Tag Archives: SAM4L

Kanega is like a “wearable OnStar for seniors”


UnaliWear’s latest watch offers discreet support for falls, medication reminders, and a guard against wandering.


Most of you who’ve lived through the late ‘80s and ‘90s can distinctly recollect those Life Alert commercials with Mrs. Fletcher yelling, “Help! I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!” Lo and behold, the catchphrase would go on to become a pop culture phenomenon throughout the United States. Since then, there have been numerous attempts to develop solutions geared towards providing the elderly real-time support in the event of an emergency, especially when they’re unable to reach a phone. And, as we enter the era of constant connectivity, it’s no wonder more brands are turning to ARM-based wearable technology to help bring senior citizens online.

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Inspired by her own 80-year-old mother who refuses to wear some of today’s bulky emergency alert products, UnaliWear CEO Jean Anne Booth decided to take matters into her own hands. Not only are a number of gadgets available today socially stigmatizing and downright ugly, they’re also limited to use in homes unless tethered to a mobile device — something many seniors do not have in their possession.

Dubbed a “Wearable OnStar for seniors,” Kanega is a stylish watch that provides discrete support for falls, medication reminders and a safeguard against wandering, as well as uses an easy-to-use speech interface rather than buttons. The Bluetooth-enabled wearable — which recently made its Kickstarter debut — is connected to a cellular network, meaning that it isn’t reliant upon Wi-Fi or having to be synced to a smartphone much like the Apple Watch or Samsung Gear.

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Better yet, UnaliWear’s latest product can be worn 24/7 thanks to its waterproof casing. This allows for the band to be used in the shower or bath, where a majority of falls occur. Its well-lit display and other built-in features can even assist with issues that may arise at night, such as trips to bathroom or the kitchen for a snack.

Aesthetically it appears no different than a traditional watch, thereby eliminating the ignominy often associated with “needing” assistance. Instead, it first requests permission to speak by buzzing on a wearer’s wrist — something that will surely come in handy when in public. The device can even communicate over Bluetooth to newer generation hearing aids, as well as serve as a communications gateway for home telemedicine devices.

Shall an emergency arise, voice-activated assistance will connect you directly to a monitor who will confirm assistance should be dispatched to a location. If a user happens to activate help and doesn’t respond immediately, UnaliWear will call an emergency contact first or dispatch local medical assistance, depending on the preferences set.

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At its core, the gadget is based on an Atmel | SMART SAM4L Cortex-M4 MCU and a ATWINC1500 module. While it may appear to be another smartwatch, it’s so much more. Aside from its “work anywhere” support, Kanega packs 200% more battery life, continuous speech recognition, patent-pending quick-swap batteries, GPS for proper tracking, and a 9-axis accelerometer. Detected falls trigger a watch-based query, which significantly reduces false alerts, and eliminate the need to be near a base station or smartphone.

What’s more, data is collected and sent to Verizon’s HIPAA-compliant cloud, which offers an analysis of the wearer’s lifestyle. Artificial intelligence learns the wearer’s lifestyle to determine likelihood of wandering, and updates the information on the watch — including activity and medication reminders — every night while asleep. This also helps a wearer obtain directions home or get help if they happen to stray from home.

Interested in a Kanega for a loved one in your life? Hurry over to its official Kickstarter page, where UnaliWear is currently seeking $100,000. Delivery for early backers is expected to begin in February 2016, while shipments to all other consumers slated for Summer 2016.

UPDATE: UnaliWear has completed a successful crowdfunding campaign, having raised $110,154 from 306 backers.

SMART MCUs for low power, smarter designs in Internet of Things, wearables, and the Industrial Internet

According to analysts at ABI Research, over the next five years businesses will integrate into their wellness plans more than 13 million wearable devices with embedded wireless connectivity. Wearable tech also ties into the rapidly evolving Internet of Things (IoT), which refers to a future world where all types of electronic devices link to each other via the Internet. Today, it’s estimated there are nearly 10 billion devices in the world connected to the Internet, a figure expected to triple to nearly 30 billion devices by 2020. The inherent versatility of Atmel | SMART microcontrollers and Atmel radio chips have made our silicon a favorite of Makers and engineers.

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Along with this setting stage, the design aspects for low power are becoming more and more important in the next embedded design products. Atmel is right in the middle of the industrial and wearable tech revolution, with a comprehensive portfolio of versatile microcontrollers (MCUs) that power a wide range of platforms and devices.

Blood glucose meters, sport watches, game controllers and accessories, guess what they are all in common? In fact, many of these today are going to shift and evolve into new form factors and application use case as connectivity and clever interacting interfaces become designed. Yes, like a lot of other industrial and consumer devices, they are all battery powered and demanding a long or extended battery life. Translating it into an engineer’s challenge designing an embedded computing system, you will need a central heart, in this case a microcontroller, consuming as low power as possible in both active and static modes without sacrificing the performance. And, Atmel SMART | ARM Cortex-M4 based SAM4L series is designed with this in mind.

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The SAM4L microcontrollers redefine the low power, delivering the lowest power in the same class in active mode (90uZ/MHz) as well as static mode with full RAM retention running and with the shortest wake-up time (1.5us). And they are the most efficient microcontrollers available today, achieving up to 28 CoreMark/mA. In this video, you’ll get an overview of Atmel | SMART SAM4L low-power microcontrollers (MCU), based on the ARM Cortex-M4 core. SAM4L MCUs operate at 90uA/MHz and achieve an efficiency rating of 28 CoreMark/mA. The devices feature an array of power-saving technologies, including Atmel’s proprietary picoPower technology. You’ll see a demo using the SAM4L-EK evaluation kit.

The SAM4L series integrates Atmel’s proprietary picoPower technology, which ensures the devices are developed from the ground up, from transistor design to clocking options, to consume as little power as possible. In addition, Atmel’s SleepWalking technology allows the peripherals to make intelligent decisions and wake up the system upon qualifying events at the peripheral level.

In this video, you will see how SAM4L microcontrollers support multiple power configurations to allow the engineer to optimize its power consumption in different use cases. You will also see another good feature of the SAM4L series, power scaling, which is a technique to adjust the internal regulator output voltage to further reduce power consumption provided by the integrated backup power manager module. Additionally, the SAM4L series comes with 2 regulators options to supply system power based on the application requirement. While the buck/switching regulator delivers much higher efficiency and is operational from 2 to 3.6V, the linear regulator has higher noise immunity and operates from 1.68 to 3.6V.

It’s all about system intelligence and conserving energy. Simply put, the SAM4L microcontroller (See SAM4L Starter Kit) is your choice if you are designing a product with long battery life but without sacrificing the performance — as demonstrated in this walkthrough of the Xplained Pro SAM4L Starter Kit.

The SAM4LC Cortex-M4 processor-based Flash microcontrollers offer the industry’s lowest power consumption and fastest wake-up. On top of what’s mentioned, this sub family of Atmel | SMART microcontrollers [labeled as ATASAM4L] devices are ideal for a wide range of industrial, healthcare and consumer applications.

Get a jump-start on your design with dedicated evaluation kits and software packages.  You can also easily catch up on some of the recent and past articles we posted related to Atmel | SMART SAM4L Microcontrollers.

Atmel’s SAM4L at the Colorado School of Mines

Analog aficionado and Linear Systems marketing maven Tim McCune saw some of our cool ARM Cortex M4-based SAM4L-EK demo kits at the last Analog Aficionados party. Turns out his son Clark just entered the Colorado School of Mines and Tim thought his son could learn a lot from the kit. This is the same kit that Atmel is featuring in its 2014 Tech on Tour training, where we drive a giant 18-wheeler truck onto your campus or company and then do training or product demos.

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The Atmel Tech on Tour mobile trailer is available to drive to your location and conduct training for employees or students.

So I wangle a couple kits from Atmel events director Donna Castillo and sent them off to Clark. In addition to the ARM Cortex M4-based SAM4-EK, the training bundle had an AT86RF233 Xplained Pro wireless board and an 10-pin XPRO adapter PCB. This allows the SAM4 Xplained pro to take the RF board.

Tim reported the kits were a big hit:

“The kits arrived last Friday, before the three-day weekend, which was a great morale-booster for Clark. He was stuck there with not much to do, most of his friends were at home or skiing. Figuring out how to fire up the kits and start working in C was pretty fun. And when his classmates started drifting back he had the coolest new toys on the hall.”

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Clark McCune and pal fires up the Atmel SAM4-EK at the Colorado School of Mines.

 

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Here Clark McCune has both SAM4-EK kits at the ready, with the one hooked to the computer also sporting the AT86RF233 wireless board that comes with the Tech on Tour training.

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Here are the kits I sent Clark McCune. The Tech on Tour training will get you up to speed on ARM Cortex M4 programming as well as wireless connectivity.

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The SAM4L-EK has a board and a ton of cables including the micro-USB ones you will need to power the board.

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Both displays have a protective film over them, so be sure to peel them off to get the best appearance.

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Right out of the box the board is programmed to read the slider on the bottom right side. The number “104” changes in proportion to your finger posing. Note the smaller power consumption display above the main one. The L in SAM4L stands for low power, so Atmel includes a power monitor right on the board.

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We also include the jumpers, just set off to the side, so you don’t have to hunt any down from your old Windows 95 add-in cards.

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Here is the SAM4L set up with the AT86RF233 Xplained Pro wireless board and an 10-pin XPRO adapter PCB. I hope Clark had them in the right way because I just copied what he had in his picture.

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Here is a close-up of the power monitor display. With the programs running full-bore, you can see the board is using 1.92 mA, but the firmware is nice enough to tell you it is using 159μA/MHz.

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Press pushbutton PB0 and the board kicks into standby, where the PCB only draws 66μA. Sorry for the shaky camera, the display is sharp as a tack.

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Speaking of shaky camera work, I tried to press the PB0 pushbutton and snap a pic at the same time, so you can see the little display on the SAM4L-EL work like a tiny oscilloscope, showing the power consumption dropping from 2mA to 69μA.

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And finally, another shaky camera shot of the SAM4L-EK returning to full power mode.

What is really cool about the little power monitor is that it does show transient events, like when the code services an interrupt and returns to low-power mode. Oh, I forgot to show the back of the PCB, here is a shot:

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The back of the SAM4L-EK has more chips, I assume to run the debugger and such. Note the nice clear rubber feet to keep the pins from scratching your desk.

This is such a well-done kit, and if you want to get on the ARM bandwagon, it is a perfect way to learn. Better yet, with the RF board it gets you familiar with the Internet of Things (IoT) applications the whole world is hungering for. So check out the Tech on Tour training and feel free to badger you local Atmel rep or FAE to bring the ToT mobile trailer to your school or company.


ARM @ Atmel’s EELive! ToT booth

ARM’s Andy Frame stopped by Atmel’s EELive! 2014 ToT booth to chat with our very own Andreas Eieland (@AndreasMCUguy), who looks after Atmel’s SAM D Cortex-M0+ based family of devices.

As you can see, Frame snapped a great picture of Andreas standing next to Atmel’s tricked-out Tech on Tour Truck which travels around the US showcasing a wide range of Atmel-powered products, including those based on ARM’s Cortex-M and Cortex-A5.

ARM’s Ronan Synnott was also at Atmel’s EELive! booth giving a presentation about ARM’s DS-5 support for Atmel SAMA5D3 devices. Ronan described how, with DS-5 Professional Edition, ARM provides a leading-edge software development tool chain for bare-metal, RTOS and Linux based projects. 

For the SAMA5D3 devices, ARM offers full debug support out of the box when used in conjunction with DSTREAM or ULINKproD JTAG debug units, the Streamline System Performance Analysis tool and the highly optimizing ARM C compiler.

We hope to hear more from Ronan over the next few weeks, so be sure to check Bits & Pieces for additional embedded news and reports.

Meanwhile, Atmel’s Tech on Tour trailer will be headed to Austin, Texas on April 8th. We’ll be talking about low-power system design using Atmel’s ARM-based SAM4L MCU, touch and wireless solutions, as well as offering an introduction to Atmel’s versatile SAM D20 microcontroller.

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Interested in learning more? You can register here and check out future ToT stops here.

The new Atmel-ICE debugger is here

I ordered the new Atmel ICE debugger as soon as it appeared on the company store. I see there is still stock so feel free to put in an order with us or your favorite distributor. Don’t get this new one confused with our JTAGICE3,  sometimes called JTAGICE markIII or mk3. It looks similar, but this new one has two debugging connectors. One is for the AVR microcontrollers, and one is for ARM MCU devices. There is a nice slide-show and explanation on our Norway site.

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The new Atmel-ICE is white and has two connectors for debugging. The old JTAGICE3 (inset) is silver and only has one connector, although you can upgrade the firmware so it can debug SAM D20 ARM-based MCUs.

Best yet, just like we lowered the priced between the JTAGICE2 and JTAGICE3, we lowered it again for the Atmel ICE. You can get the fancy high-zoot version for 85 bucks. It has the pretty box and all the cables. Then there is a stripper version with just one debug cable for $49. Finally, you can get a bare-board version with no case or cables for a measly $32. This is a great deal when you think that a JTAGICE2 was $399.

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This new Atmel-ICE replaces both the Dragon and the JTAGICE3. The only other ARV debugger you might need is the AVRONE! debugger that has trace capability. It’s 600 bucks, but that is worth every penny if you are trying to figure out where your program went or how it entered a subroutine or interrupt vector.

For the “big iron” ARM MPU (microprocessor units) with external memory you can use the SAM ICE. The SAM-ICE is in our store for 100 dollars. This works with Atmel’s MPU chips like the ARM Cortex A5-based chips like the SAMA5D series, and the ARM9-based SAM9x parts.

I unboxed my new Atmel-ICE today, here are the pictures:

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The box has a Norse warrior on it, as tribute to the brilliant Norwegian engineers that invented the AVR chip.

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Open the box and you see the Atmel-ICE on the left, safely snuggles in anti-static foam, and a box on the right with the three cables and breakout PCB.

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Here is a close-up of the debug connectors. Identical, but the one on the right is for AVR and the one on the left is for ARM-based MCUs.

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The Atmel ICE uses the micro USB connector. The two more expensive versions come with the cable, the bare PCB does not.

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To keep costs down we didn’t paint the logo on, you can see it is nicely inset, as are the “AVR” and “SAM” indicators to tell you which debug connector is which. Check out how nice and small the unit is. This is another improvement over the JTAGICE2, and a real benefit on a crowded desk or lab bench.

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Here is the cables that come in the 85-dollar unit. You also get the USB cable. Note the one cable comes with that cool breakout board.

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The breakout board has a silkscreen on both sides to help you figure out what it plugs into.

90 million wearables to ship in 2014


Analysts at ABI Research expect 90 million wearable devices to ship in 2014. As senior analyst Joshua Flood notes, wearable tech will be characterized by a diversity of products, although only those with clear use-cases and target audiences are likely to succeed.

“The next 12 months will be a critical period for the acceptance and adoption of wearable devices. Healthcare and sports and activity trackers are rapidly becoming mass-market products,” the analyst explained.

“On the flipside, wearable devices like smart watches need to overcome some critical obstacles. Aesthetic design, more compelling use cases, battery life and lower price points are the main inhibitors. How vendors approach these challenges and their respective solutions will affect the wearable market far in the future.”

According to Flood, chipset vendors are beginning to pave the way with interesting wearable reference designs that will allow non-technology OEMs and brands to quickly jump upon the wearable device bandwagon and offer diverse, innovative, unique and stylish solutions.

“While smart glasses could be the starting point moving away from today’s touchscreen smartphones to eyewear devices using a voice interface, pricing, battery life and style will all play crucial roles for market traction,” he continued.

“Due to these limitations, the enterprise sector will be the early target for smart glasses before they are ready for mass-market adoption. [We] expect more than two million smart glasses [to] ship in 2014, [with] the category forecast to grow rapidly from 2015 onwards. Mobile enabling technologies like augmented reality will play a vital part in enhancing smart glass capabilities.”

Indeed, smart glasses and smart watches will account for a relatively small segment of the wearable device market in 2014, with medical, wellness and sports and activity wearable devices expected to provide the bulk of wearable device shipments this year.

“Activity trackers will continue to be the most popular wearable device as people carefully monitor their activity levels and energy output,” Flood added.

“Concerns around weight management and even obesity are the prime drivers behind this wearable device type. The collection and analysis of the captured personal performance data through associated websites and their communities is also a crucial element in building out the use-case.”

Building e-Paper devices with the EPD Xplained Pro

Atmel and Pervasive Displays Inc. (PDI) have introduced the EPD Xplained Pro kit for e-Paper device developers. The kit – designed to work with Atmel’s MCU Xplained Pro lineup – allows engineers to simply drag and drop code across a variety of Atmel MCU platforms.

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In addition, PDI has published the EPD driving source code for SAM4L Xplained Pro and SAM D20 Xplained Pro Kit on Atmel Gallery, making it easy for users to easily download an example EPD project with full source code that is integrated into Atmel Software Framework (ASF).

According to Atmel’s Joerg Bertholdt, developers can easily tweak the MCU configuration to work with addition Atmel Xplained Pro kits and Atmel MCUs.

“Developers can plug in the EPD Xplained Pro directly to the header of any Atmel MCU Xplained Pro kit,” he said. “It will be recognized automatically and direct users to a landing page in the Atmel Studio 6.1 IDE for more detailed information and design resources.

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E-Paper displays (EPD’s) are currently being utilized for reusable transport items, medical display devices, electronic security badges, smart tags and labels. 

e-Paper is also used for retail and commercial product pricing and information displays, diagnostic charts, barcode/QR codes, along with work instructions for assembly lines and manufacturing.

Indeed, E-paper provides a distinct advantage over traditional paper displays by reducing expenses for paper materials and labor, while offering paper-like readability, high resolution, optimized contrast and a 180 degree viewing angle.

For additional product information and to purchase the kit, visit EPD Xplained Pro kit on PDI’s website. Software support for the EPD Xplained Pro kit is available for download, free of charge, from the Atmel Gallery by typing “EPD” or “e-paper” to search or directly through Atmel Studio 6 Extension Manager.