Lowest-power ARM Cortex-M based solution breaks performance barriers

31-03-2015 | Atmel | New Technologies

Atmel has announced it is sampling the industry’s lowest power ARM Cortex-M
based solution with power consumption down to 35µA/MHz in active mode and
200nA in sleep mode.

The ultra low-power SAM L family broadens the Atmel | SMART 32-bit ARM-based
MCU portfolio and extends battery life from years to decades, reducing the
number of times batteries need to be changed in devices such as fire alarms,
healthcare, medical, wearable, and devices placed in rural, agriculture,
offshore and other remote areas. The SAM L21 combines ultra-low power with
Flash and SRAM that are large enough to run both the application and
wireless stacks - three features that are cornerstones of most IoT
applications. Sampling now, the SAM L21 comes complete with a development
platform including an Xplained PRO kit, code libraries and Atmel Studio

The new family consumes just one-third the power of competing solutions on
the market today and integrates the company’s proprietary ultra-low power
picoPower technology. While running the EEMBC ULPBench, the industry marker
for low power, the SAM L21 achieves a staggering score of 185, the highest
publicly-recorded score for any Cortex-M based processor or MCU in the
world—and significantly higher than the 167 and 123 scores announced by
other vendors. Atmel’s SAM L21 family consumes less than 940nA with full
40kB SRAM retention, real-time clock and calendar and 200nA in the deepest
sleep mode.

The ultra low-power SAM L21 family is ideal for a number of applications
including the Internet of Things (IoT), consumer, industrial, medical and
other battery-powered devices, says the company. The low-power innovations
in this Atmel | SMART family is achieved through several technological
breakthroughs including:
1 - Best-in-class active mode current consumption.
2 - SRAM back biasing to reduce leakage in sleep modes.
3 - Sleep modes that do not only gate away the clock signal to stop
switching consumption, but also remove power from sub domains to fully
eliminate leakage.
4 - SAM L21 peripherals that support Sleepwalking—a technology that enables
peripherals to request a clock when needed to wake-up from sleep modes and
perform tasks without having to power up the CPU Flash and other support
5 - Atmel’s proprietary Event System that allows peripherals to work
together to solve complex tasks using minimal gates and also the lowest
possible power.
6 - Ultra-low power capacitive touch sensing peripheral that can run in all
operating modes and supports wake-up on touch.

“With over two decades of MCU experience, ultra-low power picoPower
technology is part of Atmel’s heritage, starting with our AVR family. The
SAM L21 MCUs leverage this ultra-low power expertise and are enabling
customers to solve their power challenges for battery-powered IoT devices,”
said Pat Sullivan, vice president of marketing, Microcontroller Business
Unit, Atmel Corporation. “As the leader in low-power technology, Atmel is
committed to providing the industry with a truly differentiated and
unparalleled ultra-low power solution optimized for the IoT. When paired
with Atmel’s wireless and security solutions, they offer the perfect IoT

Markus Levy, president and founder, EEMBC, added: “In Atmel's announcement
last year for the company's SAM L21 family, I had pointed out the amazingly
low current consumption ratings for both the active and sleep mode operation
of this product family - now I can confirm this opinion with concrete data
derived from the EEMBC ULPBench. Atmel achieved the lowest power of any
Cortex-M based processor and MCU in the world because of its patented
ultra-low power picoPower technology. These ULPBench results are remarkable,
demonstrating the company's low-power expertise utilizing DC-DC conversion
for voltage monitoring, as well as other innovative techniques.”

To accelerate a design, the new SAM L21 is compatible with the Atmel
Xplained Pro, a professional evaluation board featuring auto-identification
in Atmel Studio with an on-board debugger and standardized extension
connectors. Atmel Xplained development kit is a low-cost, easy-to-use, fast
prototyping and evaluation platform for Atmel AVR and Atmel | SMART
ARM-based MCUs. The kit is ideal for demonstrating the features and
capabilities of Atmel MCUs and MPUs and can be customized with a wide range
of expansion boards. The SAM L21 Xplained Pro is fully supported by Atmel
Studio, a free IDE that features power profiling tools for the SAM L21
board, making it easy to pinpoint power peaks and calculate average power
consumption, says the company.

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