Embedded lockdown: Designing secure devices

November 01, 2012

Embedded lockdown: Designing secure devices

The impetuous move into a world of connected devices has rendered security an imperative consideration at every phase of the embedded design process....

Security precautions and potential information disclosure consequences have changed the fundamental design goals for embedded products. Designers are no longer driven to produce the simplest, lowest-cost device for each project. Security requirements have forced designers to beef up resources with faster and more capable processors, secure data storage, and tamper-proof hardware to simultaneously protect the system and data while executing the application. Widespread interconnectivity also exposes a critical embedded system to data extraction or process manipulation from anywhere in the world.

As these connected embedded devices permeate society and assume ever-more important roles in industrial, transportation, and military applications, the consequences of security failures are potentially catastrophic. Hence, security must be a prime design consideration from conception through production, deployment, and end-of-life disposal, given that it is almost impossible to add security to an existing product.

With security requirements at the top of the designer’s checklist, we asked several industry experts to present their viewpoints in the Software section of this issue of Embedded Computing Design. To start the conversation, Asaf Shen, VP of marketing and IP products at Discretix, describes the Trusted Execution Environment (TEE) concept to protect sensitive information from security threats aimed at open-source software systems such as Android. Next, ITTIA founder Sasan Montaseri gives details on the security precautions necessary for the development of software applications, plus the authentication and encryption technologies necessary to secure an embedded database. And finally, Michelle Nerlinger, director of product marketing at SafeNet, shows how embedded device manufacturers can protect and monetize their intellectual property with a combination of control, packaging, management, and tracking strategies.

This issue’s Silicon section focuses on the latest updates and improvements to the popular ARM architecture from the mobile device perspective. Concentrating on the technical requirements of always on mobility, John Goodacre, director of program management in ARM’s Processor Division, discusses the latest multicore generation called big.LITTLE that automatically selects high-performance or energy-efficient processors for each task to optimize portable platforms. Continuing with the low-power theme, Jack London, product manager in the COM Division at Kontron, shows how ARM-based platforms such as the recently released Ultra-Low-Power Computer-On-Module (ULP-COM) standard can give embedded designers standardized building blocks to create mobile connected devices.

Combining the latest security software and processor architectures, technical articles in the Strategies section of this issue concentrate on widely deployed embedded technology for digital signage and touch-screen interfaces. For example, Barry Husbands, managing director of Blue Chip Technology, examines the challenges of this market and offers design guidelines for low-cost, low-power, small-footprint hardware that will enable digital signage systems for lower-end applications. Presenting a new single-layer technology that offers an economically viable way to implement multitouch functionality, Zytronic’s Andrew Morrison, technical director, and Ian Crosby, sales and marketing director, demonstrate how touch-screen-based Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs) can recognize complex gestures and allow multi-user collaboration.

I hope that you find the articles and technical details on security, ARM technology, digital signage, and touch-screen interfaces presented in this issue of Embedded Computing Design helpful in your embedded development efforts. As we approach a new year, we will make every effort to bring you design information that is pertinent and on the cutting edge of embedded development.

You can also help by sending us your suggestions for future technical articles and online updates to support your design efforts. Technical articles can be an excellent tool to gain exposure in the embedded computing industry. If you’re looking for ideas, we have just released our 2013 Editorial Calendar with a wide range of topics covering the embedded industry and technology (see http://opensystemsmedia.com/media-kits). If you would like to submit a technical article that would be of interest to our readers, please send me an e-mail with a short abstract.