“Any Core, Any Cloud” : Microchip Releases a Host of Dev Tools for Fast IoT PrototypingMarch 11, 2020 by Hannah DeTavis
Complex IoT environments can slow down the prototyping process. Microchip wants to pick up the pace with cloud-agnostic solutions.
For any given IoT device, developers are flooded with a number of considerations that will affect their designs: internet protocols, cores, security, and clouds. For instance, an engineer working with crop sensors will make remarkably different design decisions from a designer prototyping a device built for at-home Wi-Fi use.
This complexity in IoT environments can, in some cases, slow down the prototyping process.
Today, Microchip announced what it’s calling “cloud agnostic, turnkey, full-stack embedded development solutions” to address these prototyping hold-ups.
Microchip’s Blitzkrieg on Rapid Prototyping
With this announcement comes a flood of new development tools hosting a number of Microchip’s product portfolio: PIC, AVR, and SAM MCUs and MPUs. These development boards and kits aim to boot up the design process for IoT devices, bypassing the barriers of IoT edge node applications, security, and cloud connectivity.
The new solutions are geared to connect devices to the cloud through a number of avenues, including AWS, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure. Image used courtesy of Microchip
Microchip has expressed that these prototyping tools allow designers to communicate to the cloud through Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and LTE/5G. All of these development boards include a security device from Microchip’s CryptoAuthentication line, the ATECC608A, which features a cryptographic co-processor with hardware-based key storage.
Wi-Fi Development Platforms
PIC-IoT WA and AVR-IoT WA for Amazon Web Services (AWS)
PIC-IoT WA development board. Image used courtesy of Microchip
These two development boards are compatible with PIC (programmable interface controllers) MCUs and AVR MCUs, Microchip’s 8-bit RISC single-chip MCUs.
SAM-IoT WG for a Google Cloud IoT Core
Last year, Microchip offered Google Cloud IoT core compatibility for the company’s AVR and PIC families. Now, Microchip is roping SAM devices into the mix. The SAM-IoT WG is a development board for Google Cloud, which includes a 32-bit MCU (SAMD21G18A) and a Wi-Fi module (WINC1510).
SAM MCU-Based Development Kit for Microsoft Azure IoT
Microchip calls their SAM MCU-based development kit their “most powerful and flexible platform for edge node prototyping.” The kit, designed for Microsoft Azure IoT devices, includes a 32-bit MCU with 1 MB flash and can connect to USB, Ethernet, CAN, or Wi-Fi networks.
The SAM MCU development kit includes the SAM E54 Xplained Pro evaluation kit pictured above. Image used courtesy of Microchip
Greg Robinson, VP of marketing for Microchip's 8-bit microcontroller business unit, comments, “While the other boards we’re releasing are dedicated to Wi-Fi, this development kit has more flexibility with the way you connect to the cloud.”
Wireless System-on-Module for Edge Computing
The SAMA5D2-WLSOM aims for intelligence at the edge with a machine learning, inference processing MPU (SAMA5D27). Power management is also a high priority, considering the integrated MCP16502 PMIC. The System-on-Module (SoM) also supports hardware security integration, including AWS IoT Greengrass.
The ATSAMA5D27-WLSOM1. Image used courtesy of Microchip
Microchip dubs this SoM an “all-in-one prototyping solution,” because of its inclusion of a Wi-Fi and Bluetooth module (WILC3000) and secure over-the-air (OTA) updates.
Bluetooth Prototyping Boards
ATmega3208 block diagram. Image used courtesy of Microchip
These boards are designed for battery-powered designs— particularly as a foundation for sensor node designs—and include a Bluetooth low-energy (BLE) module (RN4870).
The LightBlue app's functionalities in evaluating an AVR dev board. Image used courtesy of Microchip
This app, available on the App Store and Google Play, connects to your board and allows you to communicate back and forth with the board—for instance, by controlling the LEDs on your board and checking the temperature.
IoT Gateway Solutions
Microchip asserts that several new evaluation kits based on their 32-bit processors will help designers connect edge nodes to the cloud, applying inference processing at the edge. This, in turn, allows edge devices to act locally on the data they generate.
The Xplained Ultra evaluation kit. Image used courtesy of Microchip
The evaluation kits (Xplained Ultra Evaluation Kit, System on Module Eval Kit, and Wireless System on Module Eval Kit—all for SAMA5D2) also provide gateway-to-cloud solutions for AWS and Azure IoT—namely, through AWS IoT Greengrass and Azure IoT Edge.
5G LTE Development Options
One of the most noteworthy features of this announcement is the LTE-M/NB-IoT development kit. This kit allows designers to connect devices to the cloud directly through standard cellular infrastructure. Instead, this option connects sensors or actuators directly to the cloud and essentially eliminates cumbersome pairing issues.
In an effort to cover IoT nodes and leverage low-power, 5G technology, Microchip equipped this kit with Monarch chip-based modules from Sequans.
Microchip's 5G LTE development options borrow from Monarch Go, a new LTE-M modem component. Image used courtesy of Sequans
This collaboration allows you to add LTE-M/NB IoT connectivity to an AVR-IoT solution.
Microchip concludes that this announcement is especially impactful because it touches "all of IoT: any major core, any cloud."
To achieve this end, Microchip's new out-of-box-ready solutions are geared to get designers’ existing applications to the cloud while provisioning a device to any given network. The new development tools also range in capability, from an 8-bit MCU to a 32-bit MPU.
“I don’t think anybody else in the industry is offering the ability to take a board out of the box and be up on either Azure, AWS, or Google Cloud within five minutes,” Robinson explains.
“We can get our clients up to the cloud reading data very quickly, and from there, they can start developing applications.”
What hang-ups have you experienced in the IoT prototyping process? Share your experiences in the comments below.