Tag Archives: MPUs

Chip Design Mag goes 1:1 with Jacko Wilbrink

ARM recently announced that it had licensed processor and security IP to Atmel for use in devices requiring image, video and display capabilities. The license includes the ARM Cortex®-A7 processorARM Mali™-V500 video accelerator, Mali-DP500 display processor and ARM TrustZone® technology, which can now be integrated into a variety of wearable devices, toys and even automated factory tasks reliant on image processing.

The energy efficiency and small die area of the ARM Mali-V500 and Mali-DP500 enables full HD 1080p60 resolution capabilities on a single core, reducing the cost for price-sensitive consumer applications. They also both incorporate ARM TrustZone technology for hardware-backed content security from download to display, which is becoming more important as more mobile devices are used for such content downloads.

Following the announcement, Chip Design Mag‘s Caroline Hayes had a chance to sit down with Jacko Wilbrink, Atmel Senior Product Marketing Director, to discuss what the adoption of ARM Mali means for both parties. The interview can be found below.

CH: What existing strengthens will Atmel bring in using the Mali IP?
JW: Low power will remain an important differentiator for Atmel MPUs including those embedding Mali IPs going forward. The Mali IPs will bring smartphone and tablet experience and applications to many products including power sensitive user interface centric wearable and battery operated products.

CH: What markets will the licensed IP address, e.g. wearables?
JW: With the cost of TFT displays coming down and the demand from consumers to improve the user interface/user experience of a fast growing range of products beyond smartphones and tablets, there is a growing need for MPUs with graphical processing and video capabilities. Industrial graded products with long life support, professional documentation and support are important benefits Atmel offers over alternative multi-core ASSPs designed for smartphones and tablets.

CH: What architectural features of Mali will be used in these areas?
JW: The licensed IPs allow Atmel to scale up their MPUs in performance and functionality including 3D graphics, HD video decoding and encoding and efficient memory bandwidth usage. The multi-core Cortex-A cores offer the ability to optimize the price performance point while maximizing software reuse across an Atmel MPU platform.

CH: What benefits of the Mali architecture will be exploited initially and how?
JW: Full compliance with video and graphics standards is critical for our customers. Power efficiency, Android support and efficient memory usage and bus bandwidth optimization are important benefits offered by the Mali IPs.

CH: When will the first Mali-based devices be rolled out?
JW: The first design is planned to sample to early customers by the end of 2015.

To learn more about the collaboration, you can find the original announcement here.

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 is building the Internet of Things (IoT)

The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to a future world where all types of electronic devices link to each other via the Internet. In 2009, there were 2.5 billion connected devices; most of these were mobile phones, PCs and tablets. By 2020, there will be over 30 billion connected devices of far greater variety.

According to Gartner, 50% of companies expected to help build the rapidly evolving Internet of Things have yet to coalesce. This is precisely why Atmel views the Maker Movement as one of the primary tech incubators for future IoT companies and devices, many of which will undoubtedly use Atmel microcontrollers (MCUs) to power their respective platforms.

MakerBot, which manufactures the Atmel-powered Replicator 3D printer, is a perfect example of a Maker-inspired company that emerged from nothing, yet was recently acquired for approximately $600 million by Stratasys. Adafruit, responsible for designing the Atmel-powered Gemma, Trinket and Flora platforms, is another example of a successful company started by Makers, for Makers. Of course, Atmel is also at the heart of multiple Arduino boards used by millions of Makers, engineers, schools and corporations all over the world.

There is a reason Atmel’s MCUs and MPUs are the silicon of choice for both Makers and industry heavyweights. Simply put, our low power sipping portfolio, which includes WiFi capability and extensive XSense integration options, is optimized for a wide variety of devices, ranging from IoT wearables to more stationary industrial platforms with connected capabilities such as smart grids and home appliance automation. Indeed, an IoT-enabled smart grid equipped with advance sensors offers huge energy savings, helping to create a green and sustainable future by conserving power and reducing water consumption.

Clearly, the age of IoT is already upon us. To be sure, over three-quarters of companies are now actively exploring or using the Internet of Things (IoT), with the vast majority of business leaders believing it will have a meaningful impact on how their companies conduct business. As noted above, the number of “things” predicted to be connected to the Internet by the end of this decade range from a staggering 30 billion to 50 billion.

According to Clint Witchalls, the Internet of Things is a quiet revolution that is steadily taking shape. Businesses across the world are piloting the use of the IoT to improve their internal operations, while preparing a stream of IoT-related products and services. Consumers might not (initially) recognize them as such, but that will not stop them from being launched, as few end users need to know that user-based car insurance, for example, is an IoT-based application.

From our perspective, the IoT represents one of the greatest potential growth markets for semiconductors over the next several years. That is precisely why Atmel remains focused on designing the absolute lowest power sipping products, particularly with regards to microcontrollers (MCUs) which offer maximum performance and meet the requirements of advanced applications. Atmel also offers highly integrated architecture optimized for high-speed connectivity, optimal data bandwidth and rich interface support – making our microcontrollers ideal for powering the smart, connected products at the heart of the IoT.

A closer look at MYIR’s DevKit for Atmel’s SAMA5D3 lineup

Today we’ll be taking a closer look at MYIR’s development board series for Atmel’s lineup of SAMA5D3 ARM Cortex-A5 based processors.

MYIRDevKit

Four CPU modules are available for use with the MYD-SAMA5D3X family, including those based on Atmel’s ATSAMA5D31, SAMA5D33, SAMA5D34 and SAMA5D35. All offer the same circuit design – albeit with minor configuration differences.

“The board family has a commonly-used base board and is using MYC-SAMA5D3X series CPU modules as core boards,” a MYIR rep explained. “The CPU modules integrate 512MB DDR2 SDRAM, 256MB Nand Flash, 16MB Nor Flash and 4MB Data Flash on-board. It is connected with the base board [via] an SD-DIMM 200-pin connector which provides an interface for the base board to carry all the I/O signals to and from the CPU module.”

Meanwhile, the base boards offer a rich set of peripherals, headers and connectors including serial ports, USB Host, OGT, CAN, RS485, Ethernet, MMC/SD, Micro SD, LCD and audio.

MYIR has already ported Linux 3.6.9 and (Google) Android 4.0.4 to the MYD-SAMA5D3X platform, offering a comprehensive set of software packages, documents and cable accessories. In addition, 4.3-inch and 7-inch LCD touch screens are available for use with the SAMA5D31, SAMA5D33 and SAMA5D34.

“The platform [offers] a solid and flexible reference design to enable users to extensively evaluate, prototype and create applications that require audio, mass storage, networking, connectivity and more,” the MYIR rep added. “Typical applications include control panel/HMI, smart grid, medical and handheld terminals, smartwatches, outdoor GPS, DECT (digital enhanced cordless telecommunications) and smartphones.”

Active-Semi goes turnkey with Atmel’s eMPUs

Active-Semi has debuted a number of reference design solutions for Atmel’s ARM Cortex A5 and ARM9-based eMPUs (Embedded Micro Processor Units) using Active-Semi’s ACT8865 and ACT8945A PMICs (Power Management Integrated Circuits).

activesemiatmelsketch

According to Jacko Wilbrink, Senior Product Marketing Director of ARM eMPU & Secure at Atmel, the above-mentioned embedded solutions offer high differentiation, specifically for low-power applications such as smartwatches, wearables, POS (Point-of-Sale) and HMI (Human Machine Interface).

“These turnkey, highly integrated power IC solutions from Active-Semi fit well with Atmel’s eMPU platform approach by reducing design cycle-time up to 80% and enabling the lowest standby power (under 2mW), critical in conserving battery life in portable applications,” Wilbrink explained. “Working with Active-Semi to develop the ACT8865 and ACT8945A Family of PMICs has helped to further simplify our customer’s system design and reduce the number of power components by as much as 80 percent.”

As Mark Cieri, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Active-Semi notes, the ACT8865 and ACT8945A PMICs integrate the complete voltage regulator requirements of Atmel eMPU-based systems, including three step-down DC-DC converters and two low-dropout (LDO) linear regulators – all while leaving free two additional LDO for auxiliary customer-specific functions.

The devices also include pre-configured power rail sequencing that removes the associated design complexity of discrete solution alternatives. In addition, the ACT8945A offers an integrated battery charger and ActivePath power path management to efficiently regulate battery charging. Both products offer serial communication interfaces to configure and control the operation of the PMICs.

“We see tremendous market opportunity for high density and energy efficient microprocessors such as Atmel’s SAMA5 and SAM9 that are enabling a new class of consumer and industrial embedded applications,” Cieri added. “Our ACT8865 and ACT8945A devices have proven valuable, as they enable up to a 50% reduction in both size and total cost of the power solution but at higher performance than the discrete alternatives.”

The ACT8865 and ACT8945A are in production today. For more information and to order samples, evaluation kits or Atmel reference design information, readers can visit www.active-semi.com/AtmelPMU.

Atmel’s fast Cortex-A5 based MPU is low power

Last week, Atmel expanded its ARM Cortex-A5 microprocessor (MPU) portfolio with new SAMA5D3 devices that deliver smaller packaging, extended temperature support and an alternative peripheral mix.

The latest SAMA5D3 devices – designed to neatly balance high performance and low-power operation – also offer an expanded ecosystem with new software and hardware.

“To better meet wearable, portable computing and medical application requirements, we have added a smaller package option to the SAMA5D31 to include a tiny, fine-pitch 12x12mm BGA324 0.5mm ball pitch package,” Jacko Wilbrink, Sr. Director of ARM Products, Atmel Corporation, explained.

“For volumes starting at 100,000 pieces, Atmel offers the SAMA5D3 in-die, facilitating the development of Silicon in Package (SiP) solutions for even smaller form factor designs. Incremental support for the industrial and automotive aftermarket is provided by the new SAMA5D36, a superset device providing a unique combination of user interface (UI) and connectivity features including an LCD, 2x Ethernet ports and dual CAN support.”

As the folks at Electronic Products note, the Cortex-A5 based SAMA5D3 (ATSAMA5D3xA) microprocessor now offers a smaller 12 mm package and -40° to 105°C temperature support. The device – which delivers up to 850 DMIPS at 536 MHz – sips under 150 mW in active mode at maximum speed and boasts a 64-bit advanced interrupt controller, SHA algorithm, AES security support and 192 customer allocated fuse bits.

In addition, the MPU lineup series features an multi-layer internal bus structure and 39 DMA channels, plus support for DDR2/LPDDR/LPDDR2 and MLC NAND flash memory with 24-bit ECC and a floating point math unit (VFPv4). The MPU is also equipped with a 12-channel 12-bit A/D converter, a GbE MAC with 1588 support, a 10/100 Ethernet MAC, two CAN controllers, a four channel 16-bit PWM controller along with many other I/O.

Atmel’s SAMA5D3 lineup can be purchased from Electronic Products here.

Taking the IoT to the next level

Over three-quarters of companies are now actively exploring or using the Internet of Things (IoT), with the vast majority of business leaders believing it will have a meaningful impact on how their companies conduct business. Clearly, the the IoT is reaching a tipping point.

iotimpact

Although the concept of an Internet of Things has been around for at least a decade, the IoT is beginning to become an important action point for the global business community. As Clint Witchalls notes in a recent report sponsored by ARM, there is no doubt that IoT-related technology is already having a broad impact across the world. Although the precise effect is likely to vary by country and by company, it is hard to imagine any sector will be left untouched by rapidly evolving Internet of Things.

Kevin Ashton who originally coined the term the “Internet of Things” (IoT) in 1999 while working at Proctor & Gamble, points out that the recent “trickle” of IoT product releases is all part of a larger plan to test market appetite.

“We are trying to understand before we get in too deep, because once you are financially invested and committed you cease to become agile. Then you really have to start building on the thing you’ve already invested in,” Ashton explains. “In the early stages of technology deployment it’s a charitable act really to explore a new technology because the return on investment isn’t there, it’s too expensive and it’s too unknown. That’s where government has a role.”

Looking ahead, investment in the IoT should continue to increase as more and more senior executives move up the IoT learning curve. According to Witchalls, the costs associated with the IoT will continue to fall concurrently – just like any nascent technology. Indeed, a number of early adopters believe that the technology is already mature enough and cheap enough to make IoT products and services viable without the need for a big upfront investment, at least for initial trials.

“You don’t need a lot of R&D, it’s more about integration,” says Honbo Zhou, a director of China’s Haier. “Everyone can build it [into their products]. It’s just a matter of finding a business model that works.”

Meanwhile, Elgar Fleisch, the deputy dean of ETH Zürich, a science and technology university, says he believes IoT adoption will be quite different from what he dubs the “Internet of people revolution.”

During the first phase of the Internet, he maintains, anyone with a good idea and a computer could start an organization with global reach. However, Fleisch sees the initial advantage in the “IoT revolution” going mainly to bricks-and mortar organizations, especially large firms with many assets to track and monitor. Meaning, we are unlikely to see another Facebook, Yahoo or eBay.

“There will be winners and losers, but we are unlikely to see entirely new big players entering the market,” Fleisch opines.

Notwithstanding the significant involvement of the physical world of assets and products, the IoT is still expected to be a less visible revolution than the traditional Internet.

“PayPal, Groupon and YouTube are well-known Internet companies, yet few people are probably aware that the smart meter in their cellar means that their home is a part of the IoT,” writes Witchalls. “As organizations move towards the ‘productization’ of the IoT, there are signs that business leaders recognize that this need not be a major hindrance: undeveloped consumer awareness is not seen as one of the top obstacles to organizations using the IoT. After all, consumers will always want products and services that are better, cheaper, greener and more convenient.”

As Ashton notes, “Consumers are not going to demand the Internet of Things. Nobody is going to demand the underlying infrastructure.”

Rather, says Ashton, consumers will demand some value and benefit.

“They’re going to demand a security system that they can control from their smartphone. You don’t go to the end user and talk about the Internet of Things. You go to the end user to talk about benefits,” he adds.

Want to learn more about how the IoT revolution is gathering pace and reaching a tipping point? Part one is available here, part two here, part three here and part four here.