Tag Archives: microprocessors

element14 debuts new Atmel SAMA5D4 Xplained board

The latest Atmel | SMART development kit features video decoder and advanced security features.

element14 has debuted the Atmel | SMART SAMA5D4-XUL Xplained board, featuring an ARM Cortex-A5 microprocessor. The newly-announced development kit enables users to evaluate, prototype and create high performance, application-specific designs. The SAMA5D4 Xplained Ultra is packed with 4Gb DDR2 external memory, one Ethernet physical layer transceiver, two SD/MMC interfaces, two host USB ports and one device USB port, one 24-bit RGB LCD and HDMI interface and debug interfaces.


The 720p video decoder and playback at 30fps alongside the LCD controller with graphics accelerator are targeted for consumer and industrial designs, including terminals and Internet of Things (IoT) applications. In addition, the SAMA5D4-XULT leverages the advanced security features found on the board’s microprocessor, like ARM Trust Zone, secure boot, encrypted DDR bus, tamper detection pins and secure data storage.

Seven headers, compatible with both the Arduino Uno and Due and two Xplained headers are available for various shield connections.

“Our partnership with Atmel continues to grow with the latest addition to the Atmel Xplained family of development kits,” explained David Shen, Premier Farnell Group CTO. “The comprehensive security features and display capabilities of the SAMA5D4-XULT are key to the advancement and implementation of IoT applications where the user interface and security information are critical.”


As we’ve previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, the SAMA5D4 is optimized for control panel/HMI applications requiring video playback and is well suited for other use cases that require high levels of connectivity in the industrial and consumer Internet of Things market. The new ARM-based series is a high-performance, power-efficient Cortex-A5 MPU capable of running up to 528 MHz. Furthermore, the device integrates the ARM NEON SIMD engine for accelerated signal processing, multimedia and graphics as well as a 128 KB L2-Cache for high system performance.

The SAMA5D4 Xplained – priced at $93.50 – is now available and can be found on the element14 Design Center. Those interested in learning more can also head over to the development kit’s official page here.

These electric skates are on a roll

Along the spectrum of personal transportation, ranging from roller sneakers and the Segway to hover boards and flying cars, there lies this latest innovation. Appropriately dubbed “RocketSkates,” the Kickstarter campaign has already garnered over $455,000 from 660-plus backers, well over the original $50,000 goal.


“Remote controllers? We don’t need remote controls! Your hands are now free for interpretive dance moves as you cruise about town — your feet control the skates,” a company rep explains on its Kickstarter page.


Each skate is equipped with two hub motors and an onboard microprocessor, allowing the pair to synchronize with one another to maintain the same speed and behavior. To speed up, simply tilt your feet forward; to slow down, tilt your heels back. Wearers can monitor the status of their skates, diagnose problems, check battery status, interact with your social connections, and of course, track their routes using an accompanying iOS and Android app. Additionally, a Software Developer Kit (SDK) will be available for developers interested in creating games and app features for RocketSkates.


The skates currently come in three versions, the R6, R8 and R10, with the number symbolizing the range in miles of the RocketSkates on a single battery charge. Range and run times do however vary by model. The R6 can travel six miles and run for 45 minutes on a full charge; the R8 tops out at eight miles and 70 minutes; and the R10 maxes out at 10 miles and 90 minutes. The three models retail for $499, $599 and $699, respectively.

Just how fast can these babies go? Users can cruise the sidewalks with speeds of up to 12 miles per hour, as you can see in the video below.

Tech on Tour hits the road: Several months later

After tirelessly crisscrossing the globe for several years offering hands-on technical training, the Atmel team kicked off a new Tech on Tour era this past January with a tricked-out mobile trailer. Designed to literally drive the Internet of Things (and other next-gen technologies), 40’ x 85′ trailer brings hands-on training, hackathons, key technology demonstrations and other gatherings based around Atmel MCUs, MPUs, wireless, touch solutions and easy-to-use software tools. With more than 150 stops spanning across 30 states and 4 Canadian provinces, Tech on Tour is estimated to reach nearly 4,000 engineers this year alone.

Tens of thousands of miles later, the big rig has navigated the country — from Silicon Valley to the Hudson Valley, Atmel’s XSense Fab to the White House, Southern California to North Carolina, the deserts of Arizona to the plains of Kansas, the woods of Washington to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Thousands of engineers, execs and Makers alike have set foot onboard the trailer, including AVR Man, Sir Mix-A-Lot and even 13-year-old CEO Quin Etnyre. It has shared good times with our valued partners and lovable ol’ pals while turning heads and making new friends along the way. It has hosted a number of expert panel discussions, found itself parked in a middle of a tradeshow floor (link) and even had the chance to take in some of the landmarks in our nation’s capital. There have been sightings in the wild to selfies standing before the truck. And, after all of that, as we take a look back at the first six months of its inaugural tour, we must say that it’s been pretty truckin’ awesome!

“The IoT is being led by a rising generation of tinkerers, inventors and innovators. These are dedicated people who are working out of universities, garages and small companies. We are going and meeting them,” explained Sander Arts, Atmel VP of Marketing.

Already having made stops in both Minnesota, Illinois and Pennsylvania, the second leg of the tour is well underway. The Tech on Tour trailer will continue driving the Internet of Things (literally…) en route to:

Sept. 17: Melville, NY
Sept. 19: Waterbury, CT
Sept. 24: Westford, MA
Sept. 29: North Reading, MA
Oct. 2: Point Claire, QC
Oct. 7: Syracuse, NY
Oct. 15: Vaughan, ON

With upcoming stops in:

Cleveland, OH
Detroit, MI
Milwaukee, WI
Madison, WI


Next up, the teched-out truck will be making its way to Long Island with our friends from Avenet Electronics on September 17th to showcase a wide variety of tech, conducting training to include touch, mass storage class boot loading and Atmel’s SAM D21 Xplained Pro (ARM-based MCUs).

Interested in joining our ToTerrific team of tech experts for a day of SMART ARM-based Cortex M0+ training? Registration for this stop is now open!

Event Details

September 29, 2014
8:30 am – 5:00 pm

Avnet Electronics
400 Riverpark Drive
North Reading, MA 01864

Registration fee of $64.00 USD includes:

Get your hands-on training and roll up your sleeves with first-hand instruction and building with Atmel’s latest ARM Cortex M0+ microcontroller and development board. This Atmel | SMART SAM D21 is intended for the next IoT, wearables, or industrial embedded system. With connectivity options including interface integration, the SAM D21 device also has various design tools and development boards to quickly jump start learning and design integration. Accelerating your product to MVP and fit the connectivity design parameters and ultra low power sipping parameters are key to today’s next emergent embedded systems.


A couple of days later, the mobile trailer will take a quick trip north to Pointe Claire, Quebec at Future Electronics. Registration for this stop is also now open!

Event Details

October 2, 2014
8:30 am – 5:00 pm

Future Electronics
237 Hymus Blvd
Pointe Claire, Quebec H9R 5C7

During this stop, attendees will learn more about:

In a majority of upcoming stops, the one-day sessions will feature hands-on technical training based on the Atmel | SMART SAM D21, an evolution of the industry’s first microcontroller with robust, high-performance, easy-to-use capacitive touch support. The SAM D20/21 represent a paradigm shift for capacitive touch sensing in terms of noise tolerance, power consumption, touch quality, and application integration. This is enabled through the on-chip hardware Peripheral Touch Controller (PTC), complemented with this new generation of touch support in the Atmel Studio 6 development Ecosystem. While onboard the big rig, explore how to easily configure the noise filtering and sensitivity of your user interface, based on specific application based considerations, using the QTouch Analyzer, using live trace logging of capacitive sensing signals. Understand the significantly simplified process of building and integrating a touch based user interface alongside your application, leveraging the interrupt-driven, non-blocking QTouch library code (only 5% of CPU resources, while scanning 10 channels at 50ms scan rate).

Become familiar with this Atmel Software Framework (ASF) compatible design process, giving you the ability to mix and match capacitive buttons, sliders and wheels with standard MCU components of your application such as the differentiated USB, DMA and TCC peripherals on the SAM D21SMART Microcontroller based products go to market with firmware programmed at the factory.

Whenever a bug is fixed or new feature is implemented, the firmware on the product needs to be updated. The process of updating the firmware becomes easy if the product has the capability of updating its firmware by itself. In this hands-on training we will develop a USB Host bootloader project for a SAM D21 device, that can detect a mass storage device (for example a USB thumb-/flash-drive) when connected to the USB-port. If this device contains an updated firmware image, the bootloader will then update the flash of the device with new firmware.


To find out when Atmel’s Tech on Tour training will be heading to a city near you, follow along with our up-to-date schedule here. Don’t forget to register and reserve your seat. Space is limited!

Eric Pan: From Seeed Studio to HAXLR8R

Born in Sichuan, China, Eric Pan (潘昊) graduated with an Electrical Engineering degree from Chongqing University. 

He founded the wildly popular Seeed Studio in July 2008 to help Makers transform their ideas into actual products, subsequently establishing the first organized Maker Community in Shenzhen. Known as Chua Huo, the MakerSpace facilitates interaction among DIY Makers, while encouraging dialogue and cooperation with both industry and academia.

Eric is understandably enthusiastic about the open source movement, as he also organized the Shenzhen Maker Faire and established the hardware incubation project “HAXLR8R” with Cyril Ebersweiler. In 2013, Eric was named one of the “Top 30 Entrepreneurs” in China by Forbes, which prominently featured the engineer on the magazine’s front cover.


Recently, the staff of Bits & Pieces had the opportunity to sit down with Pan for a wide-ranging interview covering a number of topics including the rapidly evolving open source movement, Atmel-basedArduino boards, Atmel-powered 3D printers such as RepRap, the Maker Movement and Shenzen, a major city in the south of Southern China’s Guangdong Province.

Bits & Pieces: 

How are Atmel-based Arduino boards and 3D printers such as RepRap helping to inspire the design and prototyping of new products in China?

RepRap Version 2 ‘Mendel’ (Image Credit: Wikipedia)

Eric Pan:

Hardware development has traditionally been perceived as a complex process, with a product lineup often taking years to improve and perfect. However, tools such as Atmel-based Arduino boards and 3D printers have significantly lowered the entry barrier for hardware innovation, thus creating a much wider playing field for DIY Makers. 

Indeed, over the past a few years, we’ve seen designers and Makers create prototypes and iron out issues in days and weeks, rather than months or even years.

Clearly, hardware development is becoming a more agile process with the aid of prototyping tools like RepRap and Arduino boards – both of which are helping to facilitate innovation across the world and particularly in China.

Bits & Pieces: What role do MakerSpaces and Universities play in setting technology trends for Chinese tech companies?

The Atmel-powered uARM (UFactory, Shenzhen, China)

Eric Pan: 
Universities have established links and collaborated on a number of projects with various Chinese tech companies, with many engaging in pioneering research. In addition, MakerSpaces have evolved into innovation hubs responsible for encouraging a diversity of ideas and products. 

Essentially, MakerSpaces act as a virtual bridge for cross-boundary conversations between industry and academic research. This enables constructive dialogue about issues which are typically overlooked. Personally, I believe niche market Maker platforms and devices are analogous to indie movies that provide the commercial film industry with a hotbed of new ideas.

MakerSpaces will likely enable a new wave of tech startups in China as in the US. To be sure, Makers working with their peers are now able to more easily realize their goals, while bringing products to market with new platforms such as e-commerce sites and crowdfunding. 

Nevertheless, major companies in China are somewhat cautious about encouraging grass-root innovations, even though some of them are actively involved in a collaborative dialogue with Makers as part of a strategic open innovation strategy. So for now, MakerSpaces are gradually helping Chinese tech companies discover additional possibilities, although the Maker role is likely to increase, with participants in the DIY culture setting technology trends in conjunction with major industries.

Bits & Pieces: The Maker Movement seems to be particularly active in Shenzen and Shanghai. Why do think this is?

Eric Pan: The most important factor is the intellectually fertile ground of the two locations. Shanghai is particularly active, first and foremost because of its foreigner base and natural Maker culture.

Local tech and art people are also enthusiastic about the trend, which helps bolster the DIY attitude. 

Meanwhile, Shenzhen has an established manufacture and supply based chain which is attractive to Makers from all over the world. If you look at the bigger picture, it is quite clear that these local two MakerSpaces have inspired a larger group of Makers and Makers-to-be across China. 

Unfortunately, the cost of living in both Shanghai and Shenzhen are too high for many Makers to realistically design and develop their products. As such, I hope to see more Makers gathers in smaller cities where the cost of living is somewhat lower and more amenable to a DIY crowd.

Bits & Pieces: What is the future of open source hardware and the Maker Movement in China? Does it face any specific hurdles?

Shenzhen (Image Credit: Wikipedia)

Eric Pan: 
There are currently a number of opinions being heard about the future of the Maker Movement in China. Nevertheless, one thing is for certain. The inherent entrepreneurial spirit of the Chinese people will help the Maker culture grow – and vice versa. 

The biggest hurdle, from what I can tell, may very well come from established educational facilities, simply because Chinese students expect to be trained in traditional methods when specific professional skills are required. 

However, exposure to multiple academic disciplines will encourage people to people think out of the box and explore different ways of approaching problems and opportunities. In addition, being asked more open-ended practical questions instead of simply memorizing facts would go a long way in encouraging students to try out real-world solutions.

Bits & Pieces: What can companies like Atmel do to help encourage the growth of the Maker Movement in China?

Eric Pan: Atmel has already played a very important role in engineering universities through its programs. The inspiring part is that art and design students are using Atmel chipsets which power Arduino boards – effectively building a bridge for major cooperation between Makers and the corporate world.

Continued support from Atmel for future Maker events will definitely contribute to the evolution and growth of the DIY movement in China. On the business side, hardware generated by Maker projects will also help encourage major industry players to create more varied products using Atmel microcontrollers and microprocessors. Last, but certainly not least, the direct involvement of Atmel engineers in local Maker communities will undoubtedly help nurture and grow the DIY movement across China.

Ready-to-deploy Android ports with Atmel

Writing for DigiKey, Maury Wright notes that Google’s flagship Android operating system is typically associated with the smartphone and tablet markets. However, says Wright, the software platform’s surging popularity has created opportunities for innovative design teams.

“First, designers can develop companion products for the Android ecosystem that rely on low-cost microcontrollers (MCUs) and provide value-added functionality,” he explained.

 “Second, designers can adapt the Android platform as a basis for their own system designs, [as] the smartphone experience has raised the expectation for user interfaces in specialty embedded systems.”

Indeed, Wright recommends developers consider choosing Android as the OS of choice for an embedded system design, simply because most people have become quite comfortable interacting with an intuitive touch-based user interface.

“While you might not think a specialized embedded system – say a portable data-acquisition system or an industrial controller – needs the sophistication of the Android interface, users accustomed to these systems may prefer Android,” he continued.

“Moreover, Android comes with features such as an intuitive GPS application that could come in handy in an embedded system. Design teams can quickly develop an intuitive interface for custom applications. Additionally, Android may reduce development time and deliver a more compelling end product.”

As such, designers might want to consider porting Android to any number of high-end MPUs.

“Atmel already offers some [MPUs] with a ready-to-deploy Android port,” said Wright. “The AT91SAM9G45 and AT91SAM9M10 [MPUs] are based on the ARM926 processor core, [with] Atmel offering support for Android, along with Linux and the embedded version of Microsoft Windows.”

As Wright points out, both the AT91SAM9G45 and AT91SAM9M10 boast a robust peripheral set as depicted in the image above. In terms of connectivity, the MPUs integrate a high-speed 480-Mbit/s USB interface that can operate in host or device mode, a 10/100-Mbit/s Ethernet MAC, along with multiple UART, SPI and TWI (two-wire interface such as I²C) ports. 

The ICs include other typical MCU peripherals, such as a 10-bit A/D converter, four 16-bit PWM controllers, six 32-bit timers and general-purpose I/O.

On the memory side, there is an integrated boot ROM and a small on-chip SRAM array. As expected, the MPUs also include a number of features that will come in handy in a touch-based system, such as an integrated LCD controller that supports screens with resolutions to 1280 x 860 pixels with 2D graphics acceleration and an interface for resistive touch screens. 

Meanwhile, the AT91SAM9M10 adds camera and audio interfaces, along with a video decoder capable of handling D1 720 x 576- or WVGA 800 x 480-pixel streams at 30 frames per second.

“For design teams who want to jump-start an Android project, Atmel also offers the AT91SAM9M10-G45-EK Evaluation Kit,” Wright added. “The kit includes an AT91SAM9M10 processor, a 480×272-pixel LCD with a resistive touch panel and easy interface to all on-chip peripherals. The kit and [MPUs] come with support for Android 2.1.”

Interested in learning more about Atmel’s microprocessors? You can check out the AT91SAM9G45 here, the AT91SAM9M10 here and our Atmel ARM-based portfolio here.

Atmel’s Tech on Tour mobile trailer hits the road

Atmel’s Tech on Tour (ToT) crew has tirelessly crisscrossed the globe for many years, offering hands-on technical training for a wide range of company products. This month, Atmel kicked off a new ToT era with a tricked-out mobile trailer that will be hitting the road this month.

The versatile mobile training center allows visitors to interact with a plethora of next-gen Atmel tech, including AVR and ARM based microcontrollers, automotive and crypto solutions, microprocessors, Internet Of Things (IoT) products, wearable devices, 3D printers, touch sensors and XSense.

In addition to hands-on training, Atmel will leverage the fact that it is at the heart of the Maker Movement and well positioned at the center of IoT innovation. From my perspective, the IoT will be led by a rising generation of tinkerers, inventors and innovators. These are dedicated people who are working out of universities, garages and small companies. We will go and meet them.


Our mobile Tech on Tour trailer provides a familiar setting for customers, engineers and Makers, as well as designers, students, professor and executives. We want to meet people in the market working on projects like electronics, robotics, transportation, alternative energy and sustainable agriculture. That is why we are offering hands-on training and access to soldering irons, along with a chance to brainstorm about the future together.


To be sure, the ToT trailer is quite a scalable platform, functioning not only as a mobile training center, a showroom and conference center, but also as a trade show booth, entertainment center, content creation platform, executive meeting center, recruitment platform, tech support center and employee engagement engine.


On top of that, we are partnering with all global distribution partners, customers, third parties, Makers, government officials and universities to bring Atmel to the market. We are very excited about the concept and the pull from the market and distribution partners has been very promising.

Note: You can request a ToT stop at your location here.

Atmel @ CES 2014

Are you stopping by Atmel’s Technology Zones at CES 2014? This year, we will be showcasing our cutting-edge technology powering the latest devices in your living room, garage and Makerspace.

You can see the hottest smartphones, tablets, Ultrabooks, smart TVs, gaming, lighting, thermostats and more – powered by Atmel’s latest innovations. We’ll also be showcasing the industry’s first futuristic touch-centric curved automotive console powered by Atmel’s XSense and maXTouch.

Atmel Technology Zones


Atmel will be at the ZigBee Alliance Pavilion: Booth #20612.

You can check out our ZigBee Light Link demo controlled via wireless color lamps using Android and a Wi-Fi access point, along with our latest ZigBit modules and Xplained PRO boards.

Atmel Touch Technology

Be sure to visit the Touch Technology Zone to see the latest consumer devices powered by Atmel’s maXTouch.

As we’ve previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, Atmel clinched a number of maXTouch wins in 2013, such as Xiaomi’s Mi3, Pantech’s VEGA LTE smartphones, Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10.1″ 2014 Edition, LG Electronics G Pad 8.3 tablets and Sony’s new PlayStation Vita. 

2013 Windows 8.1 designs featuring maXTouch include Microsoft’s Surface Pro 2 and RT, ASUS’ T100, UX300, X450, X550, and VivoTab TF810, Dell’s XPS12 Convertible and Latitude 7240, Lenovo’s Miix2 and Samsung’s ATIV Tab 3.

We’ll also be showing off XSense, a revolutionary new flexible touch sensor based on metal mesh. With its curved surfaces and edges, XSense opens a new world of possibilities for touch-based products across numerous segments, including consumer, automotive, industrial and medical markets.

Living Room

How many smart devices in your living room are powered by Atmel Wi-Fi, crypto and microcontroller and microprocessor technologies? Ask us, we’ll tell (and show) you!

Pit Stop

Did you know today’s vehicles are typically equipped with 50-100 microcontrollers? Check out Atmel’s innovative technologies powering the latest devices in your garage and car.


Atmel is at the heart of the DIY Maker community.

Powering nearly every desktop 3D printer and Arduino board on the market today, Atmel understands the importance of the rapidly growing Maker Movement. Visit our Maker stop and see the latest DIY creations based on Atmel AVR and ARM-based MCUs.

DIY farming with Arduino and Atmel

Steve Spence – an organic aquaponic farmer living in South Carolina – uses pond water to irrigate his vegetables. Monitoring the delicate balance between water and soil is absolutely critical, and often requires real-time readings.

So Spence decided to build custom sensors based on Arduino boards to keep an eye on the water’s pH, temperature and ammonia levels – along with soil temperature, moisture
levels and barometric pressure.

Photo Credit: ModernFarmer.com

“From aquaponics to weather stations, farmers are starting to embrace the modern trends of DIY tech,” writes Caleb Garling of the Modern Farmer. “Arduino boards are creeping into amateur and professional agriculture to streamline and cheapen operations.”

Indeed, Spence is hardly alone in employing a DIY tech strategy for agriculture, amateur or otherwise. For example, Luke Iseman of San Francisco designed a “growerbot,” a sensor array that monitors a garden’s health and updates followers via Twitter. Meanwhile, Ben Shute, who runs Hearty Roots Community Farm, worked with a Boston-based engineer to build an Arduino-based sensor system dubbed “Fido” which sends text message whenever greenhouse temperatures hit dangerous thresholds. Inspired by the success of Fido, Shute founded Farm Hack in an effort to meld farming and engineering – with Arduino as a common denominator.

“Sharing data from DIY sensors can also add real value to the overall farming community,” notes Garling.

Photo Credit: Scott Bauer, Wikipedia

“Websites like OpenWeatherMap.org and HabitatMap.org have taken [this] on, dedicating themselves to aggregating information so farmers — or anyone for that matter — can drill down to the weather patterns for their tiny corner of the world for future planting and harvesting.”

As we’ve previously discussed on Bits and Pieces, the Maker Movement is steadily growing and making its mark on business, the economy and everyday life. The fundamentally social nature of the Maker space is inspiring individuals to launch innovative products easily and cheaply. In so doing, it is empowering a new generation of small/medium businesses and entrepreneurs – with Arduino capturing the hearts and minds of people all over the world.

Atmel microcontrollers are the chips of choice for the Arduino platform, both in their AVR flavor and ARM varieties. Clearly, Arduino has democratized hardware in a way that allows anyone – young or old, engineer or not, rich or poor – to design anything they can imagine. As Arduino’s founder, Massimo Banzi puts it, “You don’t need anyone’s permission to create something great.”

Arduino-powered environmental sensors deployed at Google I/O

Google has teamed up with the O’Reilly Data Sensing Lab to deploy hundreds of Arduino-based environmental sensors at its upcoming annual I/O conference.

Using software built with the Google Cloud Platform, Mountain View will be collecting and visualizing ambient data about the conference, including temperature, humidity and air quality – all in real time. Altogether, the sensors network are slated to provide approximately 4,000 continuous data streams over a ZigBee mesh network managed by Device Cloud by Etherios.

In addition, the Arduino-powered sensors will be capable of detecting fluctuations in noise level, with some attached to footstep counters in an attempt to analyze and understand collective movement around the conference floor.

“As a key goal of Google I/O is to promote innovation in the open, the project’s Cloud Platform code, the Arduino hardware designs, and even the data collected, will be open source and available online after the conference,” explained Michael Manoochehri, Google Developer Programs Engineer.

“Networked sensor technology is in the early stages of revolutionizing business logistics, city planning, and consumer products. We are looking forward to sharing the Data Sensing Lab with Google I/O attendees, because we want to show how using open hardware together with the Google Cloud Platform can make this technology accessible to anyone.”

With the help of the Maps DevRel team, Google will also be displaying visualizations of trending data on several screens around the conference. Meanwhile, members of the Mountain View’s Data Sensing Lab are scheduled to be on hand in the Google I/O Cloud Sandbox to show off prototypes and talk to attendees about open hardware development.

As previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, Atmel microprocessors are the chips of choice for the Arduino platform, both in their AVR flavor and ARM varieties. Arduino has democratized hardware in a way that allows anyone – young or old, engineer or not, rich or poor – to create anything they can imagine.

As Arduino’s founder, Massimo Banzi puts it, “You don’t need anyone’s permission to create something great.”