What you’ll learn:
- What’s the role of embedded systems and the IoT domain?
- How can embedded systems enhance security in connected devices?
- Latest innovations in the embedded-systems industry.
The Internet of Things (IoT), once a fanciful notion, is now establishing itself as a very real aspect of the modern lifestyle. From industrial automation to on-demand entertainment, IoT’s presence is expanding across the globe.
The development of IoT software solutions involves very specific requirements and a high degree of customization. This, in turn, has driven the need for robust developer tools that can help reduce costs associated with constructing the foundational infrastructure of IoT systems, to optimize core functionalities and accelerate the introduction of new solutions to the market.
Embedded systems are touted as key enablers for IoT development. That’s due to their unique features and characteristics, including low power consumption, high availability, low maintenance, and real-time computing abilities, among others.
These systems are essentially small computers that form part of a larger, more expansive system, designed to perform specific tasks or functions. An embedded system comprises a processing unit, such as a general-purpose microcontroller, as well as other on-board peripherals like memory (RAM, EEPROM, and program memory), oscillators, I/O ports, analog-to-digital converters, etc. Embedded computer systems can also be connected to sensors designed to gather information pertaining to the device’s environment, as well as actuators built to prompt functions within the system.
The origins of the modern global embedded-systems market can be traced back to the mid-1960s, over a decade prior to the rise of personal home computers, and nearly two decades before the emergence of the internet. One of the earliest known embedded-computer-system applications was the Apollo Guidance Computer. Launched in 1966, the device was designed to facilitate navigation, guidance, and control of the spacecraft Apollo during the lunar missions of that decade being conducted by NASA.
In the modern era, embedded systems have made their way into numerous commercial, industrial, and residential applications. They range from manufacturing systems control, to support vehicle safety features, to the powering of smart appliances and security systems for residences.
More Connected Devices Raises Cybersecurity Concerns
As the presence of IoT across the industrial landscape grows, so too does the number of connected devices. According to estimates by Arm, the number of connected devices worldwide is set to reach nearly one trillion by 2035. Given these strong projections, security has become a major concern among developers.
Greater technology complexities have also led to a cyberattack “evolution,” with security threats escalating in severity every passing year. A notable example of a deadly cyberattack was the 2015 breach of the Ukraine power-grid firmware by hackers, which led to temporary power loss for over 225,000 individuals.
As connected devices enter the market by the billion year over year, the pace of security risks continues to quicken, with developers seeking strong solutions to tackle potential threats.
Burgeoning cybersecurity concerns have also triggered a change in the embedded-systems industry. Developers are faced with a rising number and variety of embedded computer systems in the form of network, internet, or cloud-connected IoT devices.
Embedded software solutions are key factors in mitigating a majority of cyber risks for IoT devices. They help ensure seamless protection and management of embedded-system integrity as well as its components.
Thanks to their modularity, embedded systems can significantly enhance the IoT device security by thwarting the attempts of malicious programs to attack applications. This security is driven mainly by frequent firmware updates, which put up an effective layer of protection for embedded IoT systems. Also, due to regular application upgrades, which vary from field to field, substantially augment the flexibility, lifetime, and ROI value of embedded computer systems.
In March 2020, Microchip Technology introduced a series of turnkey, cloud-agnostic, full-stack embedded development solutions, ranging from small AVR and PIC microcontrollers (MCUs) for actuators and sensors to highly sophisticated microprocessor and 32-bit MCU gateway solutions designed for edge computing. The launch was a part of the company’s plan to facilitate better connections between developers and any major cloud and core, using Bluetooth, narrowband 5G, or Wi-Fi technologies, while ensuring a robust security foundation backed by its Crypto Authentication family Trust Platform.
Recent Examples of Embedded-System Innovations
To accommodate the growing number of connected devices across the globe, alongside the rapid proliferation of industrial automation, many manufacturers are targeting efforts to develop embedded solutions.
For instance, in April 2020, BlackBerry Limited unveiled its QNX Black Channel Communications Technology. The software solution is designed to cater to embedded software developers and OEMs looking for ways to ensure secure data-communication interactions within safety-critical systems.
Meanwhile, ATP Electronics also announced the launch of its SLC (single-level cell) flash-based e.MMC embedded multimedia chip, dubbed E800Pi, with a high endurance rating of over 60K P/E (program/erase) cycles. The technology, designed for use in rugged and harsh environments, was aimed at delivering ultra-high performance and endurance levels for rugged industrial applications.