Tag Archives: WiFi

Atmel’s SmartConnect lineup targets the IoT

Atmel has expanded its wireless product portfolio with a new family of solutions targeting the rapidly evolving Internet of Things (IoT). Essentially, the new SmartConnect family combines Atmel’s ultra-low power MCUs with its wireless solutions and complementary software into a single package, allowing designers to easily add wireless connectivity to any embedded system. This new lineup includes Atmel’s SmartConnect Wi-Fi modules, an integration of the company’s ultra-low power Wi-Fi System-on-Chip with a Cortex M0+ ARM-based MCU, and the SmartConnect ZigBee SAM R21, a single-chip integrating Atmel’s ultra-low power ZigBee solution with a Cortex-M0+-based MCU.

SmartConnect_chip

Atmel’s SmartConnect solutions can be deployed across a wide range of markets, helping to accelerate development time for cost-effective, battery-operated applications in the residential, healthcare, industrial, smart energy and wearable spaces.

“Atmel’s Wi-Fi solutions deliver industry-leading low-power consumption and are the leading market solution for power-constraint applications such as remote controls,” explained Reza Kazerounian, Sr. Vice President and General Manager, Microcontroller Business Unit, Atmel Corporation.

“Atmel also has a long history of providing ultra-low power wireless connectivity for sophisticated applications that are IEEE 802.15.4-compliant, IPv6/6LoWPAN-based and ZigBee-certified for nearly a decade. [Our] broad portfolio of wireless products combine the company’s rich family of RF transceivers with 8- and 32-bit AVRs and ARM-based MCUs.”

As Kazerounian notes, ultra-low power wireless connectivity is critical for embedded applications in the era of the Internet of Things.

“[That is why] Atmel’s SmartConnect technology is about simplifying the use of embedded wireless connectivity technologies and enabling users to accelerate their time-to-market. This simplicity allows all players to participate in the IoT market, fueling the innovation needed to accelerate adoption,” he added.

Greg Potter, Analyst, SNL Kagan MRG, expressed similar sentiments.

“With over 50 billion devices predicted to be connected by 2020, it’s important for embedded companies to provide an ultra-low power turnkey solution that brings a complex mix of embedded and connectivity technologies in a single package,” he said.

“Atmel’s new SmartConnect family does just that by coupling ultra-low power MCUs with Wi-Fi and ZigBee connectivity into a single package. The company’s breadth of easy-to-use IoT solutions, ranging from embedded processing to connectivity and software/tools, will enable more designers to bring their connected devices to market.”

Key facts about Atmel’s SmartConnect family

SmartConnect Wi-Fi

Providing designers with flexibility to help accelerate development, this new family of modules bring wireless Internet connectivity to any embedded design. 

The first products are an ultra-low power lineup of Wi-Fi modules that enable battery-powered IoT endpoints such as thermostats, temperature sensors through Wi-Fi connectivity – without compromising battery life.

These highly integrated modules will enable designers to lower their overall bill of materials while integrating IEEE 802.11 a/b/g wireless connectivity. 

Additionally, the new Wi-Fi modules provide an integrated software solution with application and security protocols such as TLS, integrated network services (TCP/IP stack) and standard Real Time Operating System (RTOS) which are all available via Atmel’s Studio 6 integrated development platform (IDP). 

SmartConnect Wi-Fi is slated to kick off mass production in May 2014.

SmartConnect ZigBee SAM R21



Building on Atmel’s long history of ultra-low power ZigBee solutions, these new products integrate Atmel’s ARM Cortex-M0+-based MCUs with a robust peripheral set and its high-performance RF transceiver. 

The new single-chip series is available in extremely small 5x5mm 32-pin and 7x7mm 48-pin package, effectively saving board space and reducing the overall bill of materials. The devices ship in a variety of memory densities and are qualified for industrial temperature grades up to 125C, making them ideal for wireless lighting control applications such as ZigBee Light Link.

These new devices are fully supported by the wireless composer in Atmel’s Studio 6 IDP and help accelerate development time. 

The ATSAM R21 Xplained PRO board is already available at the official Atmel Store, with Atmel currently sampling the ATSAM R21 series to select customers. Public sampling will be available at the end of March with production quantities slated for July 2014. Pricing for the SAM R21? Starting at $2.75 in 10,000-piece quantities.

ATmega328P + ARM Cortex-A7 = Akarel

Akarel – which recently surfaced on Indiegogo – is a hardware development kilt that integrates Atmel’s ATmega328P microcontroller (MCU) and a 1GHz Allwinner A20 dual-core ARM Cortex-A7 processor (CPU) on a single board with a touch screen.

As Akarel creator Karel Kyovsky notes, the platform is targeted at devs and Makers who require a touch screen interface to implement their respective projects.

The development platform is currently available in two iterations: Akarel 7 (7-inch display) and Akarel22 (22-inch display). The former features an industrial grade projected capacitive multi touch connected via I2C, while the latter is equipped with a USB-linked capacitive single touch.

“Some development kits are missing displays or touch, [while] others use obscure software stacks. Imagine implementing your hack ideas within hours instead of days like you’ve been doing until now,” Kyovsky explained.

“Akarel integrates Android OS running on [the] ARM Cortex A7 via UART, with Arduino software running on [Atmel’s] ATmega328P MCU. Integration and connection of both chips on [a single] PCB [offers a number of] advantages.”

According to Kyovsky, these include:

  • 

Graphics and UI capabilities of Google’s flagship Android OS
  • Optimized environment for application development
  • Seamless network connectivity via WiFi or Ethernet
  • Access to extensive Arduino community libraries

Kyovsky says he envisions Akarel being used to develop smart home automation and security systems, kiosks/payment terminals, along with Internet of Things (IoT) devices and appliances.

On the software side, the Akarel kit offers Makers and developers access to a Git repository stocked with Uboot source code, Linux kernel source (3.4.39), fine-tuned Android OS sources (4.2.2), Arduino firmware sources, Arduino tools (i.e. avrdude) and example apps.

“We want you to concentrate on writing an application not on spending time to make the basic things work. We have done it for you already. And if you want to dive deeper and modify the Linux kernel or Android OS…Why not? You have all the sources available for you to change and compile,” Kyovsky added.

“In order to save you from the hell of installing all the toolchain (correct version of gcc, libs, headers, automake, make, java, you name it) we have also prepared a Ubuntu virtual machine for you which may be downloaded and which has [the entire] toolchain preinstalled so that you can start recompiling your complete stack within a few minutes.”

Interested in learning more about the Akarel? You can check out the project’s official Indiegogo page here.

Sir Mix-A-Lot visits Atmel HQ



The famous ’90s rapper turned music producer Sir Mix-A-Lot recently visited Atmel headquarters in San Jose to check out our newly-unveiled Tech on Tour mobile trailer.

 While there, we had the opportunity to discuss various product demos, particularly Sir Mix-A-Lot’s impression of Atmel’s smart WiFi and XSense.

As we’ve previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, Atmel’s XSense is a high-performance, highly flexible touch sensor which allows engineers to design devices with curved surfaces and even add functionality along product edges.

Essentially, this means manufacturers now have the capability to build light-weight, sleek, edgeless smartphones, tablets and other touch-enabled devices.

The founder of the Nastymix record label, Sir Mix-A-Lot debuted in 1988 with Swass. The rapper is perhaps best known for his 1992 album Mack Daddy and its Grammy Award-winning single “Baby Got Back.”

You can check out additional photos of Sir Mix-A-Lot’s visit below.

Atmel is building the Internet of Things (IoT)

The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to a future world where all types of electronic devices link to each other via the Internet. In 2009, there were 2.5 billion connected devices; most of these were mobile phones, PCs and tablets. By 2020, there will be over 30 billion connected devices of far greater variety.

According to Gartner, 50% of companies expected to help build the rapidly evolving Internet of Things have yet to coalesce. This is precisely why Atmel views the Maker Movement as one of the primary tech incubators for future IoT companies and devices, many of which will undoubtedly use Atmel microcontrollers (MCUs) to power their respective platforms.

MakerBot, which manufactures the Atmel-powered Replicator 3D printer, is a perfect example of a Maker-inspired company that emerged from nothing, yet was recently acquired for approximately $600 million by Stratasys. Adafruit, responsible for designing the Atmel-powered Gemma, Trinket and Flora platforms, is another example of a successful company started by Makers, for Makers. Of course, Atmel is also at the heart of multiple Arduino boards used by millions of Makers, engineers, schools and corporations all over the world.

There is a reason Atmel’s MCUs and MPUs are the silicon of choice for both Makers and industry heavyweights. Simply put, our low power sipping portfolio, which includes WiFi capability and extensive XSense integration options, is optimized for a wide variety of devices, ranging from IoT wearables to more stationary industrial platforms with connected capabilities such as smart grids and home appliance automation. Indeed, an IoT-enabled smart grid equipped with advance sensors offers huge energy savings, helping to create a green and sustainable future by conserving power and reducing water consumption.

Clearly, the age of IoT is already upon us. To be sure, over three-quarters of companies are now actively exploring or using the Internet of Things (IoT), with the vast majority of business leaders believing it will have a meaningful impact on how their companies conduct business. As noted above, the number of “things” predicted to be connected to the Internet by the end of this decade range from a staggering 30 billion to 50 billion.

According to Clint Witchalls, the Internet of Things is a quiet revolution that is steadily taking shape. Businesses across the world are piloting the use of the IoT to improve their internal operations, while preparing a stream of IoT-related products and services. Consumers might not (initially) recognize them as such, but that will not stop them from being launched, as few end users need to know that user-based car insurance, for example, is an IoT-based application.

From our perspective, the IoT represents one of the greatest potential growth markets for semiconductors over the next several years. That is precisely why Atmel remains focused on designing the absolute lowest power sipping products, particularly with regards to microcontrollers (MCUs) which offer maximum performance and meet the requirements of advanced applications. Atmel also offers highly integrated architecture optimized for high-speed connectivity, optimal data bandwidth and rich interface support – making our microcontrollers ideal for powering the smart, connected products at the heart of the IoT.

Arduino Yún – a mesh extender platform?

The Serval Mesh Extender can best be described a device that combines ad-hoc WiFi meshing with long-range license-free UHF packet radio to allow the easy formation of mesh networks spanning useful distances.

“Typically, the UHF packet radio has a range about ten times greater than WiFi. This means that in ordinary suburban and urban areas we get a range of a block or two, and in open rural areas the range can be in the kilometres,” Paul Gardner-Stephen, founder of the Serval Project, explained in a guest blog post published on the official Arduino blog.

“We run our Serval Mesh software over the top, providing an easy to use communications system that lets you use your cell phone without cellular coverage, for example, during a disaster, or when you and your friends are near one another outside of the range of your native network. [Or], if you are at an international gathering and don’t want to pay $4 a minute for the privilege of calling someone a few hundred metres away.”

The challenge with the Mesh Extender design, says Gardner-Stephen, is that the Serval crew hasn’t had the budget to design its own device from the ground up. As such, the team has been using existing hardware platforms, all while trying to adapt them to accept RFD900 UHF packet radios they sourced from RFDesign.

“This means that we have been doing things like modifying TP-LINK MR3020 wireless routers to build prototypes,” Gardner-Stephen continued. “While it works, the process is far from satisfactory, and the physical steps take a couple of hours per unit, which makes the effective unit price very high, despite the low cost of the MR3020 unit itself.”

Enter the Atmel-powered Arduino Yún, which, as the Serval Project founder points out, offers all of the functionality of the MR3020 in the form of the mesh-friendly Atheros processor and WiFi system-on-a-chip running Linux.

“Being an Arduino it has plenty of connectivity options for us to connect to the RFD900, which just uses RS232 serial,” he explained. “As an added bonus the Yún has a microSD slot, so we don’t need to use a USB memory stick for mass storage, which actually makes a noticeable impact on power consumption. The larger flash on the Yún is also welcome.”

Gardner-Stephen says that while his team is is still working on the integration process, the “prospect is there” for the Yún to save a lot of time and cost in terms of helping to design future prototypes.

“[Of course] the Yún board itself could be the basis for a customized PCB that exactly meets our needs and allows us to just plug the radio module directly onto the PCB,” Gardner-Stephen concluded. “In short, the Yún is opening a new opportunity for us to innovate faster, more affordably, and with a better result.”

As previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, the Yún – designed in collaboration with Dog Hunter – is based on Atmel’s ATMega32u4 microcontroller (MCU) and also features the Atheros AR9331, an SoC running Linino, a customized version of OpenWRT. The Yún is somewhat unique in the Arduino lineup, as it boasts a lightweight Linux distribution to complement the traditional microcontroller (MCU) interface.

The Atmel-powered Arduino Yún can be snapped up for $69, or €52.

Atmel powers this 2D-Lux smart LED disk (SLEDD)

NliteN has unveiled the 2D-Lux Smart LED Disk (SLEDD), a dimmable 60W-incandescent-replacement LED smart “bulb” with an Atmel AVR microcontroller (ATtiny85), USB interface and hardware-expansion pins. Currently on IndieGoGo, the Atmel-powered SLEDD allows backers to easily adjust the 2D-Lux by running various light-bulb control apps, including smartphone control.

“The low power sleep modes found in Atmel’s AVR, as well as its wide voltage operating range, has allowed NliteN to eliminate expensive AC to DC power supplies, as well as eliminating the need for large electrolytic capacitors which are a huge reliability and lifetime concern in Solid State Lighting today,” explained Andreas Eieland, Atmel’s Sr. Product Marketing Manager of Standard Microcontrollers. “The AVR’s high processing throughput allows inexpensive, direct, USB interfacing to the AVR, facilitating the ability of an owner to download apps by simply attaching a PC’s USB cable to the integrated connector on the bulb.”

In addition, Atmel’s low noise, high precision, on-chip analog to digital converters enabled NliteN designers to measure system temperatures to prevent system overheating in enclosed fixtures – as well as monitor AC power waveforms and implement a planned low-cost powerline receiver communications capability similar to the BSR X10.

It should also be noted that users can add shields, or plug-in circuit board modules to SLEDD, facilitating additional hardware functions via microphones (clap on, clap off, clap dim, loudness sensitive brightness, etc), motion sensors, Zigbee, Bluetooth, WiFi, Linux web appliance and battery-backed-up clock-calendars.

Interested in learning more about the Atmel-powered 2D-Lux Smart LED Disk? Be sure to check out the project’s official page on IndieGoGo.

Reza Kazerounian talks MCUs, China and the IoT

Dr. Reza Kazerounian, SVP and GM of Atmel’s Microcontroller Business Unit, recently sat down with Yorbe Zhang of EE Times-China to discuss the company’s activities in Asia, with a specific emphasis on the Internet of Things (IoT).

Essentially, the Internet of Things (IoT) refers to a future world where all types of electronic devices link to each other via the Internet. Today, it’s estimated that there are nearly 10 billion devices in the world connected to the Internet, a figure expected to triple to nearly 30 billion by 2020.

As we’ve previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, the IoT may very well represent the greatest potential growth market for semiconductors over the next several years. Indeed, consumers want WiFi capability along with very low power consumption, as most connected mobile devices these days run off batteries. Atmel is certainly well positioned for the IoT, as our portfolio includes ultra-low power WiFi capability and an extensive lineup of microcontrollers (MCUs).

The full video of Dr. Kazerounian’s interview with EE Times-China can be viewed here. Please note that although Yorbe Zhang provides opening and closing remarks in Mandarin, the exchange between Zhang and Dr. Kazerounian is in English.

This Amulyte pendant is powered by Atmel’s SAM4L

Amulyte – powered by Atmel’s ARM-based SAM4L MCU – helps seniors keep their freedom and independence, all while providing peace of mind to family members and caregivers.

The Amulyte Pendant is equipped with an easy to use help button that functions anywhere – instantly connecting seniors to their contact list. It is fully capable of tracking activity via an accelerometer and monitoring an individual’s location in case help is needed – supporting both GPS and WiFi without the need for a base station.

“As we age, our desire to maintain independence and freedom never changes. Whether this means continuing to live at homes, or moving into a retirement community; seniors want to be able to live their life on their own terms,” reads an official Amulyte description posted on the company’s website. “The Amulyte system allows them to do this, while providing easy access to help in the event of an emergency. Seniors can continue to enjoy their independence and freedom while knowing that help is always available.”

The Amulyte (software) Portal  allows wearers to add their emergency contacts, with users given the option to configure specific preferences on how each person is notified – phone call, SMS or email. Simply put, the Amulyte provides vital protection 24/7 in the event of any health emergency, including heart attacks, stroke and falls.

Interested in learning more? Check out Amulyte’s official page here.

Zigbee Smart Energy Profile

The much anticipated Zigbee Smart Energy Profile 2.0 was recently released. Representing an effort spanning more than three years, this milestone includes contributions from NIST, IETF and the Zigbee Alliance. Various companies also participated in the initiative, including utility, meter, silicon and software stack vendors.

Smart Energy – the application profile that drove the Zigbee Alliance development of the Zigbee IP (ZIP) –  is the first public profile requiring ZIP instead of the current Zigbee and Zigbee PRO underlying stacks. Zigbee IP (ZIP) and SEP 2.0 offer TCP/IP based interoperability for smart energy networks, thereby facilitating participation in the Internet of Things (IoT) without the need for special gateways. In fact, ZIP is designed to be physical layer (phy) agnostic and is capable of running across various platforms including 802.15.4 Wireless, WiFi, Power Line Carrier Ethernet and more.

SEP 2.0 is built using numerous mainstream protocols such as TLS/HTTPS, XML, EXI, mDNX  and REST. Each SEP 2.0 device boasts an optimized HTTP server serving up and responding to data objects defined by an XML schema. Security is ensured by familiar HTTPS with strong authentication, while an RFC compliant IPv6 stack provides the network with specific routing and translation layers for the wireless PHY.  The SEP 2.0 presentation from the Zigbee Alliance is available here [PDF].

Two recommended implementation strategies for SEP 2.0 in devices are Single Chip and Multi-Phy. Single Chip implementations use a dedicated microcontroller and RF transceiver (or a combined SoC) running a dedicated stack. This strategy works particularly well when adding Zigbee SEP 2.0 support where there is no other network or TCP/IP stack in low to mid range devices. A good example might be a thermostat or load control device, both of which require communications with other smart energy devices – even if they are equipped with a small processor dedicated to the control and UI functions of the device.

The Multi-Phy implementation –  a new way of looking at Zigbee – offers advantages in devices equipped with multiple network interfaces and/or a capable processor such as an Atmel SAM4, SAM9, or SAMA5 MPU or MCU. In such cases, the 802.15.4 transceiver (like the AT86RF233) becomes the network interface PHY layer underneath the IPv6 stack and SEP 2.0 layers running on the processor. Since the IPv6 stack is a compliant implementation, other network PHYs are also supported by the stack. Running two or more physical interfaces with a single processor is certainly not an issue, as devices that communicate via Zigbee, WiFi, PLC, and Ethernet can be designed. Because a single processor and IPv6 stack are used, the cost will ultimately be lower than duplicating these functions in a separate chip dedicated to Zigbee SEP 2.0.

Single Chip and Multi-Phy implementation

Single Chip and Multi-Phy implementation

The multi-phy implementation is also ideal for gateway devices bridging different physical layers. And since SEP 2.0 is built using standard web protocols, once you bridge the smart energy network to the Internet, managing your home energy devices from a tablet or smartphone is no stretch at all and brings us closer to the reality of the Internet of Things (IoT).

Atmel, along with software stack partner Exegin Technologies, offers robust and compliant solutions for Zigbee IP and SEP 2.0. There is already interest from leading networking and utility companies, with deployment of certified devices expected before the end of 2013. The critical design decision most of us have to consider? Whether to dedicate the cost and complexity of a single chip Zigbee solution – or optimize it and lower cost with a software stack and radio transceiver solution that offers shared resources and the possibility of multiple networks.

An interview with Steve Laub: President and CEO of Atmel

On May 27th, Steve Laub, President and CEO of Atmel, was interviewed by the Wall Street Transcript. The CEO discussed a number of subjects with the prestigious publication, including the recent acquisition of IDT’s smart metering product line, the purchase of Ozmo Devices and the Internet of Things (IoT).

SteveLaub

“Today, it’s estimated that there are nearly 10 billion devices in the world connected to the Internet, and this is expected to triple to nearly 30 billion devices by 2020,” Mr. Laub explained. “The ‘Internet of things’ represents perhaps the greatest potential growth market for semiconductors over the next several years.”

The CEO also noted that Atmel remained focused on designing the absolute lowest-power products, particularly in microcontrollers.

“As the world becomes more mobile, more devices are becoming portable and battery-powered. Therefore, ultra-low-power consumption is important for success, and we bring out the lowest power products in the marketplace,” said Mr. Laub.

“In addition, we are willing to move quickly. For example, a key reason we have been able to get into the market for touch sensing, the IoT and the smart metering markets, is because we are willing to act and make decisions quickly, such as to make the necessary acquisitions when required to enhance our technology.”

The full Wall Street Transcript interview with Atmel President and CEO Steve Laub can be read here in .PDF format.