The Feather 32U4 Bluefruit is said to be their take on an ‘all-in-one’ Arduino-compatible and Bluetooth Low Energy unit with native USB support and battery charging.
“Bluetooth Low Energy is the hottest new low-power, 2.4GHz spectrum wireless protocol. In particular, its the only wireless protocol that you can use with iOS without needing special certification and it’s supported by all modern smartphones,” Adafruit explains. “This makes it excellent for use in portable projects that will make use of an iOS or Android phone or tablet. It also is supported in Mac OS X and Windows 8+.”
Like its other siblings, the Feather 32u4 is built around the mighty ATmega32U4 clocked at 8 MHz and at 3.3V logic. This chip boasts 32K of Flash and 2K of RAM, along with built-in USB so not only does it already integrate a USB-to-Serial program and debug capabilities, it can also act like a mouse, keyboard and MIDI device.
As Adafruit notes, they’ve gone ahed and added a connector for a 3.7V LiPo and a 100mA battery charger. However, the Feather 32U4 will run just fine via microUSB.
“But, if you do have a battery, you can take it on the go, then plug in the USB to recharge,” the team adds. “The Feather will automatically switch over to USB power when its available. We also tied the battery through a divider to an analog pin, so you can measure and monitor the battery voltage to detect when you need a recharge.”
Measuring only 2.0″ x 0.9″ x 0.28” without headers soldered and weighing 5.7 grams, the Feather can be implemented in a wide range of projects. The extremely lightweight and compact board has plenty of pins (20 GPIO), with eight PWM and 10 analog inputs, four mounting holes, a power/enable pin and a reset button. What’s more, the board makes use of the leftover space for a Bluefruit BTLE module as well as two status indicator LEDs.
“The board is capable of much more than just sending strings over the air! Thanks to an easy to learn AT command set, you have full control over how the device behaves, including the ability to define and manipulate your own GATT Services and Characteristics, or change the way that the device advertises itself for other Bluetooth Low Energy devices to see. You can also use the AT commands to query the die temperature, check the battery voltage, and more, check the connection RSSI or MAC address, and tons more.”
With Adafruit’s Bluefruit mobile app, you can also quickly prototype your next IoT project using your smartphone or tablet as a controller. This data can be read over BLE and piped into the ATmega32U4.
Among the use cases listed by Adafruit include an HID keyboard, a heart rate monitor and a UriBeacon, to name just a few. The chip comes fully assembled and tested with a USB bootloader that enables you to seamlessly program it with the Arduino IDE.
With billions of AVR chips already deployed throughout the world, it’s now time to take them into space!
This news may come as one small step for boards, one giant leap for Maker-kind: the ATmegaS128 has launched! Not only does Atmel’s first uC Rad Tolerant device share the popular features of the megaAVR family, this out-of-the-world MCU delivers full wafer lot traceability, 64-lead ceramic package (CQFP), space screening, space qualification according to QML and ESCC flow and total ionizing dose up to 30 Krad (Si) for space applications. What’s more, the ATMegaS128 is “latch up” immune thanks to a dedicated silicon process: SEL LET > 62.5Mev at 125°C, 8MHz/3.3V. SEU to heavy ions is estimated to 10-3 error/device/day for low Earth orbit applications.
With billions of commercial AVR chips widely deployed throughout the world, the new space-grade AVR family benefits from support of the Atmel Studio ecosystem and lets aerospace developers to the industrial-version of the ATmega to prototype their applications for a fraction of the cost. The latest board is available in a ceramic hermetic packaging and is pin-to-pin and drop-in compatible with existing ATmega128 MCUs, allowing flexibility between commercial and qualified devices, enabling faster-time-to-market and minimizing development costs. With this cost-effective approach and a plastic Hirel-qualified version, the ATmegaS128 can be also considered in more general aerospace applications including class A and B avionic critical cases where radiation tolerance is also a key requirement.
“With nearly three decades of aerospace experience, we are thrilled to bring one of our most popular MCU cores to space — the AVR MCU,” explained Patrick Sauvage, General Manager of Atmel’s Aerospace Business Unit. “By improving radiation performance with our proven Atmel AVR cores and ecosystem, the new ATmegaS128 provides developers targeting space applications a smaller footprint, lower power and full analog integration such as motor and sensor control along with data handling functions for payload and platform. We look forward to putting more Atmel solutions into space.”
Among its notable features, the space-ready MCU boasts high endurance and non-volatile memory, robust peripherals (including 8- and 16-bit timers/counters, six PWM channels, 8-channel, 10-bit ADC, TWI/USARTs/SPI serial interface, programmable watchdog timer and on-chip analog compactor), power-on reset and programmable brown-out detection, internal calibrated RC oscillator, external and internal interrupt sources, six sleep modes, as well as power-down, standby and extended standby.
The STK600 starter kit and development system for the ATmegaS128 will provide users a quick start in developing code on the AVR with advanced features for prototyping and testing new designs. The recently-revealed AVRs are supported by the proven Atmel Studio IDP for developing and debugging Atmel | SMART ARM-based and AVR MCU applications, along with the Atmel Software Framework. Intrigued? Check out the uC Rad Tolerant device here.
This board is like an Arduino, but with audio superpowers!
In an effort to bring analog capabilities to the Arduino environment, Phillip Stevens has developed a board he calls the Goldilocks Analogue.
The Goldilocks Analogue, which was also named a quarterfinalist in this year’s Hackaday Prize, provides Makers with all of the analog audio input and output they could possibly need, together with sufficient data storage options. With this board, Makers will have the ability to delve into the world of digital synthesis, human auditory augmentation, sound activated systems, signal processing and analog process control, among many other things.
If the name seems vaguely familiar, that’s because you may recall Stevens from his 2013 project, Goldilocks. Two years ago, the Maker devised an Arduino Uno clone using the ATmega1284P MCU for applications that required more SRAM and Flash memory than what the ATmega328P could support, all without sacrificing the Uno’s footprint. Although his initial efforts achieved its goal, the resulting platform still lacked one function that he believed was a necessity: high-quality analog input and output.
“The world is analog, but having an ADC capability without having a corresponding digital-to-analog capability, is like having a real world recorder with no means to playback and recover these real world recordings,” the Maker explains.
Fast forward to 2015 and the successor is yet again built around the mighty ATmega1284P. As Steven points out, the external analog output platform has been optimized to provide dual-channel stereo output (up to 48k samples per second) by overclocking the AVR MCU to 24.576MHz. The Goldilocks Analog is equipped with a 12-bit DAC that offers dual-stereo channels with output voltage ranging from 0V to 4.095V, which is fed to both a high-current capable op-amp and a dedicated headphone amplifier. These options enable optimal reproduction of audio, as well as DC level referenced analog outputs.
“The DAC is driven by the ATmega1284P USART1 in Master SPI Mode. This frees up the normal Arduino SPI bus to access the MicroSD card, or either of the two on-board SPI interface memory devices, 23LC1024 256KB SRAM and AT25M01 256KB EEPROM, without any timing constraints,” the Maker writes.
Meanwhile, audio input is managed by an AGC microphone amplifier. Gain is adjustable from 40dB (default for typical smartphone headset microphone) up to 60dB, which also lends support to electro-cardio or other high sensitivity applications. Aside from that, he included a level shifted non-amplified signal (for line-in).
According to Stevens, the main switched-mode power supply is rated at well over 2A, and is filtered by a second order LC network to provide a clean 5V for the analog platform. Lastly, the Goldilocks Analogue incorporates a 3.3V 1A regulator for the microSD card and 3.3V shields. The negative supply for the op-amp is handled by a -3V inverting charge pump regulator and filtered by a first order LC network.
So what can you create with this board? While the possibilities are endless, example projects include a triple oscillator digital synthesizer, a digital walkie-talkie, a sound-sensing alarm and even an Internet-connected baby monitor. And to make all of the analog power easy-to-use, the Goldilocks Analogue is compatible with the Visuino IDE for drag-and-drop signal programming.
“Using a smartphone-compatible 3.5mm socket, a microphone input and headphone outputs can connect your sounds into the Arduino world. Samples of sound can be played back from on-board SRAM or recorded onto the EEPROM to be recovered later,” Stevens adds. “Up to a minute of telephone quality audio can be stored (less for higher quality), or played back using the on-board storage. The microSD card can store and play back GB of audio, if desired.”
Bluetooth Low Energy + ATmega32U4 = Bluefruit LE Micro
Makers who are looking to create a Bluetooth-enabled project will be excited to learn of Adafruit’s latest product. The newly-unveiled Bluefruit LE Microrollsthe versatility of the ATmega32U4 MCU and the wireless connectivity of the SPI Bluefruit LE Friend all into one board.
What’s nice is that the Bluefruit LE Micro makes is easier than ever to add BLE capabilities to any number of DIY projects. Makers can program the ATmega32U4 over USB using its built-in USB bootloader, either directly with AVRDUDE or the Arduino IDE. The board runs at a 8MHz clock speed, boasts a logic level of 3.3V for compatibility with a wide range of sensors, and features more than 20 GPIO pins, including I2C, SPI, a UART and six analog inputs. On top of that, the chip packs 28KB of Flash, 2KB of RAM, and of course, native USB for programming and communication.
As Adafruit points out, Makers can add a rechargeable LiPo battery with the help of a LiPoly backpack as well. Simply solder it on top of the Bluefruit LE Micro and it’ll juice up the battery via the microUSB connector. When the USB is unplugged, it will run off the battery.
“The Bluefruit LE module is an nRF51822 chipset from Nordic, programmed with multi-function code that can do quite a lot! For most people, they’ll be very happy to use the standard Nordic UART RX/TX connection profile. In this profile, the Bluefruit acts as a data pipe, that can ‘transparently’ transmit back and forth from your iOS or Android device.”
“Thanks to an easy-to-learn AT command set, Makers will have total control over how the device behaves, including the ability to define and manipulate your own GATT Services and Characteristics, or change the way that the device advertises itself for other Bluetooth Low Energy devices to see. You can also use the AT commands to query the die temperature, check the battery voltage, and more, check the connection RSSI or MAC address, and tons more.”
Additionally, the Bluefruit app enables Makers to quickly prototype their projects by using their iOS or Android device as a controller. Adafruit has a color picker, a quaternion/accelerometer/gyro/magnetometer, an eight-button gamepad and a GPS locator. This data can be read over BLE and relayed to the on-board ATmega32U4 for processing.
Discover how a developer used Tracealyzer to compare runtime behaviors and increase response time.
With time-to-market pressures constantly on the rise, advanced visualization support is a necessity nowadays. For those who may be unfamiliar with Percepio, the company has sought out to accelerate embedded software development through world-leading RTOS tracing tools. Tracealyzer provides Makers, engineers and developers alike a new level of insight into the run-time world, allowing for improved designs, faster troubleshooting and higher performance. What has made it such a popular choice among the community is that it works with a wide-range of operating systems and is available for Linux and FreeRTOS, among several others.
When developing advanced multi-threaded software systems, a traditional debugger is often insufficient for understanding the behavior of the integrated system, especially regarding timing issues. Tracealyzer is able to visualize the run-time behavior through more than 20 innovative views that complement the debugger perspective. These views are interconnected in intuitive ways which makes the visualization system powerful and easy to navigate. Beyond that, it seamlessly integrates with Atmel Studio 6.2, providing optimized insight into the run-time of embedded software with advanced trace visualization.
In this scenario, a user had developed a networked system containing a TCP/IP stack, a Flash file system and an RTOS running on an ARM Cortex-M4 microcontroller. The system was comprised of several RTOS tasks, including a server-style task that responds to network requests and a log file spooler task. The response time on network requests had often been an issue, and when testing their latest build, the system responded even slower than before. So, as one can imagine, they really wanted to figure this out!
But when comparing the code of the previous and new version, they could not find any obvious reason for the lower response time of the server task. There were some minor changes due to refactoring, but no significant functions had been added. However, since other tasks had higher scheduling priority than the server task, there could be many other causes for the increased response time. Therefore, they decided to use Tracealyzer to compare the runtime behaviors of the earlier version and the new version, in order to see the differences.
They recorded traces of both versions in similar conditions and began at the comparison at the highest level of abstraction, i.e., the statistics report (below). This report can display CPU usage, number of executions, scheduling priorities, but also metrics like execution time and response time calculated per each execution of each task and interrupt.
As expected, the statistics report revealed that response times were, in fact, higher in the new version — about 50% higher on average. The execution times of the server task were quite similar, only about 7% higher in the latter. Reason for the greater response time, other tasks that interfere.
To determine out what was causing this disparity, one can simply click on the extreme values in the statistics report. This focuses the main trace view on the corresponding locations, enabling a user to see the details. By opening two parallel instances of Tracealyzer, one for each trace, you can now compare and see the differences — as illustrated below.
Since the application server task performed several services, two user events have been added to mark the points where the specific request are received and answered, labeled “ServerLog.” The zoom levels are identical, so you can clearly see the higher response time in the new version. What’s more, this also shows that the logger task preempts the server task 11 times, compared to only 6 times in the earlier version — a pretty significant difference. Moreover, it appears that the logger task is running on higher priority than server task, meaning every logging call preempts the server task.
So, there seems to be new logging calls added in the new version causing the logger task to interfere more with the server task. In order to observe what is logged, add a user event in the logger task to show the messages in the trace view. Perhaps some can be removed to improve performance?
Now, it’s evident that also other tasks generate logging messages that affect the server task response time. For instance, the ADC_0 task. To see all tasks sending messages to the logger task, one can use the communication flow view — as illustrated below.
The communication flow view is a dependency graph showing a summary of all operations on message queues, semaphores and other kernel objects. Here, this view is for the entire trace, but can be generated for a selected interval (and likewise for the statistics report) as well. For example, a user can see how the server task interacts with the TCP/IP stack. Note the interrupt handler named “RX_ISR” that triggers the server task using a semaphore, such as when there is new data on the server socket, and the TX task for transmitting over the network.
But back to the logger task, the communication flow reveals five tasks that sends logging messages. By double-clicking on the “LoggerQueue” node in the graph, the Kernel Object History view is opened and shows all operations on this message queue.
As expected, you can see that logger task receives messages frequently, one at a time, and is blocked after each message, as indicated by the “red light.”
Is this a really good design? It is probably not necessary to write the logging messages to file one-by-one. If increasing the scheduling priority of server task above that of the logger task, the server task would not be preempted as frequently, and thus, would be able to respond faster. The logging messages would be buffered in LoggerQueue until the server task (and other high priority tasks) has completed. Only then would the logger task be resumed and process all buffered messages in a batch.
By trying that, these screenshot below demonstrates the server task instance with highest response time, after increasing its scheduling priority above the logger task.
The highest response time is now just 5.4 ms instead of 7.5 ms, which is even faster than in the earlier version (5.7 ms) despite more logging. This is because the logger task is no longer preempting the server task, but instead processes all pending messages in a batch after server is finished. Here, one can also see “event labels” for the message queue operations. As expected, there are several “xQueueSend” calls in sequence, without blocking (= red labels) or task preemptions. There are still preemptions by the ADC tasks, but this no longer cause extra activations of the logger task. Problem solved!
The screenshot below displays LoggerQueue after the priority change. In the right column, one see how the messages are buffered in the queue, enabling the server task to respond as fast as possible, and the logging messages are then processed in a batch.
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.
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 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.
The CryptoCape extends the hardware cryptographic abilities of the BeagleBone Black.
With the insecurity of connected devices called into question time and time again, wouldn’t it be nice to take comfort in knowing that your latest IoT gadget was secure? A facet in which many Makers may overlook, Josh Datko recently sought out to find a better way to safeguard those designs, all without hindering the DIY spirit. The result? The CrytpoCape — which initially debuted on SparkFun last year — is a dedicated security daughterboard for the BeagleBone that easily adds encryption and authentication options to a project.
Generally speaking, cryptography offers a solution to a wide-range of problems such as authentication, confidentiality, integrity and non-repudiation, according to Datko. SparkFun notes that the $60 Atmel powered cape adds specialized ICs that perform various cryptographic operations, amplifying a critical hardware security layer to various BeagleBone projects.
The CyrptoCape is packed with hardware, including 256k EEPROM with a defaulted I2C address (plus write protection), a real-time clock (RTC) module, a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) for RSA encryption/decryption, an AES-128 encrypted EEPROM, an ATSHA204 CrypoAuthentication chip that performs SHA-256 and HMAC-25 and an Atmel ATECC108 tasked with the Elliptic Curve Digital Signature Algorithm (ECDSA).
Beyond that, each easy-to-use CryptoCape comes with pre-soldered headers making this board ready to be attached to your BeagleBone right out of the box. The only additional item a Maker will need to get the CryptoCape fully-functional is a CR1225 coin-cell battery.
EE Times highlights the ongoing game of leapfrog between MCU vendors for the lowest-power solution. Can you guess who’s winning?
Writing for EE Times, Rich Quinnell notes that MCU vendors have become engaged in a new game of leapfrog, announcing a slew of products with ever-improving benchmark results and leadership in ultra-low power processing.
“While this may seem like a marketing game, developers will ultimately be the winners as vendors refine their techniques for saving power. In the past, a low powered MCU also meant low performance, but vendors have been challenging this correlation by offering increasingly powerful MCUs for low-power applications,” he writes. “Developers, however, faced a problem in evaluating these offerings. Traditional specifications such as operating current in mW/MHz and sleep-mode leakage currents became increasingly difficult to evaluate in the face of the multiple power states that devices offered, and in the face of inconsistency in the industry in the descriptions and specifications used to characterize low-power operation.”
The Embedded Microprocessor Benchmark Consortium (more commonly referred to as EEMBC) develops benchmarks to help system designers select the optimal processors and understand the performance and energy characteristics of their systems. EEMBC has benchmark suites spanning across countless application areas, targeting just about everything from the cloud and big data, to mobile devices (Android phones and tablets) and digital media, to the Internet of Things and ultra-low power microcontrollers. In particular, the EEMBC ULPBench power benchmark, which was introduced last year, standardizes datasheet parameters and provides a methodology to reliably and equitably measure MCU energy efficiency.
“This is one of the strictest benchmarks we’ve ever done in terms of setup and such. The benchmark has the MCU perform 20k clock cycles of active work once a second, and sleep the remainder of the second. This way each processor performs the same workload, which levels the playing field with regard to executing the benchmark,” EEMBC President Marcus Levy told EE Times in a recent interview.
In order to calculate the final ULPMark-CP score, 1,000 is divided by the median value for average energy used per second during each of 10 benchmark cycles. A larger value therefore represents less energy consumed.
Using this benchmark, MCU vendors have begun publishing their results and surpassing one another to temporarily claim their stake at the top of the low-power leaderboard. Still, the leapfrog game is likely to continue for some time. Andreas Eieland, Atmel Director of Product Marketing explained to EE Times, “Low power is an area where everyone is pouring a lot of R&D into, and it has taken on a much faster pace than before. We know we’re the lowest power now, but you never know where your competition is in its efforts. So, we’re already looking at the next step.”
Eieland points out that at first low-power development efforts mainly concentrated on architectural improvements to the CPU, however optimizing the CPU wasn’t enough. This meant companies needed to begin going through every peripheral and optimizing it, looking at every transistor in the product. He adds, “We [Atmel] started developing clock-on-demand features, logic that allows peripherals to operate stand-alone, using the minimum circuitry needed to complete their task, gating away the clock and even establishing a variety of power domains so we could shut down circuits not in use and eliminate even their leakage current.”
“TI surpassed its own earlier result by announcing the MSP-432 family based on the Cortex M4F. It achieved a ULPBench score of 167.4. While TI was briefing the media on this product, however, Atmel quietly published a ULPBench score of 185.8 for its SAM L21 MCU based on the Cortex M0+, a product announced last year that was scheduled to be released at about this time,” Quinnell reveals.
The Atmel | SMART SAM L21 family delivers ultra-low power running down to 35µA/MHz in active mode, consuming less than 900nA with full 32kB RAM retention, and 200nA in the deepest sleep mode. With rapid wake-up times, Event System, Sleepwalking and the innovative picoPower peripherals, the SAM L21 is ideal for handheld and battery-operated devices in a variety of markets.
As time goes on, we can surely expect to see benchmark scores continue to improve and the competition to pick up. However, despite their differences, everyone can agree that these scores are only a mere starting point for developers seeking the lowest-power device for their design.
“The ULP benchmark isn’t 100% fair; no benchmark can ever be,” Eieland concluded. “But it does take a lot of the marketing out of low power, and it gives you a relative comparison you can use.”
The newest version of the Adafruit GEMMA features an on/off switch and Micro-USB.
We’re not quite sure as to how we missed this bit of news on #WearableWednesday, however if DIY wearable projects are your thing, then perhaps you’d like know about the brand-spanking new Adafruit GEMMA v2.
The latest version — which is essentially identical to its predecessor in terms of aesthetics and code — has swapped out the Mini-B for a Mirco-B USB connector to provide some more on-board space. With all that new room, the GEMMA now is able to welcome the addition of an on/off switch.
For the 1% of you who are not familiar with Adafruit and its versatile lineup of Atmel based body boards, GEMMA is a tiny wearable MCU that packs a whole lot of awesome in a 1-inch (27mm) diameter area. The mini yet powerful platform is powered by an ATtiny85 and is programmable with the Arduino IDE via USB. It also features a 3.3V regulator with 150mA output capability and ultra-low dropout. Beyond that, v2’s ATtiny85 chip package has switched from SOIC to QFN.
“We designed a USB bootloader so you can plug it into any computer and reprogram it over a USB port just like an Arduino (it uses 2 of the 5 I/O pins, leaving you with 3). In fact, we even made some simple modifications to the Arduino IDE so that it works like a mini-FLORA,” the Adafruit team explains.
Ideal for small and simple projects sewn with conductive thread, the [tinyAVR based] GEMMA fits the needs of nearly every entry-level wearable creation — ranging from reading sensors to driving addressable LED pixels.
“We wanted to design a microcontroller board that was small enough to fit into any project, and low cost enough to use without hesitation. Perfect for when you don’t want to give up your Flora and you aren’t willing to take apart the project you worked so hard to design. It’s our lowest-cost sewable controller.”
Aside from the ATtiny85 MCU, other key hardware specs of GEMMA include:
Operating Voltage: 3.3V
Input voltage (recommended): 4-16V via battery port
Digital I/O pins: 3
PWM channels: 2
Analog input channels: 1
Flash memory: 8KB (ATtiny85) of which 2.75KB used by bootloader
Tangible Media Group has created a shapeshifting display that lets users interact with digital information in a tangible way.
As previously shared on Bits & Pieces, MIT Media Lab’s Tangible Media Group has devised a morphing table with several ATmega2560 MCUs under the hood. The installation was recently exhibited at the Cooper-Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in New York, and can be seen in action below!
inFORMis described its creators as a dynamic shape display that can render 3D content physically, so users can interact with digital information in a tangible way. In order to make that a reality, the table is equipped with 900 individually actuated white polystyrene pins that make up the surface in an array of 30 x 30 pixels. The interactive piece can display 3D information in real-time and in a more accurate and interactive manner compared to the flat rendering often created by computer user interface.
This was all accomplished by tasking a Kinect sensor to capture 3D data. This information was then processed with a computer and relayed over to a display, enabling the system to remotely manipulate a physical ball. Aside from being able to produce a controlled physical environment for the ball, the pins are able to detect touch, pressing down and pulling.
An overhead projector provides visual guidance of the system, with each pin capable of actuating 100mm and exerting a force of up to 1.08 Newtons each. Actuation is achieved via push-pull rods that are utilized to maximize the dense pin arrangement — making the display independent of the size of the actuators. The table is driven by 150 ATmega2560 based Arduino PCBs arranged in 15 rows of vertical panels, each with 5×2 boards. The boards then communicate with a PC over five RS485 buses bridged to USB. Meanwhile, graphics are rendered using OpenGL and openFrameworks software.
“One area we are working on is Geospatial data, such as maps, GIS, terrain models and architectural models. Urban planners and architects can view 3D designs physically and better understand, share and discuss their designs,” the team writes. “Cross sections through Volumetric Data such as medical imaging CT scans can be viewed in 3D physically and interacted with. We would like to explore medical or surgical simulations. We are also very intrigued by the possibilities of remotely manipulating objects on the table.”
Its creators are hoping to spark several collaborations with everyone from urban planners and architects, to designers and modelers, to doctors and surgeons. The display could be used as an alternative to 3D printing low-resolution prototypes as well as rendering 3D data — ranging from construction plans and CT scans — that a user will be able to interact with by physically molding the pins.