Shiratech
March 2nd, 2016 by majeedahmad

 

The lack of standards has often been quoted as a major stumbling block in the Internet of Things take-off. However, that's gradually changing, and was evident at Embedded World 2016 held in Nuremberg, Germany.

Case in point: system-on-module (SoM) supplier Shiratech has showcased its SparkGate IoT platform based on the Smart Mobility Architecture (SMARC) standard. SMARC — previously called Ultra Low Power COM or ULPCOM — is a de facto standard for the low-power SoM or computer-on-module (CoM) solutions that cater to embedded applications which feature small form factors and are generally battery powered.

Shiratech claims that its SparkGate platform is the first complete hardware and software IoT gateway solution that is based on SMARC and encompasses all the major IoT building blocks. That includes software stack that supports low power operation; multiple low-power radio communication solutions — Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), Zigbee, Thread and 6LowPAN — connected to the on-board cellular module from Telit; cloud connectivity using REST; and remote software download.

Shiratech is targeting the SparkGate platform for general-purpose IoT gateways, battery powered remote IoT gateways, smart buildings and remote surveillance and control systems. The Spark-501 module, the workhorse of the SparkGate IoT platform, is powered by Atmel's low-power SAMA5D3 processor.

Shiratech's Spark-501 module — based on Atmel's ARM Cortex-A5 SAMA5D3 — also uses a WILC3000 combo chip for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity solutions, and an ATSAMR21G18radio transceiver that is a Cortex-M0+-based flash microcontroller chip.

Why SMARC?

Shiratech has developed the Spark-501 module built around SMARC standard instead of using its SODIMM-based AT-501 module for the SparkGate IoT platform. Why? For starters, the SMARC standard takes advantage of the I/O diversity and flexibility inherent in the ARM-based system-on-chips (SoC) and supports a variety of interface options for a diverse range of IoT designs.

That includes serial buses like I2C, client and host USB, serial and parallel camera interfaces, video and graphics output, and flash-memory card formats like SD. Second, the use of energy-efficient ARM processors cuts down the power consumption and saves board space by eliminating the need for a number of power components such as DC-DC converters.

Third, IoT product designers and system integrators can explore a wide array of processing options according to the nature of the IoT application they are developing. They can decide, for instance, the number of cores required for their specific IoT design. Moreover, they can explore the next-generation ARM processors while ensuring backward compatibility with their existingARM-based products.

Shiratech has developed the Spark-501 module built around SMARC standard instead of using its SODIMM-based AT-501 module for the SparkGate IoT platform.

In the final analysis, the advent of standards like SMARC marks a significant breakthrough for the IoT design realm; the specification for the ARM-based modules ensures cross-vendor compatibility and scalability.

The IoT developers can buy a SoM and design their own baseboard, and that allows them to cut costs as well as time-to-market. Furthermore, IoT product developers can conveniently move from one SoM to another while exploring several applications and still use the same baseboard. That's what also makes SMARC standard a smart choice.

Module Blueprint

Shiratech claims that its Spark-501 module is the lowest power ARM-based SoM available on the market. Moreover, Atmel's SAMA5D3 processor enables it to facilitate secure boot and secure communications by utilizing AES, Triple DES, True Random Number Generator (TRNG) and Secure Hash Algorithm (SHA) features.

The hardware security, apart from the lack of standards, is the other key concern in the emerging world of connected things also known as the IoT ecosystem. A recent Forrester Report affirms that security issues and the absence of general-purpose interoperability standards pose a major risk for the IoT growth in the coming years.

 Atmel's SAMA5D3 processor enables Shiratech's Spark-501 to facilitate secure boot and secure communications by utilizing AES, Triple DES, True Random Number Generator (TRNG) and Secure Hash Algorithm (SHA) features.

Here, at the IoT security crossroads, Atmel's CryptoAuthentication technology encompasses all three fundamental building blocks of IoT security: authentication, encryption and key storage.

According to Shiratech spokesman, Ramon Horkany, the main advantage of the Atmel'sSAMA5D3 processor is its low-power mode coupled with low-power DDR as well as the encryption modes. He acknowledges that the majority of SoM features—processing, control, peripherals, communications and security—are derived from the SAMA5D3 processor.


Majeed Ahmad is the author of books Smartphone: Mobile Revolution at the Crossroads of Communications, Computing and Consumer Electronics and The Next Web of 50 Billion Devices: Mobile Internet's Past, Present and Future.

http://blog.atmel.com/2016/03/02/smarc-easing-the-iot-standards-conundrum/