Tag Archives: IoT Development

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Zymbit unveils its pre-configured hardware and software IoT platform


Zymbit launches the first pre-configured hardware software platform for building, connecting and publishing IoT projects.


To kick off Maker Week, Zymbit has unveiled the first three products within its integrated Internet of Things (IoT) suite: the Zymbit Orange edge device, the Zymbit Iris interactive display and Zymbit Connect software. As previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, the platform is the first pre-configured hardware and software solution that is a finished, secure, out-of-the-box-ready product allowing seriously creative Makers and developers to get their connected prototypes off their desk and into the market in just days, not months.

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“Like the motherboard was to personal computing, Zymbit Orange is to the IoT market,” said Phil Strong, CEO of Zymbit.  “We’re giving Makers the first pre-packaged hardware and software platform built upon open components, so they can skip the painful prototype stage and start acquiring real world data and publishing it securely in a day. Zymbit takes care of the tough technology problems freeing seriously creative people to focus on bringing their IoT ideas to market quickly.”

The newly-revealed platform is comprised of three components:

  • Connectivity software simplifies the connection and sharing of secured data and the management of remote devices. Its service enables users to SSH to their gadgets, whether they are on a desk or across the country. Publishing through Zymbit’s Pub/Sub Engine lets Makers collect and share data one-to-one or one-to-many, with or without subscriber authentication.

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  • Orange hardware makes it super easy to customize and interact at the edge of the network for data acquisition and new user interfaces by integrating all essential functions onto a single, Atmel packed motherboard. This includes an Atmel | SMART SAM L21 CPU for device authentication, power and communications, a SAM D21 MCU for I/O applications, an ATECC508 crypto engine for enhanced security and an ATWINC1500 Wi-Fi controller. Ideal for those creating next-gen projects, the modular board is compatible with Atmel Xplained Pro wingboards, Arduino shields, Raspberry Pi B+, as well as ZigBee, cellular and POE options.

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  • Iris offers a new way to interact with the Internet and physical world through color, touch and scale. This unit features one 128×64 OLED display, four 96×48 OLED soft keys and a 9×9 LED matrix with a fully-equipped RGB perimeter to indicate high-level conditions.

What’s nice is that Zymbit eases the complexity of getting an idea to market by leveraging open technology (such as the incredibly popular Arduino, Raspberry Pi and Linux), open developer communities (GitHub), and open application communities to encourage the quick expansion of smart ideas and products.

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At the moment, the Santa Barbara-based startup is devising an open architecture product with enough flexibility to be suitable for most applications, from a single installation to a global deployment. Meanwhile, with the emergence of more connected gizmos and gadgets, security remains a less visible but very real barrier to mass IoT adoption. In an effort to combat these worries, Zymbit addresses privacy with a multi-level security architecture that includes silicon, hardware and software.

In line with their announcement, the company has also launched a contest to find the top five most inspiring and impactful IoT projects. Makers are encouraged to post their concepts to the Zymbit website, while the selected winners will each receive the first five Zymbit Orange devices to scale their projects.

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Interested? Head over to Zymbit’s official site to learn more, and don’t forget to come swing by our Maker Faire Bay Area booth for a hands-on demo of the platform.

Zymbit wants to accelerate IoT development


Get your real-world Internet of Things ideas to market in days, not months. 


As the next frontier of the Internet approaches, the IoT represents a compelling opportunity across a staggering array of applications. That’s why the team behind Zymbit has developed an end-to-end platform of hardware and software devices that will enable Makers, engineers and developers alike to transform their ideas into real-world products in blistering speed.

Zymbit

In an effort to deliver secure, open and interactive gadgets for our constantly-connected era, Zymbit is hoping that latest set of solutions will help accelerate adoption and interface with our physical world in a more secure, authenticated manner. The company — who we had the chance to meet at CES 2015 and will be on display in our Maker Faire booth — recently unveiled its Zymbit 1 (Z1), which is being billed as the first fully-integrated piece of IoT hardware that provide users with local and remote live data interaction, along with a low-power MCU, battery-backed operation.

“Z1’s motherboards incorporate some of the latest secure silicon from Atmel, providing accelerated processing of standard open security algorithms. A separate supervisor MPU takes care of security, while you take care of your application,” explained Zymbit CTO Alex Kaay.

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Based on the Atmel | SMART SAM D21, the Z1 motherboard is electronically robust with enhanced security provided via an ATECC108 crypto engine and an ATWINC1500 Wi-Fi controller — meaning, no additional parts are necessary. Ideal for those developing next-gen IoT projects, the modular board is super customizable and compatible with Atmel Xplained Pro wingboards, Arduino shields, Raspberry Pi B+, as well as ZigBee, cellular and POE options. The Zymbit team has even implemented discretely controlled blocks to simplify coding and to secure remote device management, while advanced power management supports battery, solar and POE operations.

The Z1 integrates all of the key components required to support a generation of global IoT applications. This includes easily transitioning between Arduino, Atmel and Raspberry Pi designs, integrated open software tools for seamless innovation, as well as a choice of wireless communication. For instance, Makers can design and implement their programs using the Zymbit’s Arduino Zero app processor and take advantage of a vast number of Arduino shields. Or, developers can connect their Raspberry Pi to utilize the various Zymbit services via SPI bus, allowing their B+ module to interact with a wide-range of “things.”

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The unique Zymbit architecture delivers three key pillars of security: authenticated data source with 72-bit ID serial number, protected data transmission with SHA 256 and private data transmission via a Wi-Fi embedded AES engine. This is accomplished through a dedicated hardware crypto engine that ensures only trusted data is exchanged between devices.

At the heart of Z1’s operation lies a network/Linux CPU, the Atmel | SMART SAMA5D4 MPU, tasked with its secure communication. Meanwhile, its security processes run within a supervisory, ultra low-power Atmel | SMART SAM L21 MCU, separately from its SAM D21 Cortex-M0+ I/O application MCU. This hardware is all housed inside a dynamically-constructed case, which features standard expansions and mounts perfect for any consumer, commercial or industrial applicable IoT product.

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Adding to its already impressive list of capabilities, Zymbit comes with a remote manager that makes it easy to connect and manage gizmos both securely and with transparency. This service enables users to SSH to their devices, whether they are on your desk or across the country. Publishing through Zymbit’s Pub/Sub Engine lets developers collect and share data one-to-one or one-to-many, with or without subscriber authentication. As you can imagine, this opens up an assortment of project possibilities, which range from changing Philips Hue color lighting with data streams to monitoring key parameters of a refrigeration system.

“We are providing some standard dashboard widgets that allow you to quickly view your device performance metrics and data-channels. Initially we are supporting time series charting, together with plugin metrics for Raspberry Pi, and Arduino Yún,” the team writes.

Interested in learning more? You can stay up-to-date with the Zymbit team’s progress here, watch our latest interview with one of the company’s co-founders below, and swing by our booth at Maker Faire Bay Area!

10 (+1) invaluable steps to launching your next IoT product


Let’s transition your products from a ‘dumb’ to ‘smart’ thing.


Many enterprises, startups and organizations have already been exposed to the innovation land grab stemming from the rapidly evolving Internet of Things (IoT). What’s available in the product/market fit arena? This is the hunt to cease some segment of the multi-trillion dollar growth reported to gain from the IoT, enabling embedded system connectivity coupled with the ecosystem value-add of a product or service. Even for that matter, transforming a mere idea that centers around connectivity solutions can present an array of challenges, particularly when one seeks to bring to market disruptive ways for the end-user to adopt from the more traditional way of doing things (e.g. GoPro, PebbleWatch, FitBit, and even to as far as e-health monitors, tire subscriptions, self-driving vehicles, smart bracelets, connected medical apparatus or Industrial Internet devices, home automation systems and more).

All together, there’s one overlaying theme to these Internet-enabled products. They are all pervasively SMART technologies that help monetize the IoT. Now, let’s get your products to transition from a once ordinary, mundane object to a much smarter, more secure “thing.” When doing so, this too can often present a few obstacles for designers, especially as it requires a unique set of skills needed to interface systems with connectivity to the cloud or Internet.

To top it all off, there may already be various product lines in existence that have a mandate to leverage a connected ecosystem/design. In fact, even new ones require connectivity to the cloud, having designs set forth to enhance via customer usage then combining this user data with other associated data points. Already, the development to enable such devices require an assortment of skills. It’s an undertaking, one in which requires knowledge and expertise to command stable connectivity in the infrastructure and design a product with security, scalability, and low power.

Moving ahead, here are some recommendations developers and Makers should know:

  1. Identify a need and market: The value of the smart device lies in in the service that it brings to the customer. Identify the need to develop a strong offer that brings value or enhances efficiency rather than creating a simple gadget. (See Marc Andreesen’s infamous blog on product/market fit for more tips).
  1. Validate your ideation: Carry out market research. Do your due diligence. Determine whether the device you think of creating already exists. Can improvements be ascertained with testimonial as an enhanced or unique experience? Indeed, benchmarking will allow you to discover any competitors, find sources of inspiration, develop a network of ideas to pool and find other areas for improvement as well.
  1. Prototype toward MVP: New device fabrication techniques, such as 3D printing, are the ideal creative validation for producing prototypes much faster and for less money. They also promote iteration, which is an integral process when designing the device towards MVP.
  1. Connect the ‘thing’ then concert it into a smart ‘thing:’ Right now, there is no mandatory standard for interconnecting different devices. Selecting the right technology is essential, particularly if the device requires low-power (speaking of low-power….) and event and state controls, which highly optimize extended power and the services to enrich the information system and eventally enhance user experience with a roadmap toward an ecosystem.
  1. Develop the application: Today, the primary smart devices are linked to an dedicated mobile app. Since the app transforms the smartphone into a remote control, it must be be easy to use for your end-users, and more importantly, simply upgraded via the cloud.
  1. Manage the data: Fitted with a multitude of sensors, connected gadgets generate an enormous amount of data that need to be processed and stored with the utmost security across all layers even to as far as using cryptography in memory. (After all, you don’t want your design become a ‘Tales from the Crypt-O” horror story.) 
  1. Analyze and exploit the data: By processing and analyzing the data, a company can extract the necessary information to deploy the right service in the right place at the right time.
  1. Measure the impact of the smart device: Set up probes to monitor your devices and data traffic quality. Answer questions objectively as to how it would securely scale and evolve should there be an instant high volume success and usage. This will help you measure the impact of the smart device in real time and adapt its actions accordingly, and model into the product roadmap and MVP spec.
  1. Iterate to fine-tune the device’s use: After launching the project, the process has only begun. Feedback needs to be taken into account in order to adjust and fine-tune the project. Due to its very nature, digital technology requires continuous adaptation and iteration. “Try and learn” and present riskier ideas to products are the fundamental principles behind transformation when imposing a new use.
  1. Prototype again: Continuous adaptation and iteration means that your company needs to produce a new prototype.
Here’s 10 + 1 invaluable Step to Launching Your IoT Project or Products

Here’s 10 + 1 invaluable steps to launching your IoT project or product.

11. Take advantage of the hands-on training in your region.

As an application space, IoT sensor nodes are enabled by a number of fundamental technologies, namely a low-power MCU, some form of wireless communication and strong security. With this in mind, the newly revealed Atmel IoT Secure Hello World series will offer attendees hands-on training, introducing them to some of the core technologies making the Internet of Things possible, including Wi-Fi and CryptoAuthentication.

What’s more, these sessions will showcase Atmel’s diverse Wi-Fi capabilities and CryptoAuthentication hardware key storage in the context of the simplest possible use cases. This includes learning how to send temperature information to any mobile device via a wireless network and how to enable the remote control of LEDs on a SAM D21 Xplained Pro board over a Wi-Fi network using a WINC1500. In addition, attendees will explore authentication of IoT nodes, as well as how to implement a secure communications link — something that will surely come in handy when preparing to launch your next smart product.

As you can see, so far, everyone is LOVING the Hello World sessions — from hardcore embedded engineers to hobbyists. Here some recent social activity following the recent Tech on Tour events in both Manchester and Heathrow, UK. Need we say more? These tweets say a thousand words!

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Connected and ready to go… all before lunch! (Yes, there’s food as well!)

 

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Atmel’s Tech on Tour and proud partner EBV Elektronik proudly thankful for the successful event in Manchester, UK.

 

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Atmel’s Tech on Tour just successfully completed a full house attendance training in Manchester, UK

 

Find out how you too can receive in-depth IoT training. As the Atmel | Tech on Tour makes it way throughout Europe, Asia, and North America, make sure you know when the team arrives in your town!  Don’t miss it. Upon registering, you will even receive a WINC1500 Xplained Pro Starter Kit to take home.

Atmel and MXCHIP develop Wi-Fi platform with secure cloud access for IoT apps


SAM G MCU + WILC1000 Wi-Fi SoC + MiCO IoT OS = Secure Cloud Access 


Atmel and MXCHIP, a top 10 China IoT start-up according to Techno, have announced that the two companies are coming together to develop an ultra-low power Internet of Things (IoT) platform with secure Wi-Fi access to the cloud, enabling designers to quickly bring their connected devices to market. This collaboration combines ultra-low power Atmel | SMART SAM G ARM Cortex-M4-based MCUs and the SmartConnect WILC1000 Wi-Fi solution with MXCHIP’s MiCO IoT operating system, servicing a full range of smart device developers for IoT applications.

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“We are excited to team with MXCHIP to bring secure cloud access to IoT developers with this ultra-low power and secure, connected platform,” said Reza Kazerounian, Atmel SVP and General Manager, Microcontroller Business Unit. “In an effort to accelerate the growth of IoT devices, such as wearables and consumer battery-operated devices worldwide, this platform enables embedded designers to focus on their differentiated smart devices without requiring expertise on lowering power consumption, security and wireless connectivity. Our joint efforts will enable more designers of all levels to bring their smart, connected designs quickly to market.”

With the rapid growth of the IoT market, these smart devices will require secure access to the cloud on what will likely be billions of battery-operated devices. The new platform will pair Atmel’s proven ultra-low power SAM G series of MCUs, designed for wearables and sensor hub management, and the secure ultra-low power SmartConnect WILC1000 Wi-Fi solution along with MXCHIP’s leading MiCO IoT OS for next-generation IoT applications. This integrated platform gives IoT designers the confidence that their battery-operated devices will have longer battery life and their data will be securely transferred to the cloud.

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The Atmel WILC1000 is an IEEE 802.11b/g/n IoT link controller leveraging its ultra-low power Wi-Fi transceiver with a fully-integrated power amplifier. This solution delivers the industry’s best communication range of up to +20.5dBm output, ideal for connected home devices. Embedded within packages as small as a 3.2mm x 3.2mm WLCSP, the WILC1000 link controller leverages in this platform Atmel’s SAM G MCU, an ideal solution for low-power IoT applications and optimized for lower power consumption, incorporating large SRAM, high performance and operating efficiency with floating-point unit in an industry-leading 2.84mm x 2.84mm package.

When combined with secure Wi-Fi technology, the joint IoT platform connects directly to each other or to a local area network (LAN), enabling remote system monitoring or control. For increased security, the platform comes with an optional Atmel ATECC508A — the industry’s first crypto device to integrate ECDH key agreement, making it easy to add confidentiality to digital systems including IoT nodes used in home automation, industrial networking, accessory and consumable authentication, medical, mobile and other applications.

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“This collaboration combines synergies from both companies to IoT designers including Atmel’s global presence with MXCHIP’s local resources enabling IoT designers to smoothly implement cloud services for their smart, connected devices in China and around the world,” said Wang Yong Hong, CEO, MXCHIP. “Our platform combines both ease-of-use and simplicity allowing IoT designers from all levels to access cloud services worldwide ranging from professional designers for smart, connected IoT devices to Makers, educators and hobbyists. We will also collaborate on a number of other fronts with Atmel including IoT research, promotions, and share our IoT knowledge on smart, secure and connected devices across multiple industries.”

Interested? To accelerate the IoT design process, the platform — which will be available in May 2015 — includes the MiCOKit-G55 development kit, technical documentation, application notes and a software development kit.

4 reasons why Atmel is ready to ride the IoT wave


The IoT recipe comprises of three key technology components: Sensing, computing and communications.


In 2014, a Goldman Sachs’ report took many people by surprise when it picked Atmel Corporation as the company best positioned to take advantage of the rising Internet of Things (IoT) tsunami. At the same time, the report omitted tech industry giants like Apple and Google from the list of companies that could make a significant impact on the rapidly expanding IoT business. So what makes Atmel so special in the IoT arena?

The San Jose, California–based chipmaker has been proactively building its ‘SMART’ brand of 32-bit ARM-based microcontrollers that boasts an end-to-end design platform for connected devices in the IoT realm. The company with two decades of experience in the MCU business was among the first to license ARM’s low-power processors for IoT chips that target smart home, industrial automation, wearable electronics and more.

Atmel and IoT (Internet of Things)

Goldman Sachs named Atmel a leader in the Internet of Things (IoT) market.

Goldman Sachs named Atmel a leader in the Internet of Things (IoT) market

A closer look at the IoT ingredients and Atmel’s product portfolio shows why Goldman Sachs called Atmel a leader in the IoT space. For starters, Atmel is among the handful of chipmakers that cover all the bases in IoT hardware value chain: MCUs, sensors and wireless connectivity.

1. A Complete IoT Recipe

The IoT recipe comprises of three key technology components: Sensing, computing and communications. Atmel offers sensor products and is a market leader in MCU-centric sensor fusion solutions than encompass context awareness, embedded vision, biometric recognition, etc.

For computation—handling tasks related to signal processing, bit manipulation, encryption, etc.—the chipmaker from Silicon Valley has been offering a diverse array of ARM-based microcontrollers for connected devices in the IoT space.

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Atmel has reaffirmed its IoT commitment through a number of acquisitions.

Finally, for wireless connectivity, Atmel has cobbled a broad portfolio made up of low-power Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Zigbee radio technologies. Atmel’s $140 million acquisition of Newport Media in 2014 was a bid to accelerate the development of low-power Wi-Fi and Bluetooth chips for IoT applications. Moreover, Atmel could use Newport’s product expertise in Wi-Fi communications for TV tuners to make TV an integral part of the smart home solutions.

Furthermore, communications across the Internet depends on the TCP/IP stack, which is a 32-bit protocol for transmitting packets on the Internet. Atmel’s microcontrollers are based on 32-bit ARM cores and are well suited for TCP/IP-centric Internet communications fabric.

2. Low Power Leadership

In February 2014, Atmel announced the entry-level ARM Cortex M0+-based microcontrollers for the IoT market. The SAM D series of low-power MCUs—comprising of D21, D10 and D11 versions—featured Atmel’s signature high-end features like peripheral touch controller, USB interface and SERCOM module. The connected peripherals work flawlessly with Cortex M0+ CPU through the Event System that allows system developers to chain events in software and use an event to trigger a peripheral without CPU involvement.

According to Andreas Eieland, Director of Product Marketing for Atmel’s MCU Business Unit, the IoT design is largely about three things: Battery life, cost and ease-of-use. The SAM D microcontrollers aim to bring the ease-of-use and price-to-performance ratio to the IoT products like smartwatches where energy efficiency is crucial. Atmel’s SAM D family of microcontrollers was steadily building a case for IoT market when the company’s SAM L21 microcontroller rocked the semiconductor industry in March 2015 by claiming the leadership in low-power Cortex-M IoT design.

Atmel’s SAM L21 became the lowest power ARM Cortex-M microcontroller when it topped the EEMBC benchmark measurements. It’s plausible that another MCU maker takes over the EEMBC benchmarks in the coming months. However, according to Atmel’s Eieland, what’s important is the range of power-saving options that an MCU can bring to product developers.

“There are many avenues to go down on the low path, but they are getting complex,” Eieland added. He quoted features like multiple clock domains, event management system and sleepwalking that provide additional levels of configurability for IoT product developers. Such a set of low-power technologies that evolves in successive MCU families can provide product developers with a common platform and a control on their initiatives to lower power consumption.

3. Coping with Digital Insecurity

In the IoT environment, multiple device types communicate with each other over a multitude of wireless interfaces like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Low Energy. And IoT product developers are largely on their own when it comes to securing the system. The IoT security is a new domain with few standards and IoT product developers heavily rely on the security expertise of chip suppliers.

Atmel offers embedded security solutions for IoT designs.

Atmel, with many years of experience in crypto hardware and Trusted Platform Modules, is among the first to offer specialized security hardware for the IoT market. It has recently shipped a crypto authentication device that has integrated the Elliptic Curve Diffie-Hellman (ECDH) security protocol. Atmel’s ATECC508A chip provides confidentiality, data integrity and authentication in systems with MCUs or MPUs running encryption/decryption algorithms like AES in software.

4. Power of the Platform

The popularity of 8-bit AVR microcontrollers is a testament to the power of the platform; once you learn to work on one MCU, you can work on any of the AVR family microcontrollers. And same goes for Atmel’s Smart family of microcontrollers aimed for the IoT market. While ARM shows a similarity among its processors, Atmel exhibits the same trait in the use of its peripherals.

Low-power SAM L21 builds on features of SAM D MCUs.

A design engineer can conveniently work on Cortex-M3 and Cortex -M0+ processor after having learned the instruction set for Cortex-M4. Likewise, Atmel’s set of peripherals for low-power IoT applications complements the ARM core benefits. Atmel’s standard features like sleep modes, sleepwalking and event system are optimized for ultra-low-power use, and they can extend IoT battery lifetime from years to decades.

Atmel, a semiconductor outfit once focused on memory and standard products, began its transformation toward becoming an MCU company about eight years ago. That’s when it also started to build a broad portfolio of wireless connectivity solutions. In retrospect, those were all the right moves. Fast forward to 2015, Atmel seems ready to ride on the market wave created by the IoT technology juggernaut.

Interested? You may also want to read:

Atmel’s L21 MCU for IoT Tops Low Power Benchmark

Atmel’s New Car MCU Tips Imminent SoC Journey

Atmel’s Sensor Hub Ready to Wear


Majeed Ahmad is 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.