Tag Archives: SoC

The power of the platform in IoT and wearable designs


What IoT developers want? A candid look at the wearable designs shows how platform approach is helping design engineers confront daunting challenges in the IoT arena.


“Providers become platforms” is the second most prominent finding of the Forbes story entitled “The Five Most Disruptive Innovations at CES 2016.” Interestingly, all the five disrupting forces outlined in the story relate to the Internet of Things blaze one way or the other. A coincidence? Not really.

CES 2016 was mostly about demonstrating how the advent of a connected world is possible with the creation of an array of smart and interconnected devices. However, the IoT juggernaut, while exploring the true value of connectivity, also requires new business models, which in turn, makes time-to-market even more critical.

Smart badge brings efficiency in enterprise, hospitality and healthcare

Take smart wearable devices, for instance, which were arguably the biggest story on the CES floor this year. A wearable design comprises of one or more sensors, connectivity solution like a radio controller, a processor to carry out system-level functions, storage to log information, display and battery. And what IoT and wearable developers want?

A platform that allows them to facilitate the finished products quickly and efficiently. The design engineers simply can’t afford experimentation with the basic blocks as they need a precedence of basic hardware and software functions working efficiently and smoothly.

Anatomy of Wearable Design

First and foremost, wearable designs confront power constraints even greater than mobile devices. Not surprisingly, ultra-low-power MCUs lie at the heart of wearable designs because they combine flash, on-chip RAM and multiple interface options while intelligently turning power on and off during activity and idle periods, respectively.

The next design conundrum relates to the form factor because these devices are being worn, so they have to be small and light. That, in turn, demands even smaller circuit boards with a greater level of integration. Enter the IoT platforms.

Amid power, performance and form factor considerations, the choice of a right IoT platform means that designers will most likely get the basic building blocks right. And that will allow IoT developers to focus on the application, differentiation and customer needs.

That’s what Atmel is aiming for with the launch of a reference platform for cost-optimized IoT and wearable applications. Atmel’s ultra-low-power platform, which was announced over the week of CES, is aimed at battery-operated wearable devices requiring activity and environment monitoring.

Power has a critical role in the key IoT building blocks

IoT Developer Platform

Below are the key highlights of Atmel’s platform offering for the IoT and wearable designs.

Processor: Microcontroller’s low-power requirements make it a likely choice in wearable designs; MCUs that communicate and process sensor inputs draw very little power from the battery while asleep. Remember the L21 microcontroller that made headlines back in 2015 after leading the low-power benchmarks conducted by EEMBC ULPBench.

Atmel’s SMART SAM L21 MCU — based on ARM’s lowest power Cortex-M0+ processing core — scored 185 in the benchmark and was able to bring the power consumption down to 35µA/MHz in active mode and 200nA in sleep mode.

Communications: The BTLC1000 is an ultra-low power Bluetooth Smart (BLE 4.1) system-on-chip (SoC) that comes integrated with ARM Cortex-M0 core, transceiver, modem, MAC, power amplifier, TR switch, and power management unit (PMU). It can be used as a BLE link controller or data pump with external host MCU or as a standalone applications processor with embedded BLE connectivity and external memory.

Atmel claims that its BTLC1000 Bluetooth solution — a 2.2mm x 2.1mm wafer level chip scale package — is 25 percent smaller than the nearest competitor solution. And Electronic Products magazine has corroborated that premise by calling it the lowest power BLE chipset that consumes less than 4mA in RX and less than 3mA in TX at 0dbm.

Security: Atmel is among the first chipmakers to offer specialized security hardware for the IoT market. Its microcontrollers come integrated with anti-cloning, authentication and encryption features.

Display: Wearable devices often show data such as time, measurements, maps and notifications on a display, and here, capacitive touch provides a very intuitive form of interfacing with the information. Atmel’s MCUs can directly manage capacitive buttons through software libraries that the firm provides.

Furthermore, Atmel offers standalone display controllers that support capacitive button, slider and wheel (BSW) implementations. These touch solutions can be tuned to moisture environments, a key requirement for many wearable applications. Atmel’s maXTouch capacitive touchscreen controller technology is a leading interface solution for its low-power consumption, precision and sensitivity.

Sensors: The development framework for the wearable designs features BHI160 6-axis SmartHub motion sensor and BME280 environment sensor from Bosch. It’s worth noting that Bosch is one of Atmel’s sensor partners. However, wearable product designers are free to pick sensors of their choice from Atmel’s other sensor partners.

Software support: The software package includes RTOS, Atmel’s Studio 7 IDE and Atmel START, which Atmel claims is the world’s first intuitive web-based tool for software configuration and code generation. Moreover, Atmel Software Framework (ASF) offers communication libraries for Bluetooth radios.

Atmel's developer platform for IoT and wearable designs

The truth is that the design game has moved from hardware and software functional blocks to complete developer ecosystems since the iPhone days. Now the ecosystem play is taking platforms to a whole new level in the design diversity that comes with the IoT products.

The choice of a right IoT platform means that designers will most likely get the basic building blocks right, and then, they can focus on the application and customer needs. It also provides design engineers space for differentiation, a critical factor in making wearable devices a consumer success.

 

 

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.

Introducing the first SoC evaluation solution based on the ARM mbed IoT Platform


Atmel is unveiling an ARM mbed evaluation platform for Internet of Things applications at ARM TechCon 2015.


What better way to kick off ARM TechCon than with some big news? Atmel has unveiled the first system-on-chip hardware evaluation solution based on the ARM mbed IoT Platform.

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Powered by the Atmel | SMART SAM R21 SoC, the new solution runs on the mbed IoT Device Platform — a platform that provides the operating system, cloud services, tools and developer ecosystem that makes the deployment of commercial, standards-based IoT solutions possible at any scale. The R21 is an ideal solution for the rapidly growing Internet of Things market.

Atmel is a leading supplier of IoT solutions, and the company’s SmartConnect wireless solutions are the perfect companion for the mbed networking software to power next-generation smart, connected devices. Those who’ll be heading to ARM TechCon will be able to get a firsthand look at the newly-unveiled hardware evaluation platform powered by Atmel’s SAM R21 wireless solution inside the mbed Zone (booth #512, pedestal 1). What’s more, Atmel will also be expanding mbed OS support to the Atmel SmartConnect SAMW25 Wi-Fi modules and Bluetooth Low Energy platform by the end of the year.

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“High-quality, well integrated software is key to our customers’ success for developing complex IoT designs requiring several layers of standards-based protocols to deliver secure communications,” explained Steve Pancoast, Atmel Vice President of Software Development, Applications and Tools. “By delivering a robust hardware platform based on our Atmel | SMART MCUs and SmartConnect wireless solutions combined with the ARM mbed OS, customers have all the necessary requirements to quickly bring their IoT projects to market. Our mission is to deliver a complete software, hardware and tools ecosystem so our customers can build compelling next-generation products for the rapidly expanding IoT market.”

Launched in 2014, the mbed IoT Device Platform combines client and server software, consisting of a lightweight OS for client devices (mbed OS), and the matching cloud server software to interact with it (mbed Device Server). Both the mbed OS and mbed Device Server are intended to be building blocks for finished products so developers can take the mbed components and build the application logic on top of a solid software foundation provided by ARM.

“IoT developers operate at pace and they need a breadth of easily-available hardware and software technologies that work in harmony so they can bring products to market as quickly and easily as possible,” said Zach Shelby, ARM Vice President of Marketing, IoT Business. “Atmel solutions range from embedded processing to security and include highly-integrated wireless technology solutions for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and 802.15.4. By utilizing mbed IoT Device Platform technologies Atmel is well positioned to deliver easy-to-use hardware evaluation platforms that include processing, security and communication protocols for next-generation systems.”

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For those unfamiliar with the Atmel | SMART SAM R21, the low-power MCUs are based on the 32-bit ARM Cortex-M0+ processor integrating an ultra-low-power 2.4GHz ISM band transceiver. The devices are available in 32- and 48-pin packages with up to 256KB Flash, 32KB of SRAM, and operate at a maximum frequency of 48MHz, reaching 2.14 Coremark/MHz. Atmel SAMR21 devices include intelligent and flexible peripherals, Atmel Event System for inter-peripheral signaling, and support for capacitive touch button, slider and wheel user interfaces.

If you’ll be joining us in the Santa Clara Convention Center, then come check it out inside the mbed Zone. Otherwise, stay tuned as we bring you more information!

EMAC releases a SODIMM-based take on the Atmel | SMART SAMA5D3


As its name implies, the ‘A5D36 is a SoM based on the Atmel | SMART ARM Cortex-A5 SAMA5D36.


EMAC has launched the SoM-A5D36, a system-on-module that runs Linux on a Cortex-A5-based Atmel SAMA5D3 processor, and offers up to 4GB of Flash, industrial temperature, and an optional carrier board. The wide temperature, fanless ARM 536 MHz SoM features 10/100/1000 BaseT Ethernet along with up to six serial ports. Beyond that, the board boasts up to 16MB of serial data flash and up to 512MB of LP DDR2 RAM, as well as supports LCD and resistive touch interfaces.

emac_som5d36

This isn’t the first time the Atmel | SMART SAMA5D3 has experienced some love from computer-on-module (COM) vendors. In fact, the Cortex-A5-based SoC has shown up on the ShiraTech AT-501, the Acme Systems Acqua A5, and the MYIR MYC-SAMA5D3X — all of which except the Acqua A5 use SODIMM connectors.

Using the same small 200-pin SODIMM form factor utilized by other EMAC SoM modules, the SoM-A5D36 packs all the core ARM processor functionality, including Flash, memory, serial ports, Ethernet, I2S audio, PWMs, timer/counters, A/D, digital I/O lines, clock/calendar, and more. The SoM-A5D36 is also designed to plug into a carrier board that contains all the connectors and any custom I/O required for an application. This approach enables a user to design a custom carrier board that meets for I/O, dimensional and connector requirements without having to worry about the processor, memory and standard I/O functionality.

Key specs of the SoM-A5D36 include:

  • Processor: Atmel | SMART SAMA5D36
  • Memory:
    • Up to 512MB LP DDR2 SDRAM
    • 16MB serial data flash
    • Up to 4MB eMMC flash
  • Networking: Gigabit Ethernet PHY; optional 2x GbE
  • Primary I/O:
    • 3x USB 2.0 host (1x includes device support)
    • 6x serial (4x defined) — 1x full, 3x RTS/CTS, 2x no handshake
    • 2x I2C
    • 2x CAN
    • I2S audio
    • 2x SD
    • 22x GPIO
  • Secondary I/O:
    • 24-bit LCD controller
    • 12-bit, 4-wire, analog resistive touch controller
    • 2x CAN
    • 2x SPI (“3 SPI CS”)
    • 2x I2C
    • 4x PWM
    • 6x ADC (12-bit)
    • 5x timer/counters, 3x prog. clock, RTC, reset, LEDs
    • External address data bus
  • Operating temperature: -40 to 85°C
  • Power: +3.3V
  • Dimensions: 67 x 60mm (200-pin SODIMM)
  • Operating system: EMAC OE Linux

Interested in learning more? Head over to EMAC’s official page here.

Atmel unveils a cloud-ready Wi-Fi/Bluetooth combo platform for IoT apps

Atmel has expanded its SmartConnect wireless portfolio with a wireless combo system-on-chip (SoC) for the rapidly growing Internet of Things (IoT) market.

WILC

The new fully-integrated WILC3000 wireless link controller combines Wi-Fi 802.11n and Bluetooth Smart-ready technologies in an ultra-small 4.1mm x 4.1mm Wafer Level Chip Scale Package (WLCSP) with lower power consumption, along with Atmel’s patented adaptive co-existence engine, making it the ideal solution for IoT and wearable applications. Atmel’s WILC3000 Wi-Fi solution offers multiple peripheral interfaces including UART, SPI, I2C, and SDIO, along with the associated cloud-ready connectivity software, making it the perfect wireless connectivity companion to any microprocessor (MPU) running Android or Linux MPUs.

Atmel is also introducing the WINC3400 network controller featuring embedded flash memory which allows the device to host network services stack, Wi-Fi stack, and Bluetooth Smart profiles for rapid design development with no wireless expertise required from the designer. The WINC3400 can be paired with any Atmel AVR® or Atmel | SMART MCUs.

“IoT requires a diverse portfolio of wireless MPUs and MCUs with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi capabilities that will enable cloud access,” said Kaivan Karimi, Atmel Vice President and General Manager of Wireless MCUs. “Adding cloud connectivity to devices in the industrial, medical, wearable, fitness and other consumer markets will require a combination of embedded Wi-Fi with Bluetooth optimized for low battery consumption, and support for out-of-the-box, cloud ready software. Atmel’s SmartConnect WILC3000 and WINC3400 address these requirements by delivering a compact cloud-ready Wi-Fi/Bluetooth-certified platform that helps bring customer products faster to market.”

The latest cloudy-ready Wi-Fi/Bluetooth combo platform is optimized for low-power applications, supporting single-stream 802.11n mode providing up to 72 Mbps throughput, enabling a broad range of use cases. Both devices integrate a power amplifier, LNA, switch and power management unit providing developers with the highest level of integration together with the best link budget for maximum range. The WILC3000 and WINC3400 provide the highest integration for a lower bill of material. The only external clock sources required is a high-speed crystal or oscillator with a wide range of reference clock frequencies supported (14-40 MHz) and a 32.768 kHz clock for sleep operation.

The WINC 3400 network controller offers an On-Chip Network Stack to minimize host CPU requirements. The Network features include TCP, UDP, DHCP, ARP, HTTP, SSL, and DNS. Additionally, the WINC3400 SiP includes Bluetooth Smart profiles allowing connection to advanced low energy application such as smart energy, consumer wellness, home automation, security, proximity detection, entertainment, sports and fitness and automotive. This solution also supports Atmel’s cloud-ready software for simple cloud connectivity.

Ready to add some connectivity to your next design? Explore the entire SmartConnect wireless family here.

Atmel and SIGFOX team up on long-range IoT

French startup SIGFOX has announced that the Atmel ATA8520 device has become first SIGFOX Ready-certified system-on-chip (SoC) solution.

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The combination of Atmel’s dedicated SIGFOX-certified IC with SIGFOX’s proprietary network enables low cost, long-range, low-power wireless connectivity for a wide array of IoT applications including environmental sensors, smart meters, patient monitors, security devices and street lights. Atmel’s new ATA8520 SoC and SIGFOX’s scalable, high-performance network offer industry-leading wireless performance and ultra-low power consumption in a cost-effective solution for wireless networking applications operating in the sub-GHz band.

The SIGFOX global IoT network operates in several European countries and is expected to begin deployment in the U.S. later this year. The network is designed exclusively for long range, small-message device communication. SIGFOX and Atmel drive IoT device cost, service cost and power consumption dramatically down compared to traditional cellular or Wi-Fi connectivity. This effectively eliminates existing cost barriers and battery service life constraints for connected device deployment which enables rapid IoT adoption in existing and new IoT market segments.

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“As a leader in the microcontroller, security and IoT market, Atmel is committed to enabling IoT developers to bring their SIGFOX connected devices quickly to market with Atmel’s SIGFOX-certified and cost optimized solutions,” said Matthias Kaestner, Vice President of Atmel’s RF and Automotive business. “The new SIGFOX-certified Atmel ATA8520 SoC further strengthens our position as a leading supplier of wireless solutions for smart energy, connected home and other monitoring and control applications for the Internet of Things.”

The Atmel ATA8520 features the industry’s highest performance, lowest power sub-GHz SoC transceiver designed to maximize range and battery life for power-sensitive wireless systems. Offering frequency coverage from 315 to 915MHz, the ATA8520 transceivers offer industry-leading RF performance resulting in extended wireless range and compliance with the industry’s most stringent narrowband regulatory standards. In addition, the ATA8520 transceivers provide exceptional power efficiency resulting in fewer battery replacements and/or reduced battery size.

“SIGFOX works closely with providers of enabling technologies through our SIGFOX ReadyTM program to certify their devices and make it easy for customers to adopt IoT through our network,” said Stuart Lodge, SIGFOX Executive Vice President of Global Sales. “The continuing global roll-out of our network relies on the availability of world-class wireless ICs, and Atmel’s solution delivers the industry-leading RF performance, low-power consumption and low-cost operation that our customers require.”

Swift01 is an open-source mesh networking module

Developed by Flint, Michigan-based startup Swiftlet Technology, Swift01 — which recently made its Kickstarter debut — is an open-source, wireless hardware module that enables Makers and hobbyists to build fully-functional systems for the Internet of Things.

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“Have you ever wished that you could simply hook things together wirelessly? Have you ever wanted to automate everything in your house, but didn’t want to spend $35+ on a wireless module for each node in the network? This is exactly what drove me to envision the Swift01,” writes Dan Kurin, Swiftlet Founder and CEO.

The team notes that the preliminary hardware design, including an 802.15.4-based Atmel System-on-Chip (SoC) equipped with an Atmel | SMART SAM D ARM Cortex-M0+ MCU, has been finalized.

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Additional key specs include:

  • Board size: 0.7″ x 1.4″
  • Power input: 3.4-5.5V
  • On-board 2.4GHz trace antenna
  • 3.3V serial UART interface
  • 10 I/Os including expandable serial interface and analog I/Os
  • On-board serial memory for future features

Since Swift01 is based around the concept of mesh networking, the module boasts several software components such as a full IEEE 802.15.5 network stack to court the network traffic, a serial bootloader to allow for updates, an AT Command interface to enable configuration of the network stack and to send messages, as well as an AES message signing add-on to ensure authenticity.

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In an effort to seamlessly create and join networks designed particularly for sensing and control functions, Swift01 offers Makers a wide-range of applications, ranging from monitoring in-house temperature and reconfiguring lighting to remotely collection weather information and controlling home theaters.

“Given that we’re developing open source technology, crowdfunding the development of the tech made perfect sense,” explained Kurin. “This is true democratic development: technology by the people and for the people.” Backers of the campaign can contribute at a number of different dollar levels and, in return for their contribution, receive a finished good in the spring of next year.

As for how the software on the module will be structured, the Swiftlet Technology team has shared an update on its architecture here.

Architecture

In terms of its RF driver, the team says that it features all of the lowest-level software for handling the behavior of the PHY (transceiver). “Much of this has already been written by Atmel and is included in the Atmel Software Framework (ASF).”

If all goes to plan, production for beta-level hardware is expected to kick off in early January with shipments to initial backers slated for Feburary. Interested in learning more or backing this open-source, open protocol project? Click on over Swiftlet Technology’s Kickstarter campaign!