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Bench Talk for Design Engineers

Bench Talk


Bench Talk for Design Engineers | The Official Blog of Mouser Electronics

Arm TechCon: Securing the IoT is the Call to Action Mouser Staff

Grant Imahara at Arm TechCon

Grant Imahara and electronics product experts from Mouser Electronics were at Arm TechCon 2017 to demonstrate how Arm-based products and technologies are shaping smarter cities. This year’s Arm TechCon featured embedded security as the overarching theme in keynotes, presentations, and exhibit floor time.

Arm’s open source Mbed software tools are a major step toward defragmenting the embedded world when it comes to embedded security solutions. Engineers want to be able to incorporate security into devices without having to become experts in security. Securing the Internet of Things (IoT) was a major theme throughout the conference, resonating in keynotes, presentations, demonstrations and even in casual conversations throughout the halls.

Microchip demonstrated several products. The SAM E series of microcontrollers incorporate the mid-performance ARM® Cortex®-M4F Processors and the high-performance 32-bit ARM® Cortex®-M7 RISC processors. These MCUs incorporate a root of trust using Arm TrustZone. TrustZone is a protected area on the silicon, as Arm (and Microchip) believe that security starts at the physical layer, in silicon. A clear note that Microchip listens to its customers, Microchip also showcased IoT provisioning tools. Microchip’s Zero Touch Secure Provisioning Kit for AWS IoT takes a lot of the pain out of IoT, going so far as to facilitate working on the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud.

NXP chose Arm TechCon to debut the latest release in their LPC800 series of 32-bit ARM® Cortex®-M0+ based MCUs. The power-sipping MCU has an integrated Near Field Communications (NFC) interface with energy-harvesting capability. Geoff Lees, senior vice president and general manager of the microcontroller business at NXP, said, “Normally you do NFC tagging to a phone. Now you can do direct NFC tagging direct on to an LPC800 on a board. And there’s even enough energy in the harvester to run the microcontroller.”

Guy AlLee, Product Manager for IoT in Intel’s Platform Security Division covered Intel’s Enhanced Privacy ID (EPID) in a session dedicated to IoT Security. EPID delivers a streamlined embedded identity model for Intel and Arm devices, taking some of the mystery out of a seemingly complicated process that covers security from end-to-end for IoT devices.

It’s very clear that Arm takes security seriously and has been moving toward a holistic approach to security by covering device, cloud, and edge gateways. The area that Arm will never be able to offer is common sense with regard to choosing good passwords and avoiding phishing scams that can open the door to criminal activity. However, Arm recognizes the need for security across the entire lifecycle of embedded devices. One example given by Arm CEO Simon Segars is that smart devices need care throughout the lifecycle of the device, not just at provisioning. Firmware updates are often necessary, even for devices that have made it into consumers’ homes. Segars, with a B.S. in Electrical Engineering and a Master’s in Computer Science, admitted that he nearly bricked his new $1,000 Smart TV while trying to update the firmware for the device. This aptly illustrates the need for OEMs at all levels to take responsibility for the ongoing management of smart devices all the way through product End of Life. Segars went on to illustrate Arm’s commitment to making security less painful. Arm’s cores are present in so many devices across multiple manufacturers in the semiconductor industry. Arm is ideally suited to offer a pathway for security that goes a long way to defragmenting the industry for smart devices. 

Meanwhile, in the Mouser Electronics booth, Grant signed autographs for engineers and answered questions on his electronics preferences (he uses the Arduino IDE when programming the Arduino Uno). Grant has been spokesman for Mouser for three years, completed season one of the White Rabbit Project (now on Netflix), and will be doing a West-Coast tour with teammates Tory Belleci and Kari Byron soon.

Arm TechCon will be moving to San Jose Convention Center for 2018.

In Remembrance of Grant Imahara

Well known in the engineering community, Imahara has paired his engineering expertise with a Hollywood TV and film career. In addition to his roles on Mythbusters and Battlebots, Imahara is the inventor behind many famous robotic characters - including the Star Wars prequel-era R2-D2, The Late Late Show's Craig Ferguson sidekick -Geoff Peterson, the talking robot, and the rhythmic arms on the modern day Energizer Bunny. Up to his untimely and tragic death Grant was Mouser’s beloved spokesperson and brand ambassador who shared Mouser's passion to positively influence and support innovative design. 

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