Earlier this week, Atmel kicked off Embedded World 2014 by expanding its low-power ARM Cortex M0+-based MCU portfolio with three new families: the SAM D21, D10 and D11. The trio of entry-level, low-power MCUs are packed with a number of high-end features including Atmel’s Event System, SERCOM module, peripheral touch controller and a full-speed USB interface.
During the show, ARM’s Andy Frame interviewed Atmel’s MCU Marketing Director Ingar Fredriksen about the company’s ARM-based SAM D family of products.
“The original SAM D20 lineup has been a tremendous success for Atmel,” Fredriksen told Frame. “We see a lot of opportunities for the series over the next five years.”
Commenting on the new additions to the SAM D series, Fredriksen highlighted Atmel’s integrated peripheral touch controller (PTC) which supports buttons, sliders, wheels and proximity with up to 256 channels. This configuration allows developers to migrate from a two-chip (one MCU + one touch) solution to a one-chip platform.
Indeed, the PTC supports mutual and self capacitive touch, while offering optimized sensitivity and noise tolerance as well as self-calibration. Simply put, the PTC eliminates the need for external components and minimizes CPU overhead. More specifically, implementing one button takes one channel, while wheels and sliders occupy three.
As we’ve previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, Atmel’s SAM D portfolio is architected beyond the core, leveraging over two decades of MCU experience to create unique, connected peripherals that are easy-to-use, while providing scalability and performance.
To help accelerate the design process and eliminate the need for additional components, Atmel’s new SAM D lineup integrates additional functionality, including full-speed crystal-less USB, DMA, I2S, timers/counters for control applications, along with several other new features. Atmel’s SAM D devices are also code- and pin-compatible, making it easy for designers to migrate up and down the family.
Indeed, the new ATtiny 441/841 MCUs boast higher system integration with intuitive tools and peripherals to help facilitate optimized performance with lower power consumption. In addition, the ultra-low power 14-pin tinyAVR MCUs deliver enhanced analog and communication capabilities for an overall lower system cost in a smaller package.
As noted above, Atmel’s ATtiny MCU lineup is routinely tapped by both DIY Makers and professional engineers to power a wide range of projects. To be sure, quite a number of devices and platforms built around Atmel’s ATtiny have surfaced on Bits & Pieces in recent months including:
* The PC knock sensor – This project allows users to turn their PCs on and off with a simple knock sensor. The entire platform, costing the Maker a grand total of $10, is built around Atmel’s ATtiny45 MCU which emulates a PS/2 device.
* Halloween knock box – Powered by Atmel’s versatile ATtiny45 (or 85) microcontroller (MCU), the Halloween Knock Box box is fairly easy to put together. Additional key components include a piezo element (amplifier) for the knock sensor and a motor to provide the knocking feedback.
* Twinkling jack-o-lanterns – This project uses very few components: four slightly depleted AA batteries, a super bright LED, 680 ohm resistor and a little custom code set on an 8-pin Atmel ATtiny13.
* ATtiny85 ISP! – The open source ATtiny85 ISP! can probably best be described as a breakout prototyping board for Atmel’s ATtiny85/45/25 lineup. The ATtiny85 ISP! allows Makers to take advantage of the ATtiny85 chip’s potential, while using the familiar Arduino IDE and harnessing support from the Arduino community.
* Cuboino (Digital Cuboro) – This version of Cuboro is a tangible, digital extension of the classic marble puzzle game. Designed by Felix Heibeck of the University of Bremen, Cuboino is powered by Atmel’s versatile ATtiny85 MCU.
* ATtiny logic analyzer – The ATtiny2313-based logic analyzer is capable of capturing at 50+ kHz, more than enough for a PS/2 port. This project combines an Atmel MCU, breadboard and FTDI for unlimited-length logic capturing with a PC.
* 2D-Lux smart LED disk (SLEDD) – NliteN’s 2D-Lux Smart LED Disk (SLEDD) is a dimmable 60W-incandescent-replacement LED smart “bulb” equipped with an Atmel AVR microcontroller (ATtiny85), USB interface and hardware-expansion pins.
* Digital tic-tac-toe – Powered by the ATtiny85, this modern implementation of the classic game boasts an AI mechanism capable of making defending or winning moves against a human opponent.
As previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, all tinyAVRs are based on the same architecture and compatible with other AVR devices. Features like integrated ADC, EEPROM memory and brownout detectors allow users to design applications without adding external components. The tinyAVR is also equipped with flash memory and on-chip debug for fast, secure, cost-effective in-circuit upgrades.
“The tinyAVR offers an advanced combination of miniaturization, processing power, analog performance and system-level integration. Simply put, the tinyAVR is the most compact device in the AVR family and the only device capable of operating at just 0.7V. And there’s nothing really tiny about that,” an Atmel engineer explained. “Plus, tinyAVR designs can be coupled with Atmel’s CryptoAuthentication tech for an extra level of security. The AVR CPU gives the tinyAVR devices the same high performance as our larger AVR devices. Flexible and versatile, they feature high code efficiency that lets them fit a broad range of applications.”
As expected, tinyAVR offers a high level of integration, with each pin boasting multiple uses as I/O, ADC and PWM. To be sure, even the reset pin can be reconfigured as an I/O pin. Oh, and yes, the tinyAVR also features a Universal Serial Interface (USI) which can be used as SPI, UART or TWI.
Atmel has expanded its low-power 8-bit tinyAVR family with the addition of the ATtiny441 and ATtiny841. As we’ve previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, the 8-bit AVR MCUs are ideal for cost-effective consumer applications such as computer accessories, thermostats, personal health accessories and a wide range of Maker projects.
According to Atmel’s Director of Flash-based MCUs Ingar Fredriksen, the new ATtiny 441/841 MCUs boast higher system integration with intuitive tools and peripherals to help facilitate optimized performance with lower power consumption. Indeed, the ultra-low power 14-pin tinyAVR MCUs deliver enhanced analog and communication capabilities for an overall lower system cost in a smaller package.
“Atmel has been the 8-bit MCU leader for more than a decade and continues to think beyond the core, enabling our customers to differentiate their end products,” said Fredriksen. “Our AVRs have been popular since its inception and continue to be the MCU of choice both for professional engineers in consumer and industrial applications and among our 300,000 members in the AVR Freaks community consisting of engineers, hobbyists and Makers.”
As Fredriksen notes, the ATtiny441/841 devices are powerful MCUs packaged in a small form factor. More specifically, the new ATtiny441 and ATtiny841 MCUs feature an uber-mini 3×3 QFN package and 4 and 8KB of Flash memory, respectively.
“The new devices offer enhanced analog performance, including an ADC with calibrated multilevel internal analog reference, with 12 ADC channels on a 14-pin device, two independent USARTs with wake-up from power down without data loss, SPI interface and an I2C slave interface for enhanced communication capabilities,” Fredriksen continued. “In addition, the devices feature flexible clocking options, including a ± 2% internal oscillator with fast wake-up, which allows the UARTs to communicate without the need of an external crystal and wake-up from sleep without data loss.”
As expected, the ATtiny441/841 devices are fully supported by Atmel Studio 6, the integrated development platform (IDP) for developing and debugging Atmel ARM Cortex-M and Atmel AVR MCU-based applications. Simply put, Atmel Studio 6 IDP offers devs a seamless, easy-to-use environment to write, build, simulate, program and debug applications written in C/C++ or assembly code using the integrated GCC compiler and AVR assembler. AS6 also provides easy access to the online Atmel Gallery apps store and Atmel Spaces, a cloud-based collaborative development workspace allowing the designer to host software and hardware projects targeting Atmel MCUs.
To help accelerate devs and Makers accelerate ATtiny441/841 AVR MCU designs, the new devices are supported by Atmel’s AVR Dragon Board which can be snapped up at the Atmel Online Store for USD $49. The ATtiny841 and ATtiny441 are also supported by the STK600, AVRONE, JTAGICE mkII, JTAGICE3 and AVRISPmkII development tools.
Atmel is now shipping its recently launched SAM D20 microcontroller (MCU) lineup in production quantities. As previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, the SAM D20 is the first series in a new family of ultra-low power embedded Flash microcontrollers based on ARM’s powerful Cortex-M0+ processor.
“In this era of the Internet of Things (IoT), products used in building automation, consumer electronics, smart metering and industrial controls are becoming smarter and more connected,” Mr. Ingar Fredriksen, Atmel’s Sr. Director of Flash-based Microcontrollers, explained. “With Atmel’s new SAM D20 MCU available to the mass market, designers now have access to a new Cortex M0+ based MCU to easily add more intelligence and connectivity to next-gen IoT devices.”
According to Mr. Fredriksen, the new series combines innovative and proven technologies, including intelligent peripherals with Atmel’s Event System as well as capacitive touch support for button, slider and wheel capability and proximity sensing.
The new SAM D20 series is also supported by the latest version of Atmel Studio and Atmel Software Framework, the integrated development platform of choice for developing and debugging ARM Cortex-M and Atmel AVR MCU-based applications.
“We’ve built our decades of innovation and experience in embedded Flash MCU technology into our new Atmel SAM D20 family,” Mr. Fredriksen continued. “That is why the SAM D20 sets a new benchmark for flexibility and ease-of-use, while combining the performance and energy efficiency of the ARM Cortex-M0+ core with an optimized architecture and peripheral set. We’ve brought true differentiation into this new family, making it the ideal MCU for low-power, cost-sensitive industrial and consumer applications.”
We briefly touched on Atmel’s picoPower technology this morning in the context of Samsung’s Galaxy S4 smartphone, which is equipped with Atmel’s sensor hub management MCU (microcontroller unit). The MCU collects and processes data from all connected sensors in real-time, optimizing multiple user experiences, such as gaming, navigation and virtual reality.
Atmel’s sensor hub MCU also lowers the overall system power consumption via picoPower technology to prevent drain and enable longer battery life. In a broader sense, it is important to note that all Atmel AVR picoPower devices are designed from the ground up for low power consumption utilizing the company’s proprietary low leakage processes and libraries to provide minimal power sipping in all sleep modes.
“An easy way to reduce power consumption in any design is to lower the operating voltage. But this would be mostly useless if analog performance was compromised,” an Atmel engineering rep told us. “Central to the AVR picoPower technology are carefully designed analog functions that continue to operate all the way down to 1.62V.”
To be sure, the various features of a microcontroller traditionally become unstable or even unusable at different voltage levels, as inaccuracies in analog peripherals, limited operation or an inability to write to non-volatile memory prevents designs from running at lower voltages. This leads to shorter battery life, larger and more expensive batteries, or a lot time spent trying to find workarounds for something that should be addressed by the microcontroller to begin with.
As such, Atmel AVR microcontrollers offer true 1.62 V operation, including all analog modules, oscillators, and flash and EEPROM programming. Meaning, various microcontroller features will not shut down one by one as the voltage drops.
“You can run the same application at different voltages without making comprises. All peripherals are available regardless of supply voltage,” the engineering rep continued. “The ADC, for example, can be used to measure the supply voltage as the cutoff voltage is approached, and when detected, it enables the application to store vital information and ensure a safe shutdown, enabling a glitch-free restart after changing batteries.”
Remember, power consumption is proportional to supply voltage, so running at as low a supply voltage as possible saves power. For battery operated devices, the Atmel AVR microcontroller can make use of the remaining power available at lower battery voltage levels as the battery depletes.
In addition to true 1.62 V operation, Atmel’s AVR peripherals with picoPower are capable of determining if incoming data requires use of the CPU or not. This feature is aptly dubbed SleepWalking, as it allows the CPU to sleep peacefully until an important event occurs, eliminating millions of false CPU wakeups. This means the CPU is no longer required to check whether or not a specific condition is present, such as an address match condition on the TWI (I2C) interface, or a sensor connected to an ADC that has exceeded a specific threshold.
Of course, entering sleep mode shuts down parts of the microcontroller to save power. Most oscillators and clocks consume a considerable amount of power when in use, and when waking up from sleep modes, these clocks need to be stable before they can be used. Waiting a long time for the clocks to be available and stable results in wasted power.
However, the Atmel AVR microcontroller is capable of waking up from sleep mode in 8 clock cycles when running from the internal RC oscillator. Moreover, a digital frequency locked loop (DFLL) replaces the traditional phase locked loop (PLL) to provide a programmable internal oscillator that is much faster and accurate.
It can also eliminate external components, which reduces the total system power consumption even more. When in sleep mode with the synchronous clocks turned off, the microcontroller can still wake up from asynchronous events such as a pin change, data received or even an I2C bus address match – enabling multiple wake-up sources from even the deepest sleep modes.
As noted above, the benefits of picoPower are clearly illustrated by Samsung’s decision to equip its flagship Galaxy S4 smartphone with Atmel’s sensor hub MCU which features picoPower tech.
“Atmel allows Galaxy S4 users the ability to enjoy applications requiring real-time motion sensing, without ever compromising battery life,” said Ingar Fredriksen, Senior Director of Flash-based Microcontrollers, Atmel Corporation. “ We look forward to teaming with Samsung on future designs.”
The Galaxy S4 is currently Samsung’s flagship Android-powered smartphone. The slick device is equipped with a 4.99-inch touchscreen with full 1080p resolution, 2600 mAh battery, quad-core processor and a 13-megapixel dual-shot camera.
Since the Galaxy S4 is a next-gen handset, the smartphone boasts increased awareness of its environmental surroundings via a number of advanced sensors, including an accelerometer, RGB light, digital compass, proximity, gyro and a barometer.
The Galaxy S4 is also fitted with Atmel’s sensor hub management MCU (microcontroller unit) which collects and processes data from all connected sensors in real-time, optimizing multiple user experiences, such as gaming, navigation and virtual reality. In addition, the sensor hub MCU lowers the overall system power consumption via picoPower technology to prevent drain and enable longer battery life.
“Samsung’s new Galaxy S4 illustrates how motion sensing is an important function in the new device,” explained Ingar Fredriksen, Senior Director of Flash-based Microcontrollers, Atmel Corporation. “With a sensor hub management solution, Atmel allows Galaxy S4 users the ability to enjoy applications requiring real-time motion sensing, without ever compromising battery life.”
Meanwhile, Sueng-jun Park, Senior Engineer, Samsung Electronics, noted that the company’s customers have come to expect the ultimate experience from the flagship lineup of Galaxy smartphones.
“For that reason, we selected the Atmel sensor hub MCU to ensure the motion-related applications, including gaming, navigation and virtual reality, are hyper sensitive to real-time direction and orientation,” he added.