Tag Archives: Internet of Things

The power of the platform in IoT and wearable designs


What IoT developers want? A candid look at the wearable designs shows how platform approach is helping design engineers confront daunting challenges in the IoT arena.


“Providers become platforms” is the second most prominent finding of the Forbes story entitled “The Five Most Disruptive Innovations at CES 2016.” Interestingly, all the five disrupting forces outlined in the story relate to the Internet of Things blaze one way or the other. A coincidence? Not really.

CES 2016 was mostly about demonstrating how the advent of a connected world is possible with the creation of an array of smart and interconnected devices. However, the IoT juggernaut, while exploring the true value of connectivity, also requires new business models, which in turn, makes time-to-market even more critical.

Smart badge brings efficiency in enterprise, hospitality and healthcare

Take smart wearable devices, for instance, which were arguably the biggest story on the CES floor this year. A wearable design comprises of one or more sensors, connectivity solution like a radio controller, a processor to carry out system-level functions, storage to log information, display and battery. And what IoT and wearable developers want?

A platform that allows them to facilitate the finished products quickly and efficiently. The design engineers simply can’t afford experimentation with the basic blocks as they need a precedence of basic hardware and software functions working efficiently and smoothly.

Anatomy of Wearable Design

First and foremost, wearable designs confront power constraints even greater than mobile devices. Not surprisingly, ultra-low-power MCUs lie at the heart of wearable designs because they combine flash, on-chip RAM and multiple interface options while intelligently turning power on and off during activity and idle periods, respectively.

The next design conundrum relates to the form factor because these devices are being worn, so they have to be small and light. That, in turn, demands even smaller circuit boards with a greater level of integration. Enter the IoT platforms.

Amid power, performance and form factor considerations, the choice of a right IoT platform means that designers will most likely get the basic building blocks right. And that will allow IoT developers to focus on the application, differentiation and customer needs.

That’s what Atmel is aiming for with the launch of a reference platform for cost-optimized IoT and wearable applications. Atmel’s ultra-low-power platform, which was announced over the week of CES, is aimed at battery-operated wearable devices requiring activity and environment monitoring.

Power has a critical role in the key IoT building blocks

IoT Developer Platform

Below are the key highlights of Atmel’s platform offering for the IoT and wearable designs.

Processor: Microcontroller’s low-power requirements make it a likely choice in wearable designs; MCUs that communicate and process sensor inputs draw very little power from the battery while asleep. Remember the L21 microcontroller that made headlines back in 2015 after leading the low-power benchmarks conducted by EEMBC ULPBench.

Atmel’s SMART SAM L21 MCU — based on ARM’s lowest power Cortex-M0+ processing core — scored 185 in the benchmark and was able to bring the power consumption down to 35µA/MHz in active mode and 200nA in sleep mode.

Communications: The BTLC1000 is an ultra-low power Bluetooth Smart (BLE 4.1) system-on-chip (SoC) that comes integrated with ARM Cortex-M0 core, transceiver, modem, MAC, power amplifier, TR switch, and 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.

Atmel claims that its BTLC1000 Bluetooth solution — a 2.2mm x 2.1mm wafer level chip scale package — is 25 percent smaller than the nearest competitor solution. And Electronic Products magazine has corroborated that premise by calling it the lowest power BLE chipset that consumes less than 4mA in RX and less than 3mA in TX at 0dbm.

Security: Atmel is among the first chipmakers to offer specialized security hardware for the IoT market. Its microcontrollers come integrated with anti-cloning, authentication and encryption features.

Display: Wearable devices often show data such as time, measurements, maps and notifications on a display, and here, capacitive touch provides a very intuitive form of interfacing with the information. Atmel’s MCUs can directly manage capacitive buttons through software libraries that the firm provides.

Furthermore, Atmel offers standalone display controllers that support capacitive button, slider and wheel (BSW) implementations. These touch solutions can be tuned to moisture environments, a key requirement for many wearable applications. Atmel’s maXTouch capacitive touchscreen controller technology is a leading interface solution for its low-power consumption, precision and sensitivity.

Sensors: The development framework for the wearable designs features BHI160 6-axis SmartHub motion sensor and BME280 environment sensor from Bosch. It’s worth noting that Bosch is one of Atmel’s sensor partners. However, wearable product designers are free to pick sensors of their choice from Atmel’s other sensor partners.

Software support: The software package includes RTOS, Atmel’s Studio 7 IDE and Atmel START, which Atmel claims is the world’s first intuitive web-based tool for software configuration and code generation. Moreover, Atmel Software Framework (ASF) offers communication libraries for Bluetooth radios.

Atmel's developer platform for IoT and wearable designs

The truth is that the design game has moved from hardware and software functional blocks to complete developer ecosystems since the iPhone days. Now the ecosystem play is taking platforms to a whole new level in the design diversity that comes with the IoT products.

The choice of a right IoT platform means that designers will most likely get the basic building blocks right, and then, they can focus on the application and customer needs. It also provides design engineers space for differentiation, a critical factor in making wearable devices a consumer success.

 

 

30 stats that prove the IoT has arrived


Numbers don’t lie! 


If you’re still unsure as to whether the Internet of Things has arrived, just take a look at these figures.

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  • 50 percent of IoT solutions will originate in startups less than three years old by 2017. (Gartner)
  • 50 million smart gadgets will be sold during this holiday season. (MediaPost)
  • 6.4 billion connected things will be in use by 2016. (Gartner)
  • 5.5 million new things will get connected every day in 2016. (Gartner)
  • 20.8 billion devices will be connected globally by 2020. (Gartner)
  • 34 billion devices will be connected to the Internet by 2020. (BI Intelligence)
  • 4 billion connected things will be in use by the consumer sector in 2016. (Gartner)
  •  13.5 billion smart gadgets will be used by consumers in 2020. (Gartner)
  • $698 billion spent globally on IoT this year. (IDC)
  • $546 billion in will be spent on connected objects by consumers next year. (Gartner)
  • $868 billion will be spent on connected things by the enterprise in 2016. (Gartner)
  • $1.3 trillion will be spent globally on the IoT in the next four years. (IDC)
  • $6 trillion will be spent on IoT solutions over the next five years. (BI Intelligence)
  • $11 trillion is the total impact that the IoT applications can have on the economy by 2025. (McKinsey)
  • $7.4 billion in investments over 887 deals have been made in the IoT space in the last six years. (CB Insights)
  • $14.4 trillion is how much the global IoT market will be worth by 2022, with the majority invested in improving customer experiences. Industry-specific use cases will generate $9.5 trillion (66%) including smart grid and connected personal vehicles, while cross-industry applications will generate $4.9 trillion (34%) including future of work initiatives and travel avoidance. (Cisco)
  • 174 million smart homes are in existence worldwide this year. (MediaPost)
  • 339 million homes will become smart in 2016. (MediaPost)
  • 21% of all U.S. households are already using smart home technologies. (Strategy Analytics)
  • 45 percent of all Americans will either own smart home technology or invest in it by the end of 2016. (Coldwell Banker)
  • 250 million connected cars will be on the road in 2020. (Gartner)
  • 1 in 5 cars on the road will have some form of wireless network connection by 2020. (Gartner)
  • 1.6 billion connected things will be used by smart cities in 2016. (Gartner)
  • 518 million connected things will be used by smart commercial buildings in 2016. (Gartner)
  • $101 billion in revenue will be generated on commercial building automation systems in 2021. (Navigant Research)
  • 76.1 million wearable devices shipped in 2015. (IDC)
  • 228 million smart wearables to be shipped in 2020. (Berg Insight)
  • 173 million connected wearables will ship in 2019. (IDC)
  • 34.3 million smartwatches will be shipped around the world in 2016. (IDC)
  • 88.3 million smartwatches will ship by 2019. (IDC)
  • 21 million wearable devices shipped in Q3 2015 alone. (IDC)
  • 1.43 billion smartphones shipped in 2015. (IDC)
  • 40 billion wireless connected devices will be active in 2020. (ABI Research)
  • 19 billion Bluetooth-enabled gadgets will ship over the next five years. (ABI Research)
  • 400 million BLE Beacons will ship by 2020. (ABI Research)
  • 40 percent of the top 100 discrete manufacturers will rely on connected products to provide product as a service. (IDC)

While not all of the forecasts match up completely, they all share the same upward trajectory. Safe to say, the IoT is here!

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.

IoT spending will grow from $699 billion in 2015 to $1.3 trillion in 2019


Billions of devices, trillions of dollars! Insurance, healthcare and consumer markets expected to see the fastest growth over the next five years.


Worldwide spending on the Internet of Things is expected to be $698.6 billion this year and grow at a 17% CAGR to nearly $1.3 trillion in 2019, according to the International Data Corporation (IDC).

internetofthingsvisualized.jpg

At the moment, the Asia-Pacific region accounts for more than 40% of worldwide IoT spending, followed by North America and Western Europe. The APAC’s activity is being fueled by developing countries’ continuing technology investment needs, government investments incorporating more IoT components, and a burgeoning new consumer class spending more on smart goods and services.

However, the regions that will experience the fastest growth in IoT spending over the five years are Latin America (26.5% CAGR), followed by Western Europe, and Central and Eastern Europe.

While manufacturing and transportation led the world in IoT spending ($165.6 billion and $78.7 billion, respectively) in 2015, the insurance, healthcare and consumer verticals are projected to experience the fastest growth through 2020.

IoT

The IDC also points out some of the unique fastest growing use cases in each global region. Take North America, for example. The IoT is thriving thanks to retailers deploying in-store contextual marketing like beacons, real-time streams of data from mobile devices, online consumer activity, as well as video cameras to gain insight into behavior and trends.

In Asia-Pacific, vehicle-mounted devices are being employed to monitor driver behavior to determine insurance rates, whereas in EMEA, a great deal of money is being poured into smart buildings to automate maintenance and operations. Meanwhile in Latin America, the fastest growing IoT category is field service, where service data is automatically measured, recorded and transferred remotely for monitoring and use by technicians.

This report piggybacks off recent research from Gartner which estimated that by the end of 2016, 6.4 billion devices will be connected to the Internet with as many as 5.5 million new things joining every day. That number represents a 30% jump from 2015, and will continue rising to 20.8 billion by 2020.

SmartEgg connects all your remotes to your phone


A truly universal and eggscellent remote for the Internet of Things.


It seems like today we have remote controls for everything and keeping track of them can be a hassle. Our current home entertainment systems alone require more than one remote to rev up our TV, cable box, audio system and DVD player. Do we honestly use all the buttons on each of these remotes? Unlikely. The team at AICO Technologies are making things easier for us by replacing all of those remote controls with just one.

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You may be thinking, “But universal remotes already exist!” True, but what’s been on the market is either only for home entertainment or smart home automation. What about the other appliances with controls in our house? Meet SmartEgg, an all-in-one smart remote that pairs to your phone. It not only controls your home electronics, but also your thermostat and any infrared devices via Bluetooth.

SmartEgg is backed with a cloud database that already contains a growing list of over 5,500 remote controllers and 125,000 infrared hex codes, so it can sync your phone to any of your devices. Additionally, SmartEgg has self-learning capabilities for the slim chance that your gadget is not in the database.

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Since SmartEgg stores all the control keys of your appliances, you can combine keys from any of those controllers to fit your scene. Its user-friendly interface allows you to customize the control buttons by removing unwanted buttons and reordering them. Now you’ll have a control with only the functions you need. This is ideal for your home entertainment experience. The process of turning on your TV and DVD player, then switching to DVD input and pressing play, is minimized to a single click.

What really sets SmartEgg apart from other universal remotes is its smart technology. Living up to its name, SmartEgg interacts with other devices if certain conditions are meet. For example, it can mute the TV when you’re receiving a call or set the thermostat an hour early before you arrive home from work. The unit employs Bluetooth Low Energy proximity sensing, also known as iBeacon technology, which triggers a scene automatically whenever your phone is detected nearby.

photo-original

The SmartEgg boasts a wireless reach of 20m (65ft) indoors and 50m (164ft) outdoors, as well as an infrared range of more than 10m (32ft). With SmartEgg, you no longer have the inconvenience of replacing batteries for your various remote controls. Its battery consumes less energy, making it last over 12 months.

Interested? Head over to the SmartEgg’s Kickstarter page, where the AICO team is nearing its $50,000 goal. Delivery is expected to get underway in February 2016.

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.

sec-1

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.