Atmel and H&D Wireless are collaborating to deliver an IEEE#802.11 b/g Wi-Fi solution for Atmel’s 32-bit AVR microcontrollers. H&D Wireless will provide the SPB104 Wi-Fi extension board, which connects to the AVR32 UC3 evaluation kits through the SD card socket. The Wi-Fi solution has a power consumption five times less than similar devices.

To use the Wi-Fi capabilities of the AVR32 UC3 microcontroller, customers need an ATEXWIFI evaluation board, an AVR32 EVK1104 or EVK1105 evaluation kit, and free AVR32 Software Framework version 1.5, which includes Wi-Fi drivers and TCP/IP stacks.

Atmel says its picoPower technology gives the new Wi-Fi solution the lowest power consumption of any of the industry’s modern microcontrollers. The ACR32 MCU can uses 0.48-mW/MHz  in active mode, 1.5-µA with RTC running, and less than 100-nA in shutdown mode.

The H&D Wireless modules are compatible for the 802.11 b/g spectrums with a throughput of 1 to 54 Mbits/s. The device offers a 150 µW sleep power consumption, more than two years of battery life, 220 mW RX power, and an interface compatible to SDIO and SPI. The RF power output is 7 to 8 dB higher than the average on the market at +17.5 dBm.

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  • Qualcomm is still the leader in providing silicon to cellular handsets, and its recent announcements seem to explain why. Its latest multimedia and baseband HSPA/LTE chips bring major increases in performance and functionality.

    The company is sampling a new smart-phone chipset family that improves mobile performance in smart phones. Its MSM7×30 series features a strong emphasis on multimedia performance by supporting high-definition video recording and playback, exceptional graphics with dedicated 2D and 3D cores, and an overall chip design optimized for a highly responsive, immersive Web experience. The first devices based on the flagship MSM7×30 family of chipsets are expected to launch commercially before the end of 2010.

    The Qualcomm MDM8220 is a dual-carrier HSPA+ device that aggregates two HSPA carriers to 10-MHz bandwidth providing a way to deliver a maximum 42-Mbit/s downlink rate and 11-Mbit/s uplink.

    The MSM7×30 family of chipsets, which includes the MSM7230 solution for HSPA+ networks and MSM7630 solution with multi-mode HSPA+/EV-DO Rev. B and SV-DO support, is designed around optimal data throughput and powerful multimedia functionality. The 7×30 has the same market-leading Scorpion CPU that was commercialized in the Snapdragon QSD8×50 chipset. The 7×30 uses an 800 MHz to 1 GHz custom superscalar CPU based on the ARM v7 instruction set, delivering exceptionally high-end processing at low power to support features that include:

    • 720p high-definition video encode/decode at 30 frames per second
    • Integrated 2D and 3D graphics GPUs with support for OpenGL ES 2.0, and OpenVG 1.1 industry-standard application programming interfaces (APIs)
    • Dedicated low-power audio subsystem supporting 5.1 surround sound
    • 12-Mpixel camera support
    • Integrated GPS for location-based services
    • Support for leading mobile operating systems, including Android, Windows Mobile, Brew Mobile Platform, and Symbian
    • Support for package-on-package memory for reduced board space, optimized power consumption, and more responsive performance

    The PM8058 power management circuit and the QTR8600 RF subsystem with integrated Bluetooth and FM radio support the MSM7×30 family of chipsets. MSM7×30 chipsets will also directly interface with Qualcomm’s WCN1312 wireless local-area network (WLAN) solution for 802.11 b/g/n.

    Qualcomm also introduced the industry’s first chipsets for dual-carrier HSPA+ and multi-mode 3G/LTE. The Mobile Data Modem (MDM) MDM8220 solution is the first chipset to support Dual-carrier High-Speed Packet Access Plus (DC-HSPA+). The MDM9200 and the MDM9600 chipsets are the industry’s first multi-mode 3G/Long Term Evolution (LTE) solutions. These chipsets demonstrate significant progress toward enabling the mass-market commercial deployment of two next-generation network technologies that bring more advanced data capabilities to mobile devices for new global markets in addition to North America.

    Dual-carrier HSPA+ and LTE are network innovations that provide the ability to deliver more advanced data capabilities to mobile devices, supporting more compelling applications and richer user experiences. Various network operators, infrastructure vendors and mobile device manufacturers are now working with Qualcomm to enable the deployment of these next-generation network technologies in new markets worldwide.

    Interoperability testing with infrastructure partners is already underway with multiple field trials scheduled for the first half of next year. Commercial launches of data-centric devices based on Qualcomm’s MDM solutions are expected to begin during the second half of 2010.

    Qualcomm is working with numerous network operators, infrastructure vendors, and device manufacturers with its dual-carrier HSPA+ and/or LTE solutions. Among multiple network operators evaluating the new technologies are Japan’s EMOBILE Ltd. and Telstra Wireless. Qualcomm is also working with multiple infrastructure vendors, such as Huawei Technologies and Nokia Siemens Networks, to perform interoperability tests for dual-carrier HSPA+ and LTE. Among the many device manufacturers currently evaluating the new chipsets are Huawei, LG Electronics, Novatel Wireless, Sierra Wireless, and ZTE.

    The MDM8220 dual-carrier HSPA+ solution is based on the 3GPP Release 8 standard and provides peak downlink data rates of up to 42 Mbits/s and 11 Mbits/s on the uplink, allowing carriers to easily upgrade their existing infrastructure equipment to achieve significantly higher bandwidths. Its dual-carrier technology doubles networks’ bandwidth from 5 MHz to 10 MHz by aggregating two HSPA carriers in parallel.

    The MDM9200 and the MDM9600 chipsets are the industry’s first multi-mode 3G/LTE solutions that allow UMTS and CDMA2000 operators to upgrade seamlessly to future LTE services while preserving backward compatibility to their existing 3G networks. MDM9200 supports UMTS, HSPA+ and LTE, while the MDM9600 supports CDMA2000 1X, EV-DO Rev. B, SV-DO, SV-LTE, UMTS, HSPA+, and LTE.

    All of the new chipsets support FDD LTE and TDD LTE modes and different carrier bandwidths, and they are capable of using orthogonal frequency-division multiple access (OFDMA) and multiple-input/multiple-output (MIMO) antenna technology to support peak data rates of up to 100 Mbits/s on the downlink and 50 Mbits/s on the uplink.

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  • LONDON — Recently formed Cherrypal (Palo Alto, Calif. and Hong Kong, China) has launched a netbook computer priced at $99 that, according to reports, is powered by a processor from Ingenic Semiconductor Co. Ltd. (Beijing, China).

    The Cherrypal Africa has a 7-inch screen size, is powered by a 400-MHz processor and features 256-Mbytes of RAM, 2-Gbytes of flash memory and can run either the Linux or Windows CE operating systems, the company states without revealing the make or model of the microprocessor.

    However, according to numerous reports of the launch of the Africa model, the processor is made by Ingenic and is an XBurst CPU which is in turn said to be based on the MIPS-II instruction set architecture. According to an online database of processors for PDAs, Ingenic’s four processors, the JZ4720, JZ4730, JZ4740 and JZ4755 are all MIPS-II compatible processors. However Ingenic has also been linked speculatively to ARM Holdings plc (Cambridge, England) in the past.

    Ingenic’s website is not very forthcoming. “XBurst RISC ISA is compatible of [sic] one standard RISC ISA and support [sic] Linux, WinCE, a large number of third-party softwares and development tools. XBurst SIMD instructions can effectively accelerate video/audio/graphic processing,” the website says. There is one reference to MIPS-II on a supporting page for the JZ4740 microprocesso, which could be found here when this story was first posted.

    On the website Ingenic claims to have implemented an eight-stage pipeline design that allows the CPU to issue instructions at speed with low power consumption. As a result it is claiming it can get its processors to reach 400-MHz clock frequency in a 0.18-micron CMOS manufacturing process technology, while other companies would typically only achieve a 200-MHz clock frequency in 0.18-micron.

    The company is likely to be fabless but does not indicate where it gets its silicon fabricated.

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  • BELLEVUE, WA – December 17, 2009 – The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) today announced the adoption ofBluetooth®low energy wireless technology, which is the hallmark feature of the Bluetooth Core Specification Version 4.0.  As an enhancement to the specification, Bluetooth low energy technology opens entirely new markets for devices requiring low cost and low power wireless connectivity with this evolution in Bluetooth wireless technology that will enable a plethora of new applications – some not even possible or imagined today.  Many markets such as healthcare, sports and fitness, security, and home entertainment will be enhanced with the availability of small coin-cell battery powered wireless products and sensors now enabled by Bluetoothwireless technology.

    “With today’s announcement the race is on for product designers to be the first to market,” said Michael Foley, Ph.D., executive director, Bluetooth SIG. “Bluetooth low energy modules for all sorts of new products may now be qualified – this is an important step towards our goal of enabling new markets with Bluetoothwireless technology. For example, the Continua Health Alliance has already selected Bluetooth low energy technology as a transport for the next version of its guidelines.”

    “Today’s news from the Bluetooth SIG is an exciting step forward for technology in mobile health and wellness devices,” said Rick Cnossen, president and board chair, Continua Health Alliance. “Our selection of Bluetooth low energy for the Continua Version Two Design Guidelines extends exciting new capabilities to manufacturers and consumers alike, as well as enabling additional use cases within the Continua ecosystem.”

    “Nokia has been committed to this ultra low power wireless technology since its Wibree technology development. Now we are happy to see the adoption of the Bluetooth low energy specification, which will open up new market opportunities and space to innovate for the industry. The wide manufacturer base behind Bluetooth low energy technology and the combined industry effort will result in exciting new user experiences in the mobile space,” said Markku Verkama, Director, Devices R&D Nokia.

    Bluetooth low energy wireless technology, the hallmark feature of the v4.0 Bluetooth Core Specification, features:

    • Ultra-low peak, average and idle mode power consumption
    • Ability to run for years on standard coin-cell batteries
    • Low  cost
    • Multi-vendor interoperability
    • Enhanced range

    This enhancement to the Bluetooth Core Specification allows two types of implementation, dual-mode and single-mode. In a dual-mode implementation, Bluetooth low energy functionality is integrated into an existing ClassicBluetooth controller. The resulting architecture shares much of Classic Bluetoothtechnology’s existing radio and functionality resulting in a minimal cost increase compared to Classic Bluetooth technology.  Additionally, manufacturers can use current Classic Bluetoothtechnology (Bluetooth V2.1 + EDR or Bluetooth V3.0 + HS) chips with the new low energy stack, enhancing the development of Classic Bluetooth enabled devices with new capabilities.

    Single-mode chips, which will enable highly integrated and compact devices, will feature a lightweight Link Layer providing ultra-low power idle mode operation, simple device discovery, and reliable point-to-multipoint data transfer with advanced power-save and secure encrypted connections at the lowest possible cost. The Link Layer in these controllers will enable Internet connected sensors to schedule Bluetooth low energy traffic between Bluetoothtransmissions.

    Technical Details

    • Data Transfers – Bluetooth low energy technology supports very short data packets (8 octet minimum up to 27 octets maximum) that are transferred at 1 Mbps. All connections use advanced sniff-subrating to achieve ultra low duty cycles.
    • Frequency Hopping – Bluetooth low energy technology uses the adaptive frequency hopping common to all versions of Bluetoothtechnology to minimize interference from other technologies in the 2.4 GHz ISM Band. Efficient multi-path benefits increase the link budgets and range.
    • Host Control – Bluetooth low energy technology places a significant amount of intelligence in the controller, which allows the host to sleep for longer periods of time and be woken up by the controller only when the host needs to perform some action.  This allows for the greatest current savings since the host is assumed to consume more power than the controller.
    • Latency – Bluetooth low energy technology can support connection setup and data transfer as low as 3ms, allowing an application to form a connection and then transfer authenticated data in few milliseconds for a short communication burst before quickly tearing down the connection.
    • Range – Increased modulation index provides a possible range for Bluetooth low energy technology of over 100 meters.
    • Robustness – Bluetooth low energy technology uses a strong 24 bit CRC on all packets ensuring the maximum robustness against interference.
    • Strong Security – Full AES-128 encryption using CCM to provide strong encryption and authentication of data packets.
    • Topology – Bluetooth low energy technology uses a 32 bit access address on every packet for each slave, allowing billions of devices to be connected.The technology is optimized for one-to-one connections while allowing one-to-many connections using a star topology. With the use of quick connections and disconnections, data can move in a mesh-like topology without the complexities of maintaining a mesh network.

    Bluetooth Technology in Telehealth Solutions

    Today’s announcement also advances the requirements of the Bluetooth SIG’s agreement with Continua Health Alliance, the industry coalition of leading health care and technology companies charged with establishing a system of interoperable personal telehealth solutions. Continua has voted to include the Bluetoothlow energy wireless technology specification, Bluetooth low energy technology, in Version Two of its Continua Health Alliance Design Guidelines. The selection of Bluetooth low energy technology extends the current Continua standard for theBluetooth Health Device Profile, the only wireless technology specification included in Continua’s Version One Design Guidelines.

    About Bluetooth® Wireless Technology

    Bluetooth wireless technology is the global short-range wireless standard for personal connectivity of a broad range of electronic devices. The technology continues to evolve, building on its inherent strengths – small-form factor radio, low power, low cost, built-in security, robustness, ease-of-use, and ad hoc networking abilities. This evolution now provides manufacturers and consumers with three options for connecting wirelessly – Classic Bluetooth technology for use in a wide range of consumer electronics; Bluetooth high speed technology for the transfer of video, music and photos between phones, cameras, camcorders, PCs and TVs; and Bluetooth low energy technology for low power sensor devices and new web services within the healthcare, fitness, security, home entertainment, automotive and automation industries. More than eight new Bluetooth enabled products are qualified every working day and more than 19 million Bluetoothunits are shipping per week. There are nearly three billion Bluetooth devices in the marketplace and that number climbs daily, making it the only proven wireless choice for developers, product manufacturers, and consumers worldwide. 

    About Bluetooth low energy Wireless Technology

    Bluetooth low energy technology is a new low energy enhancement to the Bluetooth wireless technology Core Specification that paves the way to a vast new market for watches, remote controls, and healthcare and sports sensors. It has the potential to communicate with the hundreds of millions of Bluetooth enabled mobile phones, PCs and PDAs that are shipped each year. Consuming minimal power, it offers long-lasting connectivity, dramatically extending the range of potential applications and opening the door to brand new web services.Bluetooth low energy technology features ultra-low peak, average and idle mode power consumption; ultra-low cost plus small size for accessories and human interface devices (HIDs); minimal cost and size addition to handsets and PCs; global, intuitive and secure multi-vendor interoperability.

    About the Bluetooth SIG

    The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG), comprised of leaders in the telecommunications, computing, consumer electronics, automotive and network industries, is driving development of Bluetooth wireless technology and bringing it to market. The Bluetooth SIG includes Promoter member companies Ericsson, Intel, Lenovo, Microsoft, Motorola, Nokia and Toshiba, along with over 12,000 Associate and Adopter member companies. The Bluetooth SIG, Inc. headquarters are located in Bellevue, Washington, U.S.A. For more information please visit www.bluetooth.com.

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  • The world increasingly turns to microelectronics for weapons to fight intrusion, fraud, and counterfeiting. Access protection for buildings, networks, and devices; authentication to block forgery of documents, components, or even food ingredients and pharmaceuticals; and more benignly, applications such as manufacturing workflow control, inventory management, and micro-commerce: all are seeking silicon solutions.

    This growing need is bringing together two technology threads within the normally-quiet Austrian engineering team of NXP Semiconductors, according to Heinze Elzinga, director of product management for the NXP Identification Sector. One of these threads began in high-end markets such as banking, where NXP has provided authentication solutions based on powerful cryptographic processors. “Now, we see this authentication technology proliferating into more cost-sensitive markets, such as authentication of goods to prevent forgery,” Elzinga says.

    The other thread began in the thriving European enthusiasm for all things contactless, from RFID tags to contactless transit passes and passports to contactless smartcards. The need for remote sensing gets tangled up in this picture as soon as authentication technology gets applied to a fast-moving stream of people or a warehouse full of inventory that no one wants to scan one piece at a time.

    Yet a third technology is just beginning to enter the picture: sensor electronics. In simple cases, an RFID/authentication chip may keep track of a single quantity: for example whether or not a product has exceeded a certain temperature or humidity during its lifetime. Or there can be more sophisticated measurements. For example, a tiny sensor network embedded in the packaging might monitor the pH of a piece of meat to detect spoilage. A more complex use case could involve biometrics, with, for example, an access card verifying that it was in its owner’s hand and not the equally-appreciative hands of the thief. This thinking can keep getting more elaborate, eventually reaching the concept of sensor fusion, in which a microcontroller in the chip assembles and correlates data from many sensors in an attempt to understand what is going on around it. Such an approach might, for example, detect an attack attempting to compromise the chip itself.

    But all of these schemes must live within some very confining limitations. “These devices, especially in high-volume applications, must be monolithic for cost reasons,” Elzinga says. That means that the RF communications, crypto processing, microcontroller, and sensor technologies all have to coexist in one process. And it means the entire design must be ultra-low-power.

    “These chips can not be done with standard techniques,” Elzinga maintains. “When this market says low power, it is talking in microWatts, not tens of milliWatts.” Such designs must be rooted in energy-starving standards. They must employ custom—often hand-crafted—hardware, and very often still must rely on special process capabilities to meet the nearly zero-power budgets. “It helps to have your own fab,” Elzinga suggests. “But even with control over the process, as the level of integration increases, the challenges seem to increase much faster.”

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  • The RFID technology offers ship’s personnel real-time visibility into which types of decoys are deployed, as well as which barrels they are installed in, and helps ensure that the proper round is fired off, potentially in a split-second decision, while the vessel is under attack. The RFID-enabled automatic round-identification system (ARID) has been successful with that nation’s navy, prompting Lockheed Martin to provide the same feature to all of its customers for ALEX systems throughout the world, while also offering to retrofit existing systems with RFID functionality. Purchasers of Lockheed Martin’s ALEX system need not buy the RFID system, says Richard Porter, one of the firm’s senior engineer, though the company advises that navies do so. “We certainly recommend its use,” he says, “It makes the operation of the system much more effective, and ensures adequate system safety.”

    Most navies currently employ some type of a decoy-launching system, which has been available for many decades. When the ALEX system determines that an anti-ship missile is headed its way, based on cues from shipboard sensors (ESM and/or radar), the decoys are fired accordingly. Decoys deploy material such as chaff—aluminum-coated strands of glass or other material that emit infrared (IR) waves—thus creating false targets to confuse or counter approaching ASMs, and divert them from their intended target. One problem navies face is how to ensure the correct decoy is fired to counter a specific missile threat under battle conditions. Because there are many types of decoy cartridges, all of a similar size and shape, there is a potential for mistakes being made during the process of loading a launcher. Typically, the crew of the combat information center (CIC) room relies on data provided on paper, or over a voice link with the decoy loading crew.

    Lockheed Martin worked with Aviant to develop a system that would enable the CIC crew to identify, in real time, the specific decoy in each launcher barrel. The technology was first developed approximately three years ago. At the time, Lockheed Martin sought a system that would automatically identify the type of decoy loaded in each barrel, in order to ensure that the proper decoy was deployed, as well as present the launcher status data on the ALEX system’s master control panel.

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  • According to the two companies, the system—which employs EPCGen 2 passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHFRFIDtags—enables just-in-time delivery of reels of printed packaging materials manufactured by Goglio Cofibox in Cadorago (near Como, Italy), and an automated process for receiving the reels at Lavazza’s facility near Turin. The technology has reduced Lavazza’s inventory of packaging, as well as the space required to store it, and provides the coffee company with real-time visibility of stock levels, says Fabio Marzorati, an industrial engineer at Goglio Cofibox who works in product development. Marzorati and Antonio Rizzi, the director of the University of Parma’s RFID Lab, presented the Lavazza project results at October’s RFID Journal LIVE! Europe 2009 conference, held near Frankfurt, Germany. The RFID Lab, Rizzi says, engineered the solution and carried out tests to assess the technology’s benefits.

    After loading four reels of packaging materials onto a pallet, Goglio Cofibox attaches two adhesive EPC Gen 2 RFID labels onto the exterior of the plastic stretch wrap, as well as an extra tag directly on the pallet.

    Lavazza converts the packaging materials into the bags that it then fills with coffee. The company is required by law to monitor the quality of packaging materials, in order to ensure that high-quality coffee is delivered to consumers. Because the materials have a limited shelf life, the company must use packaging on a first-in/first-out (FIFO) basis. Hence, it required a more efficient way than the manual system it previously utilized to trace the materials.

    The RFID system that the companies implemented tracks pallets loaded with reels of packaging materials. During the project’s initial testing phase, the partners also tracked individual reels of packaging for a particular coffee brand, Allegro. The purpose, the firms indicate, was to test item-level tracking. Each Allegro reel weighs 135 kilograms (297 pounds) and measures 60 centimeters (23.6 inches) in diameter. Four reels fit on a single pallet. The reels are used to package coffee after it is produced on the factory line.

    Before RFID was implemented, Lavazza never knew the status of the orders it sent to Goglio Cofibox. Conversely, the packaging supplier never knew if Lavazza received the reels it delivered, or the number of reels the coffee producer had in inventory. In addition, orders had to be triggered manually every time Lavazza needed to replenish its stock of packaging materials.

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