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Atmel implements Intel EPID technology on all SmartConnect wireless solutions


Atmel is collaborating with Intel on EPID technology to enable more secure IoT applications.


Atmel is working with Intel to bring more secure Internet of Things applications to market. In this collaboration, Atmel will support Intel Enhanced Privacy ID (Intel EPID) technology on all Atmel SmartConnect wireless solutions to improve secure cloud provisioning — the mutual authentication of the IoT node with the cloud — in the rapidly growing IoT market where devices are becoming increasingly more connected.

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With tens of billions of devices anticipated by 2020, security is surely one of the most critical components to enabling a seamless connection between the edge node and the cloud. To accomplish this, Atmel offers a complete portfolio of IoT solutions that combine both Atmel | SMART MCUs along with SmartConnect wireless technologies ranging from Wi-Fi, 802.15.4 and Bluetooth, and other secure products. This newly-announced effort will give developers implementing these wireless solutions the option to use the trusted Intel EPID identification standard in their next gizmo or gadget.

“Implementing Intel EPID offers IoT designers a truly seamless edge-to-cloud Internet of Things platform with proven security options available with our broad Internet of Things portfolio,” said Kaivan Karimi, Atmel’s Vice President and General Manager of Wireless Solutions. “With this new technology, Atmel’s SmartConnect wireless and IoT solutions now support Intel EPID, a security technology that has been proven over the last 5 years.”

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For those who may not know, Intel EPID is an ISO standard for identity and privacy that has been shipping in Intel platforms since 2011. The technology delivers a hardware root of trust and is PKI compatible. With Intel EPID, devices can be identified and a secure communication can be linked between these devices. Additionally, the group membership can be determined without revealing the identity of the specific platform allowing for another level of security. Intel EPID can dynamically assign and revoke group memberships by individuals. Even more, this technology meets the latest protected key delivery requirements for content and data protection protocols.

“With the rapidly growing IoT ecosystem, security is key, and Intel EPID is a proven secure technology that can provide the billions of devices in this new market with a common security foundation. By implementing Intel EPID technology, Atmel is enabling a more secure, seamless IoT platform,” explained Lori Wigle, Intel’s General Manager of IoT Security.

6 memory considerations for Cortex-M7-based IoT designs


Taking a closer look at the configurable memory aspects of Cortex-M7 microcontrollers.


Tightly coupled memory (TCM) is a salient feature in the Cortex-M7 lineup as it boosts the MCU’s performance by offering single cycle access for the CPU and by securing the high-priority latency-critical requests from the peripherals.

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The early MCU implementations based on the ARM’s M7 embedded processor core — like Atmel’s SAM E70 and S70 chips — have arrived in the market. So it’d be worthwhile to have a closer look at the configurable memory aspects of M7 microcontrollers and see how the TCMs enable the execution of deterministic code and fast transfer of real-time data at the full processor speed.

Here are some of the key findings regarding the advanced memory architecture of Cortex-M7 microcontrollers:

1. TCM is Configurable

First and foremost, the size of TCM is configurable. TCM, which is part of the physical memory map of the MCU, supports up to 16MB of tightly coupled memory. The configurability of the ARM Cortex-M7 core allows SoC architects to integrate a range of cache sizes. So that industrial and Internet of Things product developers can determine the amount of critical code and real-time data in TCM to meet the needs of the target application.

The Atmel | SMART Cortex-M7 architecture doesn’t specify what type of memory or how much memory should be provided; instead, it leaves these decisions to designers implementing M7 in a microcontroller as a venue for differentiation. Consequently, a flexible memory system can be optimized for performance, determinism and low latency, and thus can be tuned to specific application requirements.

2. Instruction TCM

Instruction TCM or ITCM implements critical code with deterministic execution for real-time processing applications such as audio encoding/decoding, audio processing and motor control. The use of standard memory will lead to delays due to cache misses and interrupts, and therefore will hamper the deterministic timing required for real-time response and seamless audio and video performance.

The deterministic critical software routines should be loaded in a 64-bit instruction memory port (ITCM) that supports dual-issue processor architecture and provide single-cycle access for the CPU to boost MCU performance. However, developers need to carefully calibrate the amount of code that need zero-wait execution performance to determine the amount of ITCM required in an MCU device.

The anatomy of TCM inside the M7 architecture

The anatomy of TCM inside the M7 architecture.

3. Data TCM

Data TCM or DTCM is used in fast data processing tasks like 2D bar decoding and fingerprint and voice recognition. There are two data ports (DTCMs) that provide simultaneous and parallel 32-bit data accesses to real-time data. Both instruction TCM and data TCM — used for efficient access to on-chip Flash and external resources — must have the same size.

4. System RAM and TCM

System RAM, also known as general RAM, is employed for communications stacks related to networking, field buss, high-bandwidth bridging, USB, etc. It implements peripheral data buffers generally through direct memory access (DMA) engines and can be accessed by masters without CPU intervention.

Here, product developers must remember the memory access conflicts that arise from the concurrent data transfer to both CPU and DMA. So developers must set clear priorities for latency-critical requests from the peripherals and carefully plan latency-critical data transfers like the transfer of a USB descriptor or a slow data rate peripheral with a small local buffer. Access from the DMA and the caches are generally burst to consecutive addresses to optimize system performance.

It’s worth noting that while system memory is logically separate from the TCM, microcontroller suppliers like Atmel are incorporating TCM and system RAM in a single SRAM block. That lets IoT developers share general-purpose tasks while splitting TCM and system RAM functions for specific use cases.

A single SRAM block for TCM and system memory allows higher flexibility and utilization

A single SRAM block for TCM and system memory allows higher flexibility and utilization.

5. TCM Loading

The Cortex-M7 uses a scattered RAM architecture to allow the MCU to maximize performance by having a dedicated RAM part for critical tasks and data transfer. The TCM might be loaded from a number of sources, and these sources aren’t specified in the M7 architecture. It’s left to the MCU designers whether there is a single DMA or several data loading points from various streams like USB and video.

It’s imperative that, during the software build, IoT product developers identify which code segments and data blocks are allocated to the TCM. This is done by embedding programs into the software and by applying linker settings so that software build appropriately places the code in memory allocation.

6. Why SRAM?

Flash memory can be attached to a TCM interface, but the Flash cannot run at the processor clock speed and will require caching. As a result, this will cause delays when cache misses occur, threatening the deterministic value proposition of the TCM technology.

DRAM technology is a theoretical choice but it’s cost prohibitive. That leaves SRAM as a viable candidate for fast, direct and uncached TCM access. SRAM can be easily embedded on a chip and permits random accesses at the speed of the processor. However, cost-per-bit of SRAM is higher than Flash and DRAM, which means it’s critical to keep the size of the TCM limited.

Atmel | SMART Cortex-M7 MCUs

Take the case of Atmel’s SMART SAM E70, S70 and V70/71 microcontrollers that organize SRAM into four memory banks for TCM and System SRAM parts. The company has recently started shipping volume units of its SAM E70 and S70 families for the IoT and industrial markets, and claims that these MCUs provide 50 percent better performance than the closest competitor.

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Atmel’s M7-based microcontrollers offer up to 384KB of embedded SRAM that is configurable as TCM or system memory for providing IoT designs with higher flexibility and utilization. For instance, E70 and S70 microcontrollers organize 384KB of embedded SRAM into four ports to limit memory access conflicts. These MCUs allocate 256KB of SRAM for TCM functions — 128 KB for ITCM and DTCM each — to deliver zero wait access at 300MHz processor speed, while the remaining 128KB of SRAM can be configured as system memory running at 150MHz.

However, the availability of an SRAM block organized in the form of a memory bank of 384KB means that both system SRAM and TCM can be used at the same time.The large on-chip SRAM of 384KB is also critical for many IoT devices, since it enables them to run multiple communication stacks and applications on the same MCU without adding external memory. That’s a significant value proposition in the IoT realm because avoiding external memories lowers the BOM cost, reduces the PCB footprint and eliminates the complexity in the high-speed PCB design.

Meet Buddy, your family’s future companion robot


Buddy is a social robot that connects, protects and interacts with each member of your family.


According to a recent study from Business Insider, the consumer robot market is projected to grow seven times faster than the market for manufacturing robots at a CAGR of 17% between 2014 and 2019. And apparently the report is right, as several companies have embarked on the journey of bringing Jetsons-like companion bots into homes — such as Jibo, Pepper and Musio, to name just a few.

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Most recently, French startup Blue Frog Robotics has joined the growing list of startups that want you to have an artificially intelligent friend inside your humble abode in the near future. Their adorable prototype, named Buddy, is being billed as social robot for every member of the family with the ability to structure your day as a personal assistant, monitor your home as a security guard, entertain the kids as a nanny and help stay connected as a Wi-Fi network.

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With a number of impressive built-in functions, the Arduino-compatible machine is packed with everything that a robot could possibly need to immerse itself into your daily life.

Aside from being fully mobile with three wheels and an assortment of sensors that allow it to travel, learn and interact with its surroundings, Buddy features an ATmega2560 MCU, a camera, a touchscreen face, a microphone, two speakers, a pair of driving motors, a series of RGB LEDs, along with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity. Beyond that, the bot is equipped with audio, HDMI and USB outputs, as well as a rechargeable battery with a life of approximately eight to 10 hours.

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Boasting many human-like traits, Buddy is capable of hearing, speaking, seeing and addressing someone with familiar facial expressions and movements. What’s also nice is that the bot can sync to practically any in-home smart device, enabling it to do everything from adjust the lights to the thermostat via voice commands or its accompanying mobile app. Among the gadgets currently supported include Parrot Flower Power, Withings blood pressure monitor, Nest thermostat, MyFox home alarm and LIFX lights.

Additionally, the charismatic robot can serve as a security system by watching over your home using its camera. This way, if danger or something out of the ordinary is detected, Buddy will instantaneously send an alert to its owner.

Robot

Not only is it open source, but Buddy is entirely modular and can be expanded upon with a range of plug-and-play accessories, like a docking station, arms and a pico-projector. Those with prior knowledge of Unity3D, C++, C# and JavaScript can even customize their robotic pal using its SDK. As for beginners, however, they can still develop basic apps and behaviors by simply dragging and dropping actions from its library.

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Impressively, its creators have also designed Buddy to adapt to children with autism thanks to specialized software that will assist them in learning, communicating, interacting and becoming more independent. Caregivers and family members will be able to personalize the content within the robot’s application, whether that’s offering reminders and visual aids or congratulating them for tasks well done through fun animations.

So, are you ready for an A.I. pal of your own? Then head over to Buddy’s Indegogo page here, where Blue Frog Robotics is currently seeking $100,000. Delivery is slated for May 2016.

Ars Technica, Daily Mail and other media talk SAM L21


The new Atmel | SMART L21 is expanding battery life from years to decades. 


This week, Atmel revealed the big news that the recently-unveiled Atmel | SMART SAM L family consumes just one-third the power of existing solutions already on the market. Having achieved a 185 EEMBC ULPBench score, the SAM L21 is now the world’s lowest power ARM Cortex-M based device.

Impressively, the series boasts power consumption down to 35µA/MHz in active mode and 200nA in sleep mode. The SAM L not only broadens the company’s current 32-bit ARM-based MCU lineup, but extends battery life from years to decades, reducing the number of times batteries need to be changed in devices such as fire alarms, wearables, medical gadgets and equipment placed in rural, agriculture, offshore and other remote areas. The SAM L21 combines ultra-low power with Flash and SRAM that are large enough to run both the application and wireless stacks — three features that are cornerstones of most Internet of Things (IoT) applications. Sampling now, the SAM L21 comes complete with a development platform including an Xplained Pro kit, code libraries and Atmel Studio support.

The SAM L21 MCUs will enable designers to solve their power challenges for battery-powered IoT devices — something that has caught the attention of mainstream media outlets including Ars Technica, Gizmodo, The Register, Network World and Daily Mail, as well as industry journals like Silicon Republic, New Electronics and EE Times.

 Sean Gallagher, Ars Technica 

“The number of things getting plugged into the Internet of Things has already reached the point of satire. But there’s a new, extremely low power technology that’s being prepared for market that could put computing power and network access into a whole new class of sensors, wearables, and practically disposable devices. That’s because it can run off a battery charge for over over 10 years.”

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“The processor may not be enough to, say, run an Ubuntu desktop, but it’s certainly enough computing power and memory to run a real-time operating system with multiple programs, handle physical interfaces, stream media from a USB device or other external storage, and tweet you when your dishes are clean. It also can handle a lot of tasks that can reduce the power usage of other components in a device.”

Victoria Woollaston, Daily Mail 

“Battery life is consistently listed as a major flaw of smartphones, smartwatches and other wearables.  But this problem could soon be solved thanks to technology that promises to extend battery life for ‘decades.’ Atmel has released its latest microcontrollers (MCUs) for a variety of gadgets that are so low power they can even harvest energy from a person’s body.”

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“They use a third of the power of rival chips and tests have shown they are the lowest power microprocessor ever made. The microcontrollers run on the firm’s picoPower technology and Atmel’s Event System that makes different parts of the device work together to carry out tasks. By effectively ‘sharing’ energy, the whole device uses less power and, subsequently, less battery.”

Jamie Condliffe, Gizmodo

“As everything around us, from phones and fridges to bicycles and trash cans, begins to connect to the Internet, there’s an increasing desire for low-power chips. Like this one, which can last for over ten years on a single battery charge. It has some other clever tricks up its sleeve. Usually in a chip like this, sleep mode sees everything but the clock function shut down, meaning it has to wake every time connected devices need to communicate; this new Atmel chip has different sleep states, allowing connected devices to communicate with each other while the chip continues to use very little power.”

“Of course, the chips don’t pack huge amounts of grunt. In fact, at best you’re looking at a 42 MHz Cortex M0+ CPU core, 256 kilobytes of Flash memory, 32 kilobytes of static RAM, and 8 kb of separate low-power static RAM. Not enough to run a desktop OS, then, but plenty to run small programs, power hardware interfaces, read and record data from sensors, tweet and the like.”

JC Torres, SlashGear

“Batteries, already the Achilles heel of mobile devices, present an even bigger challenge for even smaller devices, like wearables and the budding Internet of Things industry. These latter devices are not things that you would, or should, associate with the frequent charging and battery replacement we are used to on smartphones. How do you balance performance and battery life? Atmel, a micro-controller manufacturer based in San Jose, may have the answer. Its new ultra-low power SAM L21 32-bit ARM-based MCU (micro controller unit) is advertised to last more than a decade before needing a recharge or replacement.”

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“That kind of battery life will be critical for a certain class of devices that include sensors, wearable, and smart home appliances. The SAM L21 advertises a power draw of only 35 microamps per MHz when awake and an even smaller 200 nanoamps when asleep. In comparison, current low-power MCUs already eat up to 120 to 160 microamps per MHz. The difference it definitely substantial.”

Patrick Nelson, Network World

“The Internet of Things is about to reverse a lot of what we’ve wanted in a chip. Soon, we won’t need vast amounts of calculations per second — just how many instructions does it take for your fridge to send an order to your supermarket? Not that many when you compare it to something complicated that chip design has been working towards, like a Computer Aided Design drawing in 3D, for example.”

“Size is important. However, the real big issue, when it comes to a ubiquitous IoT where everything is connected, will be battery life. The reason is that we are not going to want to change the batteries within the base of a dozen bottles of water that we may have sitting around just to discover whether we’ve drank their contents or not. Even if your fridge orders fresh stock, it wouldn’t be worth it.”

“That battery has to last the life of the connected object in the IoT. And that could be 10 years away, possibly longer. Atmel reckons it has a solution. It says its new 32-bit ARM-based chips will last decades. Note the plural. Atmel says its new chips combine battery-saving low power with flash and SRAM that is big enough to run both the application and the IoT-needed wireless stacks.”

Shaun Nichols, The Register

“Being a Cortex-M0+-powered chip, the SAM L21 is not particularly powerful: it tops out at 48MHz, and runs ARM Thumb (and some Thumb-2) code. But the family does pack a few features like USB interfacing, op-amps and comparators, DMA with peripherals, a random number generator, and AES cryptography in hardware, plus other bits and pieces. The idea is for each chip to sleep, wake up when something happens, make a decision on whether or not it needs to alert the wider world, and then go back to sleep.

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“Constantly being in contact with its base over wired or wireless networking will drain its batteries; activating external electronics for power-hungry IP communications should only be done if its sensors detect something significant. Like an explosion or a fire.”

Gordon Hunt, Silicon Republic

“Sensors and batteries – the two keys to unlocking the future of IoT. Can we make small enough sensors to garner and exchange the right data? Can we make small enough, powerful enough, batteries that don’t need recharging every few hours?These are the two questions posed for today’s inventors, and they are being answered every day. Now, Atmel’s latest creation may have brought significant IoT engagement closer to reality, with its new low-powered 32-bit SAM L controller able extend the battery life of small, low-powered intelligent devices by decades.”

“The result is a far more efficient, small controller that, if advanced upon in the right way, will open up a whole new swathe of devices for IoT innovation. It’s just a sample, prototype release so far, but once the right people get their hands on this it’s only a matter of time before it creeps into suites of low-powered devices.”

Rich Quinnell, EE Times

“This week TI surpassed its own earlier result by announcing the MSP-432 family based on the Cortex M4F. It achieved a ULPBench score of 167.4. While TI was briefing the media on this product, however, Atmel quietly published a ULPBench score of 185.8 for its SAM L21 MCU based on the Cortex M0+, a product announced last year that was scheduled to be released at about this time. It’s reasonable to expect that a formal announcement of the product’s score and availability will be made soon.”

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Clive Maxfield, Embedded

“When it comes to applications including the Internet of Things (IoT), consumer, industrial, medical, and other battery-powered devices — e.g., fire alarms, healthcare, medical, wearable, and devices placed in rural, agriculture, offshore, and other remote areas — ultra-low-power consumption is the name of the game. MCU manufacturers are constantly competing with each other to offer the lowest power consumption possible. The latest ultra-low-power offering comes from the folks at Atmel, who have just announced their SMART SAM L21 — an ARM Cortex-M0+ based family of MCUs that boast power consumption down to 35µA/MHz in active mode and 200nA in sleep mode — which is said to ‘extend battery life from years to decades.’”

“The L21 goes much further than simply gating the clocks — it also gates the power, completely disconnecting the power rails from functions that are not currently in use. In the case of the smart peripherals, even when they are powered down, a small part of each peripheral keeps a ‘watchful eye’ on what’s happening in the outside world. If it sees something interesting, it can request clock and data services and — if the peripheral decides the situation justifies such an action — it can wake the main CPU… Also of interest is the CCL (custom configurable logic) block, which boasts four 3-input lookup tables (LUTs) that can implement a mix of combinatorial logic functions (AND, NAND, OR, NOR, XOR, XNOR, NOT) and sequential logic functions (gates D-type flip-flop, JK-type flip-flop, gated D-type latch, RS latch). These can be connected to the event system (including the peripherals), the interrupt system, and general-purpose input/outputs; also, they can be cascaded together. This makes it possible to implement sophisticated customized “wake-up” conditions for the various functional blocks.”

Interested learning more? You can head over to our initial blog post on the topic, download its accompanying white paper, as well as delve deeper into the MCU lineup here.

Atmel teams with ARM on IoT Development Platform

Atmel is joining forces with ARM on the mbed device platform for the ever-growing Internet of Things (IoT).

This partnership broadens the ecosystem support for developers using Atmel’s portfolio of secure, low-power and cost-effective wireless connectivity solutions, specifically the Atmel SmartConnect Wi-Fi and 802.15.4-compliant solutions. Additionally, IoT developers for smart wearables, connected appliances, home automation systems and more can now bring their products faster to market.

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Built around open standards, the mbed platform combines Internet protocols, security and standards-based manageability into one integrated system, and gathers silicon, cloud and device partners in one community. Atmel | SMART SAMR21 and WINC1500 customers now gain access to the mbed OS software platform, which includes command-line tools, a low-power HAL, as well as advanced networking protocols like 6LoWPAN and Thread to significantly accelerate IoT development.

“The ARM mbed IoT Device Platform simplifies the development and deployment of next-generation IoT devices and cloud services,” said Krisztian Flautner, ARM General Manager, IoT Business. “The integration of Atmel’s wireless technology with the mbed platform allows IoT developers to rapidly create devices that communicate across a mesh network with cloud services. This will drive the acceleration of the IoT in consumers and industrial markets.”

“As a leader in the IoT market, Atmel is committed to enabling developers of all levels the opportunity to bring their IoT devices quickly to market,” explained Steve Pancoast, Atmel Vice President of Software Applications, Tools and Development. “In this fragmented market place, we are leading the charge to bring easy-to-use hardware, software, development tools and platform solutions to market and enabling our IoT developers more time to focus on critical features in their design. By partnering with ARM on their mbed platform, we’ve taken another step towards making the 50 billion devices for the IoT market a reality.”

Those interested in learning more about the ARM mbed platform can head over to its official page here.

Carclo and Atmel: Transforming the mobile market

This week, touch screen developer Carclo told the Yorkshire Post that it is well positioned to meet the requirements for the expected ramp up in XSense, the touch screen sensor launched by US business partner Atmel.

“Full-scale manufacture of coated film to support the XSense program has started,” the Yorkshire Post reported. “Carclo [confirmed] that XSense is to be adopted in a number of products launched across a range of tier 1 manufacturers during the second half of its financial year.”

Atmel’s XSense can probably best be described as a high-performance, highly flexible touch sensor which allows engineers to design devices with curved surfaces and functionality along product edges. Based on a proprietary roll-to-roll metal mesh technology, XSense touch sensors provide a clear alternative to existing touch sensors. Simply put, manufacturers can now build light-weight, sleek, edgeless smartphones, tablets and other touch-enabled devices with extremely versatile form factors.

“Consumers are demanding more robust and advanced touch-based products with larger screens and longer battery life,” an Atmel engineering rep told Bits & Pieces. “However, traditional touch sensor solutions have a difficult time standing up to these new market requirements because of their brittle nature. In contrast, XSense is a flexible, film-based touch sensor with such advantages as flawless touch performance, enhanced noise immunity, low sheet resistance and low power consumption.”

Key XSense specs include:

  • Highly accurate stylus performance (active or passive)
  • Support for larger touchscreens
  • Flexibility – for curved surfaces
  • Narrow border – for larger active screen areas
  • Narrow bond area – for optimized device reliability
  • Low sheet resistance for better noise immunity and lower power

“In short, XSense kicks off a new era of touch design – enabling manufacturers to redefine touch and create an entirely new class of products,” the Atmel engineering rep added. “Combined with Atmel’s maXTouch controllers, we provide a completely optimized, unparalleled touch experience, extending our product portfolio deeper into the touch eco-system.”