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I recently met up with Vasu Madabushi, Director of Marketing and Business Development at Inforce Computing (Silicon Valley).  I found out to my surprise that InForce is one of the few Qualcomm partners worldwide that designs and manufactures embedded computing platforms.  They design and manufacture Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS), product-ready system on modules (SOMs) and single-board computers (SBCs) that feature ARM® ISA-compliant Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ processors.


Snapdragon processors have been used in mobile devices and high-end smartphones, so it was delightful to see the same power-efficient high-end processors being deployed in embedded designs. What I wasn’t fully aware of was some of the cool devices these processors have gone into lately. Inforce’s solutions have found their way into augmented reality (AR) head-mounted displays, portable ultrasound imaging systems, devices that require high-end 4K Ultra HD and 1080p hardware-assisted video capture/playback and image signal processing, enterprise videoconferencing, and of course robots and drones that run heavy-duty computer vision algorithms.


What sparked my interest further during the conversation is the knowledge that Vasu shared on drones and robotics.  Certainly this is a hot topic with companies like Google buying up a number of robotics firms and working on autonomous driving technology.  Add in Amazon with its research on drones and the recent Qualcomm Snapdragon “flight” reference design.  All of this resonated with me as I spent a lot of time working in the automotive industry on Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), which are the building blocks to autonomous driving, and I also featured the drone maker, YUNEEC, in my pre-con at Sensor Expo 2015. But I digress…..

Vasu said there is a whole open source community for robotics and drone development. For example, the Robot Operating System (ROS) from Open Source Robotics Foundation (OSRF) provides a set of software libraries, drivers, developer tools, and algorithms for building robotics applications, so one doesn’t have to start from scratch. OSRF has ported the ROS to the Inforce 6410Plus SBC, making it easier for others to adopt a Snapdragon processor-based embedded system [Read ROS Support for Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ - Bringing ARM into Robotics for more information].

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The Linux Foundation’s DroneCode aims to do a similar thing for enabling open-source projects that include flight control, mission planning, and advanced functionality such as computer vision, navigation and obstacle avoidance, and real-time flight planning. Open-source hardware projects include an autopilot function.


There are lots of applications potentially running on a drone [Read “Commercial Drones: Where’re the Viable Use-cases and Core Technologies to Differentiate in a Crowded  Marketplace?"].  For example, drones could constantly capture high-resolution images and data from a wide range of on-board sensors, which necessitates quite a bit of real-time and heavy-duty processing.  Furthermore, running network stacks for connecting with the cloud also puts a strain on power consumption and payload capacity. Of course, computing capability is at a premium for all of these CPU intensive applications, so it is no wonder many embedded designers are looking to get high performing small form-factor compute platforms--such as the Snapdragon with its added power-efficient heterogeneous hardware engines such as GPUs, DSPs and ISPs--integrated in the SoC.  For example, the Snapdragon 600 delivers close to an astonishing 23,000 DMIPS (integer performance) and the even more advanced Snapdragon 805 get you up to 38,000 DMIPS. This kind of processing power available at mobile power efficiencies makes an ideal fit for high-end embedded applications such as those demanded by Drones and UAVs.


If you are interested in a Qualcomm Snapdragon powered SOM you need to check out Inforce Computing.

Build Industrial IoE Devices With the Inforce 6309Micro SBC Based on the Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 410 Processor


OK, have you been working on or thinking of bringing that cool high-performance next generation industrial internet-of-everything (IoE) idea to Inforce_6309_top_2market? Are you feeling weighed down by stringent requirements such as robust upstream Linux kernel/Android OS and device driver support, extended operating temperature range (you could possibly be designing a next-gen outdoor smart signage or billboard that does real-time heavy-duty analytics, to withstand the deep freeze of the winter in Minneapolis or sizzling summers in Las Vegas or Phoenix), and your end-products have a long product lifecycle? Does your product live in hostile environments (electrical and thermal) that requires EMI noise protection, proper thermal design/heat dissipation, and are actively considering including things like Power-over-Ethernet and RS-485 ports? While all of this sounds really exciting and challenging at the same time, are you struggling to find the right high-performance compute platform that fits these needs in a cost-effective and reliable way to scale to production volume manufacturing? Have you prototyped your design with a 96Boards™ CE compliant community board and are looking to commercialize your product with an SBC that has a similar footprint? Despair not; help is on the way in the form of the latest Inforce 6309 Micro SBC, powered by the 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor (and driven by power efficient quad-core ARM® Cortex® -A53 CPUs) ! CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE READING>>>>

Embedded Computing Boards is much more than industrial PCs. In fact there are unique and differentiating technologies such as PoP, which stands for Package on Package technology that can be offered by only a few embedded board companies.  One such company that possesses this capability is Mistral Solutions.  Recently I had the opportunity to talk to their Associate Vice-President of Hardware, S. Vijay Bharat, who was a wealth of information on PoP technology.  Here is a summary of what I learned.


Over the past decade the embedded world has undergone tremendous change. With the advent of mobile phones, and other smart lifestyle gadget like wearables, health wellness devices, users are demanding smaller and thinner gadgets. This is where PoP can provide a competitive advantage.


Package on package (PoP)

PoP is a stacked packaging method to have two ball grid array (BGA) packages mounted one above the other with a standard interface to route signals between them. The most commonly components used for stacking are the processor and memory.

Stacking memory is one way to achieve the dual goals for enhanced functionality and greater packaging density of a product. It is fast becoming a promising solution in the wearable market, offering high integration that leads to product miniaturization.





Advantages of PoP.

  • Reduction in the PCB size by stacking packages
  • Reduction in the no. of layers of the PCB as the connection lines between the processor and the memory are minimized
  • Improves signal integrity on the board by minimizing trace length between different interoperating parts, such as controller and memory. The direct interconnections between the circuit yields reduced propagation delay, noise and cross-talk.
  • Easier memory scalability on the hardware. Most of the memory modules for PoP design come in multi-chip packages (eg: Flash + DDR). Hence, both the Flash and DDR memory can be upgraded by replacing the single PoP memory package. And finally, there is the
  • Reduction in BoM cost achieve as a result of elimination of termination discretes on the PCB.

Applications areas for PoP

Wearable applications can benefit from the combination of this stacked package, offering small footprint and minimal PCB space. Other portable electronic products such as

  • mobile phones (baseband or applications processor plus combo memory)
  • digital cameras (image processor plus memory),
  • PDAs, portable media players (audio/graphics processor plus memory)



[Image source:]


The ARM advantage

PoP technology is most popularly being used with ARM chipsets. Texas Instruments and Freescale two of the silicon vendors that adopted this technology. ARM chipsets are well suited because of low power and are small footprint. According to S. Vijay Bharat “The low power ARM devices ensures less thermal radiation to the memory; when it is placed over the processor in the PoP technology. Other competing compute architectures  are high in power and high in thermal radiation which increase the possibility of the memory to stall during operation.”

It is interesting to see that companies like Mistral Solutions are championing technology that will help enable the fast grow wearables market providing solutions that are both high performance, highly integrated and miniaturized!  Wearable is all about being small and lightweight, creating complex embedded boards in uniquely small form factors is a unique and differentiating technology.  Mistral Solutions is an  example of an ARM ecosystem partner creating value by focusing on differentiating tech.

The golden age of arcade video games spanned from the late 1970s to the mid-1990s. During that time period, these machines became fixtures in ice cream shops, bowling alleys and bars throughout the world. However, it wasn’t before long that this form of entertainment suffered a decrease in popularity with the advent of home-based gaming consoles.


Truth be told, there’s nothing quite like the experience of playing a game in an arcade. And so, Ken Burns and the Tiny Circuits team decided to relive those glory days by shrinking a cabinet down to just a few inches tall.

The aptly named Tiny Arcade lets you create and play a number of retro-inspired games, each of which can be downloaded completely free online. Its creators hope to have over 20 classics available when the unit begins to ship, and being open source, you’ll be able to develop and release your own as well. What’s more, the palm-sized device allows you to convert any MP4 movie using a free utility to the TinyScreen format, put them on a microSD card, plug it in and then each your video at 30 FPS with sound.


The mini gadget is based on the TinyDuino — a modular, Arduino-compatible platform no larger than a quarter that’s stacked together like electronic LEGOs. The board includes an ATSAMD21G18A 32-bit MCU, built-in USB for charging and reprogramming, and an OLED screen all crammed into one small package. There’s also an analog joystick and two push buttons for playing the games, an integrated speaker for audio, a 140mAh lithium battery, and a microSD expansion slot.

“Even though the Tiny Arcade is built around the Arduino platform, don’t worry if you’re not a programmer. There is no need to download any special software or do any soldering with the Tiny Arcade, you can use it without any special knowledge,” Burns explains. “The Tiny Arcade can load games on the fly off a microSD card, a menu is provided at power up that shows a preview of all of the games available on the microSD card, choose one and it gets loaded in a second and you’re playing away. No need to reprogram the Tiny Arcade over USB.”


You can get the Tiny Arcade in one of two ways: either fully-assembled or in kit form. The latter can be easily built in a matter of 10 minutes — no soldering or special tools necessary. The circuit boards snap together and its case can be assembled like a jigsaw puzzle. There’s three different enclosure options to choose from (acrylic, wood or 3D-printed plastic), each of which can be customized with stickers.

Ready to put a retro arcade cabinet in the palm of hand? Head over to Tiny Arcade’s Kickstarter campaign, where the Tiny Circuits crew is currently seeking $25,000. Delivery is expected to get underway in March 2016.

This blog post originally appeared on Atmel Bits & Pieces.


“When we’re prototyping, we need a tool that can give us nearly instant feedback — not feedback that comes in a few week’s time in the form of a PCB delivery. Let the PCB manufacturers make the hundreds or thousands of boards for your production run — not your prototypes. If production is your goal, Prometheus will help get you there faster,” Tuccio explains.

Prometheus works by carving through the copper layer of a standard copper-clad board (FR-4 or FR-1). Essentially, it can be thought of as mechanically etching the PCB as opposed to dealing with chemicals to perform the etching. Prometheus can also drill holes and route the shape of the board itself if you need it to fit a specific enclosure.


Surely the ongoing desktop fabrication revolution has yielded similar equipment, but what makes Prometheus stand out from others on the market is its unique spindle. This mechanical part’s incredible specs speak for themselves — 45,000 RPM and a static Total Indicated Runout (TIR) of less than 2.5 microns (.0001 inches), measured 10mm below the spindle bearing.

“TIR is important because it determines the minimum bit diameter we can run. Too much runout (wobble) and a micro end mill will just snap instead of milling copper as intended. Prometheus can reliably run bits as small as .007 inches in diameter, so you can use (with few exceptions) any surface mount components in your designs — not just ‘giant’ SOIC packages. This is a major differentiator with what’s available in our price class today,” Tuccio adds.


And they didn’t stop there, either. No other manufacturer makes a PCB milling machine and the design software to go with it. Zippy Robotics’ Circuit Factory program works seamlessly with Prometheus, enabling you to devise your schematic and board layout quickly and easily, even if you’ve never designed a PCB before. Once completed with your mockup on Circuit Factory, simply click the ‘carve’ button and Prometheus will take care of the rest.

In terms of hardware, Prometheus boasts its own custom motor controller which is built around an Atmel | SMART SAM4S Cortex-M4 MCU. The machine features USB plug-and-play connectivity and will soon come with its own free Java API that will let anyone write their own software using a set of commands called ZippyTalk. (This is how Circuit Factory communicates with Prometheus.)

“It will allow a software developer to control Prometheus so that they can write their own apps to make particular tasks easy. They can then give those apps away or sell them, without restriction, to the benefit of all Prometheus users. You don’t have to know anything about G-code. G-code is a relic from the ’70s and it’s time we moved on to better things,” Tuccio explains.


With its incredible XY resolution and its ability to mill out traces and spaces as fine as 0.007 inches from any standard copper-clad PCB material, Prometheus is arguably one of the most advanced gadgets in its class. These traits will put Zippy Robotics toe-to-toe with other professional grade machines out there, which keep in mind, cost more than $8,000. This unit’s price tag, however, is a fraction of that.

Not only a great product, but an outstanding team behind it as well. We’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Tuccio and the New York-based startup for several years now, and have witnessed the progression of the desktop-friendly device — from its earlier and bulkier versions to its latest compact, commercial-ready form factor.

Tired of waiting for delivery and rather have your own PCBs just a click away? Head over to Prometheus’ Kickstarter campaign, where the Zippy Robotics crew is currently seeking $95,000. Delivery is slated for sometime next fall. Trust us, it’ll be worth the wait!

This blog post originally appeared on Atmel Bits & Pieces.


The brainchild of Boston-based startup Rabid Prototypes, the Pixel is an open source smart display that combines an Arduino-compatible MCU, a color OLED screen and microSD.


The Pixel — which recently made its debut on Kickstarter — is built around the mighty Atmel | SMART SAM D21 operating at 48MHz and packing 32K of RAM, along with a 1.5” 128×128 pixel OLED screen and a microSD slot. Measuring only 1.8”x 1.8” in size, the compact board is extremely versatile and can be employed to create wearables, attach sensors, display data or play retro games.

When it comes to programming, if you’re familiar with Arduino, you can configure your Pixel. Simply plug the Pixel into your PC using a microUSB cable, select which board you want to program, and hit the upload button in the IDE when you’re ready. The Pixel ships with the Arduino/Genuino Zero bootloader already installed.


What’s more, the Pixel is compatible with the Arduino’s SPI and SD libraries. Communication with the display and microSD card are both handled through the SPI bus, which is broken out on a set of pads for a surface mount header.  The ATN pin replaces the reset pin on this header and acts as the CS pin for the microSD. As the Rabid Prototypes crew points out, pins 7, 8 and 9 (ORST, ODC, OCS) are utilized to control the display.

The Pixel is even compatible with Adafruit’s graphics library, which provides functions for blitting images, drawing primitives like lines and circles, and includes bitmapped font support as well.

Lastly, if you ever need to modify the fuses or bootloader, the Pixel features an SWD header which can be used with the Atmel-ICE development tool. On the final version of the board, this will be a through-hole header, so you can connect the ICE by inserting a pin header into its ribbon cable.


Interested? Head over to the Pixel’s Kickstarter campaign, where Rabid Prototypes is currently seeking $5,000. Looking ahead, the team will make the unit entirely open source by releasing its schematics and PCB layout, thereby giving Makers the ability to freely modify the design and integrate it into their own boards. Delivery is slated for January 2016.


This blog post originally appeared on Atmel Bits & Pieces.

While the idea of a smart bulb waking you up in the morning is nothing new, one Bay Area startup has decided to take that concept one step further to help get you through the day and then ease into sleep at night. Ario is an intelligent lamp that not only mimics natural sunlight by changing its color as the day goes on, but its direction as well, to keep your body clock in sync and improve health.


The lamp itself is connected to the Internet via Wi-Fi and boasts LEDs that generate bright blue light in the morning, followed by warmer amber light in the later hours. Ario can be controlled using its accompanying mobile app, on-device buttons, a wall switch, and is even fully capable of functioning autonomously.

To get started, you simply plug Ario into the wall, link it to your Wi-Fi network and then sit back and let it do the work. The lamp will then determine where you are and comes up with a lighting schedule that evolves with you over time. Even better, Ario works automatically. So if you unplug your lamp for days or weeks and then plug it back in, Ario knows what to do, even when the Wi-Fi is down. It is equipped with a battery-backed real-time clock and program storage, and intelligently calculates the appropriate variations in light depending on the lamp’s geographical location, the time of day, seasonal and local weather patterns, and your daily schedule. Ario is rated to produce 2400 lumens.


Is there a need for such a lighting system? You bet! According to its creators, the vast majority of Americans spend more than  eight hours a day under unnatural light, which can throw off the body’s internal clock by as much as three hours and prevent it from performing at optimum levels. Instead, Ario will help improve your circadian rhythm, sleep habits and general health.

“Today’s indoor lighting is static, as if the sun were fixed in the sky. This is unnatural and has major implications on our sleep, mood, immune system, weight, and overall well-being,” the team writes.

Previous studies show that staring into bright, blue-white computer digital screens at night can disrupt your ability to catch some Zs. What’s nice is that this smart lamp can be programmed to automatically dim by a certain time each night. And what’s more, Ario integrates with other Wi-Fi smart home appliances to make your life easier.


In terms of hardware, the unit is built around an ARM Cortex-M3 core along with two light engines, a highly-integrated LED controller and a Particle P1 Wi-Fi module, which together provide Ario’s lighting power and control.

Are you ready to make long, dark days a thing of the past? Then head over to Ario’s Kickstarter campaign, where its team has already garnered well over its asking goal of $50,000. Delivery is expected to get underway in September 2016.

This blog post originally appeared on Atmel Bits & Pieces.

Having noticed a void in the market for a high quality yet affordable 3D scanning device, Smart 3D set out to fill this gap. In doing so, the UK-based startup created Pixelio a simple, clever and user-friendly scanner that only requires a smartphone or GoPro to function. How great is that?


With hopes of introducing users to a whole new dimension in 3D photography, the system is built around a turntable, an accompanying app and a mobile device’s camera that enables you to shoot 360-degre images and time-lapse videos. Given is compact and super portable size, Pixelio lets you bring a mini 3D scanning lab and photo studio wherever you want to go.

Smart3D suggests that Pixelio is a perfect solution for anyone who needs panoramic views of objects, whether that’s a Maker for his 3D printer, an architect, an engineer, a graphic designer, bloggers, real estate developers, tourists, or anyone who’s looking to sell things on sites like eBay.

Pixelio works in tandem with Autodesk 123D’s Catch software running on the smartphone. Combined with the turntable setup, users can scan any object that can fit on the platform in 3D. One of, if not, its greatest advantages is that the device will strap your smartphone into place so that you can maintain a steady shot, unlike handheld scanners where detail can be compromised due to the changing positions. According to its creators, the holder is compatible with just about any phone on the market today.


Pixelio boasts several other innovative features as well, which will provide you with a seamless experience. It has a built-in powerbank and wireless phone charging option, an adjustable rotation speed, a tripod mount, and an integrated timer that can be useful when setting shutter speeds for time-lapses. What’s more, images and videos that are captured through Pixelio can be saved to either MP4 or GIF formats, while anything scanned will be saved as a 3D file.

In terms of hardware, Pixelio is equipped with an ultra-low power nRF51822 CPU and an Atmel | SMART SAM D20 MCU core. Aside from that, the unit includes an OLED display, capacitive touch buttons, an RGB LED backlight, Bluetooth Low Energy and Wi-Fi connectivity, USB ports and a 5200mAh battery. Additionally, the startup’s patented “Virtual Finger” technology is designed to replicate the touch of a human finger as the phone moves around an object, ensuring that scans or images don’t blur. Virtual Finger is used to activate the shutter release button in applications that aren’t Bluetooth compatible or in smartphones that lack BLE support.

Ready to say goodbye the shaky hand effect? Head over to Pixelio’s Kickstarter campaign, where Smart3D is currently seeking $50,000. Delivery is slated for sometime next spring.

This blog post originally appeared on Atmel Bits & Pieces.

Tom Berarducci, the Director of Platform Product Management at Zebra Technologies, contacted me recently to discuss his experience at the recently help ARM TechCon. Here's what he had to say:


ARM TechCon 2015 is now in the rear-view mirror, we at Zebra Technologies had a great event. Zebra is an ARM mBed 3.0 Cloud Partner, and with our Internet of Things (IoT) cloud platform, called Zatar, we hope to enable embedded developers around the world to easily connect their devices to the Internet.


The notion of connecting billions (yes, billions with a “b”) of devices to the Internet has been around for a long time, and there are still many challenges remaining (device security, identification, interoperability between services, monetization issues, etc.), we're now much closer than ever before to this new reality.


The ARM mBed system promises to take us even closer by providing a seamless linkage of necessary technologies, comprised of open and/or royalty-free licensed standards, in a simple, pre-integrated form so the embedded developer doesn’t have to also be a cloud services expert to Internet-enable his device.


Hardware and device manufacturers definitely need this type of service, and they need it from a company like ARM. We at Zebra are happy to be involved at the early stage of the IoT’s rise in popularity, and we're proud to be working so closely with ARM to make it happen faster than ever before.


I attended ARM TechCon three years ago, and back then (ancient history!) it was far different than now. There we NO mention of IoT, cloud connectivity, etc. What a difference three years makes! This year, you'd be hard-pressed to NOT hear about IoT and how to leverage it into your products.


Zatar is a device-agnostic IoT platform, and as such, we strive to enable any type of “thing” you might want to connect to the Internet. At TechCon, we were showing boards from Atmel, Freescale, and Renesas, all working on the Zatar Cloud using ARM mBed 3.0. Our IoT starter kit uses an Atmel SAMw25 CPU board, along with an OLED1 I/O board with three LEDs, buttons, and a very cool OLED display.


Once attached using the supplied firmware image, it’s a snap to go online and claim your board on Zatar. After that, your board’s Avatar appears in your account on the Zatar Device Portal, allowing you to interact with the board’s features remotely. Then you can go onto our Developer’s Zone and use the online tools to modify your own “Avatar Definition” and link your custom code to it so you can make the board do whatever you want.


The IoT is real! We can’t wait to see what you'll do with it!

Eric Gowland

Do you believe in magic?

Posted by Eric Gowland Nov 13, 2015

There is an Arthur C. Clark quotation that states "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic". Call it ubiquitous, pervasive, ambient or IoT - but we've reached an intersection of technological advances that is making words like 'magic' and 'enchanted' seem apt descriptors. I'd like to share a couple of things I spotted at ARM Techcon 2015 (armtechcon2015) this week that reinforced this idea for me.



First up is a magic dice demo put together by the clever, creative folks at uBlox. They took a set of beautifully carved wooden dice and implanted some of their OLP425 series modules. These connected via a gateway based on their ODIN module, to a local network and onwards to the cloud. A web app then pulled the reported sensor data into a rich page with a nicely rendered image of a set of dice on the screen. Roll the wooden dice, and the dice on the screen rotate to match their physical counterparts. This is a really elegant demonstration showing what can be achieved at the cross section of miniaturization, efficient connectivity and compute, and modern MEMS sensor technology. Matching the virtual to the physical dice brings a smile to your face, but let your imagination run with the possibilities that infers and it will take you to some interesting places.





Next was a product designed by Cambridge Consultants and mentioned in ARM CTO Mike Muller's (mikemuller) opening keynote. The KiCoPen is a pre-loaded insulin injection pen for diabetics. What makes it clever is that it tracks the successful injection of the insulin dose and transmits this information to a companion smartphone app. What makes it magic is that it does this without a battery. I'll say that again - there is no battery in this connected device! The single chip electronics in the pen harvests sufficient energy from the removal of the cap to power the tracking of the dose and transmission of this to the nearby smartphone. The KiCoPen is a 2015 Red Dot Design award winner.



Finally, a friendly demo from the Bluetooth Low Energy specialists from ARM's mbed team. They taught the mbed zone at ARM Techcon to say hello to visitors... by name. They achieved this by distributing some tiny bluetooth beacons a little bigger than a standard sized SD card to visitors to the main ARM booth. Each beacon was associated with the name of the guest, so that when they strolled over to the mbed zone a large display screen would light up with a personalised greeting. What struck me here was the cost and size of these beacons - small enough to be worn as a cufflink or lapel pin, cheap enough to give away. They connect the physical world to the internet and cloud. The rest, as they say, is 'just software'. As an added behind the scenes point of interest, these beacons are architecturally identical to the BBC microbit that is about to be put in the hands of a million British school children. We've just created a generation of magicians - I can't wait to see what they come up with.


As presented in Bee Hayes-Thakore blog here, and in my preview blog here, the mbed Zone is one of the central pieces of this year's Techcon.

The first thing when walking around the showroom, is seeing how big the zone is! Where to start?! Here is a non-exhaustive sample of what I saw in the mbed Zone area.




I must admit that I get pulled straight away towards the  IBM (International Business Machines) pod. I am curious - I see a few people whacking a dummy with a baseball bat. Seems like fun ! The demo is showcasing an example of monitoring safety on a building site, with a range of sensors on the workers safety helmet. Sensors, powered by mbed, can measure impacts, sounds, pressure etc..communicating via a long range wireless connection, and load all the way to the IBM foundation cloud the resulting information, for a real time safety status of the workers on the building site. To show this, indeed, what better way to swing full blast the baseball bat on the dummy’s head!








Moving on to the Zebra stand, I see a showing of different boards, all using mbed 3.0 with mbed Device Server, communicating to the Zatar IoT cloud platform. You want to get started on your IoT application? it is quite simple, you select the board you are using, and you just point it at Zatar, and there you go!


I am next attracted to the  Silicon Labs pod, where I see someone wearing a dev platform on his wrist. This is Silicon Labs derivative of the mbed wearable reference design, which has a all the functionalities you’d think of a wearable nowadays, including heart rate monitor. Of course, this is mbed OS running on it! It will be on sale soon, for around $75.

Silicon Labs also show a Thread demo, with  a mobile app controlling 20 lights via an mbed TLS connection to the web.






Right beside Silicon Labs, you can see a fun demo game of rolling dice by uBlox. The ublox platform is small enough to be able to fit in a dice. When you throw the 5 dices, the acceleration sensors detects the position of the dice, send that information via a Bluetooth LE connection, to the ublox ARM mbed powered gateway, and send the information to the IBM bluemix cloud. And you can see the results on the screen. I am wondering when this will be used in Las Vegas.





Moving on, I see the pod being very busy, as it is an ARM TechCon Innovation Challenge IoT product finalist. were presenting their Ship IoT with ARM mbed product.

which enables connecting data from ARM mbed supported devices with a wide selection of data services.




On the Atmel   pod,  there is an home automation example. Running on an SAMR21 platform, with mbed OS 3.0 and Thread connectivity, it  controls a mesh network of lights, and motion control, say, for a door garage. The end device relays light sensor information to parent, which controls the networked lights.



Continuing my tour, I see a couple of gentlemen heavily engaged in a 2015 version game of rock/paper/scissors on the Freescale pod. Using an FRDM-K64F board (The FRDM-K64F is an mbed platform for IBM Bluemix and Microsoft Azure cloud platform), two players use the mbed OS powered FRDM-K64F and FRDM-CR20A 802.15.4 wireless boards to play.

After several ties, there is a winner: the scissors win !



On the STMicroelectronics booth, there is a demo of one the several ST Nucleo and ST Discovery platforms which are supported on mbed, completed with ST connectivity, motion and environmental boards.



This is just a sample of what I saw on the mbed Zone, and it is impressive to see the various ways each partners

is using mbed technology. But that's not all. When I left the mbed Zone to find a place to write this blog,

I saw the wall of ARM mbed enabled boards. It seems I am not the only one impressed by the wide choice,

and stopping to reflect on it.




Make sure you visit ARMFlix  for more videos on mbed and TechCon, and for more news about mbed.


ARM TechCon Day 2 Highlights

Posted by bfuller Nov 12, 2015

Here's a selection of what happened on the second day of ARM TechCon 2015 at the Santa Clara Convention Center and what not to miss on Day 3.


Today’s Don’t-miss List

— Lemnos Labs’ Eric Klein, Oracle’s Robert Clark, ARM’s Ian Ferguson fergie on broadening the innovation horizon (9:30 a.m., Mission City Ballroom)

—Google’s Colt McAnlis (check out the preview blog here) talks about the hard things in building out IoT (1:30 p.m., Mission City Ballroom)

— More start-to-finish technical tracks are on tap today, on topics such as  debugging heterogeneous ARM-based multicore SoCs; flexible digital displays on substances like paper and cloth; and figuring out how to make IoT scalable.

— Drone copter teardown in the theater at 12:15 courtesy of Reiner Weber from Game of Drones.

— The Software Developers workshop continues today as well, with presentations from companies such as Google, Canonical, and Linaro.

— Passport Prize drawing in the theater during the closing cocktail reception.

Exhibits open (11 a.m.-6:30 p.m.)


Day Two Highlights

FullSizeRender (1).jpg

—A keynote, a burning bagel and the chance to get IoT right. Nothing could have been more emblematic of ARM CEO Simon Segars's message (simonsegars) that we had one chance to get IoT right than "BagelGate." A burning bagel in the Hyatt Hotel set off a fire alarm that interrupted Segars' keynote. The son of a fireman, Segars immediately and calmly asked everyone to exit, and after a few minutes the show went on. Here are some highlights of the keynote and here is coverage of the keynote and panel from EE Times' Jessica Lipsky.

—Twentieth Century Fox EVP Danny Kaye talked about delivering new entertainment experiences for consumers, from the big screen to the mobile screen.

—Happy anniversary! ARM celebrated 25 years as a company collaborating with an amazing design ecosystem. And Segars held up the infamous burned bagel to explain the cause of the morning fire alarm.



Some additional highlights:



A Cool U-Blox Demo:



An event overview from johnheinlein and me, courtesy of our friends at



And, last but not least, shots from the event, courtesy of ARM's Instagram page.

Advances in processor architecture and connectivity technology have pushed embedded solutions into an increasing set of applications as demonstrated by ARM® partners shipping over 4 billion devices into that market in 2014.  The availability of an increasing variety of low cost sensors is one of many factors driving market forecasts, such as the one you see below.


iot growth CAGR.png

Figure 1 - Expected number of (embedded) IoT devices in 2020 – source Gartner, 2015



Some readers may have doubts about such forecasts, but it is not the aim of this blog to discuss their validity. For this blog I prefer to focus on presenting how we may remove barriers that face the industry in order to reach or exceed those numbers.

In an embedded context, productivity and security are two factors of resistance for future deployment.  The industry does have good solutions today that address the needs of developers to build a whole range of products that span from the constrained design to the high performance multicore design.  What developers are reaching out for is a better foundation on which they can rapidly build and deploy innovative product families. We have an expressed need for improved productivity.


Developers are also looking for ways to simplify the design of secure solutions. Today, the perception is that security solutions are difficult and different enough to block a critical mass of developers from designing embedded solutions and that creating product families is a serious undertaking. We need to open the door to more developers and to give them the means to go to production faster.

To address these issues, ARM has introduced ARMv8-M, a next generation 32bit processor architecture designed as a foundation for enhanced scalability and developer friendly security. ARMv8-M offers a single foundation that suppliers can use to create differentiated products which developers would then use to rapidly rollout complete product families. This architecture will spawn the next generation of ARM Cortex®-M processors, and will expand the ecosystem to continue to foster co-innovation and common benefits.


Here are three key features of ARMv8-M:


1-Two profiles:

The choice of profiles enables processor implementations that optimally meet their target applications:


-ARMv8-M Baseline –for processor designs with low gate count and a simpler instruction set. It uses the ARMv6-M architecture as its foundation, adding some significant enhancements for increased capability. (The Cortex-M0 processor is based on ARMv6-M)


-ARMv8-M Mainline –for full feature mainstream microcontroller products and high performance embedded systems. It is similar to the ARMv7-M with additional enhancements.
(Cortex-M4 and Cortex-M7 are based on ARMv7-M)

What is of interest is the outcome or effect for the developer. It will now be easier and faster to create product families as opposed to specific products one at a time, significantly helping with our desired increase in productivity.


2-Software and resource isolation via ARM TrustZone® technology

two to four states.png

The security feature in ARMv8-M is referred to as TrustZone, a foundation for embedded devices. TrustZone offers hardware access control to code, memory and I/O while retaining the requirements of embedded applications: real-time response, minimal switching overhead, and ease of software development.


ARMv8-M adds an extra state to the operation of the next generation Cortex-M processors so that there are both a secure and non-secure states. These security states are orthogonal to the existing Thread and Handler modes, thereby having both a Thread and Handler mode in both secure and non-secure modes.


Another benefit of TrustZone is the cost reduction related to consolidating multiple processors into one. Instead of using distinct processors for separate software components, we can now use TrustZone to do that whilst running on a single processor. This results in a drastic decrease in system design complexity and cost.


3-Enhanced debug

Both profiles include an updated debug architecture that includes features such as support for halting debug and 32bit wide addresses for break points. The Mainline profile adds comprehensive trace and self-hosted debug extensions to make embedded software easier to debug and trace, dramatically reducing the design effort and release cycle.


At ARM we are very excited by the new possibilities and markets made accessible to all by this architecture. Personally, I am eager to see how the ecosystem partners will use it to create and launch successful innovative products. So as not to leave you in suspense, I invite you to take a sneak preview of all the new features by reading this white paper.


For those interested there is also a white paper that describes the architecture of IoT nodes here.

ARM TechCon 2015 is here! The action kicked off today (November 10) at the Santa Clara Convention Center with morning technical sessions and then at 9:30 am with the hugely popular technical keynote from ARM CTO Mike Muller in the Mission City ballroom and technical sessions all day long. Scroll down to see what not to miss!

Today's don't-miss list
Mike Muller

Mike Muller’s kickoff keynote
9:30 am, Mission City Ballroom (Keynote preview: How do we get there from here?)


ARM Training Day starts at 11:00 am, a one-day intensive with sessions from Doulos, Hardent, Feabhas and ARM. ARM Training Day preview.

Tomorrow's don't-miss list

Simon Segars, ARM’s CEO, keynotes on trust in the connected world.
9:30 am, Mission City Ballroom. (Keynote preview: Building trust in a connected world).


Expo Hall opens and runs from 11:00 am - 6:30 pm. Check out the mbed Zone and the latest IoT-related announcements and technologies there.

Home automation hub teardown
12:15 pm, Expo Theater.


Twentieth Century Fox EVP of technology, Danny Kaye, keynotes.
Wednesday, 1:30 pm, Mission City Ballroom. (Keynote preview: Mobile entertainment).


ARM Innovation Challenge Awards winners revealed.
4:15 pm, Expo Theater. There's still time to vote for your favorites between now and then!


Happy 25th Anniversary ARM celebration with signature cocktail and entertainment.
5:15 pm, Expo Floor.


Wall-to-wall technical tracks begin on topics such as the future security of the connected car, energy-efficient design and power models, and staying competitive with 14nm FinFET libraries.

Social media

We and many ARM Partners are posting start to finish about ARM TechCon on a number of social media channels, including Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Facebook.


And join us in the conversation this week by including the #ARMTechCon hashtag and following your favorite ARM Partners.

Stay tuned for more email updates throughout the week!

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Near Field Communication is not just another wireless standard and here’s why.

By John Blyler, Editorial Director, “IOT Embedded Systems


This brief introduction on nfc technology will help designers select the best connectivity implementation amongst the plethora of today’s wireless standards

What is it? 

Near field communication (NFC) is a set of close-range wireless standards that enables electronic devices to establish connections by touching or moving within a proximity of 10cm or less (about ½ the width of a typical page). Since NFC only works when two devices are brought close together, this “tap to connect” technology increases security by making it difficult for intruders to ease-drop at a distance.


In addition to data, two devices using NFC can also share power. The mechanism for wireless power transfer occurs through electromagnetic induction: a current is transmitted by a coil in a charging device to a second receiving coil embedded in a nearby device. As Richard Stockdill notes in his NXP blog, “… an efficiency of greater than 90% can be achieved at close distance and for coils of similar size.” [Telsa was one of the first to realize the possibilities of wireless power transfer.]


NFC is a newer version or extension of radio frequency identification (rfid) technology. But there are several key differences. For example, NFC is for very short range communication, while RFID devices can have very long ranges, e.g., between your car’s toll pass and the highway toll readers. Further, NFC allows two-way communication, as opposed to RFID's one-way reading technology. This means that NFC can also be used to transfer photos and contacts between devices.


Why Is It Needed?

According to market research, more users will access the Internet wirelessly via mobile devices than from wired Ethernet connections. These mobile devices offer several different wireless connectivity options, each with their different strengths and capabilities. But only NFC is specifically engineered to provide zero power operation and maximize privacy, both at a very low cost.


What Can It Do?

One of the most touted applications for NFC is the "mobile wallet” in which your smartphone will replace your cash and credit cards. For example, uses can pay for coffee with just on tap or wave of your phone instead of with credit cards or physical money. Such applications benefit from the very close proximity needed to secure the transaction.


Other uses for NFC include:

  • Parking meter payments
  • Airline boarding passes and similar transportation tickets.
  • Automotive connectivity - for example, using Broadcom Corporation - that should enable a range of comfort and convenience applications including keyless entry and vehicle settings.
  • Downloading information, similar to QR codes.


How Does It Compare to Other Wireless Protocols?

Designers have several choices for connectivity, all with trade-offs (see figure). WiFi, ZigBee, and Bluetooth all have different strengths and capabilities. None, however, were specifically engineered to provide low cost zero-power operation and maximize privacy.




Design Details

For more information, please visit these sites:

  • NFC Forum - The Near Field Communication Forum was formed to advance the use of Near Field Communication technology by developing specifications, ensuring interoperability among devices and services, and educating the market about NFC technology.
  • Use Cases - The range and variety of existing and potential NFC applications continues to grow. The examples presented here are just a small subset of the existing and emerging applications that are being enabled by NFC.

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