Tag Archives: Smart City

Why connect to the cloud with the Atmel | SMART SAM W25?

The “thing” of IoT does not have to necessarily be tiny. 

The Atmel | SMART SAM W25 is, in fact, a module — a “SmartConnect Module.” As far as I am concerned, I like SmartConnect designation and I think it could be used to describe any IoT edge device. The device is “smart” as it includes a processing unit, which in this case is an ARM Cortex-M0-based SAMD21G, and “connect” reminds the Internet part of the IoT definition. Meanwhile, the ATWINC1500 SoC supports Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n allowing seamless connection to the cloud.

What should we expect from an IoT edge device? It should be characterized by both low cost and power! This IoT system is probably implemented multiple times, either in a factory (industrial) or in a house (home automation), and the cost should be as low as possible to enable large dissemination. I don’t know the SAMD21G ASP, but I notice that it’s based on the smallest MCU core of the ARM Cortex-M family, so the cost should be minimal (my guess). Atmel claims the W25 module to be “fully-integrated single-source MCU + IEEE 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi solution providing battery powered endpoints lasting years”… sounds like ultra low-power, doesn’t it?

Atmel claims the W25 module to be “Fully-integrated single-source MCU + IEEE 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi solution providing battery powered endpoints lasting years”…sounds like being ultra low-power, isn’t it

The “thing” of IoT does not necessarily have to be tiny. We can see in the above example that interconnected things within the industrial world can be as large as these wind turbines (courtesy of GE). To maximize efficiency in power generation and distribution, the company has connected these edge devices to the cloud where the software analytics allow wind farm operators to optimize the performance of the turbines, based on environmental conditions. According with GE, “Raising the turbines’ efficiency can increase the wind farm’s annual energy output by up to 5%, which translates in a 20% increase in profitability.” Wind turbines are good for the planet as they allow avoiding burning fossil energy. IoT devices implementation allows wind farm operators to increase their profitability and to build sustainable business. In the end, thanks to Industrial Internet of Thing (IIoT), we all benefit from less air pollution and more affordable power!

ATSAMW25 Block-DiagramThe ATWINC1500 is a low-power Systems-on-Chip (SoC) that brings Wi-Fi connectivity to any embedded design. In the example above, this SoC is part of a certified module, the ATSAMW25, for embedded designers seeking to integrate Wi-Fi into their system. If we look at the key features list:

  • IEEE 802.11 b/g/n (1×1) for up to 72 Mbps
  • Integrated PA and T/R switch
  • Superior sensitivity and range via advanced PHY signal processing
  • Wi-Fi Direct, station mode and Soft-AP support
  • Supports IEEE 802.11 WEP, WPA
  • On-chip memory management engine to reduce host load
  • 4MB internal Flash memory with OTA firmware upgrade
  • SPI, UART and I2C as host interfaces
  • TCP/IP protocol stack (client/server) sockets applications
  • Network protocols (DHCP/DNS), including secure TLS stack
  • WSC (wireless simple configuration WPS)
  • Can operate completely host-less in most applications

We can notice that host interfaces allow direct connection to device I/Os and sensors through SPI, UART, I2C and ADC interfaces and can also operate completely host-less. A costly device is then removed from the BOM which can enable economic feasibility for an IoT, or IIoT edge device.

The low-power Wi-Fi certified module is currently employed in industrial systems supporting applications, such as transportation, aviation, healthcare, energy or lighting, as well as in IoT areas like home appliances and consumer electronics. For all these use cases, certification is a must-have feature, but low-cost and ultra-low power are the economic and technical enablers.

This post has been republished with permission from SemiWiki.com, where Eric Esteve is a principle blogger and one of the four founding members of the site. This blog first appeared on SemiWiki on November 15, 2015.

Report: Smart cities will use 1.1 billion connected things in 2015

Smart homes to lead with 294 million smart objects in use this year.

Powered by the Internet of Things (IoT), the smart city of tomorrow will feature intelligent buildings, roads and public transport systems that are connected to each other and its inhabitants through sensors. This real-time information exchange will save people time, reduce environmental impact, lessen traffic and even create value for businesses along the way. Though still relatively new here in the United States, the advent of smart cities has already started taking shape across the world.


Smart homes and commercial buildings will represent 45% of all connected objects in 2015 and 81% by the end of 2020, according to a new report from Gartner. The study also estimates that 1.1 billion Internet-enabled items will be used by smart cities in 2015 with that number to rise to 9.7 billion over the next five years.

The majority of IoT spending for smart cities will come from the private sector, explained Gartner Research VP Bettina Tratz-Ryan. This will surely be some great news for technology companies and service providers that stand to benefit most in terms of revenue.

According to the report, there are a wide-range of IoT deployments for on-street and off-street parking guidance, road traffic guidance and traffic flow metering as well. A quick win within transport is the reduction of traffic congestion. California and the UK have already begun implementing radio receivers or sensors that are embedded on a section of highway to diagnose traffic conditions in real time. Another successful use of IoT in the city is smart parking. The city of Los Angeles, for instance, has been deploying new parking meters, parking space vehicle sensors, real-time parking guidance and a full parking management system to influence demand during peak times.

Beyond that, residential citizens will lead the way by increasingly investing in smart home solutions, with the amount of connected things used in smart homes currently at 294 million and projected to hit 1 billion units by 2017. These include smart LED lighting, healthcare monitoring, smart locks and various sensors for such things as motion detection or carbon monoxide. Smart LED lighting will record the highest growth of IoT consumer applications, from 6 million units in 2015 to 570 million units by 2020. As the study reveals, light will migrate from being an illumination source to a communications carrier incorporating safety, health, pollution and personalized services.


We expect that by 2020, many IoT TSPs will have grown their hardware revenues through services and software by more than 50 percent,” Tratz-Ryan concluded. The researcher goes on to say that smart home security and safety will represent the second-largest service market by revenue in 2017, and that come 2020, the smart healthcare and fitness market will have grown to nearly $38 billion.

Interested in reading more? You can find the entire Gartner report here. Meanwhile, discover how Atmel is powering the IoT by focusing on edge nodes, a category that includes everything from smart home appliances to infrastructures for smart cities.

China is leading the IoT pack

Analysts at GSMA confirm that China is the global leader in the adoption of M2M technology – with over 50 million connections or more than one quarter of the total M2M market in 2013.

 Indeed, close collaboration between the country’s leading mobile operators China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom, state-owned enterprises and the government has enabled the market to grow dramatically in a relatively short period of time, laying the foundations for further expansion and the development of the Internet of Things (IoT).

“China is a rapidly developing country that is investing in communications technologies that will make its cities smarter and provide a better quality of life for its citizens,” explained GSMA CTO Alex Sinclair.

“Proactive government support has benefited China and its mobile operators, whereas in many global markets, regulatory uncertainty has held back the deployment of M2M solutions. The addressable market and the opportunity for further growth is immense, especially when one considers the sheer number of ‘things’ such as cars or domestic appliances that could potentially be connected by mobile.”

According to Sinclair, Asia is currently the largest regional M2M market, accounting for 40 per cent of the world’s 189 million M2M connections at the end of 2013. To be sure, Asia added 55 million M2M net connections between 2010 and 2013 and China was the primary driver of growth in the region, adding nearly 39 million M2M connections during the period.

Demand from the energy and transportation industries has driven much of this early growth, while M2M solutions are also gaining traction in the automotive, smart city, healthcare, education and retail sectors.

It should also be noted that China’s leading mobile operators have developed sophisticated 
M2M service propositions that go beyond the provision of basic connectivity. These typically combine a generic horizontal platform, designed to work across all industry sectors with dedicated vertical platforms for specific application areas, such as automotive or healthcare.

Interested in learning more about the IoT? You can check out Atmel’s recent IoT SoMa panel on the subject here, Patrick Sullivan’s EELive! 2014 presentation and our extensive Bits & Pieces IoT article archive here.

Building a city of the future with Arduino

Writing for Wired UK, Liat Clark describes the recently held Playable Cities competition between British and Brazilian digital artists.

“The scheme was launched in January, when a Brazilian cohort came to Watershed’s Pervasive Media Studio in Bristol to explore the concept of a future city that is not just smart and efficient, but fun to live in,” writes Clark.

“While driverless vehicles and smart meters remain the focus of those future metropolises, Watershed wanted to explore how a smart city could be interactive, playful and most importantly, how it could bring communities together. With help from the British Council’s Creative Economy program, this [initiative] was taken to Recife.”

One of the featured exhibits was Fortune Fictions, a futuristic bus stop that cheerfully delivers witty one liners to waiting passengers. 

According to Fábio Florencio, a sound and game designer, Fortune’s goal is is to “deliver enjoyable moments” for people who are bored waiting for their buses.

“[The project] also deals with complicated elements in Recife such as lost times in traffic jams, the heat in summer and rain in winter,” he says.

More specifically, the futuristic bus stop is furnished with an Atmel-based Arduino board that receives commands from a physical button pressed by citizens – with an MP3 shield triggering sounds and phrases. In the future, Florencio and his team envision equipping the stop with pressure sensors (for the benches) and RFID readers.

“It rewards the curious Recife bus traveller with fantastical words of wisdom, gauging the mood of the city and breaking the monotony of waiting times,” Florencio explains. “Drawing on data such as weather, traffic, pollution and football information, enigmatic advice, broadcast from the bus stop itself, sends the passenger on their way with a thought… and a smile.”

Press Play – another Arduino-based exhibit displayed at the Playable Cities competition – engages the public via music. Indeed, pedestrians can touch hands, fitted with sensors, to play part or all of a tune.


So, how does it work? Well, Press Play is fitted with a conductive matting for durable touch switches connected to an Arduino and wav-Trigger board. This configuration supports up to eight tracks running simultaneously from a micro SD card.

“[Press Play] became a gathering spot for different people that haven’t met before but, for a short period, felt intensely connected with each other,” Filipe Calegario, a doctorate student for UFPE’s Informatics Centre, told Wired UK. “Last Friday was the first day of public testing and, for a moment, the systems stopped working because the battery ran low. The people’s reaction was impressive, they felt so involved that the absence of sound made them shout ask us to make the system work again. It was such a spontaneous reaction.”

The full text of Liat Clark’s “Urban Legends Brought to Life in Playable Cities Competition” can be read here on Wired UK.


1:1 interview with Rob van Kranenburg (Part 2)

TV: What hardware principles help to ensure the transition proliferates for connected devices – yielding experience, efficiencies, and business profitability?

RvK: In the Special session on Planning Smart City of Japan in the 2012 IoT China, Shanghai Conference, Mine Shinshoro, director of Jetro Shanghai Office, recalls the 2010 disaster and explained that in the reconstruction of the cities the Japanese government will use the concept of smart communities to stabilize the energy power sources. Mr Masaki Yokoi (Nomura Research) takes up in the same discourse in his talk The social platform of the smart city, especially focusing on the change in mentality after the earthquake. Prior to that “we thought IT was King” he asserts,  however after the East Tokyo earthquake, industry, government and citizens come up with a different mind-set on what constitutes a smart citysmart-cities-japan

As infrastructure was totally destroyed, communication between regions was out, huge amounts of data were lost, over the past six months Japanese experts have reflected and brainstormed on the new nature of ICT. It still has a major role to play, but it must be a new role, especially in setting up more flexible resilient infrastructure, the regeneration process of communities, changing the layout of public services in society as a whole and inconsistent power supply and a more coherent business ecosystem.5 This describes the paradox that lies in the heart of IoT design. We want it to work seamlessly across all types and kinds of networks offering a constant and dependable flow to end-users wherever they are (home, car, abroad, indoors), without any visibility of the network nor hardware that is enabling this. It must run as smooth and invisible as possi4ble. The environment should become the interface.

Or, in the words of Mark Weiser: “Machines that fit the human environment, instead of forcing humans to enter theirs, will make using a computer as refreshing as taking a walk in the woods.”6 In our case, the end-users need not be human, but can be other machines. They too have needs in order to be themselves seamlessly tuned into a larger network. For them energy is the key issue. For us it could the breakdown described above caused by natural disasters, or for example in the case of Detroit it could be that the model that build the first iteration of such a seamless environment could go bust.

The key high level principles of the hardware architecture that will run sewage, mobility, energy, connectivity as well as appliances, devices and tools within the home and factories, is finding the perfect balance between optimizing convenience and enabling modding and hacking of any modular part. A recent study from Accenture shows “only 24% trust their utility to inform them of actions to optimize energy consumption – a decrease of 9% from 2012…. If given the choice, 73%… said they would consider alternative providers for purchasing electricity and alternative energy-related products and services.”7 This shows that designing trust into the system can only be done by allowing the largest and most varied group of stakeholders to list and add requirements to the architectures continuously.

TV: Describe the “data negotiation” in the network effect for Body Network, City Network, Smart Grids becoming deeply integrated?

RvK: Internet of Things is in its essence the seamless flow between:

  • BAN (body area network): the ambient hearing aide, the smart t-shirts
  • LAN (local area nework): the smart meter as a home interface
  • WAN (wide area network): the bike, car, train, bus, drones
  • VWAN (very wide area network): the ‘wise’ city as e-gov services everywhere no longer tied to physical locations
Connected Devices and the Seamless Flow of Data for IoT

Connected Devices and the Seamless Flow of Data for IoT

Whoever ensures trace-ability, sustainability and security linking up the gateways is de facto and de jure the new power. And would I want such a flow? The best possible feedback on my physical and mental health, the best possible deals based on real time monitoring for resource allocation, the best possible decision making based on real time data and information from open sources and the best possible alignments of my local providers with the global potential of wider communities.

In our architectures we are used to dealing with three groups of actors:

  • Citizens/end-users
  • Industry/SME
  • Governance/legal

These all are characterized by certain qualities, “a” for citizens, “e” for industry, and “o” for governance. In our current (Reference) Models and  (Reference) Architectures we build from and with these actors as entities in mind. The data flow of IoT will engender new entities consisting of different qualities taken from the former three groups. An example is the private grid operator, Frederic Larson is another:

“Twelve days per month Larson rents his Marin County home on website Airbnb for $100 a night, of which he nets $97. Four nights a week he transforms his Prius into a de facto taxi via the ride-sharing service Lyft, pocketing another $100 a night in the process. It isn’t glamorous-on nights that he rents out his house, he removes himself to one room that he’s cordoned off, and he showers at the gym-but in leveraging his hard assets into seamless income streams, he’s generating $3,000 a month. “I’ve got a product, which is what I share: my Prius and my house,” says Larson. “Those are my two sources of income.” He’s now looking at websites that can let him rent out some of his camera equipment.”8

TV: Take for example Smart Grids and Smart Energy. How does SEP 2.0 requirements shape the Utility and Energy Industry with Smart Meters integrating energy efficiency? Do you see solutions across the span of industry following a similar model?

RvK: I hope so.  It took two years for ZigBee, Wi-Fi and HomePlug “agreed to sit down and hash out a simplified yet IP-capable networking standard built on the foundation of ZigBee’s low-power home energy networking technology.”9 Cees Links, Founder and CEO of GreenPeak Technologies, writes on the Bosch blog on IoT “the wireless residential applications prosper best within the context of open communication standards, and offer OEMs the freedom to purchase from a large pool of suppliers and, most importantly, allow devices from different vendors to inter-operate, which is paramount in the market success of integrated Smart Home applications and will increase customer adoption when consumers can buy devices from different brands…One may think that WiFi and ZigBee are competing with each other. The reality, however, is that both technologies have their own place.”10

TV: What draws the importance in the work you do? How does it affect everyday people, developers, or EE designers? Is it vitally important for top-down influence to formulate the requirements across numerous verticals?

RvK: I must confess I am not a technical person at all. At home I am not even allowed to handle a hammer. I studied Languages and Literature because I like to read poetry and when I was younger aimed at as total as possible irrelevance to a world I thought and still think to be extremely badly governed, strangely tuned to scarcity as value (money, prestige, power) and unbalanced in the agency between humans, animals, things and the world at large. It is only when I grasped that with new forms of gaining influence and real power available at our feet for basically nothing, just your time and sober investment of energy: the internet and the web, it was actually possible to gain influence that I decided to fully devote myself to what is now called IoT from 2000 onwards.

I realized that IoT as it aims at individuating all objects on the planet, would effectively ‘be’ the new power as more and more resources would be linked together onto ever more stable platforms. That the next fight – that we see played out now – would be in trying to stabilize something that is in essence unstable; the internet as it was conceived as TCP/IP, or move the value chain as it is now in full to an Internet 2, a Quantum physics computing platform, for example the one build at CERN, or through research programs on Cyberphysical systems  in the US: “Cyber-physical systems (CPS) are engineered systems that are built from and depend upon the synergy of computational and physical components.  Emerging CPS will be coordinated, distributed, and connected, and must be robust and responsive.  The CPS of tomorrow will need to far exceed the systems of today in capability, adaptability, resiliency, safety, security, and usability.”11

Interested in reading more? Stay tuned for Part 3 of Atmel’s 1:1 interview with Rob van Kranenburg. View Part 1 and Part 3.


5 http://www.theinternetofthings.eu/rvk-end-smart-city-live-opening-speeches-internet-things-china-2012-shanghai

6 https://www.ics.uci.edu/~corps/phaseii/Weiser-Computer21stCentury-SciAm.pdf

7 Shocker! Three-fourths of all consumers don’t trust their utility! http://www.smartgridnews.com/artman/publish/Business_Consumer_Engagement/Shocker-Three-fourths-of-all-consumers-don-t-trust-their-utility-5856.html

8 http://www.forbes.com/sites/tomiogeron/2013/01/23/airbnb-and-the-unstoppable-rise-of-the-share-economy/

9 http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/home-energy-networking-alert-sep-2.0-goes-live

10 http://blog.bosch-si.com/zigbee-the-standard-for-smart-home-applications/

11 http://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=503286 See here for the list of upcoming deadlines for proposals http://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_list.jsp?org=NSF&ord=date