it clear to Screaming Circuits that if your pick-and-place insert file has mistakes they tell you, you fix them and they use that file. This way, when they see that the part origin for a DPAK is at the pad and not the part center, they know the vacuum picker cannot pick it up, so you catch that AND FIX IT. If your Gerbers have problems you make sure Sunstone tells you, or you use the free DFM (Design for manufacturing) check offered by Advanced Circuits. Then you FIX THE FILES. Same deal for any BOM mistakes. Make sure somebody tells you so you can FIX THE FILE, and not the text file, you fix the CAD file in OrCAD or Altium or whatever, so it spits out a perfect BOM.

Now when you send the CAD files to China to get assembled on the cheap, you know the files are correct. Anything less and you are not an engineer, you are an amateur. Proto Express even works with a Chinese partner to ensure you can get cheap-high volume boards that work as well at the Proto-Express boards made right here in Silicon Valley.

oqo-model-02_Engadget

The oqo Model 2 used a Via processor. The third model with an Intel Atom never got built since they ran out of money (courtesy Engadget).

This level of diligence and exactness is critical. I worked at oqo, a San Francisco start-up that made the first palm-top computer that ran real Windows OS. The first model was based on the Transmeta “emulated” x86 processor. The second model used a Via chip. Lesson there is never base a business plan on being smarter than Intel. The third prototype never went into production. I had left the company for National Semiconductor, but pals there told me they used an Intel Atom processor and it was a real product that could really work good. But they were running out of money. So I assume in a big rush, they sent the design to the Chinese contract manufacturer. A pal familiar with the company told me oqo had to fly out an engineer to China and there were 1000 ECOs (engineering change orders) to get the design ready for high-volume manufacturing. One thousand mistakes. Now it probably didn’t matter, but its nice to think that if they had scrubbed the CAD files, the fab, the assembly, and the rework documentation through a US quick-turn prototype manufacturer, and fixed most of those mistakes, then maybe they could have gotten that product to market and saved the company.

This is a perfect example of the asymmetric respect problem in engineering. The Chinese manufacturing engineers respected those high-tone former Apple designers at oqo. But the oqo engineers may have thought manufacturing was some triviality and beneath them. Perhaps they thought any idiot should be able to do it. Sorry. Wrong. Dead wrong. Dead just like oqo is today. You need to be every bit as smart, clever, and creative to do manufacturing and test as to do design work. When you take a product all the way to production, you will learn to respect everybody involved. Respect the planners, the clerks, the assemblers, and ALL the engineers. So be a good and respectful design engineer and make sure your CAD files are a good as they can be before you send them out for production. That is your responsibility, not a Flextronics responsibility.

Bob-Pease-air-ball-prototype

The cover of my mentor Bob Pease’s book Troubleshooting Analog Circuits has one of his “airball” prototypes on the cover. Application engineers like Bob can do proof-of-concept, but don’t try sending this out for high-volume manufacturing.

So like all things, prototyping has an analog continuum to it, There is a place for quick-and dirty hacks. There is place for super-diligence. And there is a whole spectrum of tradeoffs for an appropriate design effort in between those poles. Just don’t do some rush-job today that you just know will bite you a few months later.

[Update] I showed this post to Wayne Yamaguchi and he had this great comment:

“One of the major drawbacks to solder paste is the shelf life.  No matter how you buy it, the container and contents will go bad in about 6 months time, even in the refrigerator.  It’s the flux that ages and slowly solidifies making the reflow consistency different over time.  It’s just a real pain to dispense the paste with a tiny-tip syringe when it it’s fresh, and even worse when it has aged a bit. If I recall correctly, the smallest syringe runs about $50.00.  You can solder a lot with that but if you only make one proto this is an expensive proposition.

“Mine tends to absorb water over time and this makes it pop when reflowing, blowing off chunks of solderpaste in all directions. I can hand-solder 0402 and DFN parts with the soldering iron.  I only need the hot-air station for pads that are not exposed, like power pads and some SMT inductors. I would recommend a really good soldering iron or two, and a general-purpose hot air station if you want to hand-solder small runs of boards. You will need one with a 0.2mm tip or smaller for the leadless and 0402 parts.

“I prefer to still use leaded solder.  It solders at a lower temp and the chemicals are less caustic, unlike the solder flux used for leadless solder.  Unless I have to, I try to use “no clean” flux and occasionally will use Kester 331 (IIRC) for gold-plated pads.

“Good stencils are cut non-vertical.  The edges are beveled so the bottomside is slightly larger than the top, making the solderpaste less resistant to sticking to the stencil.  Hopefully, when you lift the stencil the solderpaste adheres to the PCB and not the stencil.  I’ve never actually seen the process, but, I always imagined  that the paste would not all tranfer.  I guess it works.  Just doesn’t work in my mind.  The bevel is only 5-10 degrees.  Hardly noticeable by the eye, but, I guess it makes a difference.

“Another gotcha will come when you doing rework.  You remove the part in question and/or use solderwick to clean the pads.  If you try and apply solderpaste right away the residual heat will outflow the flux from the syringe tip which is most frustrating as now the tip is full of paste with no flux.  When this occurs it is like concrete and won’t flow.  It is possible to drain more than the tip into the larger part of the syringe tube rendering the whole syringe load bad.  You can unscrew the tip and plunge out the bad material, but, who knows if you now have the right ratio of flux to solder anymore?  If this is the tube from the vendor you can kiss $50.00 down the drain.  If you transferred solderpaste to a smaller syringe the loss is less than $50.00.”

I guess all those years at HP and Agilent, and then being in business for himself gave Wayne a valuable perspective on prototyping. Many thanks to him, and add you own comments below.

Ring in the holiday season with this festive DIY hat

Can you believe it? It’s already December! And, what better way to kick off the official holiday season than with this slick wearable created by Maker (and hat aficionado) Barbara Eldredge.

Our friends over at Element 14 initially brought her Atmel based Jaunty Fascinator to our attention a couple weeks back after it had been crowned victor of their recent Hats Off Design Contest. For the award-winning project, Eldredge equipped a traditional English fascinator headpiece with Adafruit’s GEMMA platform (ATtiny85) along with an accelerometer to measure a wearer’s movement. Data collected by its embedded sensors prompted a series of NeoPixels within the hat to change color intensity and temperature from blue to green, yellow, orange and red.

As if one piece of headwear was enough for Eldredge, the incredibly innovative Maker has returned. This time with a fantastic fascinator for all holiday festivities!

According to the Maker, her electronic Christmas confection — aptly dubbed the Hot and Cold Christmas Cloche — features a temperature sensor that is responsible for triggering its lights to change colors depending on whether it is hot or cold. Ideally, the FLORA powered (ATtiny85) wearable will emit icy blue when it’s outside and a holiday spirited red and green when it’s inside, or anytime its environment is above 60°F. As she points out, the colors will soon intensify the more extreme the temperature.

XmasMockup2

If all goes according to plan, aside from its embedded FLORA, Eldredge assumes the hat will be comprised of the following components:

  • 1.3m white NeoPixel strip
  • 1-3x AAA battery pack
  • 3 through-hole 8mm NeoPixels
  • 2 through-hole 5mm NeoPixels
  • Analog temperature sensor
  • Side glow fiber optic
  • A white wool felt hat

As the Maker notes in her recent Element 14 Community post, she began by connecting the 1.5-meter NeoPixel strip to the ATtiny85 based FLORA and alligator clips, before conducting a NeoPixel strip test. Miraculously, she says, it worked on the first attempt!

“I disconnected those alligator clips from the FLORA and placed one of the 5mm through-hole NeoPixels in my breadboard. I cut and placed small bits of wire to correctly power and connect the LED to the FLORA. Then I found the Punk Collar code and changed the pin number to pin 9 and uploaded it to the FLORA. The light changed color beautifully. Then I placed the remaining four through-hole NeoPixels in the breadboard so that each Data-Out pin was column-buddies with the Data-In pin of the following LED, and used more little pieces of wire to connect each to power and ground. I ran the Neopixel Tiara code again and they worked,” Eldredge writes.

She then went on to connect the temp sensor.

“I disconnected the LEDs at the FLORA end and placed my temperature sensor on the opposite side of the breadboard, using more wires to connect it to the FLORA. Then I uploaded the example Simple Thermometer code and opened the serial port to find that the room was a sweltering 138 degrees fahrenheit. That didn’t seem quite right. So I read over the Temp Sensor overview and realized that it was calibrated to receive 5 volts of electricity and I was only giving it 3.3 volts. I changed the calculation to compensate, re-uploaded the code, re-opened the serial port, and all was well. A perfectly reasonable 70 degrees.”

As she puts the finishing touches to her design, you can find a step-by-step breakdown of the build along with its recently-revealed code here.

SAMA5D3 Xplained for the IoT in India



element14 has introduced Atmel’s new SAMA5D3 Xplained evaluation kit for Internet of Things (IoT) development in India.

“The Internet of Things is one of the most important trends globally that will boost the electronics industry in India. Within these few years it will impact nearly every segment of the economy and society,” said element14 exec Ravi Pagar. 

”[We are] excited to be bringing such a wide range of ground-breaking IoT-enabling solutions to India geared towards inspiring engineers with the ideas and building blocks to turn the Internet of Things into a reality.”

The board – built around Atmel’s SAMA5D3 ARM Cortex-A5 processor-based MPU – is packed with a rich set of ready-to-use connectivity and storage peripherals, along with Arduino shield-compatible expansion headers for easy customization. 

The platform is also a perfect target for headless Android projects, while a Linux distribution and software package facilitates rapid software development.

Aside from Atmel’s ARM-based SAMA5D36 Cortex-A5 microprocessor (MPU), key specs include:

  • 2GBit DDR2 – Micron
  • 2GBit Flash – Micron
  • 1- Ethernet 10/100/1000 (- Phy + connector)
  • 1- Ethernet 10/100 (-Phy + connector)
1- USB Device connector, 2- USB Host connectors
  • Active Semi PMIC
  • Power measurement straps
  • SD/MMCPlus 8-bit card slot
  • 1- Micro SDCard 4-bit slot footprint
  • 1- 6-lead 3V3-level serial port
  • 10-pin J-TAG connector
  • 2- push buttons, reset and startup
  • 1- general purpose push button
  • 2- general purpose LEDs
  • Arduino R3-compatible header plus LCD connectors mounted
  • Linux distribution
  • Bare Metal C code example
  • Headless Android support

Simply put, the new board offers features such as mid-range graphical user interfaces, capacitive touch capability, wired and wireless communication, free of charge Linux distribution and a QT developer’s kit.

As we’ve previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, the ARM-based SAMA5D3 series is ideal for wearable computing and mobile applications where low power and a small footprint are critical.

Atmel’s new SAMA5D3 Xplained eval kit can be snapped up for Rs.6,719.00 here.

Video: ARM interviews Atmel’s Jacko Wilbrink

Earlier today, the ARM crew interviewed Atmel exec Jacko Wilbrink on the sidelines of Embedded World 2014 in Nuremberg, Germany.

Wilbrink discussed Atmel’s popular ARM-based SAMA5D3 microprocessor, confirming that the MPU has been a “tremendous success for Atmel.”

Wilbrink also said Atmel will continue to offer scalable ARM-based MPUs, with an eye on introducing more dual-core implementations in the future. 

Last, but certainly not least, Wilbrink showcased Newark’s (element14) new $79 Atmel SAMA5D3 Xplained evaluation kit – a low-cost, fast prototyping and evaluation platform for microprocessor-based design.

The board, which is powered by Atmel’s SAMA5D3 ARM Cortex-A5 processor-based MPU, is packed with a rich set of ready-to-use connectivity and storage peripherals, along with Arduino shield-compatible expansion headers for easy customization. In addition, the platform is a perfect target for headless Android projects, while a Linux distribution and software package facilitates rapid software development.

As we’ve previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, the SAMA5D3 series is ideal for wearable computing and mobile applications where low power and a small footprint are critical. Key SAMA5D3 Xplained features include:

  • Fully documented and readily available Cortex-A5 based MPU solution
  • Rich set of peripherals, specifically on connectivity
  • USB power (no need for power adaptor)
  • Flexibility – Arduino-compatible connectors, enabling the user to leverage the extensive Arduino shields ecosystem
  • Open Source hardware – All design files available; easy to reuse in customer projects
Software package with drivers and examples for bare metal developers
  • Qt developers kit and Linux distribution free of charge

The new SAMA5D3 Xplained evaluation kit – priced at $79 – is slated to ship in mid-March 2014 from Farnell element14 in Europe, Newark element14 in North America and element14 in APAC. You can pre-register for the board here.

Newark debuts new Atmel SAMA5D3 Xplained board

Newark element14 has debuted a new Atmel SAMA5D3 Xplained evaluation kit – a low-cost, fast prototyping and evaluation platform for microprocessor-based design.

The board, which is built around Atmel’s SAMA5D3 ARM Cortex-A5 processor-based MPU, is packed with a rich set of ready-to-use connectivity and storage peripherals, along with Arduino shield-compatible expansion headers for easy customization. In addition, the platform is a perfect target for headless Android projects, while a Linux distribution and software package facilitates rapid software development.

“Our partnership with Newark element14 on the development and manufacturing of this kit and its first set of expansion boards enables engineers from all communities to build applications requiring rapid prototyping and evaluation for their MPU designs,” said Jacko Wilbrink, Sr. Marketing Director of Microprocessors, Atmel Corporation.

“The new board offers features such as mid-range graphical user interfaces, capacitive touch capability, wired and wireless communication, free of charge Linux distribution and QT developer’s kit.”

Meanwhile, David Shen, Chief Technology Officer at Premier Farnell, noted that Atmel’s versatile ARM Cortex-A5 processor-based MPUs neatly balance performance with ultra low power consumption.

“This new Atmel Xplained kit, in addition to our soon-to-be-available expansion boards which will add more capabilities to the SAMA5D3 platform, will be very helpful to professional engineers as well as Makers, hobbyists, educators and students, both within and outside their main employment.”

As we’ve previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, the SAMA5D3 series is ideal for wearable computing and mobile applications where low power and a small footprint are critical. Key SAMA5D3 Xplained features include:

  • Fully documented and readily available Cortex-A5 based MPU solution
  • Rich set of peripherals, specifically on connectivity
  • USB power (no need for power adaptor)
  • Flexibility – Arduino-compatible connectors, enabling the user to leverage the extensive Arduino shields ecosystem
  • 
Open Source hardware – All design files available; easy to reuse in customer projects
Software package with drivers and examples for bare metal developers
  • Qt developers kit and Linux distribution free of charge

The SAMA5D3 Xplained – priced at $79 – is slated to ship in mid-March 2014 from Farnell element14 in Europe, Newark element14 in North America and element14 in APAC. You can pre-register for the new Atmel SAMA5D3 Xplained board here.