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Atmel debuts its first ARM-9 controller

Posted: 26 Feb 2003 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:atmel? at91rm9200? arm 9 microcontroller? flash microcontroller? arm920t?

Atmel Corp. has introduced ASSP and ASIC versions of its first ARM-9 microcontroller, the AT91RM9200.

The MCU features the first controller interface to Atmel's DataFlash, a Flash memory feature which allows program code to be stored in serial Flash, and then "shadowed" in SDRAM for fast boot-loading of applications.

Atmel has expanded an existing partnership with Green Hills Software Inc. to have the full Integrity RTOS and services available for the 9200 concurrent with the device's sampling this quarter. An Integrity Board Support Package from Green Hills is available along with a full evaluation board, taking advantage of all the 9200's features.

Jay Johnson, Atmel's director of ASIC and ASSP marketing, said customers are already transitioning from ARM-7 to ARM-9 cores. Atmel offers two ARM-7 controllers with flash memory, as well as 12 "classic" Flashless versions of ARM-7. Of the 15 new designs entering production this year, half were ARM-9-based. Johnson said this trend would continue as more customers move to Atmel's 0.18?m process, in which the new 9200 is implemented.

The hard macro of the ARM920T which ARM Ltd. supplies to Atmel includes dual 16KB caches and a MMU. The core external bus interface will support SDRAM, burst Flash, CompactFlash, and SmartMedia.

Atmel's implementation adds a 10/100 Ethernet MAC, four USARTs, 128KB of boot ROM, 16KB of SRAM, and USB 1.1 host and device interfaces. The USART supports SmartCards, an IrDA port, RS-232/485 devices, or a soft modem. While the controller does not have an LCD controller on-chip, Atmel is working with a European partner, Sidsa, on glueless LCD support.

"We see the design-start cycle moving both ways in this design, from ASSP to ASIC, and from ASIC to ASSP," Johnson said. "There are more customers coming to us initially for an ASSP microcontroller than in the ARM-7 family."

The 9200 may broaden Atmel's foray into automotive telematics applications, since it can be used to support a mix of GPS, wireless modem, voice synthesis and GPRS cellular data-transfer functions.

Atmel is also promoting the use of the ARM-based controller with its FingerChip sensor for security solutions involving fingerprint scans. Because the Integrity OS offers secure segmentation of address space, Atmel is anticipating more security-based applications overall with the new architecture.

Green Hill's Integrity OS supports segmentation and guaranteed resource allocation in both the time domain, preventing particular address spaces from "stealing" CPU time from other resources; and in the space domain, so that particular allocations of address space cannot reject space for other applications.

John Carbone, VP of marketing at Green Hills, said using the 9200 with multiple higher-layer communication protocols such as SNMP and SS7 will allow the Integrity OS to shine, since it offers all higher-layer protocols secure address space. Integrity is offered on a royalty-free basis, hence Green Hills expects it to compete directly with some Linux applications (though Atmel also plans a Linux port for later in the spring).

The processor is offered in both 208-lead PQFP and 256-lead BGA packages. The price in 50,000-lot quantities starts at $12 each. Atmel is offering the AT91RM9200-DK development kit in prototype quantities now for a single-unit price of $5,000. The board includes everything except a FingerChip sensor device, which can be ordered as an option.

In addition to Green Hills Integrity, Atmel also offers the Green Hills Multi 2000 development tools, as well as GNU tools and the ARM ADS 2.1 environment.

- Loring Wirbel

EE Times

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