Tag Archives: IIoT

The smart router is ready for IoT play


The evolution of router has reached the IoT’s doorsteps, and it raises some interesting prospects for industrial and smart home markets.


The router used to be largely a dumb device. Not anymore in the Internet of Things arena where node intelligence is imperative to make a play of the sheer amount of data acquired from sensors, machines and other ‘things.’ The IoT router marks a new era of network intelligence — but what makes a router smart?

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For starters, it employs embedded hardware platforms with DIY capabilities while balancing the performance and power consumption requirements. Next, an IoT router provides the operational status on an LCD screen while manipulating the data from different interfaces. In human machine interface (HMI) applications, for example, a smart router offers LCD and touch screen interfaces on expansion I/Os.

Take the case of the DAB-OWRT-53 smart router, which is developed by the Belgian design house DAB-Embedded. The sub-100 euro device — based on Atmel’s SAMA5D36 processor and OpenWRT router hardware platform — is mainly targeted at smart home and industrial IoT applications.

The smart router of DAB-Embedded

The IoT router supports popular wireless interfaces such as Wi-Fi, ZigBee and Z-Wave, as well as a diverse number of wired interfaces including Ethernet, USB, CAN 2.0A/B, KNX and RS-232. And all the data from these interfaces can be stored in either microSD card or NAND flash.

Anatomy of Smart Router

The Atmel | SMART SAMA5D36 is at the heart of the smart router design. First and foremost, it optimizes power consumption in the battery-operated router that features 3.7V lithium polymer battery support with charging capability over a microUSB connector. The router boasts eight hours of battery lifetime while being in full ON mode with Wi-Fi communications.

Second, the ARM Cortex-A5 processor shows a robust performance in the communications domain. For instance, the SAMA5D36 implements routing functionality to transfer data from one Ethernet port to another in a way that router designers don’t require an external hardware hub or switch. Moreover, Atmel’s MPU offers greater flexibility to run a lot of embedded software packages such as OpenZWave and LinuxMCE.

Third, the SAMA5D36-based IoT router offers users the ability to manipulate firewall settings, Disable PING, Telnet, SSH and UPnP features. Furthermore, the hardware security block in SAMA5D3 processor allows the use of CryptoDev Linux drivers to speed up the OpenSSL implementation. The Wi-Fi module — powered by Atmel’s WILC3000 single-chip solution — also supports the IEEE 802.11 WEP, WPA and WPA2 security mechanisms.

The smart router of DAB-Embedded employs Active-Semi’s ACT8945AQJ305-T power management IC, but the real surprise is Altera’s MAX 10 FPGA with an integrated analog-to-digital converter (ADC). That brings the additional flexibility for the main CPU: Atmel’s SAMA5D36.

The FPGA is connected to the 16-bit external bus interface (EBI) so that IoT developers can put any IP core in FPGA for communication with external sensors. All data is converted inside the FPGA to a specific format by using NIOS II’s soft CPU in FPGA. Next, the SAMA5D36 processor reads this data by employing DMA channel over the high-speed mezzanine card (HSMC) bus.

An FPGA has enough cells to start even two soft cores for data preprocessing. Case in point: A weather station with 8-channel external ADC managing light sensors, temperature sensors, pressure sensors and more. It’s connected to the FPGA together with PPS signal from GPS for correct time synchronization of each measurement.

Router.png

OpenWRT Framework

The SAMA5D36 embedded processor enables DAB’s smart router design to customize free OpenWRT Linux firmware according to the specific IoT application needs. The OpenWRT framework facilitates an easy way to set up router-like devices equipped with communications interfaces such as dual-port Ethernet and Wi-Fi connection.

What’s more, by using the OpenWRT framework, an IoT developer can add now his or her own application (C/C++) to exchange data with a KNX or Z-Wave transceiver. OpenWRT even supports the Lua embedded interpreter.

Next, while DAB-Embedded has built its smart router using the embedded Linux with OpenWRT framework, Belgium’s design house also offers a board support package (BSP) based on the Windows Embedded Compact 2013 software. That’s for IoT developers who have invested in Windows applications and want to use them on the new hardware: the DAB-OWRT-53 smart router.

Later, the embedded design firm plans to release smart router hardware based on the Windows 10 IoT software and Atmel’s SAMA5D family of embedded processors. The Belgian developer of IoT products has vowed to release the second version of its router board based on Atmel’s SAMA5D4 embedded processor and WILC3000 chipset that comes integrated with power amplifier, LNA, switch and power management. Atmel’s WILC3000 single-chip solution boasts IEEE 802.11 b/g/n RF/baseband/MAC link controller and Bluetooth 4.0 connection.


Majeed Ahmad is the author of books Smartphone: Mobile Revolution at the Crossroads of Communications, Computing and Consumer Electronics and The Next Web of 50 Billion Devices: Mobile Internet’s Past, Present and Future.

Atmel wireless connectivity supports industrial IoT revolution


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


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

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

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

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

IoT-scalability-courtesy-Bosch

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

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

Atmel's BTLC1000

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

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

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


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

Why connect to the cloud with the Atmel | SMART SAM W25?


The “thing” of IoT does not have to necessarily be tiny. 


The Atmel | SMART SAM W25 is, in fact, a module — a “SmartConnect Module.” As far as I am concerned, I like SmartConnect designation and I think it could be used to describe any IoT edge device. The device is “smart” as it includes a processing unit, which in this case is an ARM Cortex-M0-based SAMD21G, and “connect” reminds the Internet part of the IoT definition. Meanwhile, the ATWINC1500 SoC supports Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n allowing seamless connection to the cloud.

What should we expect from an IoT edge device? It should be characterized by both low cost and power! This IoT system is probably implemented multiple times, either in a factory (industrial) or in a house (home automation), and the cost should be as low as possible to enable large dissemination. I don’t know the SAMD21G ASP, but I notice that it’s based on the smallest MCU core of the ARM Cortex-M family, so the cost should be minimal (my guess). Atmel claims the W25 module to be “fully-integrated single-source MCU + IEEE 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi solution providing battery powered endpoints lasting years”… sounds like ultra low-power, doesn’t it?

Atmel claims the W25 module to be “Fully-integrated single-source MCU + IEEE 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi solution providing battery powered endpoints lasting years”…sounds like being ultra low-power, isn’t it

The “thing” of IoT does not necessarily have to be tiny. We can see in the above example that interconnected things within the industrial world can be as large as these wind turbines (courtesy of GE). To maximize efficiency in power generation and distribution, the company has connected these edge devices to the cloud where the software analytics allow wind farm operators to optimize the performance of the turbines, based on environmental conditions. According with GE, “Raising the turbines’ efficiency can increase the wind farm’s annual energy output by up to 5%, which translates in a 20% increase in profitability.” Wind turbines are good for the planet as they allow avoiding burning fossil energy. IoT devices implementation allows wind farm operators to increase their profitability and to build sustainable business. In the end, thanks to Industrial Internet of Thing (IIoT), we all benefit from less air pollution and more affordable power!

ATSAMW25 Block-DiagramThe ATWINC1500 is a low-power Systems-on-Chip (SoC) that brings Wi-Fi connectivity to any embedded design. In the example above, this SoC is part of a certified module, the ATSAMW25, for embedded designers seeking to integrate Wi-Fi into their system. If we look at the key features list:

  • IEEE 802.11 b/g/n (1×1) for up to 72 Mbps
  • Integrated PA and T/R switch
  • Superior sensitivity and range via advanced PHY signal processing
  • Wi-Fi Direct, station mode and Soft-AP support
  • Supports IEEE 802.11 WEP, WPA
  • On-chip memory management engine to reduce host load
  • 4MB internal Flash memory with OTA firmware upgrade
  • SPI, UART and I2C as host interfaces
  • TCP/IP protocol stack (client/server) sockets applications
  • Network protocols (DHCP/DNS), including secure TLS stack
  • WSC (wireless simple configuration WPS)
  • Can operate completely host-less in most applications

We can notice that host interfaces allow direct connection to device I/Os and sensors through SPI, UART, I2C and ADC interfaces and can also operate completely host-less. A costly device is then removed from the BOM which can enable economic feasibility for an IoT, or IIoT edge device.

The low-power Wi-Fi certified module is currently employed in industrial systems supporting applications, such as transportation, aviation, healthcare, energy or lighting, as well as in IoT areas like home appliances and consumer electronics. For all these use cases, certification is a must-have feature, but low-cost and ultra-low power are the economic and technical enablers.


This post has been republished with permission from SemiWiki.com, where Eric Esteve is a principle blogger and one of the four founding members of the site. This blog first appeared on SemiWiki on November 15, 2015.

Security coprocessor marks a new approach to provisioning for IoT edge devices


It’s worth noting that security breaches rarely involve breaking the encryption code; hackers mostly use techniques like spoofing to steal the ID.


The advent of security coprocessor that offloads the provisioning task from the main MCU or MPU is bringing new possibilities for the Internet of Things product developers to secure the edge device at lower cost and power points regardless of the scale.

Hardware engineers often like to say that there is now such thing as software security, and quote Apple that has all the money in the world and an army of software developers. The maker of the iPhone chose a secure element (SE)-based hardware solution while cobbling the Apple Pay mobile commerce service. Apparently, with a hardware solution, engineers have the ecosystem fully in control.

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Security is the basic building block of the IoT bandwagon, and there is a lot of talk about securing the access points. So far, the security stack has largely been integrated into the MCUs and MPUs serving the IoT products. However, tasks like encryption and authentication take a lot of battery power — a precious commodity in the IoT world.

Atmel’s solution: a coprocessor that offloads security tasks from main MCU or MPU. The ATECC508A uses elliptic curve cryptography (ECC) capabilities to create secure hardware-based key storage for IoT markets such as home automation, industrial networking and medical. This CryptoAuthentication chip comes at a manageable cost — 50 cents for low volumes — and consumers very low power. Plus, it makes provisioning — the process of generating a security key — a viable option for small and mid-sized IoT product developers.

A New Approach to Provisioning

It’s worth noting that security breaches rarely involve breaking the encryption code; hackers mostly use techniques like spoofing to steal the ID. So, the focus of the ATECC508A crypto engine is the tasks such as key generation and authentication. The chip employs ECC math to ensure sign-verify authentication and subsequently the verification of the key agreement.

The IoT security — which includes the exchange of certificates and other trusted objects — is implemented at the edge node in two steps: provisioning and commissioning. Provisioning is the process of loading a unique private key and other certificates to provide identity to a device while commissioning allows the pre-provisioned device to join a network. Moreover, provisioning is carried out during the manufacturing or testing of a device and commissioning is performed later by the network service provider and end-user.

Atmel ATECC508A crypto-engine

Presently, snooping threats are mostly countered through hardware security module (HSM), a mechanism to store, protect and manage keys, which requires a centralized database approach and entails significant upfront costs in infrastructure and logistics. On the other hand, the ATECC508A security coprocessor simplifies the deployment of secure IoT nodes through pre-provisioning with internally generated unique keys, associated certificates and certification-ready authentication.

It’s a new approach toward provisioning that not only prevents over-building, as done by the HSM-centric techniques, but also prevents cloning for the gray market. The key is controlled by a separate chip, like the ATECC508A coprocessor. Meaning, if there are 1,000 IoT systems to be built, there will be exactly 1,000 security coprocessors for them.

Certified-ID Security Platform

Back at ARM TechCon 2015, Atmel went one step ahead when it announced the availability of Certified-ID security platform for the IoT entry points like edge devices to acquire certified and trusted identities. This platform leverages internal key generation capabilities of the ATECC508A security coprocessor to deliver distributed key provisioning for any device joining the IoT network. That way it enables a decentralized secure key generation and eliminates the upfront cost of building the provisioning infrastructure for IoT setups being deployed at smaller scales.

AT88CKECCROOT-SIGNER

Atmel, a pioneer in Trusted Platform Module (TPM)-based secure microcontrollers, is now working with cloud service providers like Proximetry and Exosite to turn its ATECC508A coprocessor-based Certified-ID platform into an IoT edge node-to-cloud turnkey security solution. TPM chips, which have roots in the computer industry, aren’t well-positioned to meet the cost demands of low-price IoT edge devices.

Additionally, the company has announced the availability of two provisioning toolkits for low volume IoT systems. The AT88CKECCROOT toolkit is a ‘master template’ that creates and manages certificate root of trust in any IoT ecosystem. On the other hand, AT88CKECCSIGNER is a production kit that allows designers and manufacturers to generate tamper-resistant keys and security certifications in their IoT applications.

mbed eval boards showcase focus on IoT software and connectivity


Chipmakers like Atmel are joining hands with ARM to bring the entire ecosystem under one roof and thus facilitate the creation of standards-based IoT products.


ARM’s mbed operating system is winning attention in the highly fragmented embedded software space by promising a solid software foundation for interoperable hardware and thus scale the Internet of Things designs by narrowing the development time.

Atmel has put its weight behind ARM’s mbed OS by launching the single-chip evaluation board for the IoT ecosystem in a bid to ensure low software dependence for the embedded developers. The leading microcontroller supplier unveiled the mbed evaluation platform at the recent ARM TechCon held in Santa Clara, California.

The mbed OS platform is focused on rapid development of connected devices with an aim to create a serious professional platform to prototype IoT applications. So IoT developers don’t have to look to software guys for help. The mbed stack features a strong focus on enhancing the IoT’s connectivity and software components.

Atmel mbed Xpro board

ARM is the lead maintainer for the mbed OS modules while it adds silicon partners, like Atmel, as platform-specific dependencies for the relevant mbed OS modules. Silicon partners are responsible for their platform-specific drivers.

Atmel’s mbed-enabled evaluation board is based on the low-power 2.4GHz wireless Cortex-M0+ SAM R21 MCU. Moreover, Atmel is expanding mbed OS support for its Wi-Fi modules and Bluetooth Low Energy products.

The fact that Atmel is adding mbed OS to its IoT ecosystem is an important nod for ARM’s mbed technology in its journey from merely a hardware abstraction layer to a full-fledged IoT platform. Atmel managers acknowledge that mbed technology adds diversity to embedded hardware devices and makes MCUs more capable.

Solid Software Foundation

There is a lot of code involved in the IoT applications and software is getting more complex. It encompasses, for instance, sensor library to acquire data, authentication at IoT gateways and SSL security. Here, the automatic software integration engine like mbed lets developers focus on their applications instead of worrying about integrating off-the-shelf software.

The mbed reference designs like the one showcased by Atmel during ARM TechCon are aimed at narrowing the development time with the availability of building blocks and design resources—components, code and infrastructure—needed to bootstrap a working IoT system. Atmel managers are confident that a quality software foundation like mbed could help bring IoT products to market faster.

thingsquare2

Atmel’s mbed-enabled IoT evaluation board promises harmony between hardware and software. Apparently, chipmakers like Atmel are joining hands with ARM to bring the entire ecosystem — OS software, cloud services and developer tools — under one roof, and thus facilitate the creation of standards-based IoT products. Atmel’s mbed evaluation board clearly mirrors that effort to deliver a complete hardware, software and developer tools ecosystem in order to bring IoT designs quicker to market.

The platform comprises of mbed OS software for IoT client devices like gateways and mbed Device Server for the cloud services. ARM launched the mbed software platform in 2014 and Atmel has been part of this initiative since then.

mbed in Communications Stack

Additionally, Atmel has tied the mbed association to its SmartConnect wireless solutions to make the best of mbed’s networking stack in the Internet of connected things. The IoT technology is built on layers, and here, interoperability of communications protocols is a key challenge.

For a start, Atmel’s SAM R21-Xpro evaluation board is embed-enabled and is built around the R21 microcontroller, which has been designed for industrial and consumer wireless applications running proprietary communication stacks or IEEE 802.15.4-compliant solutions.

Next up, the evaluation board includes SAM W25 Wi-Fi module that integrates IEEE 802.11 b/g/n IoT network controller with the existing MCU solution, SAM D21, which is also based on the Cortex-M0+ processor core.

XPLAIN
Furthermore, Atmel is offering an mbed-enabled Bluetooth starter kit that includes SAM L21 microcontroller-based evaluation board and ultra-low-power Bluetooth chip BTLC1000, which is compliant with Bluetooth Low Energy 4.1. Atmel demonstrated a home lighting system at the ARM TechCon show floor, which employed SAM R21-based Thread routers that passed light sensor information to an mbed-enabled home gateway. Subsequently, this information was processed and sent to the mbed Device Server using a web interface.


Majeed Ahmad is the author of books Smartphone: Mobile Revolution at the Crossroads of Communications, Computing and Consumer Electronics and The Next Web of 50 Billion Devices: Mobile Internet’s Past, Present and Future.

ARM Keil ecosystem integrates the Atmel SAM ESV7


Keil is part of the ARM wide ecosystem, enabling developers to speed up system release to the market. 


Even the best System-on-Chip (SoC) is useless without software, as well as the best designed S/W needs H/W to flourish. The “old” embedded world has exploded into many emergent markets like the  IoT, wearables, and even automotive, which is no more restricted to motor control or airbags as innovative products from entertainment to ADAS are being developed. What is the common denominator with these emergent products? Each of these require more software functionality and fast memory algorithm with deterministic code execution, and consequently innovative hardware to support these requirements, such as the ARM Cortex-M7-based Atmel | SMART SAM ESV7.

AtmelChipLib Overview

ARM has released a complete software development environment for a range of ARM Cortex-M based MCU devices: Keil MDK. Keil is part of ARM wide ecosystem, enabling developers to speed up system release to the market. MDK includes the µVision IDE/Debugger and ARM C/C++ Compiler, along with the essential middleware components and software packs. If you’re familiar with Run-Time Environment stacked description, you’ll recognize the various stacks. Let’s focus on “CMSIS-Driver”. CMSIS is the standard software framework for Cortex-M MCUs, extending the SAM-ESV7 Chip Library with standardized drivers for middleware and generic component interfaces.

By definition, an MCU is designed to address multiple applications and the SAM ESV7 is dedicated to support performance demanding and DSP intensive systems. Thanks to its 300MHz clock, SAM ESV7 delivers up to 640 DMIPS and its DSP performance is double that available in the Cortex-M4. A double-precision floating-point unit and a double-issue instruction pipeline further position the Cortex-M7 for speed.

Atmel Cortex M7 based Dev board

Let’s review some of these applications where SAM ESV7 is the best choice…

Finger Printer Module

The goal is to provide human bio authentication module for office or house access control. The key design requirements are:

  • +300 MHz CPU performance to process recognition algorithms
  • Image sensor interface to read raw finger image data from finger sensor array
  • Low cost and smaller module size
  • Flash/memory to reduce BOM cost and module size
  • Memory interface to expand model with memory extension just in case.

The requirement for superior performance and an image sensor interface can be seen as essential needs, but which will make the difference will be to offer both cheaper BOM cost and smaller module size than the competitor? The SAM S70 integrates up to 2MB embedded Flash, which is twice more than the direct competitor and may allow reducing BOM and module size.

SAM S70 Finger Print

Automotive Radio System

Every cent counts in automotive design, and OEMs prefer using a MCU rather than MPU, at first for cost reasons. Building an attractive radio for tomorrow’s car requires developing very performing DSP algorithms. Such algorithms used to be developed on expansive DSP standard part, leading to large module size, including external Flash and MCU leading obviously to a heavy BOM. In a 65nm embedded Flash process device, the Cortex-M7 can achieve a 1500 CoreMark score while running at 300 MHz, and its DSP performance is double that available in the Cortex-M4. This DSP power can be used to manage eight channels of speaker processing, including six stages of biquads, delay, scaler, limiter and mute functions. The SAM S71 workload is only 63% of the CPU, leaving enough room to support Ethernet AVB stack — very popular in automotive.

One of the secret sauces of the Cortex-M7 architecture is to provide a way to bypass the standard execution mechanism using “tightly coupled memories,” or TCM. There is an excellent white paper describing TCM implementation in the SAM S70/E70 series, entitled “Run Blazingly Fast Algorithms with Cortex-M7 Tightly Coupled Memories” from Lionel Perdigon and Jacko Wilbrink, which you can find here.


This post has been republished with permission from SemiWiki.com, where Eric Esteve is a principle blogger as well as one of the four founding members of the site. This blog first appeared on SemiWiki on October 23, 2015.

Profile of an IoT processor for the industrial and consumer markets


 If there’s a single major stumbling block that is hindering the IoT take-off at the larger industrial scale, it’s security.


The intersection of data with intelligent machines is creating new possibilities in industrial automation, and this new frontier is now being increasingly known as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). However, if there is a single major stumbling block that is hindering the IoT take-off at the larger industrial scale, it’s security.

It’s imperative to have reliable data in the industrial automation environment, and here, the additional security layers in the IoT hardware often lead to compromises in performance. Then, there is counterfeiting of products and application software, which is becoming a growing concern in the rapidly expanding IoT market.

sama5d2_google_1160x805_090215

Atmel’s answer to security concerns in the IIoT infrastructure: a microprocessor (MPU) that can deliver the security while maintaining the level of performance that Internet-connected systems require. The company’s Cortex A5 chip — the Atmel | SMART SAMA5D4 — securely stores and transfers data, as well as safeguards software assets to prevent cloning of IoT applications.

The SAMA5D4 series of MPUs enables on-the-fly encryption and decryption of software code from the external DRAM. Moreover, it boasts security features such as secure boot, tamper detection pins and safe erasure of security-critical data. The A5D4 processor also incorporates ARM’s system-wide security approach, TrustZone, which is used to secure peripherals such as memory and crypto blocks. TrustZone —comprising of security extensions that can be implemented in a number of ARM cores — is tightly integrated into ARM’s Cortex-A processors. It runs the processor in two different modes: First, a secure environment executes critical security and safety software, and secondly, a normal environment runs the rich OS software applications such as Linux. This lets embedded designers isolate critical software from OS software.

The system approach allows control access to CPU, memories, DMA and peripherals with programmable secure regions. That, in turn, ensures that on-chip parts like CPU and off-chip parts like peripherals are protected from software attacks.

Trust

Performance Uplift

The Atmel SMART | SAMA5D4 processor is based on the Cortex-A5, the smallest and simplest of the Cortex-A series cores that support the 32-bit ARMv7 instruction set. It’s targeted at applications requiring high-precision computing and fast signal processing — that includes industrial and consumer applications such as control panels, communication gateways and imaging terminals.

The use cases for SAMA5D4 span from kiosks, vending machines and barcode scanners, to smart grid, communications gateways and control panels for security, home automation, thermostats, etc. Atmel’s MPU features peripherals for connectivity and user interface applications. For instance, it offers a TFT LCD controller for human-machine interface (HMI) and control panel applications and a dual Ethernet MAC for networking and gateway solutions.

Apart from providing high-grade security, SAMA5D4 adds two other crucial features to address the limitations of its predecessor, SAMA5D3 processor. First, it uplifts performance through ARM’s NEON DSP engine and 128kB L2 cache. The NEON DSP with 128-bit single instruction, multiple data (SIMD) architecture accelerates signal processing for more effective handling of multimedia and graphics. Likewise, L2 cache enhances data processing capability for imaging applications.

The second prominent feature of the SAMA5D4 is video playback that boasts 720p resolution hardware video decoder with post-image processing capability. Atmel’s embedded processor offers video playback for H.264, VP8 and MPEG4 formats at 30fps.

A Quick Overview of the SAMA5D4

The SAMA5D4 processor, which got a 14 percent performance boost from its predecessor MPU, increasing operating speed to 528 MHz, is a testament of the changing microprocessor market in the IoT arena. Atmel’s microprocessor for IoT markets delivers 840 DMIPS that can facilitate imaging-centric applications hungry for processing power. Aside from that, the SAMA5D4 is equipped with a 32-bit wide DDR controller running up to 176 MHz, which can deliver up to 1408MB/s of bandwidth. That’s a critical element for high-speed peripherals common in the industrial environments where microprocessors are required to process large amounts of data.

sama5d4-block-diagram_734x612_large

Finally, the SAMA5D4 is configurable in either a 16- or 32-bit bus interface allowing developers a trade-off between performance and memory cost. There are four distinct chips in the SAMA5D4 family: SAMA5D41 (16-bit DDR), SAMA5D42 (32-bit DDR), SAMA5D43 (16-bit DDR along with H.264 video decoder)and SAMA5D44 (32-bit DDR along with H.264 video decoder).

The SoC-specific hardware security and embedded vision capabilities are a stark reminder of specific requirements of different facets of IoT, in this case, industrial and consumers markets. And Atmel’s specific focus on security and rich media just shows how the semiconductor industry is getting around the key IoT stumbling blocks.


Majeed Ahmad is the author of books Smartphone: Mobile Revolution at the Crossroads of Communications, Computing and Consumer Electronics and The Next Web of 50 Billion Devices: Mobile Internet’s Past, Present and Future.