Tool vendors support Atmel’s ARM Cortex-A5 family

The third-party tools and software ecosystem is expanding for Atmel’s ARM Cortex-A5-based SAMA5D3 microcontrollers.

A5 is ARM’s baby A-series-compatible core, designed as an up-grade from the ARM926 and ARM1176 with better mW/MHz than both, only slightly more chip area than the smaller 926, and more DMIPS than the more powerful 1176.

Early in February, Atmel started shipping its most powerful MCU series yet: the A5-based SAMA5D3, fabbed on a 65nm process and offering up to 850DMIPS at 536MHz.

Power is sub-200mW at maximum active speed and below 0.5mW in low-power context-saved mode.

Intended applications include: factory automation, building automation, smart grid, medical terminals, handheld terminals, smart watches, outdoor GPS and DECT cordless phones.

ARM, and third-party vendors, Timesys, Express Logic and IAR have announced support for SAMA5D3s running embedded Linux, Android and real-time operating systems (RTOSs).

Development studio DS-5 is ARM’s contribution.

“Android has become an OS of choice for Cortex-A5 processor based products,” said Javier Orensanz, ARM’s director of product management. “DS-5 enables developers to make RTOS, Linux and Android-based applications.”

For graphical user interface (GUI) development, Timesys has a Qt product for designing widgets, and reference designs for devices running embedded Linux.

“Qt is an alternative to Android that is easy-to-use with a strong and intuitive GUI,” said Timesys v-p of business development Brian Gildon. “Our evaluation kit includes comprehensive application examples, documentation, training, and customer support.”

IAR has included SAMA5D3 in its Embedded Workbench integrated development environment (IDE), that already supports Atmel’s earlier ARM and non-ARM processors, “which greatly simplifies migration for customers moving between different processors for different development projects”, said IAR product director Mats Ullström.

Express Logic has ported its ThreadX RTOS and middleware, and included compatibility with Atmel’s own Studio 6 IDE, and IAR’s Embedded Workbench.

Atmel’s own Linux distributions are available from the web, and a free Android 4.0 port is planned to be available sometime this month.

For those not wishing to use an operating system, the so called ‘bare metal’ approach, Atmel C software package (softpack).

Peripherals on the SAMA5D3 series include dual Ethernet (one Gigabit), triple USB ports, dual CAN, 12bit ADC, 32bit timers, and a TFT LCD controller with graphics accelerator for image composition.

Then there are interfaces for: a camera, SDIO/SD/MMC cards, UARTs, SPI, TWI, soft modem.

As is becoming increasingly common, security is provided against piracy, counterfeiting and other risks.

To protect customers against cloning, a secure boot loader over-looks integrity and authenticity of the boot memory programme.

There is also a hardware encryption engine with AES (advanced encryption standard), 3DES (triple data encryption standard) and SHA (secure hash algorithm) support to encrypt/decrypt data or communications.

And there is a true random number generator (TRNG) to generate or diversify unique keys.

The chip comes in a 324ball BGA.

Courtesy of Steve Bush

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