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IoT Security, Software Are Highlighted at ARM TechCon

Friday, November 13th, 2015


By Jeff Dorsch, Contributing Editor

Many people are aware of the Internet of Things concept. What they want to know now is how to secure the IoT and how to develop code for it.

Plenty of vendors on hand for the ARM TechCon conference and exposition in Santa Clara, Calif. this week were offering solutions on both counts. And there were multiple presentations in the three-day conference program devoted to both subjects.

Mentor Graphics, for instance, spoke about “Use Cases for ARM TrustZone Benefits of HW-Enforced Partitioning and OS Separation.” MediaTek presented on “Secured Communication Between Devices and Clouds with LinkIt ONE and mbedTLS.” And so on.

ARM CEO Simon Segars said in his keynote address that security and trust are one of the key principles in the Internet of Things (the others being connectivity and partnership across the ecosystem). Security and trust, he asserted, must be “at every level baked into the hardware, before you start layering software on top.”

James Bruce, ARM’s director of mobile solutions, addressed the security topic at length in an interview at the conference. ARM is taking a holistic approach to security through its TrustZone technology, he said, describing it as “a great place to put [network] keys.”

With microcontrollers, the chips often used in IoT devices, TrustZone makes sure sensitive data is “inaccessible to normal software,” Bruce said. At the same time, “you want to make devices easy to update,” he added.

ARM wants to enable its worldwide ecosystem of partners to stay ahead of cyberattacks and other online dangers, according to Bruce. “That’s why we’re doing the groundwork now,” he said.

The reaction of ARM partners to the introduction of TrustZone CryptoCells and the new ARMv8-M architecture for embedded devices has been “very positive,” Bruce said, adding, “Security can’t be an afterthought.”

Ron Ih, senior manager of marketing and business development in the Security Products Group at Atmel, described standard encryption as “only a piece” of security measures. “Authentication is a key part,” he said.

Atmel was touting its Certified-ID platform at ARM TechCon, featuring the ATECC508A cryptographic co-processor. Ih cited the “made for iPhone” chips that Apple requires of its partners developing products to complement the smartphone, ensuring ecosystem control. “You either have the chip or you don’t,” he said.

“People don’t care about the devices,” Ih concluded. “They care about who the devices are connected to.”

Simon Davidmann, president and chief executive officer of Imperas Software, is a veteran of the electronic design automation field, and he brings his experience to bear in the area of embedded software development.

Software, especially for the IoT, is “getting so complex, you can’t do what you used to do,” he said. “The software world has to change. Nobody should build software without simulation.”

At the same time, simulation is “necessary but not sufficient” in software development, he said. Code developers should be paying attention to abstractions, assertions, verification, and other aspects, according to Davidmann.

“Our customers are starting to adopt virtual platforms,” he added.

Jean Labrosse, president and CEO of MIcrium, a leading provider of real-time operating system kernels and other software components, said “the industry is changing” with the onset of the Internet of Things. Multiple-core chips are entering into the mix – not only for their low-power attributes, but for the safety and security they can provide, he noted.

Jeffrey Fortin, director of product management at Wind River and a specialist in IoT platforms, spoke on the last day of the conference on “Designing for the Internet of Things: The Technology Behind the Hype.”

Wind River, now an Intel subsidiary, has been around for more than three decades, developing “an embedded operating system that could be connected to other systems,” he said.

There are two business interests driving IoT demand, according to Fortin – business optimization and business transformation. He described the IoT as “using data to feed actionable analytics.”

The foundation of the IoT is hardware and software that provides safety and security, Fortin said.

Colt McAnlis of Google (Photo by Jeff Dorsch)

In the final keynote of ARM TechCon, Google developer advocate Colt McAnlis spoke on “The Hard Things About the Internet of Things.”

IoT technology, at present, is “not optimizing the user,” he said in a frequently funny and witty presentation. Networking and battery issues are bedeviling the IoT ecosystem, he asserted.

By draining the batteries of mobile devices with near-constant signals, such as setting location via GPS, companies are imposing “a taxation system for every single thing [IoT] does,” McAnlis said. “We’re talking about how often we’re sampling. People are already realizing this sucks.”

Beacons installed in a shopping mall can bombard smartphone users with advertising and coupons, he noted, while the property management gets data on specifics of foot traffic. “Imagine this at scale,” installed on every block of San Francisco, he added.

“We have a chance to not make this a reality,” McAnlis asserted. “We need IoT technology to make this not suck for users.”

At the end of his keynote, McAnlis asked the attendees to hold up their smartphones and vow, “I solemnly agree not to screw this up.”

ARM CEO Celebrates 500 Years of Connectivity

Wednesday, November 11th, 2015

By Jeff Dorsch, Contributing Editor

“Realize that everything connects to everything else,” Leonardo da Vinci said some five centuries ago.

Simon Segars, chief executive officer of ARM Holdings, took that quotation as the theme for his ARM TechCon keynote address on Wednesday morning (November 11), which was entitled “Building Trust in a Connected World.”

ARM CEO Simon Segars

“The future is dependent on the connections we make,” Segars commented.

He reviewed the history of significant products in the 20th century – automobiles, vacuum cleaners, DVD players, et al. – and noted how their pricing was reduced through “optimizing supply chains,” he said.

In 2015, “smartphones are essentially free,” Segars said. Pulling together all the capabilities and components that go into smartphones today would cost $3.56 million in 1990, the year ARM was established, he estimated. He displayed a RadioShack advertisement from 25 years ago with a page full of consumer electronics – all of which are now contained in smartphones.

In the 21st century, “the world has moved on,” Segars observed. Modern industry involves “planetary ecosystems,” he said, enabling worldwide contributions to developing the Internet of Things.

“Let’s take the opportunity to get IoT right,” Segars said, noting its development will depend on connectivity, based on common standards; security and trust; and partnerships across the ecosystem.

Automotive vehicles, medical electronics, and “smart cities” are key areas where the IoT will find growth prospects, the ARM CEO said.

“Cars are getting smarter,” Segars said, noting that the average vehicle contains hundreds of microcontrollers. It is estimated that 40 percent of the cars in the U.S. will have Long-Term Evolution (LTE) connectivity by 2019, he added.

As he went deeper into the topic of Internet-connected cars, a fire alarm went off in the crowded Mission City Ballroom of the Santa Clara Convention Center. Segars, the son of a fireman, directed the attendees to leave the building, interrupting the keynote address.

When the alarm proved to be false, the keynote resumed, with Segars bringing on three industry executives for a panel session. They were Paul Beckwith of the Progressive Group of Insurance Companies, Coby Sella of ARM, and Balaji Yelamanchili of Symantec.

“We talk about trust,” Sella said. “You have to analyze the risk factors.”

Yelamanchili said, “A lot of times, security is an afterthought.” For the IoT, security measures must be built into the chips and systems involved, he asserted.

To prevent data leakage, “these devices and how you connect these devices are purpose-built,” he added.

Beckwith said “our brand is at risk” if everything in the IoT is not secure.

Sella noted, “We are very much at the beginning” of IoT technology.

Segars asked the panelists what IoT will look like in five years.

“We have to do our best to make sure the security is built in,” Yelamanchili said. “There are enormous opportunities out there.”

Sella said, “We will start to see horizontal play in IoT. It depends on our ability to drive this forward.”

Beckwith commented that the industry will have to “react quicker” to security challenges and data-breach episodes.

ARM debuts embedded architecture, new 64-bit processor

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015

By Jeff Dorsch, Contributing Editor

November 10, 2015 — ARM Holdings today is introducing the ARMv8-M architecture for embedded devices and the ARM Cortex-A35 64-bit processor as the company opens the annual ARM TechCon conference and exposition in Santa Clara, Calif.

Advanced RISC Machines Ltd. was established 25 years ago this month as a joint venture among Acorn Computers, Apple Computer (now Apple), and VLSI Technology. The company changed its name to ARM Ltd. in 1998 and went public as ARM Holdings on the London Stock Exchange and NASDAQ.


ARM CEO Simon Segars

At this week’s ARM TechCon event, attendees will hear keynote addresses by CEO Simon Segars and Chief Technology Officer Mike Muller. There will be presentations by Google, Oracle, and Twentieth Century Fox on the main stage of the conference. ARM TechCon runs through Thursday, November 12, at the Santa Clara Convention Center.

The ARMv8-M architecture is intended to address “the growing billions of endpoint devices” in the Internet of Things, says Nandan Nayampally, vice president of marketing for ARM’s CPU Group. It encompasses providing the ARM TrustZone security technology for IoT devices, which will work in concert with TrustZone CryptoCell and AMBA 5 AHB5 to secure ultra-low-power systems.

Device integrity is the goal of the embedded architecture, according to Nayampally. “We need every component along the chain to be secure,” he says.

In addition to device integrity, ARM aims to provide lifecycle security and communication security, Nayampally adds.

“The baseline for all this is trusted hardware,” Nayampally says. “TrustZone has been very successful; it’s been around for a decade.”

ARMv8-M targets Cortex-M embedded processors, he notes. The new architecture aims at “microcontrollers up to the smartphone generation and to the enterprise,” Nayampally says.

For the benefit of embedded-device developers, “you have to be real-time,” Nayampally says. “You have to be really small. We cannot compromise on that.”

ARMv8-M will be supported by a number of third-party tool suppliers, including Mentor Graphics, Micrium, Green Hills Software, and Symantec.

The ARM Cortex-A35 processor has already been licensed to multiple customers and will be found in devices by the end of next year, says Ian Smythe, director of marketing programs for the CPU Group. “Each partner will announce on their own schedule,” he adds.

The 64-bit processor is “targeted at mobile,” Smythe says. Half of smartphones shipped this year will include chips with the ARMv8-A architecture, he notes. ARM and Gartner are predicting 1 billion entry-level smartphones will ship in 2020, as the entry-level smartphone market enjoys a compound annual growth rate of 8 percent.

The Cortex-A35 consumes 10% less power than the Cortex-A7, according to Smythe, and offers performance improvements of 6 percent to 40 percent in various functions.

Compared with the Cortex-A53 processor, the Cortex-A35 has a 25 percent smaller core, 32 percent lower power consumption, and 25 percent greater efficiency, Smythe says. ARM touts the Cortex-A35 as an ultra-high-efficiency processor, suitable to succeed the Cortex-A5 and Cortex-A7 in entry-level smartphones.

“The ARM Cortex-A35 processor brings efficient, secure 64-bit processing to the next billion smartphones,” Smythe concludes.

ARM CTO looks forward and backward in keynote

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015

UPDATE 15 December 2015: Minor changes made to reflect correct ARM product nomenclature.

By Jeff Dorsch, Contributing Editor

“Innovation is still thriving in semiconductors,” said Mark Muller, chief technology officer of ARM Holdings, in a keynote address Tuesday morning (November 10) at the ARM TechCon conference and exposition in Santa Clara, Calif.

“We’ve always had constraints on what we can do,” he added. Still, “there’s an incredible amount of innovation ahead of us.”

ARM CTO Mike Muller describes the company's strategy, upside in server opportunities, and technology's march towards the IoT.

With ARM marking its 25th anniversary this month, Muller briefly reviewed the history of the company and the technology that preceded its establishment, harking back to the BBC Micro Model A/B computer of 1981 and the 1985 introduction of the ARM1 processor. The BBC Micro has ultimately led to this year’s introduction of the BBC micro:bit single-board computer, which is being provided for free to 10-year-old and 11-year-old schoolchildren in the United Kingdom.

Muller talked about ARM’s progress in getting its designs into server chips, with “multiple manufacturers” shipping ARM-based servers, he noted. Such servers are being implemented at the Barcelona Supercomputing Center in Spain and at Sandia National Laboratories, Muller said.

Moving on, Muller said, “Mobile computing has been transformed.” While the annual growth rate of mobile devices is expected to decline to 10 percent by 2020, such “not bad” growth will primarily be coming from entry-level smartphones by the end of the decade, he added.

The CTO touted “a truly remarkable product,” the ARM Cortex-A35 processor, being introduced at this week’s conference. Chips with that processor design will be able to run on less than 6 milliwatts, he said.

At the same time, Muller said of ARM’s product strategy, “It’s so much more than processors.” The company aspires to provide “all of the IP [intellectual property] you need,” he said to the designers in attendance.

Muller enthused about what he called “the product of the year,” an energy-harvesting Bluetooth Low Energy insulin pen designed by Cambridge Consultants, incorporating a Dialog Semiconductor chip. The KiCoPen concept has no battery, he noted. Using piezoelectric technology, it derives its energy from the injector cap being removed from the pen.

The ARM executive also addressed the security issue with the Internet of Things and related products. “We’re under attack in a way we never were before,” Muller said.

“How do we make a $1 microcontroller design done by people with no security experience, secure?” he asked.

ARM also introduced the TrustZone CryptoCell security technology this week, along with its ARMv8-M architecture for embedded devices.

“The hardware is the easy part,” Muller commented. With the IoT, there are familiar problems in chip and system design, “times trust,” he said.

“You have to be able to secure them,” Muller said of IoT devices. “You share that trust around you.”

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