Tag Archives: NAND Flash

The smart router is ready for IoT play

The evolution of router has reached the IoT’s doorsteps, and it raises some interesting prospects for industrial and smart home markets.

The router used to be largely a dumb device. Not anymore in the Internet of Things arena where node intelligence is imperative to make a play of the sheer amount of data acquired from sensors, machines and other ‘things.’ The IoT router marks a new era of network intelligence — but what makes a router smart?


For starters, it employs embedded hardware platforms with DIY capabilities while balancing the performance and power consumption requirements. Next, an IoT router provides the operational status on an LCD screen while manipulating the data from different interfaces. In human machine interface (HMI) applications, for example, a smart router offers LCD and touch screen interfaces on expansion I/Os.

Take the case of the DAB-OWRT-53 smart router, which is developed by the Belgian design house DAB-Embedded. The sub-100 euro device — based on Atmel’s SAMA5D36 processor and OpenWRT router hardware platform — is mainly targeted at smart home and industrial IoT applications.

The smart router of DAB-Embedded

The IoT router supports popular wireless interfaces such as Wi-Fi, ZigBee and Z-Wave, as well as a diverse number of wired interfaces including Ethernet, USB, CAN 2.0A/B, KNX and RS-232. And all the data from these interfaces can be stored in either microSD card or NAND flash.

Anatomy of Smart Router

The Atmel | SMART SAMA5D36 is at the heart of the smart router design. First and foremost, it optimizes power consumption in the battery-operated router that features 3.7V lithium polymer battery support with charging capability over a microUSB connector. The router boasts eight hours of battery lifetime while being in full ON mode with Wi-Fi communications.

Second, the ARM Cortex-A5 processor shows a robust performance in the communications domain. For instance, the SAMA5D36 implements routing functionality to transfer data from one Ethernet port to another in a way that router designers don’t require an external hardware hub or switch. Moreover, Atmel’s MPU offers greater flexibility to run a lot of embedded software packages such as OpenZWave and LinuxMCE.

Third, the SAMA5D36-based IoT router offers users the ability to manipulate firewall settings, Disable PING, Telnet, SSH and UPnP features. Furthermore, the hardware security block in SAMA5D3 processor allows the use of CryptoDev Linux drivers to speed up the OpenSSL implementation. The Wi-Fi module — powered by Atmel’s WILC3000 single-chip solution — also supports the IEEE 802.11 WEP, WPA and WPA2 security mechanisms.

The smart router of DAB-Embedded employs Active-Semi’s ACT8945AQJ305-T power management IC, but the real surprise is Altera’s MAX 10 FPGA with an integrated analog-to-digital converter (ADC). That brings the additional flexibility for the main CPU: Atmel’s SAMA5D36.

The FPGA is connected to the 16-bit external bus interface (EBI) so that IoT developers can put any IP core in FPGA for communication with external sensors. All data is converted inside the FPGA to a specific format by using NIOS II’s soft CPU in FPGA. Next, the SAMA5D36 processor reads this data by employing DMA channel over the high-speed mezzanine card (HSMC) bus.

An FPGA has enough cells to start even two soft cores for data preprocessing. Case in point: A weather station with 8-channel external ADC managing light sensors, temperature sensors, pressure sensors and more. It’s connected to the FPGA together with PPS signal from GPS for correct time synchronization of each measurement.


OpenWRT Framework

The SAMA5D36 embedded processor enables DAB’s smart router design to customize free OpenWRT Linux firmware according to the specific IoT application needs. The OpenWRT framework facilitates an easy way to set up router-like devices equipped with communications interfaces such as dual-port Ethernet and Wi-Fi connection.

What’s more, by using the OpenWRT framework, an IoT developer can add now his or her own application (C/C++) to exchange data with a KNX or Z-Wave transceiver. OpenWRT even supports the Lua embedded interpreter.

Next, while DAB-Embedded has built its smart router using the embedded Linux with OpenWRT framework, Belgium’s design house also offers a board support package (BSP) based on the Windows Embedded Compact 2013 software. That’s for IoT developers who have invested in Windows applications and want to use them on the new hardware: the DAB-OWRT-53 smart router.

Later, the embedded design firm plans to release smart router hardware based on the Windows 10 IoT software and Atmel’s SAMA5D family of embedded processors. The Belgian developer of IoT products has vowed to release the second version of its router board based on Atmel’s SAMA5D4 embedded processor and WILC3000 chipset that comes integrated with power amplifier, LNA, switch and power management. Atmel’s WILC3000 single-chip solution boasts IEEE 802.11 b/g/n RF/baseband/MAC link controller and Bluetooth 4.0 connection.

Majeed Ahmad is the author of books Smartphone: Mobile Revolution at the Crossroads of Communications, Computing and Consumer Electronics and The Next Web of 50 Billion Devices: Mobile Internet’s Past, Present and Future.

Designing a multi-purpose thermal label printer with Atmel’s SAMA5D3 eMPU

A thermal label printer produces fixed size labels (barcodes) for product identification and asset tracking. These printers are specifically designed for markets such as logistics, gaming, vehicle rental, pharmaceuticals and retail.

Primary design considerations of such a device include fast start-up printing, high resolution output and optimized printing speeds. A thermal label printer is also likely to feature Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Ethernet, as well as a Flash disk, SDCard, RFID and various ports.


Atmel’s SAMA5D3 (ARM) Cortex-A5 based eMPU, along with the AT30TSE Serial EEPROM (+temp sensor) and ATtiny/AT42QT Touch ICs, can be used to build a multi-purpose thermal label printer that fulfills the above-mentioned design requirements.

“Atmel’s ATSAMA5D3 eMPU offers powerful CPU operating performance and a high level of integration to address the needs of high-end thermal label printers,” an Atmel engineering rep told Bits & Pieces.

“First off, the Cortex-A5 can be clocked up to 536MHz (850DMIPS). There is also 32KBytes D-Cache, 32KBytes I-Cache, 32-bit DDR2/LPDDR2, as well as a NAND Flash memory interface that facilitates fast boot times and high speed data storage. Meanwhile, an (additional) external 16-bit interface is available for external FPGA-based print engines, along with a high-speed SPI/UART/I2C to support high-speed thermal printer heads.”

The engineering rep noted that Atmel’s SAMA5D3-based platform boasts three fully independent HS USB Host/Device with on chip transceivers, along with three independent SDIO controllers supporting Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and SDCard/Flash disk storage. There is also an embedded Ethernet MAC 10/100 and Gigabit Ethernet MAC 10/100/1000.

“In terms of integration capabilities, we offer integrated SPI, TWI, USART, SSC, 10-bit ADC, SDIO and EBI – all of which facilitate connections to a number of components including a thermal printer head, RFID module, RS232, LCD module, multiple external Micro SD cards, external SDIO wireless modules, serial flash and temperature sensor,” the engineering rep added.

“Lastly, a 160 programmable I/O line supports multiple system peripherals and tasks, such as motors, ribbon, cutter, rewind, backlight, buzzer and sensors.”

On the software side of things, Atmel’s SAMA5D3 supports an extensive development ecosystem and offers Linux 3.6.6 OS support including sources, pre-built demos with installation scripts, build instructions, as well as a plethora of tips and tricks. Plus, the ATSAMA5D3x-EK offers free packages to enable rapid evaluation and coding.

Additional information about Atmel’s ATSAMA5D3 Cortex-A5 based eMPU can be found here.