Tag Archives: Home Entertainment

ATmega328P inside the Nexus Q

Talking to one of my Google buddies at the eFlea, he mentioned that there is an ATmega328P inside the Google Nexus Q media streaming device. I asked what it did and he explained there is a row of LEDs around the device and Google wanted those LEDs to light and flash in sequence the second you applied power. A perfect application for a Flash microcontroller that boots in microseconds.

I was concerned that this was a Google secret until a quick check on the Internet showed a post over at the great folks from iFixit. It verifies that there is an ATmega328P inside the Nexus Q, and you can even see the Atmel logo in the picture.


The Atmel ATmega328P is used to flash the LEDs around the periphery of the Google Nexus Q. It’s the bigger chip at the top right (courtesy iFixit).

SAMA5 and SAM9: Atmel’s big iron microprocessors

Atmel is rightly famous for its AVR line of 8-bit Flash microcontrollers. But we also have “big iron” chips like the SAMA5 and SAM9 ARM-core microprocessors. A microcontroller has its own internal Flash memory. A microprocessor uses external memory, as much or as little as your application might need.

Hardware engineers have two big worries with any “big iron” microprocessor. First, they are in big packages, hundreds of pins in a ball-grid array. That can be hard to prototype with, since it needs a fine-line PCB that costs a lot to spin. The other big concern is laying out the DDR memory interface. These are wickedly fast and require best layout practices and some register tweaking to get them up to full speed.


The SAMA5D3 Xplained kit has connectors for Arduino Shields and dual Ethernet ports.

Thankfully, Atmel has solved both problems with a series of evaluation systems. For the SAMA5, you can start with a 79-dollar SAMA5D3 Xplained Kit. It has solved your DDR memory problem since it’s got 256MB on-board. One of the coolest things is that it has connectors where you can plug in any Arduino Shield. Now you can’t use the Arduino libraries, those are based on Atmel’s 8-bit AVR, but it’s not hard to re-write the open source code libraries into something that will run on ARM, if someone hasn’t done it already. The eval board has Atmel’s SAMA5D36 Cortex-A5 Microprocessor, 256Mbytes of NAND Flash, LCD connectors, dual Ethernet (GMAC + EMAC) with PHY and connectors, three USB connectors (2 Host + 1 Device), one SD/eMMC and one MicroSD slots, expansions headers, and power measurement straps.


Atmel makes eval kits for the SAM9N12 (left) and SAM5D3x ARM-based microprocessors.

For those that are doing higher-level applications, the fact that you can run Linux brings all the advantages of open-source development to the SAMA5 and SAM9 microprocessors. And best yet, you get a powerful CPU that uses very little power thanks to Atmel’s architecture. The SAMA5 uses 150mW when running at full speed. It has a DDR controller that give you 1328MB/s of bandwidth. It comes with for gigabit Ethernet, 3 USB ports, dual CAN, UARTs, SPI, and an LCD controller with a graphics accelerator. There is a camera interface, a 12-bit analog to digital converter (ADC) and 32-bit timers.

A SAMA5 chip can run Linux and even has the power to run Android in a “headless” application, that is, where there is not a high-resolution display to eat up your CPU cycles. With an ARM core it’s ideal if you want to do “bare metal” development, where you are writing native ARM code.


The SAM9N12 architecture gives you low power and a great peripheral set.

Looking at the SAM9, the SAM9CN runs at 400MHz. They have security built in with a cryptographic engine and a secure boot. There is an LCD controller with touchscreen interface, USB, MLC NAND memory support, along with multiple UARTs and I2C. It sips 103mW at 400MHz.

You can get separate LCD panels made to work with the SAMA5 Xplained kit. But if you want to get a SAMA5 kit with the LCD already included, look at the 595-dollar SAMA5D31, SAMA5D33, SAMA5D34 and SAMA5D36 kits. There is also the 445-dollar SAMA5D35 kit, which is cheaper since it does not have an LCD system. These kits cost more but they come ready to go. These are a small working computer that you can immediately start programming in high-level languages or Linux scripts. The kits come with installed applications for its Qt-based GUI.


The SAM5A5Dx-EK demo kit comes with Linux and some demo applications pre-installed.

And if you dread laying out a PCB with a working DDR memory interface, but don’t need the whole $595 kit, you can get help there as well. You will notice that the microprocessor and memory are on a little mezzanine PCB in the SAMA5D3 demo kits. This PCB will be available from Embest and other partners. The SAM9 is also available as a tiny SBC (single-board computer).


The SAMA5D3-EK series are designed with a mezzanine card holding the CPU and DDR memory. You can use this card in your high-volume designs.

So now you can develop your custom hardware starting with the SAMA5D3 kit, and then make your own custom hardware that still uses the same exact CPU+memory mezzanine card. While you are perfecting and troubleshooting that hardware, your software team can be working on the Atmel eval kit. This paralleled development will substantially speed up your time to market. And best yet, you won’t be bogged down trying to troubleshoot the DDR memory interface, since it is already working on the mezzanine card.

So don’t just think of 8-bit AVRs when you consider Atmel. We make some really high-power MPU products for everything from IoT (Internet of Things) servers to routers and industrial automation. With Atmel’s kits and our extensive partner network, we can get you up and running in no time, for very little cost, and you can have confidence you designs will work on that final hardware spin.

Bend your mind with Atmel’s XSense contest

We all know that bendable, flexible touchscreens are the future, and here at Atmel, we consider ourselves to be riding the crest of that curve with XSense, our high-performance, ultra-flexible touch sensor which allows for some crazy shaped, touch-able devices.

Go to any tech website today, and you’ll see the same ol’, same ol’ curved touchscreen phones and tablets. Cool stuff, but we can’t help feeling there’s got to be something more creative out there.

That’s why we’re inviting you to push past previous touch boundaries and create curved, pliable surfaces for anything you could imagine.


Sure, we have some ideas about how WE would use curved, flexible touchscreens. We want to hear what YOU would build with touch unleashed.

The sky’s the limit when it comes to creativity on this one, folks, so go crazy!

The top 10 creative ideas get automatically entered to become finalists and eligible for a grand prize of $1500!

But, better yet, if you reckon you could actually build whatever it is you’ve just thought up, there’s extra prize money on the line.

While you don’t need technical expertise to win our creative contest, if your design is built firmly around our Atmel Design Contest Sensor Specifications, you could win our XSense technical design contest for an additional $1500.

Or, if you’re feeling lazy, you can just browse other people’s designs and vote for your favorite. Easy!

The Internet of things, stalk by stalk

The Internet of things (IoT) will enable profound improvements in productivity

Bob Dible is an engineer that now works on his family farm in Kansas. He describes the technological strides made in agriculture. “We generate GPS (global positioning system) yield maps using data from the combine as it harvests. That helps us determine what nutrients are needed the next season at various parts of our 4-square-mile farm. We then program those different nutrient mixes and locations onto the crop sprayer aircraft. As the crop sprayer flies over the field, it uses GPS to locate itself.” The airplane sprays out nutrients or pesticides based on the GPS programming. It dynamically changes the mix of fertilizer based on its location over the field.

The $900,000 Air Tractor model 802 has 1300hp and a payload of 9,249 lbs. In 2013 the plane can change its fertilizer mix every dozen meters. Dible, the former engineer, knows what is coming. “One day we will monitor and grow the corn on a stalk-by-stalk basis. When we plant crops, GPS with RTK (Real Time Kinematics) gives us 1-inch accuracy.” It’s not hard to see Dible’s vision even now. With today’s technology, a small autonomous robot could drive down the rows of wheat (Figure 1).


Figure 1. A team from the Robotics and Cybernetics Research Group (Technical University of Madrid) has built an experimental farm robot they dubbed the Rosphere.

Sensors on the robot could monitor each and every stalk of corn. Those robots can communicate with each other over a mesh network. A mesh network is like a chat room for gizmos. They identify themselves and their capabilities, and are then a shared resource.

But the real enabling technology is when we put all these mesh networks on the Internet. This is the so-called Internet of Things (IoT). If the robots that evaluate your individual stalks of wheat have a port to the Internet, you get a cascading set of benefits. The server computer on a farm can store and manipulate the corn stalk information. But it can also analyze those crop yields. And it might contact Monsanto’s computers to get the best price and delivery on fertilizers, seeds, and pesticides.


Figure 2. The tractor on the Dible farm, similar to this one, represents a capital investment of almost one million dollars.

The farm’s server computer can contact and execute automated negotiation with several silos in the area, to insure you get the best price for the crop. The tractor Bob uses on the farm has GPS as well (Figure 2). “GPS has really taken over in the past decade in farming. Not only do aerial sprayers use GPS, but we use GPS to spray with ground sprayers such as the John Deer 4720.”

One day ground sprayers will share information with the farm’s server computer. And that server can go on the Internet to order parts, or schedule maintenance on the mechanic’s smart phone while re-scheduling the driver’s time. Already the nearby dairy farm’s newest tractors and loaders “talk” to John Deere’s and Caterpillar’s local dealers.  “The dealers know where the machinery is, how it is running, and when it needs service,” reports Dible.

Perhaps your mesh network of corn examination robots finds a particularly virulent pest or fungus. They could go on the Internet and notify all the farms around yours, as well as the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture). Perhaps you’re a cattle rancher. You use RFID (radio frequency identification tags) on each cow. Foreign countries might embargo your beef if any cases of Mad Cow disease strike anywhere else in your country. But with individual identification of the cattle, you can prove their provenance, and if your tracking systems are linked to the Internet, your sales to foreign markets will continue unimpeded.

Mesh network antecedents

There are antecedents for the mesh network and the Internet of things. In the 1970’s the American military was bedeviled by North Vietnam soldiers using the Ho-Chi-Minh trail to bring supplies south to support the war effort.


Figure 3. A patent filed in 1971 and granted in 1976 put vibration sensors into radio darts that could be dropped from aircraft.

So the Navy invented small darts that had seismometers inside (Figure 3, Reference 1). These darts could detect footsteps and vehicle traffic and communicated over a radio network. They formed a literal mesh, and although they did not connect to the yet-to-be-invented Internet, they did report to an overarching communications network.

The Mesh in space

The military benefits of a sensor mesh hooked to a network were apparent to people in the science and space communities. NASA Airborne Science operates a fleet of aircraft that can communicate with orbiting satellites (Reference 2). In 2004 NASA started missions that would allow the satellites, the aircraft, and ground stations to interact and communicate over a network. This lets NASA better track and understand hurricanes, polar ice conditions and other changing geophysical events. The real-time knowledge of events is an obvious improving, but a system like this also gives real-time knowledge of itself. Researchers might schedule a mission and only after the planes had landed did they see that the data form a sensor was corrupt of missing. Equally frustrating, they might not have seen that there was an event of interest they could have included in the mission if they only could follow it as the data was taken.


Figure 4. NASA uses the Global Hawk drone in a network of satellites and ground stations (courtesy Wikipedia).

The use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) has made this NASA “network of things” even more useful. Now the operation of the Global Hawk UAV can be moderated and maintained by the network (Figure 4). While not the canonical “Internet of Things”, the NASA network, dubbed NASDAT (NASA Airborne Science Data Acquisition and Transmission) is an Ethernet network just like the Internet.

NASA connecting disparate things together such as airplanes, satellites, instruments, and ground control, presages what the Internet of things will do. With the NASA system, now the airplanes “know” what instruments they are carrying. The instruments in the plane can be fed location, speed, altitude and other flight parameters. The satellites “know” what airplanes and instruments they are connected to and the airplanes “know” what satellites are tasked to its flight. Missions can be far more dynamic and opportunistic. If ground controllers detect some condition or location, the instruments and airplanes can interact and modify the mission to get some important data collected. Flights can be changed in mid-mission by ground control, and all the varied implications will be “understood” by the interconnected instruments, airplanes, satellites, and people.

The Internet lets a mesh network see the future

The power of communications between networks is just one aspect that the IoT can do. Sprinklers are another application close to the hearts of farmers. Having sprinklers on a mesh network brings benefits. For instance, the network nodes that mount on the sprinkler could control and monitor water flow. They could report back to the farm server computer on usage and maintenance problems that reduce water flow. The mesh could even measure rainfall and adjust water delivery accordingly. The system becomes even more potent when you connect it to the internet. Now the farmer’s water system can connect to weather services that predict the rainfall. That way the sprinklers won’t waste water irrigating immediately before a big rainfall.

Industry Leads the Way

Industrial sprinkler systems for farms have led the way (Figure 5).


Figure 5. Crop irrigation systems have hundreds of microcontrollers in them. Now they will be linked to the Internet (courtesy Wikipedia).

Carl Giroux works for electronics distributor Avnet as a technical account manager selling into the sprinkler manufacturers. He estimates that a typical farm sprinkler setup boasts over 300 MCUs (microcontroller units), or about one MCU per sprinkler nozzle.

While industrial sprinklers for farms are already connected, they are a glimpse into what will become available for consumers. Ugmo makes a sprinkler system that is suited to golf courses and expensive homes (Figure 6).


Figure 6. The UgMO sprinker system measures ground moisture and adapts the water usage.

It has a network of moisture sensors that communicate over RF links to monitor and adjust water usage (Reference 3). This wireless sensor network can reduce you water usage 50%. With the constant cost reductions in electric products, you can bet this system will find use in more and more homes. You can also see how the next step is to connect this system to the Internet so home owners can get the same benefits as farmers and commercial installations.

The IoT helps consumers

Consumers will benefit the most from IoT.


Figure 7. This older pedometer uses sophisticated electronics to evaluate your motion and connects to your PC with a USB port. Future devices will wirelessly connect to the Internet (courtesy Wikipedia).

Dave Mathis is a software consultant in Silicon Valley. He advises his overweight friends to buy a pedometer, to keep track of how much walking they do (Figure 7). “Don’t get a 5-dollar pedometer— the sensor is a little ball and spring, like the tilt mechanism in a pin-ball machine,” he warns. “Get the 50-dollar pedometer.” Mathis notes the expensive pedometers use accelerometers, like a video game controller. These are much more accurate in counting your steps and level of activity. It’s only fitting that you would spend more money for something that helps keep you healthy. Of all the machines and gizmos you own, your body is the most important. Your automobile has millions of lines of software and dedicated hardware to monitor its condition. Your body deserve as much.

It’s nice if your pedometer can connect with your treadmill. That way the treadmill can adapt its routine to how much walking or running you have already done. Its better when your pedometer can communicate to your phone. Now the phone can tabulate and record your progress, and remind you when you lag. But it is a whole new opportunity when your pedometer can go on the Internet. Now your progress can go on your Facebook page. When you lag, your friends might send a tweet or email or even call you on a telephone to remind you to not give up. The exercise information from your pedometer might go to your doctor or pharmacy. That way they can adjust the dosages of medication based on your level of activity.

It’s pretty obvious that the industrial farm is leading the way for consumer technology. We can dream when auto makers talk about autonomous cars that drive themselves. But this is already reality on a farm. Dible notes that the tractors and combines use GPS to control steering. “This relieves the operator from having to concentrate on driving. It allows closer monitoring of the equipment which helps lessen mistakes.” Between seed technology, special fungicides, herbicides, pesticides, new methods, and improved control, farming is changing as fast as any other high-tech endeavor.  But it is also like working on an engineering program – lots of long hours, and attention to details. “The only thing about being an engineer is that you spend your time solving other people’s problems.  Now I have to solve my own problems,” quips Dible.

The IoT means safer roads

Already legislative bodies are having automakers look at having connected automobiles to provide for safer roads (Reference 4). The NTSB (National Traffic Safety Board) knows that having vehicles communicate with each other will help reduce fatalities. This technology might first be applied to trucks and busses. But the benefits are obvious for all vehicles. Even motorcyclists will benefit from connected vehicles (Reference 5). Every year, thousands of motorcyclist die or get injured because the other driver did not see them. With connected vehicles the motorcycle can have the car warn the driver of an impending collision. Autos might even simulate the noise of a motorcycle in the surround-sound audio system in the car, to help call attention to the motorcycle.

Having the vehicles talk to each other is just the first step, similar to an occasional dynamic mesh network. When the vehicles can go on the Internet, it brings all the same beneficial network effects. You can collect, organize and share data worldwide. This might be anonymous data, to alert highway engineers of a dangerous intersection. Or maybe you will use the data to automatically lower your car insurance rates, since you have so few near-accidents on the road. There will be no need to worry about telling your teenager to drive safety. The car will do that for you, and even take the keys away if he is being reckless.

The IoT in your home

All this industrial and automotive technology is poised to leap into the consumer electronics world. We are on the cusp of an interconnected revolution. Gary Shapiro is President and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA). He recently wrote an article about smart homes (Reference 6). He notes that the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) and HGTV (Home and Garden Television) have partnered to build the first-ever high-tech smart home (Figure 8).


Figure 8. The HGTV Smart Home 2013 is intimately linked to the Internet and its own devices (courtesy HGTV).

“The HGTV Smart Home 2013 connects many of the home’s appliances and devices,” notes Shapiro. The outdoors has pool automation that controls lighting, temperature, and fountains from a tablet. You can operate the exterior awnings remotely on demand, but they also include sensors that automatically close the awning to protect against rain and wind. The garage door sends an alert to a smart phone when a door is left open, and families can control the home’s door locks remotely. The occupants can remotely program pre-set temperatures for the shower. The window shades are also connected, and you can raise or lower them remotely.

The Internet of Things will not only let each of these devices communicate to you, it will let them communicate with each other. That way, opening the window shades might cause the microcontroller running the shade to communicate to the air conditioner, to make sure the house stays comfortable with sunlight streaming into the rooms.

Shapriro notes “Who knows, we might surpass the The Jetsons, and the consumer electronics industry might revolutionize the concept of smart living altogether.”  If Dible’s farm can monitor and care for each stalk of corn, it’s not hard to see that our homes and cars will monitor and care for each of their occupants. The Internet of things is ready to let us make another great stride in human progress.


1 Theodore C. Herring, A. Reed 3rd Edgar “Acoustic and seismic troop movement detector.”  Patent US3984804 A. 29 Nov 1971.

2 Forgione, Joshua B, Sorneson, Carl, Bahl, Amit, “Network Interface Links Sensor-Web Instruments,” NASA Tech Briefs, pg 14, July 2013. http://ntbpdf.techbriefs.net/2013/NTB0713.pdf

3 http://www.appliancedesign.com/articles/93619-eid-gold-ugmo-ug1000

4 http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/07/23/19643634-ntsb-calls-for-wireless-technology-to-let-all-vehicles-talk-to-each-other

5 http://www.americanmotorcyclist.com/blog/13-06-27/DC_Insider_Vehicle-to-vehicle_communication_technology_is_coming_%E2%80%93_What_does_it_mean_for_motorcyclists.aspx

6 http://www.appliancedesign.com/articles/93643-association-report-cea-smart-living

Embedding touch tech in MCU firmware

Atmel’s comprehensive QTouch Library makes it simple for developers to embed capacitive-touch button, slider and wheel functionality into general-purpose AT91SAM and AVR microcontroller (MCU) applications.

To be sure, Atmel’s royalty-free QTouch Library offers several library files for each device, while supporting various numbers of touch channels – thereby enabling both flexibility and efficiency in touch apps. And by selecting the library file supporting the exact number of channels needed, devs can achieve a more compact and efficient code using less RAM.

Simply put, Atmel’s QTouch Library can be used to develop single-chip solutions for many control applications, or to reduce chip count in more complex applications. Meanwhile, the library offers devs the latitude to implement buttons sliders and wheels in a variety of combinations on a single interface.

There is also broad controller support for Atmel MCUs: AT91SAM, tinyAVR, megaAVR, XMEGA, UC3A and UC3B. Up to 64 sense channels are supported for maximum interface sensitivity ( 256-level sliders and wheels require only three channels), while the QTouch Library supports three patented capacitive touch acquisition methods: QTouch, QTouchADC and QMatrix.

In addition, Atmel Adjacent Key Suppression (AKS) technology enables unambiguous detection of button touches for maximum precision, with full debouncing reports for touch buttons helping to ensure single, clean contacts. And last, but certainly not least, a common API across all library versions simplifies development.

Interested in learning more? Additional information about Atmel’s QTouch library can be found here.

Wearable tech and the IoT

As we’ve previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, wearable tech and the rapidly evolving Internet of Things (IoT) are intertwined. Simply put, the IoT refers to a future world where all types of electronic devices link to each other via the Internet. Today, it’s estimated that there are nearly 10 billion devices in the world connected to the Internet, a figure expected to triple to nearly 30 billion by 2020.

Recently, Ben Arnold, director of industry analysis for consumer technology at the NPD Group, told the AFP that traditional tech companies will have to start paying attention to how sensors are enabling us to live.

“[People] are ultimately going to become more aware of their data in the digital ether,” he explained. “I suspect wearables are going to disrupt the way tech firms are doing business now.”

Yesterday, Mike Muller, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer of ARM, expressed his belief that wearable technology will indeed play a “key role” in taking the Internet of Things (IoT) to the next level.

“Wearable technology will be all about creating highly personalized experiences that enhance day-to-day leisure, work, convenience and health. These elements have become known as ‘the quantified self’, which is a movement to incorporate technology into data acquisition on many aspects of a person’s daily life,” he told Business Today.

“This technology encompasses self-monitoring and self-sensing, which combines wearable sensors and wearable computing. The IoT will enable devices to be joined, anywhere, anytime. The challenge is to make this new world work as easily and as seamlessly for the user, as for web pages to link to devices today.”

According to Mr. Muller, the future of the IoT will be realized when all of today’s devices (and future tech) are connected, sharing trusted data.

“The Internet of Things is an enabler. It will be driven by whoever has the energy and the best solutions. It will have many facets. Like the Internet, it is not one thing. Wearables will also disrupt app development. While fitness apps started the trend, it is set to branch out to cover other life and social functions,” said Mr. Muller.

“Interfaces continue to play an important part in this ecosystem – but the best ideas will undoubtedly drive some interesting new developments here too and even redefine what an interface actually is.”

Interested in learning more about wearable tech? Check out what Atmel has been up to in this exciting space.

Designing next-gen UIs with the SAMA5D3 MPU

Intuitive user interfaces (UIs) are ubiquitous for smartphones, tablets and personal media players. But what about user interfaces in the world of industrial automation applications and home control units?


Frédéric Gaillard, Atmel Product Marketing Manager, tells Bits & Pieces the use of MIMIC diagrams and traditional switches and rotary controls are still quite commonplace for industrial equipment. Ditto for home thermostats, the majority of which are mechanical.

“There are actually some very good reasons for this, as gloved hands, moisture, and condensation can play havoc with touchscreen controls. The industrial operating environment may dictate large switches for these reasons,” Gaillard explains.

“Safety considerations may warrant the use of traditional control mechanisms such as switches. Nevertheless, equipment manufacturers are keen to update both the functionality and cosmetic aesthetics of their products. Industrial automation equipment is increasingly networked.”


Clearly, when it comes to home automation, there is a need for an integrated display and control center to control heating, ventilation and smart-energy monitoring.

“You need a higher performance microprocessor, but with a more intuitive, easy-to-understand user interface (UI). When embarking on a new control panel application, embedded developers are likely to select a microprocessor device rather than a microcontroller,” says Gaillard.

“This is dictated by the processing power required for the connectivity and the need to manage a TFT LCD screen and associated UI. An example of such a microprocessor is the Atmel SAMA5D3 MPU, based on an ARM Cortex-A5 core. It’s 65nm low-power process geometry delivers up to 850 DMIPS (drhystone million instructions per second) at 536 MHz and up to 1,328 MB/s at a 166 MHz bus speed.”

The SAMA5D3 also features a floating-point unit (FPU) for high-precision compute-intensive applications, along with a 24-bit TFT LCD controller and graphics accelerator for image composition. Optimized for use in industrial control and HMI (human-machine interface) applications, the device is equipped with a comprehensive set of peripheral interfaces including dual Ethernet, high-speed USB and dual CAN.

Simply put, the Atmel SAMA5D3 MPU is an ideal candidate for most control panel-oriented designs. With its Cortex-A5 core and vector FPU, the MPU is capable of achieving accelerated graphics processing. Coupled with the 32-bit DDR (dual data rate) controller performing up to 1,328 MB/s, it offers enough raw horsepower to drive a high-resolution screen display via the 24-bit TFT LCD controller block. Resistive touchscreen support is integrated into the device, although one can alternatively interface to an external Atmel maXTouch capacitive touchscreen controller.


On the software side, Atmel has partnered with TimeSys to port the Qt framework and its comprehensive range of development tools for easy UI design. Qt can best be described as a cross-platform application framework with a reliable, easy-to-use toolkit to develop complex graphical user interfaces.

“Qt is based on a comprehensive set of widgets that you use to create a GUI screen design. Within the Qt Creator development environment, the Qt Designer tool allows you to lay out the interface design and plan the human interaction,” Gaillard adds.

“The excellent support for multimedia and 3D graphics, plus all the traditional concepts of text entry, check-boxes, and radio buttons, all help to facilitate the easy creation of industrial interface designs. Indeed, the Qt Designer creates C++ code that integrates into your application, while QML defines all the necessary visual graphical interface elements to create and animate visual interaction.”

Interested in learning more? Check out Atmel’s official white paper on the subject here.

Wearable computing with Atmel MCUs

Atmel is smack in the middle of the rapidly evolving wearable tech revolution. First off, Atmel’s SAM4S and tinyAVR MCUs are inside the Agent smart-watch which recently hit Kickstarter.

Atmel MCUs have also tipped up in a number of Maker projects for wearable tech, like the LED pocket watch we featured earlier this month, as well as Adafruit’s Flora, which is built around Atmel’s Atmega32u4 MCU.

And why not? Simply put, Atmel offers a wide range of wearable computing platforms designed for ultra-low power consumption – both in active and standby modes. Indeed, Atmel’s EventSystem with SleepWalking allows peripherals to automatically connect with each other even in ultra low power modes, thereby simplifying sensor interfacing and further optimizing power consumption. Meanwhile, “Wakeup” times are minimized, facilitating the use of low-power modes without missing communications data or sensor events.

In addition, Atmel devices integrate numerous features to save circuit board space, such as USB transceivers and embedded termination resistors. Many devices are offered in very small form factor packages, a critical characteristic for engineers and Makers designing wearable tech.

On the software side, the Atmel Software Framework (ASF) includes communications libraries to support external Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radios, mesh and point-to-point networking on Atmel’s 802.15.4/Zigbee AT86RF radios as well as a full range of USB drivers. The ASF also contains libraries and driver functions for many popular third-party sensors such as accelerometers, gyroscopes and magnetometers.

In addition, standalone Atmel controllers support off-the-shelf capacitive buttons, sliders and wheel (BSW) implementations. Plus, all our microcontrollers can directly manage capacitive buttons via provided software libraries, while the maXTouch series of capacitive touchscreen controllers are capable of managing optically clear touch sensors overlaid on LCD displays.

And last but certainly not least, Atmel’s touch platforms may be tuned to function when moisture is present – which is often a key requirement for wearable applications. Interested in learning more? Check out Atmel’s white paper on wearable tech here.

Video: Experience touch like never before

Devices powered by Atmel’s maXTouch controllers boast a wide array of features to facilitate a superior user experience.

This includes intelligent touch processing algorithms, optimized noise suppression, high responsiveness, pinpoint precision and sensor hub technology – all fusing together input from motion-processing sensors such as accelerometers, gyroscopes and magnetometers.

This allows engineers to design a highly responsive, high-fidelity touch experience in mobile devices – even in the most punishing noise environments.

Key applications include:

  • Smartphones
  • Tablets
  • Windows 8 Notebooks and Ultrabooks
  • Digital still cameras
  • e-Readers
  • GPS systems
  • Portable media players

Want to learn more about Atmel’s maXTouch S technology? You can check out additional details here.