Tag Archives: IoT Edge Nodes

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.

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


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


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

ipso2

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

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

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

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

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

SAMR21_XPRO

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

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

SAM R21 device IO assignments:

SAMR21

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

AtmelStudio6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Atmel provides a tool call Atmel Wireless Composer.

WirelessComposer

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

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

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

mesh

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

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

ExampleProj

ExampleProj1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Atmel-IoT-Low-Power-wearable

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.

Simply the highest performing Cortex-M MCU


Why develop a new MCU instead of using a high-performance MPU? Eric Esteve says “simplicity.”


By Eric Esteve

If you target high growth markets like wearable (sport watches, fitness bands, medical), industrial (mPOS, telematics, etc.) or smart appliances, you expect using a power efficient MCU delivering high DMIPs count. We are talking about systems requiring a low bill of material (BoM) both in terms of cost and devices count. Using a MCU (microController) and not a MPU (microProcessor) allows for the minimizing of power consumption as such device like the SAM S70 runs at the 300 MHz range, not the GigaHertz, while delivering 1500 CoreMark. In fact, it’s the industry’s highest performing Cortex-M MCUs, but the device is still a microcontroller, offering multiple interface peripherals and the related control capabilities, like 10/100 Ethernet MAC, HS USB port (including PHY), up to 8 UARTs, two SPI, three I2C, SDIOs and even interfaces with Atmel Wi-Fi and ZigBee companion IC.

Atmel has a wide MCU offering from the lower end 8-bit MCU to the higher end Cortex-A5 MPU.

The Cortex-M7 family fits within the SAM4 Cortex-M4 and the SAM9 ARM9 products.
The Cortex-M7 family offers high performance up to 645 Dhrystone MIPS but as there is no Memory Management Unit, we can not run Operating System such as Linux. This family targets applications with high performance requirements and running RTOS or bare metal solution.

This brand new SAM S/E/V 70 32-bit MCU is just filling the gap between the 32-bit MPU families based on Cortex-A5 ARM processor core delivering up to 850 DMIPS and the other 32-bit MCU based on ARM Cortex-M. Why develop a new MCU instead of using one of this high performance MPU? Simplicity is the first reason, as the MCU does not require using an operating system (OS) like Linux or else. Using a simple RTOS or even a scheduler will be enough. A powerful MCU will help to match increasing application requirements, like:

  • Network Layers processing (gateway IoT)
  • Higher Data Transfer Rates
  • Better Audio and Image Processing to support standard evolution
  • Graphical User Interface
  • Last but not least: Security with AES-256, Integrity Check Monitor (SHA), TRNG and Memory Scrambling

Building MCU architecture probably requires more human intelligence to fulfill all these needs in a smaller and cheaper piece of silicon than for a MPU! Just look at the SAM S70 block diagram below, for instance.

SAM S70 Block diagram

SAM S70 Block diagram

The memory configuration is a good example. Close to the CPU, implementing 16k Bytes Instruction and 16k Bytes Data caches is a well-known practice. On top of the cache, the MCU can access Tightly Coupled Memories (TCM) through a controller running at MPU speed, or 300 MHz. These TCM are part of (up to) 384 Kbytes of SRAM, implemented by 16 Kbytes blocks and this SRAM can also be accessed through a 150 MHz bus matrix by most of the peripheral functions, either directly through a DMA (HS USB or Camera interface), either through a peripheral bridge. The best MCU architecture should provide the maximum flexibility: a MCU is not an ASSP but a general purpose device, targeting a wide range of applications. The customer benefits from flexibility when partitioning the SRAM into System RAM, Instruction TCM and Data TCM.

SRAM Partition Atmel Cortex M7
As you can see, the raw CPU performance efficiency can be increased by smart memory architecture. However, in terms of embedded Flash memory, we come back to a basic rule: the most eFlash is available on-chip, the easier and the safer will be the programming. The SAM S70 (or E70) family offers 512 Kbytes, 1 MB or 2 MB of eFlash… and this is a strong differentiator with the direct competitor offering only up to 1 MB of eFlash. Nothing magical here as the SAM S70 is processed on 65nm when the competition is lagging on 90nm. Targeting a most advanced node is not only good for embedding more Flash, it’s also good for CPU performance (300 MHz delivering 1500 DMIPS, obviously better than 200 MHz) — and it’s finally very positive in power consumption.

Indeed, Atmel has built a four mode strategy to minimize overall power consumption:

  • Backup mode (VDDIO only) with low power regulators for SRAM retention
  • Wait mode: all clocks and functions are stopped except some peripherals can be configured to wake up the system and Flash can be put in deep power down mode
  • Sleep mode: the processor is stopped while all other functions can be kept running
  • Active mode
Atmel's SMART | ARM Cortex M7 SAM S Series Target Applications

Target Applications depicted above for Atmel’s SMART | ARM based Cortex M7 SAM S Series. The SAM S series are general-purpose Flash MCUs based on the high-performance 32-bit ARM based Cortex-M7 RISC processors with floating point unit (FPU).

If you think about IoT, the SAM S70 is suited to support gateway applications, among many other potential uses, ranging from wearable (medical or sport), industrial or automotive (in this case it will be the SAM V70 MCU, offering EMAC and dual CAN capability on top of S70).


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 SemiWiki.com. This blog first appeared on SemiWiki on February 22, 2015.