As the Internet of Things (IoT) grows into an industry that is more than just hype, electronic components manufacturers are making bold moves into the connectivity space to drive adoption. One of them is Freescale Semiconductor. The semiconductor maker recently launched several new products aimed at IoT security, and announced several new programs to help establish standards and industry metrics for IoT security.
Market opportunities are huge for all players in the supply chain with forecasts in the range of 25 billion to 50 billion connected devices by 2020. In addition, enterprise adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT) is poised for huge growth over the next five years, according to new research conducted by ABI Research for Verizon Enterprise Solutions. With business-to-business (B2B) IoT connections more than quadrupling between 2014 and 2020, reaching an estimated 5.4 billion connections globally, it will have a big impact on businesses. IoT-related semiconductor sales, alone, is expected to grow 19 percent, reaching $5.6 billion in 2015, according to IC Insights.
Despite the huge growth projections, one of the biggest roadblocks to fully adopting IoT technology by businesses and consumers is security, which is one of the primary reasons for the focus on secure connections by leading industry players. Freescale cites a recent HP report that finds that many IoT end-nodes are inherently insecure, with 70 percent of evaluated devices transmitting data via unencrypted network services. The three biggest actions that manufacturers can do to secure connected devices, according to HP, are the following:
- Conduct a security review of your device and all associated components
- Implement security standards that all devices must meet before production
- Ensuring security is a consideration throughout the product lifecycle
But there are still critical security gaps that need to be filled. Freescale’s new initiatives around IoT security calls for industry partnerships to solve these and other technology challenges. In a partnership with the Embedded Microprocessor Benchmarking Consortium (EEMBC), Freescale is working with the group to identify critical embedded security gaps and collaborate with other consortium members to establish guidelines that help IoT OEMs and system designers better secure IoT transactions and endpoints.
Freescale also is establishing Freescale Security Labs – Centers of Excellence (CoEs) at its headquarters and other locations worldwide. The company will work with its partners and customers on IoT security technologies spanning from the cloud to the end-node. Freescale is making a commitment to allocate up to 10 percent of its annual R&D budget on IoT security technologies.
“Security challenges represent nothing less than an existential threat to the IoT movement, before it really has a chance to take off,” said Gregg Lowe, president and CEO of Freescale Semiconductor, in a press release. “Freescale is addressing these challenges head-on to help ensure a future where secure solutions power every node of the IoT -- from end devices to the network to the cloud.”
Freescale also plans to create a program dedicated to educating startups on IoT security best practices and providing best-in-class security support through its partner ecosystem. In addition, the company is a founding member of the Thread Group, an industry alliance focused on creating a secure, low-power network for the connected home, and driving adoption of the Thread protocol.
As part of its innovation programs, Freescale also announced that is expanding its long-term partnership with Alcatel-Lucent’s research arm Bell on advanced wireless technology. A range of new initiatives will focus on driving innovation in virtualized networks. Among the projects include R&D targeting the move towards 5G wireless access networks, and the convergence between wireline and wireless technologies.
The semiconductor manufacturer has already made significant advances in the area of new product development for secure controllers and power management for IoT devices. A few of the most recent product introductions include the i.MX 6SoloX applications processor, Kinetis V series microcontroller family, and Li-Ion and Li-Polymer BC3770 charger.
Available in volume quantities, the Freescale i.MX 6SoloX is a highly integrated, multi-market applications processor enabling secure connected home, Internet of Things, and connected vehicles applications. The SoC incorporates cryptographic cipher engines, a configurable resource domain controller that allows peripherals to be locked or shared by the CPU cores, and a secure messaging semaphore unit that enables cooperative, multi-OS software to safely access shared peripherals.
Other features include advanced secure boot and protected data storage. “These advanced hardware capabilities enable users to architect custom security solutions based on unique market requirements,” said Freescale. For more information, go to: www.freescale.com/iMX6SoloX.
Freescale expects the new Kinetis KV5x MCU family to enable a new generation of secure, connected and highly efficient motor control applications. The KV5x MCU with the ARM Cortex-M7 Core targets digital motor control systems with secure networking capabilities, delivering increased motor efficiency, remote system management and end-node interoperability via the IoT to a variety of applications ranging from home appliances to complex industrial drives. The Kinetis KV5x MCU incorporates an IEEE 1588 Ethernet controller, a cryptographic acceleration unit with random number generator and a memory protection unit.
“With motors often employed in safety-critical environments such as manufacturing process control, these features allow developers to implement new services via the IoT infrastructure while protecting against erroneous inputs that could lead to an undesired operating condition,” said Freescale. Samples should be available in Q2 2015, with production-qualified products planned for late Q3 2015. For more information, go to: www.freescale.com/Kinetis/Vseries.
Freescale also expanded its power management portfolio to support portable IoT devices and systems, including wearables, with the launch of the single-cell, Li-Ion and Li-Polymer BC3770 charger. The dual-path battery charger is fully programmable, along with featuring a small form factor and supporting fast charging for portable embedded systems, such as those based on Freescale’s i.MX applications processors and Kinetis MCU products.
The battery charger also addresses three of the biggest design issues: efficiency, space and cost. The BC3770 charger and boost regulator circuits switch at 1.5 MHz, which minimize the size of external passive components. The BC3770 battery charger is available now in production quantities from Freescale and authorized distributors. For more information, go to: http://www.freescale.com/Battery.