Why Connect to the Cloud with Atmel SMART SAM W25?

Why Connect to the Cloud with Atmel SMART SAM W25?
by Eric Esteve on 12-15-2015 at 4:00 pm

Atmel SMART SAM W25 is in fact a module, Atmel names it “SmartConnect Module”. As far as I am concerned I like SmartConnect designation and I think it could be used to describe any IoT edge device. The device is “smart” as it includes a processing unit, in this case ARM Cortex M0 based SAMD21G, and “connect” remind the Internet part of the IoT definition. The ATWINC1500 SoC supports WiFi 802.11 b/g/n allowing to seamlessly connecting to the cloud. What should we expect from an IoT edge device?

It should be characterized by both low cost and power! This IoT system is probably implemented multiple times, either in a factory (industrial), either in a house (home automation) and the cost should be as low as possible, to enable large dissemination. I don’t know the SAMD21G ASP, but I notice that it’s based on the smallest MCU core of the ARM Cortex M family, then the cost should be minimum (my guess). Atmel claims the W25 module to be “Fully-integrated single-source MCU + IEEE 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi solution providing battery powered endpoints lasting years”…sounds like being ultra low-power, isn’t it?

The “Thing” of IoT is not necessarily tiny. We can see on the above example in the industrial world that the interconnected things can be as large as these wind turbines (courtesy of General Electrics). To maximize efficiency in power generation and distribution, the company has connected these edge devices to the cloud where the software analytics allow wind farm operators to optimize the performance of the turbines, based on environmental conditions. According with GE, “raising the turbines’ efficiency can increase the wind farm’s annual energy output by up to 5%, which translates in a 20% increase in profitability”. Wind turbines are good for the planet as they allow avoiding burning fossil energy. IoT devices implementation allows wind farm operators to increase their profitability and to build sustainable business. At the end, thanks to Industrial Internet of Thing (IIoT), we all benefit from less air pollution and more affordable power!

ATWINC1500 is a low power Systems-On-Chip (SoC) bringing Wi-Fi connectivity to any embedded design. In the above example this SoC is part of a certified module, ATSAMW25, Atmel Wi-Fi solutions for embedded designers seeking to integrate Wi-Fi connectivity in their system. If we look at the key features list:

  • IEEE 802.11 b/g/n (1×1) for up to 72 Mbps
  • Integrated PA and T/R switch
  • Superior sensitivity and range via advanced PHY signal processing
  • Wi-Fi Direct, station mode and Soft-AP support
  • Supports IEEE 802.11 WEP, WPA
  • On-chip memory management engine to reduce host load
  • 4 Mbit internal Flash memory with OTA firmware upgrade
  • SPI, UART and I2C as host interfaces
  • TCP/IP protocol stack (client/server) sockets applications
  • Network protocols (DHCP/DNS), including secure TLS stack
  • WSC (wireless simple configuration WPS)
  • Can operate completely host-less in most applications

We can notice that host interfaces allow direct connection to device I/Os and sensors through SPI, UART, I2C and ADC interfaces and can also operate completely host-less. A costly device is then removed from the BOM which can enable economic feasibility for an IoT, or IIoT edge device.

The Atmel® SmartConnect SAM W25 is a low-power Wi-Fi certified module which is currently used in industrial systems supporting applications such as Transportation, Aviation, Health Care, Energy or Lighting as well as in IoT like Home Appliance and Consumer Electronic. For all these applications, certification is a must have feature, but low-cost and ultra-low power are the economic and technical enablers.

From Eric Esteve from IPNEST

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