Atmel Announces SmartConnect WiFi Modules

Atmel SmartConnect

This week we talked with Atmel about their new WiFi solutions targeting Internet of Things applications. Back in 2012, Atmel acquired Ozmo, a company focused on point-to-point WiFi solutions using WiFi Direct. These devices are known as SmartDirect, and have been available for some time.

Atmel has just announced a new product line: SmartConnect. This moves beyond the point-to-point nature of WiFi Direct, and enables connections to standard access points. The SmartConnect series is designed for embedding in low cost devices that need to connect to a network.

The first devices in the SmartConnect line will be modules based on two chips: an Atmel SAMD21 Cortex-M0+ microcontroller and an Ozmo 3000 WiFi System on Chip. There’s also an on-board antenna and RF shielding can. It’s a drop in WiFi module, which is certified by the FCC. You can hook up your microcontroller to this device over SPI, and have a fully certified design that supports WiFi.

There’s two ways to use the module. The first is as an add-on, which is similar to existing modules. A host microcontroller communicates with the module over SPI and utilizes its command set. The second method uses the module as a standalone device, with application code running on the internal SAMD21 microcontroller. Atmel has said that the standalone option will only be available on a case to case basis, but we’re hoping this opens up to everyone. If the Arduino toolchain could target this microcontroller, it could be a great development platform for cheap WiFi devices.

SmartConnect Architectures

The Add-On and Standalone Architectures

At first glance, this module looks very similar to other WiFi modules, including the CC3000 which we’ve discussed in the past. However there are some notable differences. One major feature is the built in support for TLS and HTTPS, which makes it easier to build devices with secure connections. This is critical when deploying devices that are connected over the internet.

Atmel is claiming improvements in power management as well. The module can run straight from a battery at 1.8 V to 3.3 V without external regulation, and has a deep sleep current of 5 nA. Obviously the operating power will be much higher, but this will greatly assist devices that sporadically connect to the internet. They also hinted at the pricing, saying the modules will come close to halving the current price of similar WiFi solutions. SmartConnect is targeting a launch date of June 15, so we hope to learn more this summer.

We’re always excited to see better connectivity solutions. If Atmel comes through with a device allowing for cheaper and more secure WiFi modules, it will be a great part for building Internet of Things devices. With a projected 50 billion IoT devices by 2020, we expect to see a lot of progress in this space from silicon companies trying to grab market share.

CC3000 WiFi driver for .NET Micros


The Netduino and other .NET Micro boards don’t seem to get much love, but that doesn’t mean they’re not able to use one of the coolest chips we’ve seen in a while. [Valkyrie] has written a driver for TI’s new CC3000 all-in-one WiFi chip, giving any .NET micro device a very small and very cheap WiFi connection.

A while back, [Chris Magagna] created a TI CC3000 library for the Arduino. [Valkyrie] fell out of his chair when he saw that post, as it meant the .NET Micro devices such as the Netduino could finally use this device. With a TI Launchpad and a logic analyzer, [Valkyrie] recorded all the SPI commands and responses eventually reconstructing the entire library.

As for how useful this is without any hardware, There’s already a CC3000 Gadgeteer module available from GHI Electronics.

Microcontrollers and Node.js, naturally


We see a surprising amount of projects using Node.js, but despite this we haven’t seen much JavaScript running microcontrollers, even the ARM powered Raspi or BeagleBone. The folks at Technical Machine want to change that with a very cool dev board designed to be an Internet-connected JavaScript running prototyping device from the very beginning. It’s called Tessel, and brings some very cool tools to any maker’s workbench.

On board this little… board is an ARM Cortex-M3 running at 180 MHz, 32 Megs of Flash, 32 Megs of SDRAM, and a TI CC3000 WiFi module that we’ve heard so much about. The 16-pin GPIO can connect to other Tessel modules that allow for servos, accelerometers, micro SD cards, and a whole bunch of other sensors for just about any project imaginable.

Aside from having WiFi built in from the get-go, Tessel also has some Arduino compatibility, allowing it to work with existing shields and code. It seems pretty cool, and we can’t wait to get our hands on one when it launches in September.

Tiny WiFi modules, again


The CC3000 is a tiny, single-chip component that adds all the necessary hardware (save for a chip antenna) and software to get even the most minimal microcontrollers onto a WiFi network. It was announced early this year but making proper breakout boards takes time, you know? This time has finally arrived with CC3000 modules from Adafruit, and evaluation modules and booster packs from TI themselves.

Unlike other microcontroller-compatible WiFi modules out there, the CC3000 takes care of just about everything – the TCP/IP stack, security stuff, and even the configuration with TI’s SmartConfig app for desktop, laptop, or mobile devices. Realistically, you can get an ATtiny, an exceedingly sparse microcontroller, or even a Commodore 64 or Apple II on the Internet with this. It’s very, very cool.

While these breakout boards and modules are priced very well for what they do, they’re still fairly expensive to stick in a project permanently. Where the CC3000 really shines is including it in your next fabbed board. There are already Altium parts and an Eagle library that includes this part should you need help with that, and blatant advertising for our overlords at SupplyFrame if you’re looking for a source.

TI’s CC3000 WiFi chip gets a library

About six months ago, Texas Instruments released a simple, cheap, single-chip WiFi module. At $10 a piece in quantities of 1000, the CC3000 is a much better solution to the problem of an ‘Internet of Things’ than a $50 Arduino Ethernet modules, or even the $30 Electric Imp. All indications, especially the frequent out of stock status for the dev board on TI’s web site, show the CC3000 will be a popular chip, but until now we haven’t seen a CC3000 library for the Arduino or other microcontrollers.

[Chris] just solved that problem for us with a CC3000 WiFi library for the Arduino. He ported TI’s MSP430 CC3000 library to the Arduino, allowing even the bare-bones Arduino Uno to connect to a WiFi network with just a handful of parts. The code itself takes about 12k of Flash and 350 bytes of RAM, giving anyone using the CC3000 enough room left over to do some really interesting stuff. There’s even a slimmed down library that uses somewhere between 2k and 6k of Flash, making an ATtiny-powered web server a reality.

There are a few caveats in using the CC3000 with an Arduino; it’s a 3.3 Volt part, so you’ll need a level shifter or some resistors. Also, the chip draws about 250 mA when it’s being used, so you’ll need a beefy battery if you want your project to last an entire day of use.

Now that the library is out of the way, be on the lookout for a CC3000 breakout board. Here’s one, but expect some more on the market soon.

A breakout board for a tiny WiFi chip


A few weeks ago, we caught wind of a very tiny, very inexpensive WiFi chip  TI is producing. Everything required of an Internet connection – TCP/IP stack, configuration utilities, and your WEP, WPA, and WPA2 security tools is included in a single tiny chip, making this a very cool device for an Internet-connected microcontroller project. There’s only one problem: TI put this chip in a really, really weird package, and there aren’t any breakout boards for it.

That is, until now. [Vince] was convinced to spend some time in Altium to design a breakout board for this tiny WiFi chip. Now, if you can get your hands on a sample of the CC3000 from TI, you can breadboard out a circuit with the help of [Vince]‘s design.

Included in [Vince]‘s git are the board files for this breakout board, schematics, and the necessary parts if anyone has the inclination to make an Eagle library. If anyone wants to spin a few of these boards and put them up on a Tindie Fundraiser, that’d be fine by us, and [Vince] would probably appreciate that as well.