Software Drivers Propel MEMS Sensors

Software Drivers Propel MEMS Sensors

San Jose, Calif.: Atmel has integrated its Sensors Xplained software drivers with its AVR Studio 5 integrated development environment (IDE). The Sensors Xplained driver software provides basic interface functionality with both raw data and calibrated engineering unit outputs, using a standard application programming interface (API) to simplify application development.

A number of higher-level application examples also are available as library functions that are optimised for the company’s AVR architecture, supporting sensor fusion algorithms used in many applications.

In the last year or so, Atmel has seen steady growth in the use of sensors alongside its MCUs (see the figure). For microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) sensors in particular, volumes have gone up and prices have gone down, allowing them to be used in sectors such as toys and games, medical devices, and industrial electronics.

Atmel’s customers in these sectors are not necessarily familiar with different sensor types and their interfaces, which is why Atmel has developed the Sensors Xplained software driver platform to make things easier.

“Firstly, it makes it easy to hook up to a sensor. You can pull up what sensor you’re using and automatically download the drivers,” said Atmel marketing director for microcontrollers Adrian Woolley, noting that the aim is to provide the same support for off-chip as on-chip blocks.

“Secondly, it has more intelligence than is typically available. For example, a magnetic sensor provides three different field strengths in the x, y, and z axes. Combining these into one directional reading could be a couple of months of programming work,” Woolley continued. “\\[The Sensors Xplained framework\\] provides an engineering unit output with already calibrated, stable data.”

Woolley added that all this functionality can be integrated into the Studio 5 IDE, which is all menu driven, making it very easy to quickly respond to decisions such as changing the sensor, changing the MCU, or adding functionality at any point. 

The software drivers provide driver and calibration support for a variety of sensor types. The current selection includes AKM and Honeywell’s magnetometers; Bosch Sensortech, Invensense and Kionix’s intertial sensors; and Osram’s light and optical sensors, which are widely used in proximity detection. Support for more sensors will be available in the future.


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