Atmel licenses Quantum Capacitive Touch Technology

20th September 2007
Written by : ES Admin
Atmel and Quantum Research Group (UK) announced today that Atmel has licensed Quantum’s QTouch and QMatrix capacitive touch technologies. Quantum’s intellectual property will be programmed into Atmel picoPower AVR microcontrollers (MCUs), enabling the devices to be used for both touch sensing and many other control functions, for example driving motor controls, LEDs and displays. QTouch technology is used for simple keys, while QMatrix is used for larger keypad arrays and keyboards. In addition, Atmel has obtained a license to QWheel and QSlide applications, which are used for rotary and linear touch controls respectively.
The popularity of capacitive touch sensing is growing rapidly. The technology is replacing both electromechanical switches and traditional membrane touch controls, often at lower cost. It gives designers freedom to create innovative, intuitive and attractive user interfaces that differentiate their products and add consumer appeal. Such controls are more rugged and less prone to failure than conventional switches since there are no moving parts to wear out. Furthermore, because the sense electrodes are located behind the touch panel surface, it is easy to design products that are sealed from the external environment to prevent the ingress of moisture or other contaminants.



Quantum’s patented charge-transfer capacitive sensing is more robust then alternative capacitive touch sensors. Spread-spectrum modulation ensures a high degree of electromagnetic compatibility and a superior signal-to-noise ratio for reliable operation. The all-digital technology features automatic calibration of devices on power-up and automatic drift compensation over the life of the product in which it is used. Where touch keys are packed closely together, for example on a mobile phone, Quantum’s patented Adjacent Key Suppression (AKS) technique avoids false triggering of nearby keys, only registering touch on the intended key.



Atmel’s planned capacitive touch parts will incorporate AVR microcontrollers with picoPower™ energy saving techniques. The microcontrollers have a modern and effective core suited for Quantum’s touch technologies. The AVR architecture ensures both high processing capability and good performance. In addition, its true 1.8V operation and multiple sleep modes increase the battery life in hand-held, battery-operated products such as mobile phones and media players.



Quantum has used Atmel MCUs for several years to create devices under its own brand name. The company has successfully established the technology in consumer, industrial, IT and automotive applications and, more recently, in hand-held devices, particularly mobile phones. Atmel is now benefiting from this long-term collaboration by licensing the technology for its own chips. Atmel’s global network of sales and technical support channels is available to help customers implement capacitive touch controls in their products.



“The combination of the AVR® core, picoPower technology and robust capacitive sensing based on our patented charge-transfer methods will give customers reliable, proven, low energy capacitive touch sensing solutions at a competitive price point,” says Hal Philipp, founder and CEO of Quantum Research Group.



“Atmel selected Quantum technology for its entry into the capacitive touch sensing market after evaluating all the available technologies. We wanted to go with a solution that integrates rapidly with our technology and works reliably in challenging environments. When parts hit the market, designers will have a flexible low-power alternative with strong field and factory support, backed by Atmel’s reliable supply chain,” says Ingar Fredriksen, Director AVR Product Marketing.

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