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Atmel brings Wi-Fi connectivity to the WeChat IoT Platform


Leveraging the Atmel | SMART SAM W25, the WeChat IoT Platform supports the latest Airkiss 2.0 protocol for Wi-Fi provisioning and service discovery and allows developers to seamlessly connect to the cloud.


We love social media here at Atmel, so much so that we’re collaborating with WeChat on their latest IoT platform. The popular messaging and calling app is employing the Atmel | SMART SAM W25 module along with an ATECC508 CryptoAuthentication engine for secure connectivity.

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The WeChat IoT Platform delivers cloud services for seamless accessibility to the Internet ensuring every ‘thing’ is smartly connected and supports the recently launched Airkiss 2.0 protocol for Wi-Fi provisioning and service discovery. This new platform — which is currently available in China — provides a complete edge node-to-cloud solution from a single vendor for developers looking to build next-generation apps for tomorrow’s connected devices. Consumers can now instantly link to their IoT gadgets and easily access information via the Weixin mobile app, WeChat’s sister product.

For those who may not know, the SAM W25 module is part of the Atmel SmartConnect family and includes the 2.4GHz IEEE 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi WINC1500, as well as an Atmel | SMART SAM D21 ARM Cortex-M0+-based MCU and an ATECC508 optimized CryptoAuthentication engine. The unit is ready-to-use and FCC-certified delivering a simple, plug-and-play solution.

SAMW

“The IoT is the next big technology wave for the mobile, home automation, smart city, automotive and industrial markets and requires developers to now consider the complete edge-node-to-cloud communication,” explains Pierre Roux, Atmel Director of Wireless Solutions. “Weixin is one of the leading providers of IoT cloud services and a fully integrated provider with a host of capabilities ranging from simple texting to payment, portal and more. IoT developers and manufacturers using the Atmel SmartConnect SAM W25 evaluation board on the Weixin IoT Platform will have access to one of the largest user communities currently available for cloud services. Our collaboration with Weixin is just the beginning of a long-term collaboration as it is transitioning to IoT.”

Weixin originally began as a messaging app and has since been morphing into an all-in-one platform, which offers users a wide range of services from hailing a taxi, to shopping, to paying utility bills. As of the Q3 2015, the combined monthly active users’ accounts for Weixin and WeChat reached 650 million. Are you ready to connect your SAM W25 to the biggest user community in the world? Get started here!

What is real SAM V71 DSP performance in automotive audio?


The integrated FPU DSP (into the Cortex-M7 core) is using 2X the number of clock cycles when compared with the SHARC21489.


Thinking of selecting an ARM Cortex-M7-based Atmel SAM V70/71 for your next automotive entertainment application? Three key reasons to consider are the clock speed of the the Cortex-M7 (300 Mhz), the integration of a floating point (FPU) DSP, and last but not least, because the SAM V70/71 has obtained automotive qualification. If you delve deeper into the SAM V70/71 features list, you will see that this MCU is divided into several versions integrating Flash: 512 KB, 1024 KB or 2018 KB. And, if you compare with the competition, this MCU is the only Cortex-M7 supporting the 2 MB Flash option, being automotive qualified and delivering 1500 CoreMark — thanks to the 300 MHz clock speed when the closest competitor only reach 240 MHz and deliver 1200 CoreMark.

SAMV71-Auto-Infotainment-System

In fact, what makes the SAMV70/71 so unique is its FPU DSP performance. Let’s make it clear for the beginning, if you search for pure DSP performance, it will be easy to find standard DSP chip offering much higher performance. Take the Analog Device AD21489 or Blackfin70x series, for example. However, the automotive market is not only very demanding, it’s also a very cost sensitive market as well.

Think about this simple calculation: If you select AD21489 DSP, you will have to add external flash and a MCU, which would lead the total BOM to be four to five times the price associated with the SAM V71. (Let’s also keep this AD21489 as a reference in terms of performance, and examine DSP benchmark results, coming from third party DSP experts DSP Concept.)

FIR Benchmark

Before analyzing the results, we need to describe the context:

  • FIR is made on 256 samples block size
  • Results are expressed in term of clock cycles (smaller is better)
  • All DSP are floating-point except Blackfin
  • Clock cycles count is measured using Audio Weaver

To elaborate upon that even further, this FIR is used to build equalization filter — the higher Taps count, the better. If we look at the “50 Taps” benchmark results, the SAM V71 (Cortex-M7 based) exhibits 22,734 clock cycles (about three times more than the SHARC21489). Unsurprisingly, the Cortex-M4 requires 50% more, but you have to integrate a Cortex-A15 to get better results, as both the Cortex-A8 and Cortex-A9 need 30% and 40% more cycles, respectively! And when looking at standard Analog Devices Blackfin DSP, only the 70x series is better by 35%… the 53x being 30% worst.

Now, if you want to build a graphic equalizer, you will have to run Biquad. For instance, when building eight channels and six stages graphic equalizer, your DSP will have to run 48 Biquad.

Biquad Benchmark

Again, the context:

  • Biquad is made on 256 samples block size
  • Results are expressed in term of clock cycles (smaller is better)
  • All DSP are floating-point except Blackfin
  • Clock cycles count is measured using Audio Weaver

In fact, the results are quite similar to those of the FIR benchmark: only the Cortex-A15 and the SHARC21489 exhibits better performance. The integrated FPU DSP (into the Cortex-M7 core) is using twice the amount of clock cycles when put side-by-side with the SHARC21489. If you compare the performance per price, the Cortex-M7 integrated in the SAMV71 is 50% cheaper! Using a SHARC DSP certainly makes sense if you want to build high performance home cinema system, but if you target automotive, it’s much more effective to select a FPU DSP integrated together with Flash (512KB to 2MB) and a full featured MCU.

The Atmel SAM V71 is specifically dedicated to support automotive infotainment application, offering Dual CAN and Ethernet MAC support. Other notable specs include:

  • 10/100 Mbps, IEEE1588 support
  • 12 KB SRAM plus DMA
  • AVB support with Qav & Qas HW support for audio traffic support
  • 802.3az Energy efficiency support
  • Dual CAN-FD
  • Up to 64 SRAM-based mailboxes
  • Wake up from sleep or wake up modes on RX/TX

Don’t forget that when looking to construct an automotive high-end radio, you still need room for Ethernet MAC and AVB support… What’s more, the SAM V71 only consume 68% of the DSP resource, leaving well enough space for both AVB and Ethernet MAC.

Interested? Explore the Atmel | SMART SAM V ARM Cortex-M7 family here. More information about the the DSP benchmark can be also found on DSP Concept’s website.  Also, be sure the detailed DSP Concept’s audio processing benchmarks.


This post has been republished with permission from SemiWiki.com, where Eric Esteve is a principle blogger as well as one of the four founding members of SemiWiki.com. This blog first appeared on SemiWiki on May 6, 2015.

Atmel unveils an ultra-low power Bluetooth Smart solution for the IoT

Evident by the sheer volume of connected objects infiltrating our homes, offices, cars and nearly every facet of our life, the Internet of Things (IoT) market is set for explosive growth. With billions of devices expected to become network-enabled, designers of all levels will require a very low-power platform that allows them to develop these smart gadgets in space-constrained applications. Luckily now, there’s the BTLC1000.

20130702094944-Nordic-Semiconductor-demonstrates-its-first-Bluetooth-Smart-heart-rate-app-running-on-an-Android-smartphone

The new ultra-low power Bluetooth Smart solution is capable of achieving sub-1µA in standby mode, while delivering the industry’s best dynamic power consumption and increasing battery life by as much as one year for certain applications. The BTLC1000 pushes the limits of space constrained areas with its unprecedented 2.1mm X 2.1mm Wafer Level Chipscale Package (WLCSP), making it ideal for the rapidly growing IoT and wearables spaces, including portable medical, activity trackers, human Interface devices, gaming controllers, beacons and much more.

Expanding upon the Atmel SmartConnect wireless portfolio, the BTLC1000 is a Bluetooth Smart link controller integrated circuit that connects as a companion to any Atmel AVR or Atmel | SMART MCU through a UART or SPI API requiring minimal resource on the host side. The standalone Atmel | SMART SAMB11 Bluetooth Smart Flash MCU leverages the embedded ARM Cortex-M0 core combined with the integrated analog and communication peripherals to implement application-specific functionalities and is available as a system-in-package or a certified module. Both devices are fully integrated with a self-contained Bluetooth Smart controller and stack enabling wireless connectivity for a variety of applications to be quickly implemented without the wireless expertise typically required.

“One of the primary challenges of the IoT market is system integration—connecting one or multiple devices to the gateway and cloud,” explained Reza Kazerounian, Atmel Senior Vice President and General Manager, MCU Business Unit. “Atmel’s new Bluetooth Smart solutions solve these integration issues by enabling IoT designers of all levels the ability to connect their devices to the gateway and cloud with an easy-to-use, low-power Bluetooth connectivity solution. We are excited to enable more designers to bring their connected devices to the IoT market without comprising design time.”

Bluetooth Smart devices are a new breed of Bluetooth 4.1 peripherals with only a single Bluetooth 4.1 radio connecting only to Bluetooth Smart Ready devices. For those unfamiliar with the technology, Bluetooth Smart is the intelligent, power-friendly version of Bluetooth wireless connectivity that works with an application on the smartphone or tablet you already own. In fact, Bluetooth Smart solutions set new low-power standards with at least 30% power savings compared to existing solutions on the market in dynamic mode.

The cost-effective Bluetooth Smart technology can easily provide developers and OEMs the flexibility to create solutions that will work with the billions of Bluetooth-enabled products already in the market today, not to mention is supported by every major operating system. The technology brings every day devices such as toothbrushes, heart-rate monitors, fitness devices and more to be connected, communicating through applications that reside in Bluetooth Smart compatible smartphones, tablets or other similar devices already owned by consumers.

Interested? General samples will be available in March.

There’s good news about BadUSB

The good news about the recently-revealed BadUSB is that there actually is a cure: Atmel CryptoAuthentication. Hardware crypto engines were invented to protect software, firmware and hardware from exactly these types of attacks, among many others. These uber-tiny, ultra secure hardware devices can be easily and cost-effectively added to USB sticks (and other peripherals) by manufacturers, who are seeking to protect their customers by ensuring that only the proper and intended code is downloaded and used. Once installed into the peripherals, CryptoAuthentication devices will block the bad code. Period.

Let’s look at what Bad USB has uncovered: It is that everything with a processor is vulnerable to attack. Most people don’t really think of a USB stick, modern thermostat, home router, fax machine, PC mouse or trackpad, a camera, iPod, microwave, and other “things” as being computers; however, they are. In fact, they all have at least one processor, memory, ways to get stuff in and out, and code (firmware) that tells the processor what to do. That last piece is where the danger lies.

As any PC or smartphone user knows, code gets updated all the time to get rid of bugs and add features. Updating code opens up a processor that was previously running good code, to code altered by people with mal-intent, i.e. malware. This is how good embedded systems go bad. We recently saw malware that allowed an ATM to spit out 40 bank notes at a time if a certain code was entered. Real nice for those who know the code!

BadUSB is Bad for More Than Just USB

All systems with processors are vulnerable to bad code, which can do bad things to good systems. All it takes is a way to transfer bad code from one processor to another… and, that happens all the time. USB sticks, USB accessories, the Internet, wireless links like Wi-Fi or Bluetooth — you name it — can be vectors for diseased code. What BadUSB has revealed to us is that all embedded systems, unless equipped with robust protection mechanisms, are now vulnerable to catching diseased code. (Embola?)

embola 3

Embola

One contracted, a machine infected with Embola can send private and sensitive information to bad guys, or let them take over your system for ransom or other mal-purposes. They can turn on cameras and microphones to spy, grab your photos and bank account information, or even mess with your car. Whatever they want they can have, and you most likely will never know it.

By now you should see the point, which is that every embedded system and PC needs protection. Everything that runs software is vulnerable such as wearables, phones, USB accessories, USB sticks, cameras, cars, printers, thermostats, ATMs, meters, microwaves, appliances, and whatever the IoT will become. Simply put: If it has a processor and connects to something else, it is hackable.

So, what can you do to protect against Embola? The answer is twofold:

1. Don’t let the bad code in, and
2. If it does get in, don’t let it run.

While this sounds pedantically simplistic, these steps are NOT being taken. These two functions have the self-explanatory names of secure download and secure boot.

Secure Download

Secure download uses encryption to ensure that the code that is received by the embedded system is kept away from hackers. The code is encrypted using an algorithm such as Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) by using an encryption key. That encryption key is created using a secret that is only shared with the target system. The encrypted code is sent to the target embedded system to be decrypted and loaded for its use. Along with the encrypted code, a seed is also sent to the target system.

The seed is a number (typically unique with each session) that is hashed during the encryption session with a secure secret key. The result of that hashing is called the digest or Message Authentication Code (MAC) and it is used to encrypt the code (i.e. the MAC is the actual encryption key). The seed is sent to the target system to enable decryption, and not useful to anyone unless it is hashed with the secret key, which is what the target system will do. The target system runs the same hashing algorithm with the identical shared secret key stored there and the seed, which results in the same digest (MAC) that was used to encrypt the code. That MAC can now be used as the decryption key to decrypt the code. At this point, the decrypted code can be ran in the target embedded system.

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However, there is another step that can be taken that adds even more security, which is authentication using a digital signature. To use authentication, the unencrypted original code is hashed and signed by the code originator at the same time as the original encryption process. The originator uses a signing key on that hash of the code to make a signature. That signature is sent with the encrypted code and seed to the target system. Once the encrypted code is decrypted using the process noted above, the newly decrypted code will be hashed by the target system, just like was done by the originator, and then signed with the signing key stored in the target system. That signing key is the same as on the originator’s signing module, so if the decrypted code has not been altered, the signature made on the digest of that decrypted code and the signing key will be exactly the same as the signature that was sent over. These two signatures are compared and if they match then the code has been authenticated and can be safely run on the target system. What does this mean? No risk of Embola!

The two levels or security provided by secure down load with authentication is obviously very robust. It will ensure that code that was received has been kept secret during transmission and has not been tampered.

Secure Boot

Secure boot also uses digital signatures to ensure that the code to be booted when the target system starts up matches the code that the manufacturer intended and has not been tampered with. It sort of works in a similar way as secure download. If the code to be booted has been altered, then the signature made by hashing the digest of that code with a secret signing key will not match the signature from the manufacturer. If they don’t match, the code will not load.

These methods are easy and inexpensive to implement and already exist. You should be able to see by now how Atmel has you covered. Ready, set, get secure!

 

Deadline for Simply AVR Design Contest extended

Back in March, Atmel launched the second stage of its Simply AVR Design Contest, which challenged Makers, designers and engineers to develop clever, ground-breaking microcontroller-based designs using its popular AVR MCUs. After seeing a number of amazing designs come through over the last few months, we have decided to extend the deadline by two weeks — giving Makers inspired from Maker Faire New York and Rome a final chance to submit their 8-bit ideas!

simplyavrinfographic1

The Simply AVR first prize winner will receive $1,500 in cash, as well as some social media stardom across each of Atmel’s industry-leading channels. Each of the four runner-ups will claim a $500 cash prize, along with some coverage as well. Not too shabby!

So, why AVR? Atmel’s 8-bit microcontrollers offer Makers ease-of-use, low power consumption, and high level of integration all at their fingertips. Based on a single-cycle RISC engine that combines a rich instruction set, the incredibly-popular MCUs deliver close to 1 MIPS per megahertz and are optimized for minimum code size and maximum computing performance. Ideal for a broad range of applications — including industrial control, ZigBee and RF, medical and utility metering, communication gateways, sensor control, white goods and portable battery-powered products — AVR accelerates the time it takes to bring an idea to life.

Looking for some last-minute inspiration? This video from Analog Aficionado Paul Rako may help do the trick.

Whether you’re in the process of completing or still brainstorming your next design, don’t forget to enter your project today! Deadline is October 17, 2014.

Video: MakerBot helps NASA explore the final frontier

MakerBot’s Atmel-powered 3D printers have been helping innovators and DIY Makers transform their ideas into physical objects for quite some time now. Of course, it isn’t every day that 3D printed objects or components make their way into space.

However, when NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope launches in 2018 it will carry parts made with the help of an Atmel-powered MakerBot Replicator2 Desktop 3D Printer. That is definitely one small step for MakerBot – and one giant leap for mankind.

“In 1993, four years after the launch of the Hubble Telescope, NASA began contemplating the next generation of space observatory. 20 years later, the James Webb Space Telescope has come a long way towards meeting its 2018 launch date, with MakerBot playing a growing role in the development process,” MakerBot’s Ben Millstein wrote in a recent blog post.

“The new telescope promises never-before-seen images of our universe using the NIRCam (near-infrared camera), the first space telescope camera optimized for near-infrared light. That means the Webb Telescope will be able to capture infrared wavelengths that cut through cosmic dust and gas clouds.”

According to Millstein, NASA enlisted Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Technology Center (ATC) to build the device, with the ATC team using a MakerBot Replicator 2 to get the job done. John Camp, a former mechanical engineer at ATC, led the initiative to streamline 3D printing for the NIRCam development process. After Camp acquired his first MakerBot Replicator 2, he was flooded with requests from engineers interested in (3D) printing various parts.

“Many of the systems for the Webb Telescope have to go through lengthy cryogenic testing to make sure the machinery holds up in the freezing vacuum of space,” Millstein continued. “MakerBot gave John the ability to test part ideas using 3D printed replicas, while the actual metal components being sent to freezing vacuum of space were put through their paces in a cryogenic test chamber.”

The Webb Telescope is currently slated to kick off three years of intensive testing and tweaking at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX before its eagerly awaited launch later this decade.

“Come 2018, we’ll be on the lookout for spectacular new images of our universe as they beam down from the Webb Telescope’s orbit – 1.5 million kilometers above Earth,” Millstein added.