Modulowo’s new boards want to make IoT development a breeze.
Development tools are becoming increasingly popular and are often used for prototyping, designing new devices, educating and programming. Well, one Poland-based startup has decided to take it one step further by devising a solution to streamline the process for Makers and engineers alike. Modulowo has announced the availability of their new Explore boards for the Intel Edison and Atmel Xplained platforms.
The Explore is equipped with a connector for Intel Edison platform, two Modulowo duoNECT connectors for expansion modules, GPIO, SPI, UART and I2C interfaces connectors, two microUSB (USB OTG and USB/UART converter), 12-bit ADC (optional 16-bit) for measuring analog signals, logic level translators (tolerates +3,3V/+5V signals), a battery charger (only for Intel Edison) and a connector for additional power supply to the add-ons.
One of Modulowo’s most notable features is that its modules can be mounted via pin connectors or directly on the board by castellated holes. These add-ons include sensors, tactile switches, motor controllers, LED drivers, GPS, wireless communication and Wi-Fi connectivity with the ATWINC1500.
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.
Taking a look back at the final FAE training of the year…
We couldn’t have found a more appropriate, well-suited place to host our final internal three-day technical training of 2015 than Shenzhen, China. The city is constantly innovating, with IoT startups popping up on seemingly each street corner, throughout every tech shop, factory and Makerspace. This is a good context to present product updates, show off design tricks and run workshops from early morning to late night. We also network with old friends and make new ones, which further strengthens the teamwork, extends our knowledge base and builds confidence to help our customers bring their ideas to life.
The buzz of the week was the highly-anticipated, full-day workshop on our uber mini Bluetooth Low Energy chipset (the BTLC1000) with overviews of the supported protocol stacks, silicon and software architecture, introduction from product marketing, as well as a hands-on session using Atmel’s standard Xplained development boards, the recently-launched Atmel Studio 7 and Atmel START.
At Atmel, we spread our love equally between wireless and low power. The world’s lowest power 32-bit MCU, the SAM L21, even saw the birth of a new sibling: the SAM L22. This particular board is feature-compatible with the SAM L21, but comes with an LCD controller and some nifty power-save features.
When it comes to IoT applications, performance plays an integral role so we spent time on the new low-power modes and security capabilities of the SAMA5D2. FAEs in a hurry could also complete the entire workshop and connect the SAMA5D2 to a cloud with the WILC1000 Wi-Fi module.
To top off the event, we saw the debut of more wireless technologies with a complete 6LoWPAN stack emphasising security and authentication with Atmel’s wide range of CryptoAuthentication engines.
Still wondering if IoT is a big thing at Atmel? Well, duh! Between low-power MCUs, all major wireless connectivity protocols, security layers and a cloud ecosystem in place, we’ve got each of the necessary pillars covered.
Big thanks to Atmel’s training team, distributors, and of course, FAEs for making this event such a great success! Until next time!
The Feather 32U4 Adalogger is Adafruit’s take on an all-in-one datalogger.
Remember when we brought you a first-ever look at Adafruit’s new lineup of Feather boards back at World Maker Faire? Well, as Ladyada herself promised, the new dev boards are thin, light and ready to let your imagination fly! Following the recent debut of the Feather 32U4 Basic Proto, the team has unveiled the latest addition to its family: the Feather 32U4 Adalogger.
The Adalogger is Adafruit’s take on an all-in-one datalogger (or data-reader) with USB, battery charging and a microSD card holder. As it name would suggest, the board is based on an ATmega32U4 clocked at 8MHz and at 3.3V logic, with 32K of Flash and 2K of RAM. And since it features native USB support, not only does it boast built-in USB-to-Serial programming and debugging 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 along with an integrated 100mA battery charger. However, the Adalogger can 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 writes. “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, the Feather weighs roughly five grams. The 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. Capitalizing on the little space that was left over, the Adalogger packs microSD slot and a green LED.
Atmel Studio 7 accelerates MCU designs for both developers and Makers alike, bridging the gap between the MakerSpace and MarketPlace.
For those who may have attended the recent World Maker Faire in New York, this announcement should come as no surprise. However, if you were unable to get to the New York Hall of Science to swing by the Atmel booth or sit in on one of our panel discussions over the weekend, we’ve got some great news. The highly anticipated Atmel Studio 7 is now live!
Atmel Studio is a comprehensive, free integrated development environment (IDE) for microcontroller design using both Atmel | SMART ARM-based and AVR MCUs. What’s more, we are also excited to be launching Atmel START — a new, extremely intuitive graphical platform for creating and configuring embedded applications that allow developers to build custom software platforms.
Due to increased complexity and more demanding requirements, embedded developers are turning to IDEs to deliver more intelligence, performance and ease-of-use. Based on the latest Microsoft Visual Studio Shell, Atmel Studio 7 dramatically reduces overall design time by delivering significant performance enhancements for developing and debugging with a simple user interface, improved responsiveness for consumer, industrial and Maker markets, and much more. Plus, the brand-spankin’ new IDE provides real-time application data and power visualization to better optimize application performance and power utilization.
Ideal for the Maker community, the IDE lets Arduino developers quickly port their sketches created in the Arduino environment as C++ projects, and seamlessly migrate their prototypes into the professional Studio 7 environment. This will further streamline a Maker’s ability to help migrate their projects from ‘the MakerSpace to MarketPlace.’
Given the rise of the Internet of Things market and the projected billions of devices to follow, high quality, well integrated embedded software is key to enable designers to devise robust, smart solutions based on today’s connectivity and security standards. Cognizant of this, we are pleased to launch Atmel START which is a web-based tool that helps developers easily integrate basic software building blocks and focus on their own applications rather than having to deal with the headache of configuration and integration.
“Atmel Studio 7 IDE and Atmel START extend our commitment to bridge the gap between the Maker and professional environments, accelerating time-to-market for developers of all levels,” says Steve Pancoast, Atmel Vice President of Applications, Software and Tools. “Our new, innovative development tools and software provide Atmel’s customers with solutions for embedded system designs in low power and wireless communications such as our power visualizer and Atmel START. We are committed to bringing the best tools to market, enabling developers of all levels — from professionals to students, hobbyists and Makers — to get their projects quickly to market.”
Atmel START gives software developers the ability to graphically select software components and configure them for Atmel’s large family of evaluation boards or for their own custom hardware. Developers can build software platforms consisting of low-level drivers, advanced middleware, Real Time Operating Systems (RTOS), high-level communication stacks and more, as well as download the configured software package into their own IDE and make their application.
Atmel START supports graphical configuring of pin-muxes, along with clock trees, and the configured software package can be downloaded for a variety of supported development environments, such as Atmel Studio 7, IAR Embedded Workbench and Keil µVision. In addition to all that, the tool is entirely web-based so no installation is required before you get started — and the downloaded code will always be up-to-date.
“The Atmel START platform makes it easy for developers to get projects off the ground quickly and obtain the most benefit from working with ARM Keil MDK tools,” adds Reinhard Keil, ARM Director of Microcontroller Tools. “By using CMSIS, Atmel has once again proven the value of creating a platform built on a standards-based approach. Atmel START creates a robust and portable software management system that makes it easy for developers to deploy applications in any environment.”
DIPDuino is an Arduino-compatible board that combines a number of useful interfaces in one DIP32 package.
While the idea of having an entire MCU platform in a DIP format isn’t all that new, Alex Gornostayev just wasn’t satisfied with some of those on the market today, like the Teensy and Arduino Nano. And so, the Maker decided to create his own Arduino-compatible board that crams many useful interfaces all into one easy-to-use DIP32 package.
The aptly namedDIPDuinogoes a step further than most of today’s breakout boards. Based an ATmega1284RFR2 along with a 2.4GHz ZigBee transceiver, the unit is equipped with a 128×32-pixel OLED display, a microSD card reader, a serial FTDI port, 1MB of SRAM, a full JTAG debugger port, USB and pin power supply, LEDs, and a stabilized 3V and 3.6V power output.
Looking ahead, Gornostayev is planning on using the board for a number of DIY projects, ranging from an OLED watch to a weather station and a home automation system. Aside from that, one of his friends even wants to build a DIPDuino-based RepRap controller. The possibilities are endless! However, first he would like to improve its software so that the firmware can be programmed and updated from an SD card.
“I want to be able to be able to program DIPDuino from SD card. Just save BIN file on SD card and boot the device. The bootloader must be able to flash the firmware and it does not look too complicated. (I call this project ‘DIPBoot’).”
“I want to implement a simple BASIC translator for DIPDuino to be able to write programs in BASIC using simple text editor, save it on SD card and execute it form file on DIPDuino (which will be DIPBasic in this case),” Gornostayev adds. “This is really cool, because I will be to write programs on any devices, including smartphones or even DIPDuino itself, and execute them without any compilers and connections.”
The brainchild of Adafruit, Metro Mini is an easy-to-use, breadboard-friendy chip with USB-to-Serial built in.
Inspired by the countless years of tinkering around with AVR MCUs, Adafruit has unveiled a brand-spanking new, tiny development board for Makers. Dubbed Metro Mini, the breadboard-friendly, easy-to-use chip can be programmed with the Arduino IDE.
Based on the versatile ATmega328, the Metro Mini packs 32KB of Flash, 2KB of RAM, a clock speed of 16Mhz and comes pre-loaded with the Optiboot bootloader. The slick black and gold unit includes 20 GPIO pins — six of which are analog as well and two reserved for the USB-Serial converter. What’s more, there is also total of six PWMs available on three timers.
“We sure love the ATmega328 here at Adafruit, and we use them a lot for our own projects. The processor has plenty of GPIO, analog inputs, hardware UART SPI and I2C, timers and PWM galore – just enough for most simple projects,” the Adafruit crew writes. “When we need to go small, we use a Pro Trinket 3V or 5V, but if you want to have USB-to-Serial built in, we reach for an Adafruit Metro Mini.”
Another nice feature is that, measuring just 0.7″ x 1.7″ x 0.2″ in size, the Metro Mini is small enough to be implemented in a wide range of projects. In addition, the device boasts 5V on-board regulator with 150mA out and 3.3V 50mA available via its FTDI chip. Rounding out the beautifully-designed piece are a series of four indicator LEDs for easy debugging and hardware SPI, I2C and UART-to-USB ports.
“The Metro Mini comes as a fully assembled and tested board, with bootloader burned in and also a stick of 0.1″ header,” Adafruit notes. “Some light soldering is required if you’d like to plug it into a breadboard, or you can solder wires or header directly to the breakout pads.”
This $11 open-source board is based on an ATmega328 and comes without a USB converter.
Last year, the e-radionica.com crew released the Croduino Basic, an open-source board based on the wildly popular ATmega328 MCU. Now, the team has returned with the debut of the Croduino Pico.
Currently available on Tindie for $11, the Croduino Pico is billed as “simpler than the basic version” since it lacks an on-board FTDI USB converter. It should be noted that the board measures just 5cm x 3cm in size, making it easy for tinkerers to integrate and leave in various projects.
Aside from ATmega328, the Croduino Pico targets both Makers and developers with a wide range of features, including:
Consuming one-third the power of existing solutions, Atmel | SMART SAM L achieves 185 EEMBC ULPBench score.
System design used to be an exercise in optimizing speed. That has since changed. Nowadays, embedded systems pack plenty of performance to handle a number of task, leading the challenge for designers to shift to completing those tasks using as little energy as possible — but not necessarily making it as fast as possible. As you can imagine, this has created quite the competitive environment on the processor battlefield amongst vendors, each seeking to attain the lowest power solution on the market.
“The surge in popularity of battery-powered electronics has made battery life a primary system-design consideration. In extreme cases, the desire is not to run off of a battery at all, but to harvest energy from local sources to run a system — which requires the utmost power frugality,” writes Andreas Eieland, Atmel Director of Product Marketing. “In addition, there’s a growing family of devices like smoke detectors, door locks, and industrial sensors (4-20 mA and 10-50 mA) that can draw power through their inputs, and that power is limited.”
These sort of trends point to the significance of reducing the power requirements of electronic systems. However, the varying technologies that provide the necessary performance make power reduction harder. Fortunately, Atmel has been focusing on low power consumption for more than 10 years across its portfolio of AVR and Atmel ǀ SMART ARM-based processors. Many integrated peripherals and design techniques are used to minimize power consumption in real-world applications, such as integrated hardware DMA and event system to offload the CPU in active and standby modes, switching off or reducing clock or supply on device portions not in use, intelligent SleepWalking peripherals enabling CPU to remain in deep sleep longer, fast wake-up from low power modes, low voltage operation with full functionality, as well as careful balancing of high performance and low leakage transistors in the MCU design.
With picoPower technology found in AVR and Atmel ǀ SMART MCUs, Atmel has taken it a step further. Indeed, all picoPower devices are designed from the ground up for lowest possible power consumption from transistor design and process geometry, sleep modes, flexible clocking options, to intelligent peripherals. Atmel picoPower devices can operate down to 1.62V while still maintaining all functionality, including analog functions. They have short wake-up times, with multiple wake-up sources from even the deepest sleep modes. Some elements of picoPower technology cannot be directly manipulated by the user, but they form a solid base that enables ultra-low power application development without compromising functionality. Meanwhile, flexible and powerful features and peripherals lets users apply an assortment of techniques to reduce a system’s total power consumption even further.
Then, there’s the Atmel | SMART SAM L21 microcontroller, which has broken all ultra-low power performance barriers to date. These Cortex-M0+-based MCUs can maintain system functionality, all while consuming just one-third the power of comparable products on the market today. This device delivers ultra-low power running down to 35µA/MHz in active mode, consuming less than 900nA with full 32kB RAM retention. With rapid wake-up times, Event System, Sleepwalking and the innovative picoPower peripherals, the SAM L21 is ideal for handheld and battery-operated devices for a variety of Internet of Things (IoT) applications.
The ultra-low power SAM L family not only broadens the Atmel | SMART portfolio, but extends battery life from years to decades, reducing the number of times batteries need to be changed in devices such as fire alarms, healthcare, medical, wearable, and equipment placed in rural, agriculture, offshore and other remote areas. The SAM L21 combines ultra-low power with Flash and SRAM that are large enough to run both the application and wireless stacks — three features that are cornerstones of most IoT applications. Sampling now, the SAM L21 comes complete with a development platform including an Xplained Pro kit, code libraries and Atmel Studio support.
So how does the SAM L21 stack up against the others? Ahead of the pack, of course! As an alternative to so-called “bench marketing” of low power products, nearly ever large semiconductor company — and several smaller ones that focus on low power — have collaborated in a working group formed by the Embedded Microprocessor Benchmark Consortium (EEMBC). The EEMBC ULPBench uses standardized test measurement hardware to strictly define a benchmark code for use by vendors, considering energy efficiency and running on 8-, 16- and 32-bit architectures. At the moment, the Atmel | SMART SAM L21 product boasts the highest ULPBench score of any microcontroller, regardless of CPU.
“In Atmel’s announcement last year for the company’s SAM L21 family, I had pointed out the amazingly low current consumption ratings for both the active and sleep mode operation of this product family – now I can confirm this opinion with concrete data derived from the EEMBC ULPBench,” explained Markus Levy, EEMBC President and Founder. “Atmel achieved the lowest power of any Cortex-M based processor and MCU in the world because of its patented ultra-low power picoPower technology. These ULPBench results are remarkable, demonstrating the company’s low-power expertise utilizing DC-DC conversion for voltage monitoring, as well as other innovative techniques.”
While running the EEMBC ULPBench, the SAM L21 achieves a staggering score of 185, the highest publicly-recorded score for any Cortex-M based processor or MCU in the world — and significantly higher than the 167 and 123 scores announced by other vendors. The SAM L21 family consumes less than 940nA with full 40kB SRAM retention, real-time clock and calendar and 200nA in the deepest sleep mode.
In fact, a recent EE Times writeup delving deeper into competition even revealed, “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+.”
Beyond the recently-unveiled ARM-based chip, it’s also important to note the 0.7V tinyAVR. A typical microcontroller requires at least 1.8V to operate, while the voltage of a single battery-cell typically ranges from 1.2V to 1.5V when fully charged, and then drops gradually below 1V during use, still holding a reasonable amount of charge. This means a regular MCU needs at least two battery cells. Whereas, Atmel has solved this problem by integrating a boost converter inside the ATtiny43U, converting a DC voltage to a higher level, and bridging the gap between minimum supply voltage of the MCU and the typical output voltages of a standard single cell battery. The boost converter provides the chip with a fixed supply voltage of 3.0V from a single battery cell even when the battery voltage drops down to 0.7V. This allows non-rechargeable batteries to be drained to the minimum, thereby extending the battery life. Programmable shut-off levels above the critical minimum voltage level avoid damaging the battery cell of rechargeable batteries.
Origami cranes are cool, but do you know what’s even cooler? Origami cranes that groove to an LMFAO-like beat.
When inanimate origami no longer suffices, you can always do what multimedia artist Ugoita has done: create a slick electromagnetic stage to bring a quintet of paper cranes to life. The aptly named Dancing Paper projectuses several individually-controlled magnets to move the handmade objects from side to side along with a few twirls thrown in the mix. The installation shares the same animation method used in those miniature Christmas village skating pond decorations. In this case, each of the supporting dancers have a line of four magnets, while the featured dancer (after all, every group has a lead) boasts a 5×5 matrix. The 41 electromagnets were wound around bolts with the help of a Tamiya motor and gearbox.
“The actual dance moves are controlled by C code which appears to be running on an Atmel MCU. Of course a microcontroller wouldn’t be able to drive those big coils, so some beefy TO-220 case transistors were employed to switch the loads,” Hackaday’s Adam Fabio notes. “The cranes themselves needed a bit of modification as well. Thin pieces of wire travel from the neodymium magnets on their feet up to the body of the crane. The wire provides just enough support to keep the paper from collapsing, while still being flexible enough to boogie down.”
Watch the whimsical performance below, as the paper cranes pull off a couple of moves that would even impress the likes of Tony Manero and Beyonce!