Tag Archives: SAM9

Eco lets you control any smart home device from a single app

What the universal remote did for audio and video equipment, Eco wants to do for home automation.

With aspirations of making tomorrow’s home not only smart but energy efficient, one Newport Beach-based startup has developed a new automation system designed with your family’s best interests in mind. Using its patent-pending technology and the Amazon Echo engine, Eco Automation believes its latest product line will finally offer you a seamless way to control all of your smart devices from a single app or through Jarvis-like voice commands.


Impressively, Eco’s energy efficient home automation system incorporates all of today’s most popular technologies into one small package, helping reduce power consumption and consolidating control in one place. Just like a universal remote for your audio and video equipment, Eco wants to be the all-in-one controller for all things home automation by making connecting to and managing any kind of gadgetry a breeze. Using its Eco Touch Display, users can simply scan the barcode of any device or sensor to quickly add them to the system in seconds.

The platform itself is comprised of several units. These include a Technology Bridge, an Eco Energy Meter, Eco Smart MultiSensor Switches,  Eco Smart MultiSensors and Eco Door/Window Sensors.

Eco’s universal bridge supports nine different protocols, such as Z-Wave, Zigbee, Thread, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, providing you the largest range of product combinations and automation possibilities. What’s more, an expansion slot inside makes the system essentially future-proof, giving you with ability to add a new protocol whenever necessary.

Eco is also incredibly easy to setup. Mount your wireless Smart MultiSensors throughout the house, link Eco to your network and download its accompanying app. With your smartphone, you can now tap for quick access to commands and automation scenes, create new rules or edit synced gadgets, among countless other things. You can even assign a digital key to any of your contacts and grant them temporary access to your home or office.


Next, the Eco Eco Energy Meter lets you closely monitor real-time power consumption and solar production down to the microsecond. These power reads, combined with the Eco Intelligent Energy Conservation Engine, help you identify areas that you could be saving more energy in your home.

Meanwhile, Eco Smart MultiSensor Switches allow you to toggle your lights and power outlets. Not only can it be changed from a multi-level dimmer to an on/off switch with the push of a button, it features built-in voice commands as well.

In order to give it the true Tony Stark effect, Eco employs Amazon’s voice engine. This enables you to talk directly to the system via the Eco Touch Remote, the Eco Smart Switch, or by just using an Amazon Echo’s speaker.

“Because of Eco’s cross platform abilities, the possibilities are almost unlimited and will only be subject to your minds imagination. Eco has all the basic’s right out of the box such as home security with streaming video capabilities that can be monitored for your safety 24/7, real-time energy usage, individual room or location lighting control, comfort with HVAC control and ease of access with door lock control,” its creators write.

Among the many things Eco can do are notify you when a guest approaches your front door by flashing a light, sending a message to your phone as a loved arrives home, offer a friendly reminder to take out trash as you head out, and even give off the impression of a lived-in home while away.

Sound like the home automation system for you? Head over to its Indiegogo campaign, where the team is currently seeking $100,000. Delivery is slated for April 2016.


Cosino prototyping platform

 has Atmel’s SAM9 under the hood

Powered by Atmel’s ARM-based AT91SAM9G35, the Cosino Project is an embedded prototyping system that combines the functionality of a mini-computer with those of a professional automation system.

According to company rep Rodolfo Giometti, Cosino includes a comprehensive lineup of CPU boards, carrier boards and multiple peripherals that support industrial applications, as well as DIY projects by Makers.

Aside from Atmel’s AT91SAM9G35, key platform specs include 128MB RAM and 256MB NAND.

In terms of extension boards, Cosino has developed the Mega 2560, which Giometti describes as a fully Arduino Mega 2560 compatible board (based on Atmel’s ATmega2560 MCU) connected to a GNU/Linux system running Debian/ARM Wheezy.

“The Cosino CPU module – inserted into a Mega 2560 extension – [becomes the] Cosino Mega 2560 KIT [which] can be used to extend Arduino Mega 2560 based projects – without modifying the code and by using all Arduino’s shields as is,” Giometti explained.

More specifically, the Cosino Mega 2560 offers devs and Makers:

  • 1x Ethernet 10/100
  • 1x USB Host 2.0
  • 1x USB Host 1.1
  • 1x USB Host/Device 2.0
  • 1x microSD
  • 1x RS232
  • 1x RS485
  • 1x realtime clock
  • 1x I2C
  • 2x SPI
  • 1x Wifi (optional)
1x LCD (optional)

Giometti also noted that a number of additional extension boards and peripherals are either currently available or will be in the near future, including an RFID reader, smartcard reader and several MODBUS clients.

Interested in learning more? You can check out Cosino’s official page here.

Building Human Machine Interfaces (HMI) with Atmel tech

A Human Machine Interface, or HMI, typically includes a number of components required to signal and control the state of industrial automation equipment. These interface products can range from a basic LED status indicator to a 20-inch TFT panel with a touchscreen interface.

Unsurprisingly, HMI applications require mechanical robustness and resistance to water, dust, moisture, a wide range of temperatures and, in some environments, secure communication with Ingress Protection (IP) ratings up to IP65, IP67 and IP68.

We at Atmel offer a versatile and extensive portfolio of devices that can be used to design various aspects of a human machine interface.

“For example, our unique capacitive QTouch technology, SAM9 microprocessors and CryptoAuthentication devices enable designers to meet the above-mentioned requirements and more with an optimized BOM,” an Atmel engineering rep told Bits & Pieces.

“Plus, Atmel tech supports high source and sink output IO capabilities up to 60mA for direct drive of LEDs, with high-speed PWM units enabling LED dimming and screen back-lighting. And due to its superior field penetration, our touch technology operates through 6mm thick, non-conductive surfaces.”

The engineering rep also noted that the optimized signal-to-noise ratio of the Atmel QMatrix touch technology helps make the design immune to water, moisture, or dust – enabling operators to use gloves. In addition, Atmel’s capacitive touch tech eases design of full hermetic or sealed products, while power efficiency works to minimize heat dissipation.

“It should also be noted that Atmel’s touch spread spectrum frequency implementation helps designers meet electro-magnetic emission requirements,” the engineering rep continued. “And that is why our industrial microprocessor product portfolio with integrated LCD, combined with the our QTouch technology, are the ideal candidates for an engineer’s next control panel design. On the security side, Atmel’s CryptoAuthentication family of hardware security devices provides cost effective solutions for authenticated and encrypted communications between HMI and industrial equipment.”

Specific examples of Atmel tech powering HMI devices? Well, LED indicators and mechanical switches are a leading HMI for industrial applications – with Atmel’s AVR and AT91SAM microcontrollers offering a variety of benefits. Similarly, Atmel’s capacitive touch technology for HMI helps protect industrial interface modules, while increasing design flexibility and enhancing UI look and feel. Meanwhile, Atmel’s industrial control panels with LCD Displays provides HMI operators with an efficient, flexible way to monitor and control increasingly complex automated processes, with hardware security products protecting firmware integrity from tampering to assure continuous and reliable performance.

“Atmel HMI solutions help reduce board space and enable a lower BOM, simply because they do not require a separate LCD controller chip, or an external resistive touchscreen chip, with standard DDR2 external memory providing lower cost and longer availability,” the engineering rep added.

“Last, but certainly not least, Atmel solutions also provide high performance with high-speed communication and are available with ready-to-use software support. Of course, an evaluation kit is available for each Atmel SAM9 with free Linux distribution and Microsoft Windows Embedded CE BSP.”

Interested in learning more about Atmel’s tech portfolio for powering HMI devices? A complete device breakdown is available here.

Designing PLC systems and I/O modules with Atmel

PLC systems are typically highly complex,  as they integrate numerous board modules required by current-gen automated industrial environments, including:

  • Programmable logic controllers (PLC) or programmable automated controllers (PAC)
  • Distributed Control Systems
  • Digital and analog IO-modules
  • Field bus communication modules
  • Industrial Ethernet interfaces
  • Wireless communication module

“Clearly, the diversity of board designs for industrial PLC applications is challenging for R&D departments. For optimal hardware and software development, designers require a broad, efficient product family where development can be re-used as much as possible,” an Atmel engineering rep told Bits & Pieces.

“To meet these needs, Atmel offers efficient AVR and ARM-based product lineups ranging from low pincount, low flash size microcontrollers to high-performing embedded MPUs running at 400MHz.”

Indeed, for main CPU applications, Atmel’s SAM9 series offers up to 400Mhz ARM926EJ core with up to 32KB instruction and data caches for fast execution times, while a unique dual EBI (External Bus interface) feature allows connecting dedicated circuits for field bus or real time industrial Ethernet communication without strongly impacting the bus load and the performance of the application.

“In addition, the implementation of the TCM (Tightly Coupled Memory) interface on selected products enables access to the internal SRAM with zero wait state at 400MHz. With this feature, time-critical code sections and interrupt routines can be executed fast and deterministically,” the Atmel engineering rep continued. “Plus, our microcontrollers support up to 37 DMA channels with double buffering feature to minimize CPU load and reduce real time constraints, while support for DDR2 external memory enables lower cost and longer availability for CPU devices.”

Additional key features? An integrated power-on-reset (eliminates the need for cost-intensive external power management IC), serial NVM for system boot (allows smaller PCB layout), industrial BGA package with 0.8mm pitch (eases PCB layout and reduces assembly costs) and system security solutions (peripheral components).

“In terms of I/O module solutions, Atmel offers high-speed serial peripherals for a fast communication with backplane bus interface or the connection to high resolution external ADC or DAC, with SPI data rates up to 48Mbps on the SAM3U. CAN modules are available on Atmel AVR UC3, megaAVR and AT91SAM microcontrollers,” the engineering rep explained.

“There are also numerous 16-bit timers with input capture function for time stamping, PWM channels support control and dim functions for LEDs. Of course, Atmel supports a rich set of analog functions such as 12-bit ADC and DAC, as well as analog comparator for monitoring the operation condition of the IO-module. And last, but certainly not least, we offer a high performance CPU up to 96MHz with integrated MAC unit supporting the growing demand for signal conditioning on the analog IO-module.”

Interested in learning more about designing PLC and I/O modules with Atmel tech? You can check out our complete device breakdown here.

Powering industrial communications with Atmel

Industrial communications are a critical aspect of current-gen automated systems – with defined standards that continue to evolve as new industrial Ethernet protocols emerge. Atmel’s versatile portfolio of microcontrollers (MCUs) provides engineers with the peripherals and internal system architecture required to efficiently interface new products with leading field busses, industrial Ethernet standards and wireless communications.

Field Bus

Atmel offers a dedicated RS485 mode for USART peripherals which is available on most ARM processor-based AT91SAM and AVR 32-bit microcontrollers. Meanwhile, a rich number of DMA channels on Atmel megaAVR, AVR XMEGA, AVR 32-bit and AT91SAM MCUs unload the CPU during industrial communication transfers, with multi-layer bus implementation on Atmel 32-bit microcontrollers enabling true parallel data transfers and effectively minimizing bus load limitation.

In addition, there is an (optional) external bus interface on several Atmel microcontrollers, with up to 32-bit data supports dedicated ASSP for protocols such as Profibus. Plus, up to 12Mbps USART on the SAM3U and SAM9 microcontrollers provides support for external transceivers. In terms of single or dual CAN controllers, select Atmel MCUs are V2.0A and V2.0B standard compliant, supporting independent message objects that are programmable on the fly and ideal for field bus such as CANopen and DeviceNet.

Industrial Ethernet

The vertical integration of management execution systems with factory floor equipment has resulted in the continued convergence of the Ethernet TCP/IP protocol with industrial field busses. As noted above, several industrial Ethernet protocols have emerged, including Profinet, Ethernet/IP, ModbusTCP/IP, EtherCat and Ethernet Powerlink.

“Most industrial Ethernet automated systems do not require compliance with a PLC cycle times lower than a few milliseconds. For these applications, the industrial Ethernet protocol can be cost-effectively implemented in software on a microcontroller with an integrated standard Ethernet MAC peripheral,” an Atmel engineering rep told Bits & Pieces.

“Due to their moderate flash size requirement, protocols like Modbus TCP can be implemented in a microcontroller. Atmel offers ARM-based and 32-bit AVR microcontrollers with up to 512KB of flash and an integrated Ethernet MAC unit.”

According to the rep, one of the most noteworthy features includes a 10/100 Ethernet Media Access Controller (EMAC) peripheral with chained buffer Direct Memory Access (DMA). This acts as a master on the internal multi layer bus with multiple internal SRAM blocks – enabling a true parallel data transfer between the Ethernet frames and the application data.

“Atmel’s  SAM9  MPUs are also price-competitive solutions for implementing industrial Ethernet protocols, such as the Ethernet/IP standard, which requires a higher flash size and faster execution time,” the engineering rep continued.

“Atmel’s  SAM9 MPU, like the SAM9G45, offers a variety of benefits, including a 400Mhz clocked ARM926EJ core with 32KB instruction and data caches speed execution time. There is also deterministic execution time with the use of the TCM (Tightly Coupled Memory) interface, enabling access to the internal SRAM with zero wait state at 400MHz. Indeed, by dynamically configuring the SRAM as TCM, Ethernet frames can be analyzed at full speed without any copy to the cache.”

For motion control applications, synchronism and short latency aspects are crucial. Protocols such as Profinet IRT or Ethercat address these requirements and are suited for systems with a sub-millisecond PLC times. In this case, specific ASSP or FPGA solutions must be used. The Atmel SAM9G45, with its dual EBI feature, lets designers integrate the industrial Ethernet communication module with minimal performance impact. Data transfers between the ASIC or FPGA can be handled by the DMA unit, in parallel with external RAM access.

Wireless Communication

Wireless communication in the industrial automation sector is increasingly popular, as it provides an easier way to install and connect mobile or inaccessible equipment. To be sure, industrial control equipment such as PLC and DCS IO modules primarily utilize IEEE802.11 WLAN and Bluetooth standards. And that is one of the reasons Atmel’s 32-bit microcontrollers and microprocessors feature an embedded multimedia card interface which supports connection to an SDIO WLAN or Bluetooth module. In fact, a full reference design based on the Atmel AVR 32-bit microcontroller and the industrial Wifi Module from H&D is available for evaluation and development here, while a Linux-based solution for Atmel SAM9 microcontrollers can be found here.

And last, but certainly not least, industrial sensors and actuators have demanding requirements for power consumption, board space and implementation cost. For these products, IEEE802.15.4 technology, such as Zigbee or Wireless-HART is most appropriate, with Atmel offering complete wireless solutions based on our low-power microcontrollers and RF transceivers. Benefits include excellent RF performance, which enables longer range and more robust RF link, optimized power consumption and lowest system cost.

Additional information about Atmel MCUs that can be used to power a wide range of industrial communication devices is available here.

Atmel MCUs for fire and security

Atmel’s versatile MCUs power a number of fire and security applications – allowing vendors to design advanced systems that effectively safeguard people, property and business resources.

“Atmel offers a wide range of ARM-based AT91SAM and AVR 32-bit microcontrollers for such applications,” an Atmel engineering rep told Bits & Pieces. “More specifically, the SAM3 family and AVR UC3 families support entry-level systems, while advanced controllers with Ethernet connectivity are based on the SAM9 and AVR UC3 families.”

Backup mode and diverse connectivity options include an embedded soft modem, Wi-Fi extension board, Ethernet and RS485 connectivity, with Atmel CryptoAuthentication enabling node authentication and secure communication. Top-level security can be provided by AVR XMEGA hardware AES/DES crypto module and AES/DES bootloaders for megaAVR, tinyAVR and AVR XMEGA.

“It should also be noted that low-power 8-bit microcontrollers minimizes power consumption, with Atmel’s ATmega128RFA1 single-chip, allowing devs to design ZigBee smoke and motion detectors with extremely low power consumption,” the engineering rep continued. “Plus, Atmel’s XMEGA analog delivers optimal performance with 12-bit ADC resolution up to 2Msps with internal gain stage (up to X64), while optimizing BOM by removing its external gain stage.”

So let’s look at some specific example of how Atmel MCUs can be used to power a wide range of fire and security devices:

  • Control Panels – The primary point of contact for home and building automation consumers. Atmel’s portfolio supports a wide range of designs, meeting simple or complex needs.
  • Detectors – Known as the eyes and ears of fire and security solutions. Our low-power solutions are capable of supporting motion detectors, smoke detectors, sounders and glass break detectors based on the Atmel tinyAVR, megaAVR, AVR XMEGA and MCU Wireless (single-chip microcontroller +RF) families.
  • PIR (Camera) Detector – Atmel’s AVR picoPower technology significantly improves detector battery life, delivering the reliability that Passive Infrared (PIR) camera-based detectors require.

“Flexible connectivity is key for home gateway and control panel applications. That is why Atmel’s microcontrollers (MCUs) help vendors achieve a rapid time-to-market by providing validated connectivity via Ethernet, USB, soft modem (PSTN), Wireless LAN and RS-485 interfaces with backup mode,” the engineering rep added. “In the event the main power supply cut off, the control panel can automatically switch to battery operating mode to maintain connectivity.”

Interested in learning more? Additional information about Atmel’s extensive fire and security portfolio can be found here.

Zigbee Smart Energy Profile

The much anticipated Zigbee Smart Energy Profile 2.0 was recently released. Representing an effort spanning more than three years, this milestone includes contributions from NIST, IETF and the Zigbee Alliance. Various companies also participated in the initiative, including utility, meter, silicon and software stack vendors.

Smart Energy – the application profile that drove the Zigbee Alliance development of the Zigbee IP (ZIP) –  is the first public profile requiring ZIP instead of the current Zigbee and Zigbee PRO underlying stacks. Zigbee IP (ZIP) and SEP 2.0 offer TCP/IP based interoperability for smart energy networks, thereby facilitating participation in the Internet of Things (IoT) without the need for special gateways. In fact, ZIP is designed to be physical layer (phy) agnostic and is capable of running across various platforms including 802.15.4 Wireless, WiFi, Power Line Carrier Ethernet and more.

SEP 2.0 is built using numerous mainstream protocols such as TLS/HTTPS, XML, EXI, mDNX  and REST. Each SEP 2.0 device boasts an optimized HTTP server serving up and responding to data objects defined by an XML schema. Security is ensured by familiar HTTPS with strong authentication, while an RFC compliant IPv6 stack provides the network with specific routing and translation layers for the wireless PHY.  The SEP 2.0 presentation from the Zigbee Alliance is available here [PDF].

Two recommended implementation strategies for SEP 2.0 in devices are Single Chip and Multi-Phy. Single Chip implementations use a dedicated microcontroller and RF transceiver (or a combined SoC) running a dedicated stack. This strategy works particularly well when adding Zigbee SEP 2.0 support where there is no other network or TCP/IP stack in low to mid range devices. A good example might be a thermostat or load control device, both of which require communications with other smart energy devices – even if they are equipped with a small processor dedicated to the control and UI functions of the device.

The Multi-Phy implementation –  a new way of looking at Zigbee – offers advantages in devices equipped with multiple network interfaces and/or a capable processor such as an Atmel SAM4, SAM9, or SAMA5 MPU or MCU. In such cases, the 802.15.4 transceiver (like the AT86RF233) becomes the network interface PHY layer underneath the IPv6 stack and SEP 2.0 layers running on the processor. Since the IPv6 stack is a compliant implementation, other network PHYs are also supported by the stack. Running two or more physical interfaces with a single processor is certainly not an issue, as devices that communicate via Zigbee, WiFi, PLC, and Ethernet can be designed. Because a single processor and IPv6 stack are used, the cost will ultimately be lower than duplicating these functions in a separate chip dedicated to Zigbee SEP 2.0.

Single Chip and Multi-Phy implementation

Single Chip and Multi-Phy implementation

The multi-phy implementation is also ideal for gateway devices bridging different physical layers. And since SEP 2.0 is built using standard web protocols, once you bridge the smart energy network to the Internet, managing your home energy devices from a tablet or smartphone is no stretch at all and brings us closer to the reality of the Internet of Things (IoT).

Atmel, along with software stack partner Exegin Technologies, offers robust and compliant solutions for Zigbee IP and SEP 2.0. There is already interest from leading networking and utility companies, with deployment of certified devices expected before the end of 2013. The critical design decision most of us have to consider? Whether to dedicate the cost and complexity of a single chip Zigbee solution – or optimize it and lower cost with a software stack and radio transceiver solution that offers shared resources and the possibility of multiple networks.