Tag Archives: IoT Platforms

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.



IoT, digital mesh and smart machines among Gartner’s top tech trends

A look at the 10 technology trends that Gartner believes will be strategic for organizations in 2016.

During its annual Symposium/ITxpo, Gartner reveals the top 10 technology trends that will be strategic for organizations to implement in the coming months. This year, you’ll once again notice some rather familiar names on the recently-revealed list, along with a few newcomers that are expected to have an impact on the enterprise in 2016. According to the research firm, these notable trends include the Internet of Things (of course!), the Information of Everything, 3D printing and digital mesh.


Let’s take a closer look…

The Device Mesh

The device mesh refers to an expanding set of endpoints people use to access applications and information or interact with people, social communities, governments and businesses. Think of it as the glue between the countless mobile, wearable, consumer, home, automotive and environmental devices that make up the IoT.

Ambient User Experience

The device mesh creates the foundation for a new continuous and ambient user experience. Immersive environments delivering augmented and virtual reality hold significant potential but are only one aspect of this experience, which seamlessly flows across a shifting set of devices and interaction channels blending physical, virtual and electronic environment as the user moves from one place to another.

3D Printing Materials

Advances in the next-gen technology have already paved the way for 3D printers to spit out a range of materials, including everything from carbon fiber and glass to conductive ink and electronics. These innovations are driving user demand, as the practical applications for such equipment begins to expand into more sectors. According to Gartner, the extensive lineup of 3D-printable materials will drive a CAGR of 64.1% for enterprise 3D printer shipments through 2019.

Information of Everything

More devices, more information. Everything in the digital mesh produces, uses and transmits information. And this goes well beyond just textual, audio and video, but encompasses sensory and contextual as well. The so-called “Information of Everything” will address this influx with strategies and technologies that link data from all these different sources. As the research firm puts it, information has always existed everywhere but has often been isolated, incomplete, unavailable or unintelligible; now, the advent of semantic tools and other emerging techniques will finally give proper meaning to it all.

Advanced Machine Learning

In advanced machine learning, deep neural nets (DNNs) move beyond classic computing and information management to create systems that can autonomously learn to perceive the world — all on their own. The explosion of data sources and complexity of information makes manual classification and analysis infeasible and uneconomic. DNNs automate these tasks and make it possible to address key challenges related to the information of everything trend. This area is rapidly evolving, and organizations must assess how they can apply these technologies to gain the competitive edge.

Autonomous Agents and Things

Machine learning gives rise to a spectrum of smart machine implementations, which includes robots, autonomous vehicles and virtual personal assistants, that act in an autonomous (or at least semi-autonomous) manner. While advances in physical smart machines such as robots receive some mainstream attention, the software-based smart machines have a more near-term and broader impact. In fact, VPAs like Google Now, Microsoft’s Cortana and Apple’s Siri are becoming smarter and are precursors to autonomous agents. The emerging notion of assistance feeds into the ambient user experience in which an autonomous agent becomes the main user interface. Instead of interacting with menus, forms and buttons on a smartphone, the user speaks to an app, which is really an intelligent agent.

Adaptive Security Architecture

The complexities of digital business and the algorithmic economy combined with an emerging “hacker industry” significantly increase the threat surface for an organization. Relying on perimeter defense and rule-based security is inadequate, especially as organizations exploit more cloud-based services and open APIs for customers and partners to integrate with their systems. Gartner points out that IT leaders must focus on detecting and responding to threats, along with more traditional blocking and other measures to prevent attacks. Application self-protection, as well as user and entity behavior analytics, will help fulfill the adaptive security architecture.

Advanced System Architecture

The digital mesh and smart machines require intense computing architecture demands to make them viable for organizations. Providing this required boost are high-powered and ultraefficient neuromorphic architectures. Fueled by field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) as an underlining technology for neuromorphic architectures, there are significant gains to this architecture, such as being able to run at speeds of greater than a teraflop with high-energy efficiency.

Mesh App and Service Architecture

Monolithic, linear application designs are giving way to a more loosely coupled integrative approach: the apps and services architecture. Bringing mobile and IoT elements into the app and service architecture creates a comprehensive model to address back-end cloud scalability and front-end device mesh experiences. Looking ahead, application teams must devise new modern architectures to deliver agile and flexible cloud-based applications with dynamic user experiences that span the digital mesh.

IoT Platforms

The Internet of Things will play an integral role in the digital mesh and ambient user experience, and the emerging and dynamic world of  IoT platforms is what makes them possible.

You can check out each of Gartner’s 10 predictions in-depth here.