Tag Archives: IEEE 802.15.4

Calling all Makers, visionaries and innovators up for a (IPSO) Challenge!

How do you IPSO? There are many problems in everyday life that can be solved by collecting data thru sensors, or by controlling smart objects based upon inputs from a variety of sources.

Once again, the IPSO Alliance has initiated its annual challenge, whose deadline for proposals is quickly approaching!


The IPSO CHALLENGE was launched as a way to show what is possible utilizing the Internet Protocol (IP) and open standards in building the Internet of Things. Enter this global competition by submitting a proposal before July 15 2015 for a working prototype that is innovative, marketable and easy to use.

Just a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to speak to a potential group of IPSO CHALLENGE participants in Colorado Springs, Colorado. This meetup was created to enable potential participants to learn about the challenge, mingle with like-minded individuals, find team members with the skills needed to implement ideas that are already being considered or to find those with like interests and come up with an innovative project proposal.

As a proud sponsor of the IPSO CHALLENGE 2015, my goal on behalf of Atmel was to describe how our wireless and MCU solutions can be used to form the basis of the hardware and software platforms that should be considered for a number of innovative IP-based challenge entries.

The incentive? Over $17,500 up for grabs in prizes with first taking home $10,000, $5,000 for the runner-up and $2,500 for third. There are many problems in everyday life that can be solved by collecting data thru sensors, or by controlling smart objects based upon inputs from a variety of sources. The Internet of Things and the Internet Protocol are a smart choice as the means to publish and subscribe to  sensor information, and make this available for processing in the cloud, or to deliver this information to mobile devices for viewing or notification anywhere in the world.

One of the development kits that is being promoted for use in the IPSO CHALLENGE is the ATSAMR21-XPRO evaluation board. This kit supports the ATSAMR21 (IEEE 802.15.4-compliant single-chip wireless solution) wireless “system in package” device.


The device contains both an ARM Cortex M0+ microcontroller plus the AT86RF233 2.4ghz 802.15.4 radio. This combination makes the perfect solution where a low power wireless sensor or actuator is required ,as an element of the hardware platform needed to implement your CHALLENGE entry.

The SAM R21 is the ideal platform to support a 6LoWPAN wireless mesh network, with sensors that can be used to measure and collect  data, or control outputs, while also having the ability to transfer this information to the cloud, or to any PC or mobile device, that has an internet connection anywhere in the world.

SAM R21 device IO assignments:


Atmel recently released its SmartConnect 6LoWPAN, a wireless stack firmware package that provides an IPV6 6LoWPAN implementation running on the SAM R21 evaluation kit, among a number of other Atmel platforms. Additionally, there are a number of example applications for SmartConnect 6LoWPAN that are provided in the free Atmel Studio 6.2.


The example that I demonstrated during the IPSO meetup was the MQTT (MQ Telemetry Transport) example. MQTT is a publish/ subscribe protocol that allows the SAM R21 SmartConnect 6LoWPAN solution to implement topics like /Atmel/IoT/temperature or  Atmel/IoT/LED and then subscribe to, or publish to these topics while also allowing other devices to also subscribe  or publish to these same topics. This enables all these devices to work together in collecting and processing the content of many distributed sensors.

This is a very simple protocol that needs only a small amount of memory resources, and allows one to create a very effective distributed processing solution, where IP is used to enable communication and data transfer between all of the elements contained within the network.

SmartConnect 6LoWPAN, as with most 6LoWPAN solutions, makes use of the RPL mesh networking routing protocol. This lets these low power SAM R21 (15.4) radios to have the ability to transfer data over longer distances thru the wireless mesh. Because one only has to transfer the data to its nearest neighbor or its parent, in  the network that was formed.

Let’s take a look at a simplistic example of a problem, with a 6LoWPAN wireless mesh network solution: Your children take a school bus to school every morning, and if you could know when the school bus was in the neighborhood, or approaching the nearest stop, life would be a lot easier in inclement weather.

So you gather together a few SAM R21 kits and battery packs, and start to think about a solution.

Since you would need to know where the bus is at some distance from your home, this would eliminate “wired’ solutions, and since you probably would not have access to “mains power” at many of the sensing locations, the solution would require low power battery operated wireless sensors.  As it just so happens, the SAM R21 would make a perfect low power battery operated “wireless” sensor.  The SmartConnect 6LoWPAN wireless mesh network firmware would allow you to cover an extended range, by placing additional routing sensors where needed to keep track of the bus, and to relay or route similar data from other sensors that are too far away by radio, to get all the way back to your home base unit.

Given that you will need access to a fence post, a mailbox or telephone pole on your neighbors property in order to mount your small wireless sensors, you can tell them that they also can access this data to keep track of the school bus, or just about anything in the neighborhood that has a mobile tag  placed on it, whether it’s a young child’s backpack or jacket, a pet’s collar, etc.)

There needs to be one root location where all of the sensor data is transferred to, and this location will act as the  border router ( or dag root ) of the 6LoWPAN network. This is also implemented using the SAM R21 evaluation kit along with an Ethernet 1 XPRO interface board. This border router hardware would be located in your house, and plugged into a spare Ethernet port of the home access point that provides internet service to your home. Future options could also allow using Wi-Fi instead of Ethernet to make the connection to your home Wi-Fi access point.

A mobile sensor/tag will need to be placed on the bus (hopefully you can get permission, to place a small sensor using double sided tape inside the bus, or maybe ask the nice bus driver if he/she would carry it, or have one of the kids that gets on the bus early in the bus route for our neighborhood,  clip the mobile sensor to their backpack or belt .  How and where to place these mobile tag sensors, may actually be one of the most difficult parts to solve for this solution.

Once you have the mobile sensors in place on the bus, kids, dogs,  and cats, now you need to set up the sensor mesh around the neighborhood.

Atmel provides a tool call Atmel Wireless Composer.


This free tool  has a very nice feature that allows range testing to be done by one person.  Place one SAM R21 device in a fixed location and then take a battery operated remote node for a walk in your neighborhood.  You can  use this method to determine the typical range that you can achieve and  check potential mounting spots within the neighborhood. This can be used to insure that you can establish reliable wireless communications, and to find the location of where to place the  nearest neighboring node.

Remember to ask permission, before you mount the sensor node on someone else’s property.

As you turn on the remote nodes they will make their presence know to the network, and a route will be discovered back to the root node at your home.


Once you have established your network, a number of SmartConnect 6LoWPAN Example applications can be used to move the data around the network. By using the MQTT example previously mentioned, units can publish information as to which “mobile” tags are within wireless range of the sensor, thus providing a coarse location system, to notify those that are subscribing to a particular topic, as to the current location of the bus, child, dog or cat.

You can find the Example projects within Atmel Studio 6 as shown below:



The power of  The Internet Protocol and the Cloud in this system is that each individual sensor has its own IPV6 address, and the data collected by the end sensor nodes is packaged into an IP frame, and  transferred thru the wireless network, and then thru the border router to the wired Internet. Then finally to the Cloud without having to convert or change protocols.  Today, there are so many devices that can make use of this data, including devices such as smartphone’s, tablets, laptops, and home automation hubs and gateways, What you can do with this data has endless possibilities.

Applications for these internet connected devices can be created to show the location of the bus or pet on a map, or maybe just send a simple notification of “School bus currently at the Smith family residence”….  Again the possibilities are endless.

Maybe you would also like to turn on your house lights or open your garage door when you approach your house from your car with a sensor mounted in the car. The info in the cloud can be integrated with your home automation system to control the lights and garage door.

Now that you have completed the proof of concept using  the Atmel | SAM R21 evaluation boards, or hopefully now that you have won the IPSO CHALLENGE!, you will want to turn your prototype into a deploy-able product.

Atmel has the solution for you.  SAM R21 “modules” are being developed in a small form factor that will allow the creation of a small battery operated mobile tag or sensor unit, and these modules come with an FCC certification ID, and a proven RF design, to eliminate the challenge, cost, and time required to develop a wireless product from scratch.

Feeling inspired? Submit your idea today before time runs out!

Swift01 is an open-source mesh networking module

Developed by Flint, Michigan-based startup Swiftlet Technology, Swift01 — which recently made its Kickstarter debut — is an open-source, wireless hardware module that enables Makers and hobbyists to build fully-functional systems for the Internet of Things.


“Have you ever wished that you could simply hook things together wirelessly? Have you ever wanted to automate everything in your house, but didn’t want to spend $35+ on a wireless module for each node in the network? This is exactly what drove me to envision the Swift01,” writes Dan Kurin, Swiftlet Founder and CEO.

The team notes that the preliminary hardware design, including an 802.15.4-based Atmel System-on-Chip (SoC) equipped with an Atmel | SMART SAM D ARM Cortex-M0+ MCU, has been finalized.


Additional key specs include:

  • Board size: 0.7″ x 1.4″
  • Power input: 3.4-5.5V
  • On-board 2.4GHz trace antenna
  • 3.3V serial UART interface
  • 10 I/Os including expandable serial interface and analog I/Os
  • On-board serial memory for future features

Since Swift01 is based around the concept of mesh networking, the module boasts several software components such as a full IEEE 802.15.5 network stack to court the network traffic, a serial bootloader to allow for updates, an AT Command interface to enable configuration of the network stack and to send messages, as well as an AES message signing add-on to ensure authenticity.


In an effort to seamlessly create and join networks designed particularly for sensing and control functions, Swift01 offers Makers a wide-range of applications, ranging from monitoring in-house temperature and reconfiguring lighting to remotely collection weather information and controlling home theaters.

“Given that we’re developing open source technology, crowdfunding the development of the tech made perfect sense,” explained Kurin. “This is true democratic development: technology by the people and for the people.” Backers of the campaign can contribute at a number of different dollar levels and, in return for their contribution, receive a finished good in the spring of next year.

As for how the software on the module will be structured, the Swiftlet Technology team has shared an update on its architecture here.


In terms of its RF driver, the team says that it features all of the lowest-level software for handling the behavior of the PHY (transceiver). “Much of this has already been written by Atmel and is included in the Atmel Software Framework (ASF).”

If all goes to plan, production for beta-level hardware is expected to kick off in early January with shipments to initial backers slated for Feburary. Interested in learning more or backing this open-source, open protocol project? Click on over Swiftlet Technology’s Kickstarter campaign!

Finger on the IoT Pulse: ‘Presence’ Functionality

We talk a lot about connecting, networking, and securing the Internet of Things, and the billions of devices spread across the globe. Another essential piece of the IoT puzzle is monitoring those devices, specifically with what we call presence. 

Presence functionality gives IoT developers a way to monitor individual or groups of IoT devices in realtime. Whenever the state of the device changes, the change is reflected in realtime to a dashboard, with an alert, or any other way you want to display your tracking.


What Can Presence Monitor?

As soon as you start streaming large volumes of data, or signaling and trigger actions to devices, you need to know what devices are connected. So what kinds of device states can you monitor with presence functionality? Pretty much anything you want! With Presence functionality, you can build out custom device states including:

  • Online/offline status
  • Device health
  • Capacity for fleet management
  • Total device count in field
  • Battery/location status
  • Machine status (eg. currently working on X task, driver driving/offline)
  • Temperature and weather data from IoT sensors

With presence data, you can also log a history of device connectivity for audits and analytics. It’s not just about having realtime insight into your devices, but also tracking and logging performance, health, and other key metrics.

Why Is It Important?

Devices may get expensive: IoT devices can be expensive, so keeping tabs on your investment is essential. Device health presence monitoring gives you up to the millisecond health reports for device temperature, connectivity, battery life, etc, ensuring you that your device is 100% operational, all the time. And if any issues arise, you’ll know immediately that maintenance is required.

Devices may be imperative to operations/business: If IoT devices are at the core of business and operations, monitoring their health and status is paramount. Whether it’s agriculture readings, security sensors, or delivery fleet management, up to the millisecond device status can make or break a business.

Device Analytics: Accurate and up to date statistics and analytics is important to any IoT application or business. Presence functionality can store, retrieve, and playback collected analytics, for example, to give a history of device connectivity or health for audits.

Machine-to-Machine and IoT Use Cases for Presence

As we know, connected devices come in all shapes and sizes. And as IoT devices get smarter, more connected, more secure, and faster, they’re use in the field is skyrocketing across the globe. And as we add more devices into the field, realtime presence functionality is just as important as our device networks and IoT security.

Agriculture: As with other connected technologies, the Internet of Things has found heavy adoption in the agricultural industry. Sensors and monitoring devices for temperature, irrigation, weather patterns, and harvest management give farmers a realtime, accurate data stream, giving them full control over their agriculture system. As a result, keeping tabs on their vast system of IoT devices with presence functionality is key.


Connected Car/Shipping & Freight: Smart cars are shifting IoT boundaries and constitutes a disruptive and transformative environment. Connected car represents a large number of IoT use cases for automobiles including taxi, fleet management, shipping and freight, and delivery service. Connected cars require a secure and reliable connection to counter the various roadblocks that arise in the wild, such as constantly changing cell and network towers and dropped connections.

For taxi, shipping, freight, and delivery management, custom presence functionality is a vital component of the business, providing realtime custom vehicle and device states, such as vehicle and cargo capacity, location data, and device health.


Home Automation: We’re well aware that our homes are getting smart. It seems today, every appliance has an IP address. It’s safe to say that the smart home market is prepared to take the world by storm. Especially for applications that enable users to control their homes remotely, presence functionality is essential. In the smart home, presence gives users a realtime view of their devices status (lights on, doors locked, water leak, thermostat, fridge temperature, etc). And that’s the basis of a solid home automation solution.


Presence on the PubNub Data Stream Network

PubNub Channel Presence is one of the core features of the PubNub Data Stream Network. It enables developers to add user and device detection to their web, mobile, and IoT applications, giving realtime instant detection and notification of user/device status. Built on the global PubNub Data Stream Network, no matter where the devices are located, you can get an accurate and reliable reading on any custom device state you want.

For a quick tutorial on using Presence for IoT devices, whether it’s a network of 1000 connected devices or a single Arduino, check out our blog post: Realtime IoT Monitoring for Devices with PubNub Presence.

Accelerate your evaluation of Atmel 802.15.4 wireless solutions from your desktop

You have probably come across this scenario before: Management or the marketing department approaches you asking you to add wireless functionality to an existing product, or to develop a new product that needs to be able to support a wireless link. Today, there are many wireless technologies and options to consider.

It is also quite possible that marketing has already made part of that decision for you.

The marketing requirement may stipulate that you use Wi-Fi, Zigbee, 6lowpan or Bluetooth low energy (BLE). Or, maybe marketing has no idea what is required, and just tells you to implement a wireless link!

So, after a number of meetings and conference calls, you decide to use a solution that is based upon 802.15.4. This could include Zigbee, 6lowpan, Wireless HART, ISA100.11a, Openwsn, Lwmesh, among many other wireless stack solutions that all require an 802.15.4 compliant transceiver.

At this point you would need to decide if your solution, or the protocol you’ve selected, will operate in the 2.4 GHz band or in a SubGhz band. There are times when you will need to do some experimentation or RF performance evaluations to determine which RF band to use in your particular situation.

When evaluating Atmel 802.15.4 wireless solutions, the first tool you should turn to is Wireless Composer. Provided as an extension to Atmel Studio 6.x, the Wireless Composer is a free tool. In order to make it simple, each of the current Atmel 802.15.4 evaluation kits/platforms comes with a Performance Analyzer firmware application pre programmed into the kit. Running on the evaluation kit, this Performance Analyzer firmware is designed to communicate with both the Atmel Studio and Wireless Composer extension.

Some of the capabilities of Wireless Composer include:

  • PER (Packet Error Rate) Testing: Transmit and receive 1000’s of frames at a specific TX power level and RF channel and then review the results for errors (dropped bits/frames) while also evaluating throughput metrics.
  • CW Test Modes: Place a device in a Continuous test mode to monitor emissions with a spectrum analyzer or other RF test equipment
  • Antenna Evaluation: Provide a Large Digital Display to allow testing antenna radiation pattern’s at distances of up to around 3 meters from the device connected to the laptop PC.
  • Range Testing: Gather and log range data generated from a  wireless link set up between two nodes — this data includes RSSI (ED signal strength) and LQI (signal quality) from both sides of the RF link.

Here are a few additional example screen captures, available from within Wireless Composer.

Energy Detection Scan Mode:

Energy Detection Scan

Screenshot of Wireless Composer, an extension of Atmel Studio 6.x – Energy Detection Scan

Have you ever wanted to set up some RF tests and wanted to know if there were other transmissions already taking place on the channel you intended to test on ?  Maybe your colleagues  are performing tests in another section of the lab or building, or maybe at home you have Wi-Fi or Bluetooth or home automation devices operating in close proximity to where you want to run some experiments.  The ED scan mode, as shown here, allows you to get a quick glimpse of what RF activity is happening around you. You can do a one time scan or you can configure the test to continuously scan one or all channels and repeat this until you stop the test.

PER Test:

A common RF test to perform on a packet based wireless communication system is a PER (Packet Error Rate) test.

This test mode allows you to configure operation on a particular channel, at a specific TX power level, using a selected antenna option. You are then provided the ability to set the number of bytes to send in a transmitted frame, and to set how many frames you are going to send during the test. All of these parameters are configured in the left hand Transceiver Properties Pane, as shown in the capture below. Once the test is performed, the right hand window provides data regarding the results of the test.

This can be useful for confirming RX sensitivity parameters, and data throughput characteristics under different conditions. Here is an example of sending 1000 frames and achieving zero errors using a frame length of 20 bytes.

Packet Error Rate test mode

Screenshot of Wireless Composer, an extension to Atmel Studio 6.2 – Packet Error Rate test mode


Continuous Transmission Test Mode:

If you have attempted to develop a wireless RF product before, you know that a considerable amount of time will be spent performing regulatory pre – scan certification testing. This typically involves configuring your device to transmit a continuous wave RF emission on a particular RF channel using a specified amount of Transmit power. The RF emissions are monitored using a spectrum analyzer or other RF test equipment. To help save time and provide a useful tool, Wireless Composer provides a Continuous Transmission Tab that allows selection of a few different tests of this type.

In the example shown below, an unmodulated CW test transmission has been started on channel 16 using a TX power level of +4dBm. These are no results reported here, because all measurement results would come from observing the RF test equipment that monitors the RF emissions.

Screenshot of Wireless Composer, an extension to Atmel Studio 6.2 -  Continuous Wave test mode

Screenshot of Wireless Composer, an extension to Atmel Studio 6.2 – Continuous Wave test mode


Antenna Evaluation Range Test Numerical Display:

For any wireless product, the antenna is one of the most important sections of the design. A great radio with a poor antenna results in poor product performance, while a mediocre radio with a great antenna can end up with very good performance. So, one of the tasks for any wireless product developer is to understand the characteristics and performance of his antenna design. This may be some type of on board antenna like a ceramic chip antenna, or a pcb trace antenna, or it just may be connecting an external antenna to an RF connector mounted on the product’s pcb. Many on board antenna designs are shortened quite a bit to reduce the footprint or space required by the antenna. This usually will affect the performance of the antenna in a negative way, or at a minimum create directivity to the antenna’s radiation pattern. A nice capability of Wireless Composer is the ability to allow you  to place the device connected to the PC, running Wireless Composer, on a table or tripod at a specific height above the floor in an open indoor or outdoor area. Then, in the range test tab within Wireless Composer, select “Numerical “ as the display mode. This will then display a screen as shown below.

One would then take a battery operated mobile node about three meters away from the PC display and watch the values being displayed for ED/RSSI and LQI change as you rotate or change the orientation of the antenna with respect to the unit at the other end of the link. This display shows the LQI and ED/RSSI values at both ends of the link and can be used to examine any changes in antenna pattern, as the device orientation is changed. Knowing what orientation provides the best signal levels will later help you understand how to position the unit when mounting it at its final location. You will also acquire information on how to set up additional range tests where you could be up to one mile away, and all you have is a blinking led to indicate whether or not you still have communications with the unit under test.

Screenshot of Wireless Composer, an extension to Atmel Studio 6.2 - Range Test Numerical Display

Screenshot of Wireless Composer, an extension to Atmel Studio 6.2 – Range Test Numerical Display


Range Test Log With Multiple Markers (Push Button Marker Recording):

Wireless Composer also has a range test mode for logging signal level and quality to a PC display or to an Excel file, as shown in the screen capture below.

When two paired devices are configured in this range test mode, the unit connected to the PC will periodically (about every two seconds to conserve battery life) send a beacon type frame to the mobile unit, at which point the mobile unit will send back a reply to the logging device. This activity can also be seen in the screen capture below.

The LQI and ED (average RSSI) levels for each side of the wireless link are recorded with a time stamp to an Excel file.

Have you ever tried to do an RF range test by yourself? If you have, then you know that it sometimes can be difficult to set up a test, such that you can leave one node at a fixed location and take the other battery operated mobile unit to various locations where you want to gather signal level and link quality information.

This is especially true when your simple wireless device lacks any type of user interface, or display attached to it, as in the case of a wireless sensor, or an simple evaluation board. This becomes even more difficult if you are doing LOS (line of sight) measurements outdoors. The performance analyzer app only assumes you have access to two IO pins — one is typically an input for a push button or jumper, while the other is an output for an LED.

Outdoor LOS measurements may allow you to achieve distances of hundreds of meters, as well as one or more miles in the SubGhz RF bands.

To make this measurement task a lot easier, the performance analyzer app has the ability to enable you to press a button on the battery operated portable unit that you have in your hand, and have this RF device send an RF frame back to the unit connected to the PC that is doing the logging; as a result, that marker frame is recorded into the log, allowing you to place marker indicators for time and place in the log file. This will enable you to determine where you have been when you return to review the log data.

For instance, you could press the button once while at a specific location in room A, and then press it twice in for a location in room B. Or, if you are outdoors you could press the button and insert markers at various distances as you move away from the logging unit. Then, all you would have to write on your notepad while doing the test would be the name of your location (or the distance at which you were away from the logging unit) and the number of times you pressed the button at that location.

Upon your return to examine the recorded log, you’ll have all of the necessary information to understand the recorded results, including where in space and time the measurements were made.

See the example below:

Screenshot of Wireless Composer, an extension to Atmel Studio 6.2 -  - Recorded Logs

Screenshot of Wireless Composer, an extension to Atmel Studio 6.2 – – Recorded Logs


For each of the supported wireless platforms, Atmel Studio contains complete example projects with source files for the performance analyzer application. When you are finished making measurements on an Atmel evaluation board that you used to help make device selection or RF band selection decisions, you can then use this same application with possibly some minor modifications to support your own final hardware design with regards to the IO assignments for a push button or led. This performance analyzer application along with Wireless Composer have proven to be very useful when performing tests on first prototype boards, and even for use in performing FCC or other governmental regulation pre-scan testing.

Interested in learning more? You can access Wireless Composer here and Atmel Studio here.



Praise the Lord!!! A New Sub-1GHz RF Transceiver Supporting 4 Major Regional Frequency Bands

Your prayers have been answered!  Atmel has just released its 2nd generation Sub1GHz IEEE 802.15.4-compliant RF transceiver, the Atmel® AT86RF212B.  Not only does it work in Europe (863-870MHz) and North America (902-928MHz), like some of the sub-1GHz RF transceivers you see in the market today, it also works in China and Japan compatible with the 779-787MHz and 915-930MHz regional frequency bands, respectively.  


The device is a feature-rich, extremely low power Sub1GHz RF transceiver designed for industrial and consumer ZigBee/IEEE 802.15.4, IPv6/6LoWPAN and high data rate Sub1GHz ISM band applications. The RF transceiver offers a true SPI-to-antenna solution, integrating all RF-critical components, except the antenna, crystal and decoupling capacitors.

It is designed specifically for these applications in mind:

  • Lighting control
  • Gas and water meters
  • Thermostats
  • Environmental monitoring
  • Remotes
  • Toys
  • Doorphones
  • Proprietary wireless systems up to 1000kb/s

To help with your design and prototyping needs, we have a slew of software and hardware tools at your disposal, such as the Wireless Composer for providing a performance analyzer application and contains easy-to-understand displays to configure, command, and monitor information coming from the performance test application running on the target, which is available through the Atmel Gallery app store (available in Studio 6).  Additionally, we also offer the Atmel BitCloud® ZigBee® PRO stack, the Atmel IEEE 802.15.4 MAC, and the Atmel Lightweight Mesh software stack

From the H/W side, we offer an evaluation kit that is shipped preprogrammed with the Atmel Radio Performance Analyzer application for easy evaluation of the RF transceiver’s key features and performance.

AT86RF212B eval kit

Please stay tuned on upcoming posts about why sub-1GHz is preferred over 2.4GHz in some designs and tips/tricks on how to use the Wireless Composer.

1:1 interview with Michael Koster

Series 3 – Why IoT Matters?

By Tom Vu, Digital Manifesto and Michael Koster, Internet of Things Council Member

Three-part Interview Series (Part 3)

Tom Vu (TV):  Describe how Internet of Things matters? Why should anyone care? Should futurist, technologist, data hounds, product extraordinaires, executives, and  common consumer need to understand what’s to come?

Michael Koster (MK):

There are two main effects we see in the Internet of Things. First, things are connected to a service that manages them. We can now monitor things, predict when they break, know when they are being used or not, and in general begin to exploit things as managed resources.

The second, bigger effect comes from the Metcalfe effect, or simply the network effect, of connecting things together. Bob Metcalfe once stated that the value of a communications network is proportional to the square of the number of connected compatible communicating devices. Since then it’s used to refer to users, but maybe Bob was thinking way ahead. Notice the word compatible. In this context, it means to be able to meaningfully exchange data.

When we connect physical objects to the network, and connect them together in such a way as to manage them as a larger system, we can exploit the Metcalfe effect applied to the resources. We are converting capital assets into managed resources and then applying network management.

Because Internet of Things will be built as a physical graph, it’s socialization of everything, from simple everyday devices to industrial devices. Metcalfe states that 10X connections is 100 times the value.  Cisco is projecting that the Internet of Everything has the potential to grow global corporate profits by 21 percent in aggregate by 2022. I believe these represent a case for pure information on one end, and an average efficiency gain over all of industry on the other.

This has the potential to change things from a scarcity model, where the value is in restricting access to resources, thus driving up price, to a distribution centered model, where value is in the greater use of the resource.  Connecting things to the network is going to reverse the model, from a model of “excluding access” to “inclusion access”, a model where you push toward better experience for consumer/customer/co-business.

Crowdsourcing of things is an example, where models are inverted.  The power arrow is going in the opposite direction, a direction equalizing toward the benefit of the massive body consumers and people.  This in turn, helps shift the business model from a customer relationship managed by vendors, also called advertising, to vendor relationship managed by customers. This is called Vendor Relationship Management, or VRM, pioneered by Doc Searls. This reverses the power arrow to point from customer needs toward business capability to meet needs, and needs are met now that the vendor is listening.  A lot of this is not just IoT but also open source nature, and the big changes happening in people, where sharing being held more valuable than the exclusion of access.

Inverting the value model, breaking down artificially bloated value chains, creating a more efficient economy, I believe it important to create a layer of connectivity that will act as the necessary catalyst to the next Internet of Everything, Internet of Things, Industrial Internet.  Break down the scarcity-based models, exclusion of access, turn it around. Instead of excluding access and driving prices up for limited resources, we will yield higher more efficient utilization of resources.


Michael Koster describing Internet of Things and the Maker Movement and Open Source Importance of this Development with Booth attendees at Maker Faire 2013 in San Mateo

It matters on a Global Scale, by giving us better resource utilization. SMART Grid alone has resulted in up to 19.5% efficiency improvement, with an average of 3.8% improvement over all deployments already. We do not have enough energy storage or transmission capacity to deal with the major shift to solar energy sources now in progress worldwide. We are going to have to adapt, learn, monitor, manage, and control our usage in ways only possible with large scale sensing and control.

For the spirit of IoT, it’s not only in making peoples/consumers lives more convenient, solving their first world problems, but its more in the ability to manage resources together as a larger system, from the individual out to a global scale. Especially, this holds true with the effects of globalization, balancing, localization, connectivity, and ubiquity.  It’s for the people.  Social Media had it’s transformation across many things, Internet of Things will also have an efficiency and business transformation.

Companies like Atmel play an important role in creating the building blocks for embedded control and connectivity by means of progressing the ARM / AVR / Wireless / Touch portfolio of products, all of which are the necessary thinking and connecting glue of the Internet of Things. Internet of Things has a large appetite for ultra low power connectivity using wireless standards.  Wireless Sensor Networks are key technology for the IoT, so much that WSN was probably the number one issue in the early deployment. There are many competing standards: Zigbee, SA100.11, Bluetooth, Body Area Network, Wi-Fi Direct, NFC, Z-Wave, EnOcean, KNX, XRF, WiFi, RFID, RFM12B, IEEE 802.15.4 (supporting WPAN such as ZigBee, ISA100.11a, WirelessHART, IrDA, Wireless USB, Bluetooth, Z-wave, Body Area Network, and MiWi).


Michael Koster Exhibiting with Atmel Booth at Maker Faire 2013 San Mateo

Tom Vu (TV):  What would be the most important design decision that supersedes the eventual success of an open source Internet of Things compliance?

Michael Koster (MK):

The first most important decisions are to do open source design based on needs and use cases. I don’t think we can build an IoT if its not open source, or if it’s not connected to the real world use cases.

Just like the Internet, built on open source and open standards, the starting data models are important for building on and building out. HTML and http and URLs allowed many platforms to be built for the web and supersede each other over time, for example Server Pages, SOAP, Javascript, and AJAX. A browser can understand all of the current platforms because they are all based on common abstractions. We believe that the Semantic Web provides a solid basis of standard web technology on which to base the data models.

Tom Vu (TV):  Describe the importance of Internet of Things silos and other M2M standards currently at large in the development community? What are the differences?

Michael Koster (MK):

The IoT has started off fueled by crowdfunding, VC money and other sources that have to some extent built on a business model based on vertical integration. Vertical integration has a big advantage; you need to have a self-contained development to get things done quickly for proof of concept and demonstration.

Vertical integration is also a big driver of the current machine-to-machine, or M2M, communication market. This is the paradigm supporting the initial deployment of connecting things to services for management on an individual thing basis.

The downside of vertical integration is that it leads to silos, where the code developed for a system, the data collected, and even the user interfaces are all unique to the system and not reusable in other systems. Moreover, the vertical integration is often seen as a proprietary advantage and protected through patents and copyrights that are relatively weak because they apply to commonly known patterns and methods.

It’s not always this way, though. As an example, the Eclipse foundation is open source, allowing their M2M system to be used for vertical application development as well as integrated with IoT Toolkit data models and APIs to enable interoperability with other platforms.

The European Telecommunications Standardization Institute, or ETSI, also has an M2M gateway that is a combination of open source and paid license code. New features are enabled through Global Enablers or GEs that implement a particular function using an OSGi bundle consisting of Java code. The Smart Object API can be built into ETSI through a GE bundle, which will enable an ETSI M2M instance to inter-operate with other IoT Toolkit instances. This is the power of the approach we’re taking for interoperability, which is obtained by adding a Smart Object API layer to the system.

Tom Vu (TV):  Explain horizontal and service interoperability for Internet of Things, why is it so important?

Michael Koster (MK):

Connected things connect through WSN gateways and routers to Internet services that fulfill the application logic for the user. Today, for the most part, each vendor provides a cloud service for the devices they sell, e.g. Twine, Smart Things, or the Nest thermostat. There are also some cloud services that allow any connection, providing an API for anyone to connect, for the purpose of integrating multiple devices. But the dedicated devices mentioned earlier don’t work with the generic cloud services.

Many IoT services today are based on providing easy access to the devices and gateway, with open source client code and reference hardware designs, selling hardware on thin margins, and Kickstarter campaigns. There is typically a proprietary cloud service with a proprietary or ad-hoc API from the device or gateway to the service, and a structured API to the service offering “cooked” data.

These systems contain a highly visible open source component, but much of the functionality comes from the cloud service. If a user wishes to use the open source part of the system with another service, the APIs will need to be adapted on either the device/gateway end or service end, or both. It’s not exactly a lock-in, but there is a fairly steep barrier to user choice.

IoT in Silos

Internet of Things (IoT) in Silos

There is the beginning of an ecosystem here, where some devices are being built to use existing services, e.g. Good Night Lamp uses Cosm as their cloud service. Other services that allow open API connectivity include Thingworx and Digi Device Cloud. These services all use very similar RESTful APIs to JSON and XML objects, but have different underlying data models. As a result, sensors and gateways must be programmed for each service they need to interact with.

The current system also leaves users vulnerable to outages of a single provider. Even if there was a programmable cloud service that all could connect to that ran user applications, there would be a vulnerability to provider outages. Much better and more robust would be an ability to configure more than one service provider in parallel in an application graph, for a measure of robustness in the face of service outages. Even more, it should be possible to run user application code in IoT gateways, local user-owned servers, or user-managed personal cloud services. Today’s infrastructure and business models are at odds with this level of robustness for users.

In terms of business and business models, a lot of the connection and network infrastructure today was built on a “value chain” model. These are businesses that are built on a model of vertical integration. In these models, value is added by integrating services together to serve one function, hence vertical.  With the Internet of Things, traditional value chains are collapsing down and flattening. There is a bit of a disruption in the business model (services, etc), but also new opportunities emerge to create new Internet of Things services, which is good for business and consumers.

Companies will continue to build out vertical models to specialize in their services. IoT can potentially augment service models with the customer even further and offer creative possibilities of cost savings and experience and deploy more customer centric business fabrics, which will result in better service for consumers.

If companies build their vertically based infrastructure of applications integrating into the IoT Toolkit platform, the basic enablement for horizontal connections will already exist, making it easy to create horizontal, integrative applications based on automatic resource discovery and linkage.

Access to the knowledge can enhance the customer experience and ROI for businesses.  We are at the brink of the new era, where companies and products can arise from the information economy; only now motivation via implicit or explicit engagement is tied to things, assets, information, sensors, education, and augmentation; and everything is more intertwined and involved.

Tom Vu (TV):  Please assume the role of a futurist or even contemporary pragmatist. How does the landscape of Internet of Things fit into that picture for an individual?

Michael Koster (MK):

It goes back to the idea that your life is going to change in ways that we are no longer be driven by the scarcity pressures we experienced as hunter gatherers. IoT will trigger the overall shift from the resource accumulative, to the interaction driven and resource sharing-enjoying model due to the ubiquitous connectivity and the right kind of applications we can use to bring this experience to maturity.

We expect the Internet of Things to be where the interaction moves away from screens and becomes more like everyday life, only more convenient, comfortable, and easy to manage. We’re still looking for the valet, the system that simply helps us manage things to enable us to become more as people.

Tom Vu (TV):  Do you have any insights into how industries like Semi-Conductor can help share the responsibility of making Internet of Things for the People and by the People?

Michael Koster (MK):

Yes, of course, everyone has a part in the build up and build out of Internet of Things.  From business to academia, in the home and across the planet, the march to Internet of Things is inevitable.  Again and again, the familiar signs of disruption are being seen.  We see that happening today with the very first initial releases of connected products.  There is a movement in Makers, with substantial global activity. Which is quite harmonious to open source and open hardware.  This will be even wider spread once critical mass takes effect with products more and more becoming connected and smart via Internet.  The power of the sensor proliferation is akin to Twitter having 10 people registered and using their Social Fabric versus 100s of millions.  The more everyday devices and things are connected, the more the power of IoT will overwhelmingly surface.

It’s only how well we integrate and collaborate together across industry to propel this next phase of Internet to the next level.  Every potential disruptive technology has a turning point.  We are at that point and we are all part of this movement. In turn, the Internet of Things will make better products, a better user experience, and optimized efficiency across all resources. How we decide to apply this technology will make all the difference.

This very notion forces industries to be more aware, efficient, and productive. Sensors and connected devices will help supply chain, manufacturing, research, product roadmaps, experience, and ultimately drive an economy of growth. The enterprise begins to have a visibility, transparency to customers, people.   Ultimate, it’s a true nervous system, connected via an enterprise level to a personal consumer level.

SMART, AWARE, and SENSORY are new enhancements to business to include customer habits and patterns of use, threaded right into the production routine and product design. Internet of Things will help sculpt a more consumer oriented and customer centric world of products. Customers will have direct influence in the manufacturing of individual products and instances of products.  Companies can help by being part of the community, albeit in the field of electrical engineering, design, data, to software development on the cloud.  Internet of Things will have touch points between customers and business as much as the electrical power grids have influence across all business today.

The new ecosystem will have micro scale and agile manufacturing at a level of customization unimaginable today. It’s the next driver for brilliant machines, maybe artisan-machines that work for individuals but still live on the factory floor.

You can work with the developers and work toward expanding businesses that can embrace the development world.  Help build the $50 cell phone or connected devices that bridge fiscal and energy compliance for a better world.

Ride the long tail wave… and the inverted business models…  Make more accessibility to all products and be responsible in accessibility… From crowdfunding or crowdsourcing, like Kickstarter or Makers, someone is going to figure out how a sensor can do more, in a very impactful and human experience paradigm. The new innovations will come from everywhere; from the 14 year old in Uganda who takes apart her cellphone to repurpose it into a medical monitoring device, from the basements and garages of millions of makers and DIY’ers worldwide who have sure genius among them.

It is super important to get the very latest hardware out to the open community so that innovation can be leveraged, taken to new levels of creativity and crowdsource ideation for collaboration and massive cross-contribution. Accessibility, documentation, development, ecosystem for software support for the MCUs are all too important.  Atmel holds building blocks to many of these pieces, combined with their development tools and evaluation ecosystem (Atmel Studio 6, Atmel Spaces, Atmel Gallery) and involvement with Makers and Arduino.

Open Hardware / Open Source will come to be de-facto standards.  Bundle open source along with the open hardware to make it even more accessible and embed rapid guide start for newcomers. Right now a key piece is the Wireless Sensor Net. If there were a good open source WSN available and supported by manufacturers, it could enable a groundswell of connected devices.

Build open source and open hardware educational IoT developer’s kits for ages 8 and up, for high school and college, to hit all levels of involvement and expertise. Support community hackspaces and places (ie Noisebridge) where everyone can learn about the digital world and programming.

We are seeing the leveling out of the development happening in all parts of the world. Radical innovation is happening everywhere. Open Source is helping shape this curvature.  This is the broader whole tide that we are seeing. Pinocchio is one great innovation emerging from Makers and Open Source, then we have IoT hubs such as SmartThings, Thingworx, or Xively (formerly Cosm).  There is a lot of crowdfunding, ideation, blooming of disruptive products looking to change the scene of things to come….
Support open source and open collaboration in everything, to create a culture of sharing and innovation, a culture of synergy in building the Internet of Things together. Involve customers as participants and makers of their own experiences. Make sure everyone has access to the information and support they need to build, maintain, hack, and repurpose their devices over time to promote a healthy ecosystem.

This time innovation is going global. The ideation is happening everywhere. There are many global Silicon Valley type hubs, other metros in the world, as well as global accessibility to the same information. We see startup mentality blossoming across all geo-locations.  Again, Semi-Conductors is contributing, helping pave the back-plane for innovation & connectivity for the development layers on top.  Global village of innovation is coming of age… Now.


Also read Part 1 and Part 2 of the Interview Series.

A Pocket-Sized, Low-Power Ecosystem Makes Wi-Fi Easy

By Ingolf Leidert

Sensor networks are nothing brand new and even terms like “smart dust” have been around for a while. Many have envisioned a future where every technical entity around us will be “smart” in some way and is permanently connected to a huge network consisting of small sensors that help monitor and control our world. Usually, the large step into such a future vision is divided into several smaller steps. Obviously, one parameter seems to be essential for the small and smart sensors vision: the power consumption of such an entity. With the ATmegaRF SoC family, Atmel has introduced one of the lowest power IEEE 802.15.4 systems in the world. Its low power consumption combined with the full AVR microcontroller (MCU) capabilities makes networks built with lots of compact, low-power wireless sensors look more realistic now. One project that shows this perfectly is the Pinoccio.

Pinoccio is an open-source, crowd-funded solution that provides a complete ecosystem for building products supporting The Internet of Things. These small “scout” boards, compatible with the Arduino platform, come with everything a “smart, wireless, connected entity” would need:

  • LiPo battery (chargeable over USB)
  • LED
  • Temperature sensor
  • Antenna
  • Several I/Os for connecting DIY hardware (like more sensors)
  • And, as its “heart”, the Atmel ATmega128RFA1 with its excellent power consumption of less than 17mA when actively transmitting. The ATmega128RFA1 is pin-compatible with the new ATmegaRFR2 family…so perhaps we’ll see future “scout” boards in 64kB or 256kB versions. 

The developers have chosen that MCU explicitly for its low power and RF capabilities. And, as you can see from the estimated power specs, a sleeping scout board should be able to run for more than a year from one battery charge. Because the whole Pinoccio ecosystem includes a Wi-Fi board that finally connects all the tiny “scout” boards to an existing Wi-Fi infrastructure and even offers SD card data storage, this whole system looks like a wonderful first step into The Internet of  Things.

Low-Power 2.4GHz SOCs for IEEE 802.15.4 Wireless Apps

Designing IEEE 802.15.4 wireless apps? As with many applications these days, low power is a key consideration in the wireless world. Attend our upcoming technical training webinar to learn about a new ultra-low power 2.4GHz SoC family that is targeted toward IEEE 802.15.4 wireless apps. The Atmel ATmega256RFR2 combines an AVR microcontroller with a 2.4GHz RF transceiver, delivering a link budget of 103.5dBm at 50 percent the current consumption of existing offerings.

The ATmega256RFR2-EK board gives you a head start in developing wireless apps with Atmel's ultra-low power device.

The ATmega256RFR2-EK board gives you a head start in developing wireless apps with Atmel’s ultra-low power device.

In the webinar, you’ll also learn about the new Wireless Composer and Wireless Library tools available in the new Atmel Gallery apps store that is integrated into the Atmel Studio 6 integrated development platform.

Webinar: 10 am PST on Wednesday, Dec. 5. Session will be led by Magnus Pedersen, one of our Wireless Wizards. If you can’t attend the live session, you can always register for free access to the Atmel Tech Online training portal, where you can find archived training webinars.

New Single-Chip Wireless MCU for 2.4GHz ISM Band Apps

Wireless technology continues to transform our everyday lives, bringing convenience and putting things closer within reach.  We come in contact with countless wireless electronics daily, from our cell phones, TV remote controllers and garage door openers to the security badge that grants us access into our offices.  New standards continue to flood the wireless market, requiring design engineers to find solutions with lower power consumption, better RF performance, more memory and better security.  Atmel recently introduced the new ATmegaRFR2 family of single-chip wireless MCUs for 2.4GHz ISM band applications, addressing all these requirements.  This feature-rich, single-chip wireless family consumes 50 percent less power than the previous offering. Designers can meet demanding customer requirements while reducing their overall bill of materials and enjoying more design flexibility and board space.  The family is compliant with the IEEE 802.15.4 standard and various ZigBee implementations. 

Learn more about how the ATmegaRFR2 can meet your wireless design requirements.