Tag Archives: ultra-low power embedded

Atmel and IoT and Crypto, oh my!

One of the companies that is best positioned to supply components into the Internet of Things (IoT) market is Atmel. For the time being most designs will be done using standard components, not doing massive integration on an SoC targeted at a specific market. The biggest issue in the early stage of market development will be working out what the customer wants and so the big premium will be on getting to market early and iterating fast, not premature cost optimization for a market that might not be big enough to support the design/NRE of a custom design.

Latest product in Atmel's SmartConnect family, the SAM W25 module

Here is Atmel’s latest product in the SmartConnect family, the SAM W25 module

Atmel has microcontrollers, literally over 500 different flavors and in two families, the AVR family and a broad selection of ARM microcontrollers ad processors. They have wireless connectivity. They have strong solutions in security.

Indeed last week at Electronica in Germany they announced the latest product in the SmartConnect family, the SAM W25 module. It is the industry’s first fully-integrated FCC-certified Wi-Fi module with a standalone MCU and hardware security from a single source. The module is tiny, not much larger than a penny. The module includes Atmel’s recently-announced 2.4GHz IEEE 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi WINC1500, along with an Atmel | SMART SAM D21 ARM Cortex M0+-based MCU and Atmel’s ATECC108A optimized CryptoAuthentication engine with ultra-secure hardware-based key storage for secure connectivity.

Atmel at Electronica 2014

Atmel at Electronica 2014

That last item is a key component for many IoT designs. Security is going to be a big thing and with so many well-publicized breaches of software security, the algorithms, and particularly the keys, are moving quickly into hardware. That component, the ATECC108A, provides state-of-the-art hardware security including a full turnkey Elliptic Curve Digital Signature Algorithm (ECDSA) engine using key sizes of 256 or 283 bits – appropriate for modern security environments without the long computation delay typical of software solutions. Access to the device is through a standard I²C Interface at speeds up to 1Mb/sec. It is compatible with standard Serial EEPROM I²C Interface specifications. Compared to software, the device is:

  • Higher performance (faster encryption)
  • Lower power
  • Much harder to compromise

Atmel has a new white paper out, Integrating the Internet of Things, Necessary Building Blocks for Broad Market Adoption. Depending on whose numbers you believe, there will be 50 billion IoT edge devices connected by 2020.

Edge nodes are becoming integrated into everyone’s life

As it says in the white paper:

On first inspection, the requirements of an IoT edge device appear to be much the same as any other microcontroller (MCU) based development project. You have one or more sensors that are read by an MCU, the data may then be processed locally prior to sending it off to another application or causing another event to occur such as turning on a motor. However, there are decisions to be made regarding how to communicate with these other applications. Wired, wireless, and power line communication (PLC) are the usual options. But, then you have to consider that many IoT devices are going to be battery powered, which means that their power consumption needs to be kept as low as possible to prolong battery life. The complexities deepen when you consider the security implications of a connected device as well. And that’s not just security of data being transferred, but also ensuring your device can’t be cloned and that it does not allow unauthorized applications to run on it.
IoT Design Requirements - Software / Development Tools Ecosystem

IoT design requirements: Software / development tools ecosystem

For almost any application, the building blocks for an IoT edge node are the same:

  • Embedded processing
  • Sensors
  • Connectivity
  • Security
  • And while not really a “building block,” ultra-low power for always-on applications

My view is that the biggest of these issues will be security. After all, even though Atmel has hundreds of different microcontrollers and microprocessors, there are plenty of other suppliers. Same goes for connectivity solutions. But strong cryptographhic solutions implemented in hardware are much less common.

The new IoT white paper is available for download here.

This post has been republished with permission from SemiWiki.com, where Paul McLellan is a featured blogger. It first appeared there on November 19, 2014.

Atmel ships new ARM Cortex M0+ processor-based MCUs in volume

Atmel is now shipping its recently launched SAM D20 microcontroller (MCU) lineup in production quantities. As previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, the SAM D20 is the first series in a new family of ultra-low power embedded Flash microcontrollers based on ARM’s powerful Cortex-M0+ processor.

thinkbeyondcore

“In this era of the Internet of Things (IoT), products used in building automation, consumer electronics, smart metering and industrial controls are becoming smarter and more connected,” Mr. Ingar Fredriksen, Atmel’s Sr. Director of Flash-based Microcontrollers, explained. “With Atmel’s new SAM D20 MCU available to the mass market, designers now have access to a new Cortex M0+ based MCU to easily add more intelligence and connectivity to next-gen IoT devices.”

According to Mr. Fredriksen, the new series combines innovative and proven technologies, including intelligent peripherals with Atmel’s Event System as well as capacitive touch support for button, slider and wheel capability and proximity sensing.
The new SAM D20 series is also supported by the latest version of Atmel Studio and Atmel Software Framework, the integrated development platform of choice for developing and debugging ARM Cortex-M and Atmel AVR MCU-based applications.

“We’ve built our decades of innovation and experience in embedded Flash MCU technology into our new Atmel SAM D20 family,” Mr. Fredriksen continued. “That is why the SAM D20 sets a new benchmark for flexibility and ease-of-use, while combining the performance and energy efficiency of the ARM Cortex-M0+ core with an optimized architecture and peripheral set. We’ve brought true differentiation into this new family, making it the ideal MCU for low-power, cost-sensitive industrial and consumer applications.”

Additional information about Atmel’s SAM D20 can be found here.