As everything around us, from phones and fridges to bicycles and trash cans, begins to connect to the Internet, there’s an increasing desire for low-power chips. Like this one, which can last for over ten years on a single battery charge.
Made by Atmel, the SAM L21 32-bit ARM family of microcontrollersr is based on ARM technology. It draws 35 microamps per megahertz of processing power when it’s active, and just 200 nanoamps when it’s sleeping. That’s so little power that it can run off energy drawn from your body—or a battery that will last a very, very long time.
It has some other clever tricks up its sleeve. Usually in a chip like this, sleep mode sees everything but the clock function shut down, meaning it has to wake every time connected devices need to communicate; this new Atmel chip has different sleep states, allowing connected devices to communicate with each other while the chip continues to use very little power.
Of course, the chips don’t pack huge amounts of grunt. In fact, at best you’re looking at a 42 MHz Cortex M0+ CPU core, 256 kilobytes of Flash memory, 32 kilobytes of static RAM, and 8 kb of separate low-power static RAM. Not enough to run a desktop OS, then, but plenty to run small programs, power hardware interfaces, read and record data from sensors, tweet and the like.