Thursday, July 20, 2017

OT-Morpho boosts LoRaWAN security

By Nick Flaherty
European security developer OT-Morpho has joined the LoRa long range wireless Alliance, providing a boost for secure authentication of LoRa-based LPWAN networks.

The company, formed from the combination of OT (Oberthur Technologies) in Germany and Safran Identity & Security (Morpho) in France in May 2017. The company has almost €3bn in revenues and more than 14,000 employees.

“Our membership in LoRa ideally complements our global Internet of Things (IoT) business strategy,” said Yves Portalier, OT-Morpho, Vice President and General Manager, Telecom, at Morpho. “The IoT enables an explosion of possibilities for connected objects, ranging from smart home and healthcare to industry applications. IoT device manufacturers, platform and cloud service providers can easily implement our solutions and thus expand their secure IoT ecosystem.” and

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Helium uses sub-GHz 802.15.4 for secure IoT connections

By Nick Flaherty

US startup Helium has launched a suite of products to provide a comprehensive low-power, long-range solution for IoT devices.

The system uses a long range star network protocol built on the 802.15.4 standard physical layer used by Zigbee and Thread to provide data rates up to 250kbit/s dynamically switching between two frequency bands in the sub-GHz 915MHz and 868MHz bands. Running on a low power ARM Cortex-M4 processor, and sub-GHz RF front end, this gives a range of up to 10 miles and a battery life of up to 3 years on two AA cells.

Securely capturing and transmitting data from the hardware to the application layer is highly problematic for most organisations, who are faced with the challenges of configuring, securing and managing massive numbers of devices. Helium hides this complexity and offers this as a service by including the links to the encryption chips in the MAC layer as an integral part of the wireless module design. Dust Network, now part of Linear Technology and Analog Devices, did pretty much the same thing, and is currently being used for Advantech's IoT rollout.

The Helium Atom wireless modules are available as surface mount for production use, or in a small XBee form-factor for prototyping with Raspberry Pi, mBed, Arduino and many more. The company is also releasing an open source C/C++ client library to simplify sending and receive encrypted sensor data wirelessly .

The company changed direction in May to focus on this technology, dropping its own cloud-based service and using public providers instead. 

"Connectivity is extraordinarily complicated when dealing with resource-constrained embedded devices," said Amir Haleem, CEO of Helium. "Helium has taken a process that normally takes months of labour-intensive work from a large team and simplified it to a process that can be achieved in minutes with minimal staff, and provides the visibility and control needed to manage at scale going forward."

Helium's main offering is a central console, the Helium Dashboard, that eliminating the need to visit every sensor in the field, which is a common challenge of remote field monitoring. Helium Dashboard also serves as a central point for Helium Channels, the setup and integration of the cloud applications and data stores used to assess and take action on these physical data.

"Although there has been great progress made in the areas of IoT hardware and cloud software, there are still major technical and economic challenges in getting connectivity to the edge point to gather and deliver data," said Rob Bamforth, Principal Analyst at Quocirca. "Simplifying and lowering costs of connectivity deployment would remove a significant barrier to mass IoT adoption in several industries."

The new products work out of the box with all existing sensor hardware and a wide range of IoT cloud applications with little-to-no configuration. The atom modules can cost as little as $19, with $29 per Element Access Point, and a simple $1.99 per month per installed Atom with no usage or data fees, Helium eliminates upcharges and most add-on costs that are increasingly a challenge for IoT roll outs. Helium says using 802.15.4 ensures that it can support IoT hardware and software regardless of the changes in IoT technology.

The key features include most of the things we cover on the Embedded blog regularly:
  • Zero configuration for simple installation and setup at scale
  • Compatibility across hundreds of hardware providers
  • Extremely long range connectivity, on the order of many city-blocks in dense urban applications and hundreds of square miles in sparse rural settings
  • IEEE standards-based hardware provides maximum flexibility for changing business demands with no proprietary lock-in
  • Hardware-based security to ensure data is encrypted and devices authenticated, end to end
  • Over-the-air updating and bi-directional communication to provide future-proofing, up-to-date software and further protection from security risks
  • Helium Channels provide interoperability with all major cloud providers such as Microsoft Azure, Amazon AWS IoT, and Google Cloud Platform IoT Core
  • Full visibility and management enabled by Helium Dashboard
Having control of the whole protocol stack allows for an integrated security implementation. All the Helium devices are automatically authenticated to the network using a unique hardware-stored key, and the Device-to-cloud and cloud-to-device communication is encrypted end to end via AES256. 

A securely authenticated and authorized control-plane allows users to confirm that control instructions are between trusted devices and third party Channel connections, with appropriate permissions (turn on valves, set off alarms, turn off machinery, etc.) and  X509 certificates used on AWS, Azure, Google and others are signed by a different set of unique per-device private keys in hardware.

Related stories:

Bluetooth finally launches mesh capability

By Nick Flaherty

The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) has finally announced its mesh networking to connect multiple systems together as a part of the Internet of Things (IoT).

The new mesh capability for Bluetooth 4 and 5 enables many-to-many (m:m) device communications and is optimised for creating large-scale device networks. It is aimed at building automation, sensor networks and other IoT solutions where tens, hundreds, or thousands of devices need to reliably and securely communicate with one another.

“By adding support for mesh networking, the Bluetooth member community is continuing a long history of focused innovation to help new, up-and-coming markets flourish,” said Mark Powell, executive director for Bluetooth SIG. “In the same way the connected device market experienced rapid growth after the introduction of Bluetooth Low Energy, we believe Bluetooth mesh networking can play a vital role in helping early stage markets, such as building automation and wireless sensor networks, experience more rapid growth.”

The specification includes self-healing so that a failing node can be avoided in networks with thousands of sensors and actuaors. It also provides industrial-grade security for protection against all known attacks.

The spec provides a full stack implementation that defines the low-level radio up to the high-level application layer, ensuring all aspects of the technology are fully specified and can be tested for interoperability.

Time and time again it has been shown that markets flourish when multi-vendor interoperability exists, says the SIG. A key reason why the SIG spec if important is the proven, global interoperability that assures products from different vendors work together. Comprehensive, multi-vendor interoperability testing is conducted during the specification development process, not after specification release, which is why this has taken longer than expected.

“Multi-vendor interoperability is a major factor in determining how fast markets develop,” said Russ Sharer, VP Global Marketing and Business Development, Fulham. “Fulham is excited to finally see a wireless, multi-vendor, interoperable standard for lighting controls and we believe Bluetooth mesh networking will greatly expand the size and functionality of the market.”

A mesh network built using Bluetooth technology can support additional services, such as asset tracking and way finding

“Within the building automation market, there is a growing focus on connected lighting and the role it can play as a platform for providing automation services throughout a facility,” said Szymon Slupik, president and CTO of Silvair and chairman of the mesh working group within the Bluetooth SIG. “A smart lighting platform built on top of Bluetooth mesh networking can also support asset tracking, point of interest, and way-finding services. These value-added capabilities are part of why we believe Bluetooth is an ideal technology for enabling a mesh network.”

The Bluetooth mesh networking specifications, as well as the tools required to qualify Bluetooth products with mesh networking support, are now available at the Bluetooth website. Bluetooth mesh networking operates on Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) and is compatible with core specification version 4.0 and higher.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Octocore cPCI server blade targets 35W power envelope

By Nick Flaherty

Kontron has developed a prototype 6U CompactPCI server blade using the latest Intel Xeon D-1500 processors with up to 16 cores. The 8 core version targets a 35W envelope at 1.6GHz.

The CP6006-SA has been designed specifically for multi-CPU server-class applications in demanding embedded environments with a longer product lifetime. A more powerful variant with 2.0 GHz targets a TDP of 45W.

Up to 64 GB of DDR4 ECC memory allows virtualization support, when many virtualized tasks require separated memory. This amounts to a fourfold increase compared to the memory support usually found in cPCI systems. This makes the CP6006 suited to servers and computing nodes, where ordinary server systems do not meet the embedded requirements for robustness and longevity.

The CP6006X-SA variant offers a significantly higher data throughput via PCI Express 3.0 and 2x 10 Gigabit Ethernet on the backplane for compute intense applications such as sonar, radar and video stream analytics in commercial avionics and the defence sector. It is also aimed at embedded telecoms, industrial automation and medical image processing applications.

The blades support Kontron’s APPROTECT security technology. This uses an integrated security chip in tandem with a specifically developed software framework that provides full IP, copy and reverse engineering protection. APPROTECT Licensing enables new business models such as 'pay per use' or time-based trial versions, as it can be used to easily enable or disable features via a predetermined set of variables. For additional hardware and software security measures Kontron’s CP6006-SA also ships with a Trusted Platform Module (TPM 2.0) as standard.

The CP6006-SA is available now as a prototype for testing purposes and regular production is scheduled in the next several months.

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Bluetooth mesh kit cuts IoT developer time by six months

By Nick Flaherty

Silicon Labs has launched a comprehensive suite of software and hardware that supports the new Bluetooth mesh specification to cut development time of projects for the Internet of Things. 

The new Bluetooth mesh uses the company’s proven mesh networking expertise and includes development tools, a software stack, and mobile apps supporting Silicon Labs’ wireless system-on-chip (SoC) devices and certified modules. The combination of Silicon Labs’ patented network analysis tools and Bluetooth mesh stack for smartphones enables IoT developers to cut time to market by up to six months when compared to existing wireless development tools and techniques.

Bluetooth mesh devices are ideal for smart home, lighting, beacons and asset tracking applications. A mesh network enables devices, such as connected lights, to be deployed at greater distances from a hub or gateway. As each light is deployed, the communication range increases, allowing a single gateway to cover an area larger than one that is simply covered by a star network topology. In retail marketing and asset tracking applications, Bluetooth mesh technology simplifies the deployment and management of beacons. By combining Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) with mesh networking, new capabilities and value can be introduced into devices such as connected lights which can also serve as beacons or beacon scanners.

“Bluetooth is the next frontier in mesh networking, and Silicon Labs’ new Bluetooth mesh software and tools keep us at the forefront of this rapidly emerging ‘many-to-many’ network topology,” said Richard Baxter, President and CEO of Mesh Systems, an IoT software, services and solution provider. “From easy-to-use development kits to mobile applications that help us connect devices seamlessly, we rely on Silicon Labs’ deep expertise in mesh technology to give us the hardware and software resources we need to increase productivity and speed development time so our customers can better compete in today’s IoT race.”

The certified wireless modules and SoCs include the world’s smallest Bluetooth system-in-package (SiP) module (BGM11S) and the latest EFR32BG13 Blue Gecko SoCs. Modules with integrated antennas provide a fast, cost-effective means to design Bluetooth mesh-enabled products. Blue Gecko SoCs offer large memory options to support over-the-air (OTA) updates, as well as advanced features such as hardware security acceleration, capacitive sensing, low-power sensor interfaces and enhanced RF performance.

Silicon Labs’ mobile application for smartphones allows designers to verify the operation of Bluetooth mesh-based implementations with a commercially supported Bluetooth mesh library and source code to streamline design.

The Simplicity Studio software tools including patented network analysis and packet trace technology, energy profiling and visual application configuration. Software compatibility across Silicon Labs’ portfolio of wireless SoCs and modules enables broad software reuse and reduced development time and cost.

Silicon Labs has shipped more than 100 million mesh networking SoCs and modules to date and has more than 15 years of experience in developing standards-based mesh networking solutions for customers worldwide. 

“We expect to see a wave of new devices hit the market quickly by leveraging ubiquitous Bluetooth connectivity to create hub-less mesh networks that extend the range and reliability of Bluetooth systems,” said Daniel Cooley, Senior Vice President and General Manager of IoT products at Silicon Labs. “No matter which mesh technology developers choose to power their next IoT designs, we offer a complete portfolio of silicon, software and solutions that gives device makers everything they need to accelerate time to market while designing secure, robust mesh networks.”

The Bluetooth mesh software development tools and software stack are available now free of charge to customers with registered Bluetooth mesh development kits from Silicon Labs. Wireless Gecko SoCs, Bluetooth modules and wireless starter kits for Bluetooth mesh applications are available now from Silicon Labs and authorized distributors with more information at

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Next generation rack mounted systems highlight the importance of embedded applications

By Nick Flaherty

Embedded system designer Crystal Group has redesigned its rugged rack mount computer system for the latest Intel Xeon Skylake processors, targeting sensor fusion, AI and video processing applications.

The next generation of Crystal Group's rugged rackmount products include a host of robust enhancements including a substantial jump in compute performance, greater scalability, increased security, and even more agility to adapt to changing technologies. The improved capabilities are critical in today's rapid technology transformations.

"Translating evolving technology into direct benefits for our customers is one of our most important responsibilities to the market," says Jim Shaw, Executive Vice President of Engineering at Crystal. "We are taking full advantage of the new Xeon Scalable Processor architecture to build our next generation of rugged rack mount computers. These devices will deliver the most advanced solution, optimised to withstand tough conditions such as shock, vibration, extreme temperature, sand and dust under full CPU load."
The rugged rackmount computers is aimed at a variety of applications requiring high compute capability, reliability and performance in harsh environments including:
  • Artificial intelligence (AI)
  • Autonomous vehicles
  • Communications
  • Monitoring & surveillance
  • Sensor fusion
  • Signal awareness
  • Situation analysis
  • Spectrum analysis
  • Video recording
The boards will be available in the fourth quarter of 2017.

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Murata teams with ST Micro and Sigfox for dual use LoRa IoT networks

By Nick Flaherty

Murata is working with STMicro and SigFox to port the SigFox stack to co-exist alongside the LoRa stack on Murata’s small form factor Type ABZ LoRaWAN module. 

This allows the module to support both the LoRa and SigFox networks worldwide from a single hardware design. This approach allows customers to decide which network technology serves the application best depending on location, service requirements and cost.

“By combining these two complementary technologies, we have produced a module suitable for the many different kinds of applications our customers wish to use it for. The interoperability of the module will also encourage new customers to enter the market,” said Samir Hennaoui, Product Manager at Murata.
Both networks offer similar low-power wide area network (LPWAN) capabilities, targeting applications in smart meters, facility management, asset tracking, and a range of other uses in the IoT space. While each has differences, the common goal is network coverage with good Quality of Service (QoS). By supporting both standards, Murata’s module can also bridge both networks, providing even greater deployment flexibility by allowing a dual-mode operation from a single firmware package that can be used globally.

As the first major vendor to offer an LPWAN module that supports both LoRa and SigFox, Murata expects to achieve a leading position in this market while giving customers greater solution longevity and robustness. For example, in the event of a network problem on one network, customer applications would be able to easily switch to the other protocol, this offering redundancy of communications links.

The ABZ LoRaWAN module uses an STMicro STM32-based wireless microcontroller and SX1276 Semtech radio front end operating in the 806-930MHz frequency band and provides a nominal output power of +14 dBm that can be boosted to +20 dBm for long range or poor signal location applications. STMicro is a key partner for Murata, and STMicro are responsible for the development of the SigFox firmware. SigFox European certification of the module has been completed and certification for the US and Asia-Pacific regions is scheduled to be completed next. The firmware will be made available by STMicro through its website.

For more information to check stocks, please visit

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Ariel Technologies raises $1.7m for WiFi home sensors

By Nick Flaherty

Montreal-based Aerial Technologies has raised US$1.7m to commercialise its AI-based WiFi home sensor technology.

The software uses distortions in the Wi-Fi energy signals in the household to develop Wi-Fi fingerprints that enable the software to detect movement and presence and recognise people and activities. The key is that this uses existing WiFi routers with cloud-based AI software, highlighting the increasing convergence of AI and cloud-service for embedded designs.

The technology was conceived by Michel Allegue based on IP that originated at McGill University, Rutgers University and Steven´s Institute of Technology. As people, pets and inorganic objects move around at home or in the office, they distort and disrupt the Wi-Fi signals in predictable ways. Aerial processes these distortions to add context and meaning to motion allowing the recognition of presence, motion, activity and identity. Aerial software can be embedded in virtually any Wi-Fi network equipment or device and does not require wearables or other sensors to work. 

"We are delighted to be working with such a select group of investors and we believe that their interest validates the immense potential of Aerial's novel approach to motion detection for the Wi-Fi home," said David Grant, CEO of Aerial Technologies. "With their support, we are now well positioned to accelerate the commercialization of our motion interface with some of the most important telecommunication companies in the world."

Early applications include Presence Awareness and Motion Detection, Home Intrusion Detection, Smart air conditioning energy optimisation, healthcare and elderly care monitory services, and intelligent motion awareness. The technology, already in pilot with several large Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and Multi Service Operators (MSOs), will be deployed into existing equipment offered through these service providers.

The CA$2.25m convertible note financing was led by Fonds Innovexport and successful entrepreneur and investor Jean-François Grenon. Strategic investors include Kibo Ventures, a Spanish-based VC firm which has Grupo Telefónica as one of the main investors in the fund and Wayra, part of Telefónica Open Future_network, and Quebecor Group, a leading Canadian integrated communications company. Angel investors linked to Montreal-based incubator TandemLaunch also joined the round.

The technology was conceived by Michel Allegue, CTO, based on IP that originated at McGill University, Rutgers University and Steven´s Institute of Technology. As people, pets and inorganic objects move in the mess of Wi-Fi signals already in your home or office, they distort and disrupt these Wi-Fi signals in predictable ways. Aerial processes these distortions to add context and meaning to motion allowing the recognition of presence, motion, activity and identity. Aerial software can be embedded in virtually any Wi-Fi network equipment or device and does not require wearables or other sensors to work.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Power news this week

By Nick Flaherty at

. Siemens and AES combine their storage battery businesses
. Helix samples its first power chip
. ETAL opens power R&D and manufacturing centre in UK


. Battery charges in seconds
. 3D stacked solar collector cell tops 44% efficiency
. Fluorescence helps make electric vehicle batteries safer


. New process boosts ESD protection diodes for high-speed interfaces in mobile devices
. Deep trench process boosts Schottky diode performance
. Micro-power voltage detector provides reset signal for digital systems

Ericsson's Stamford Bridge deal shows service trend for embedded designs

By Nick Flaherty

Building a WiFi product is no longer enough for embedded systems developers, as highlighted by today's deal between Ericsson and Chelsea Football Club’s home stadium in London.

Free Wi-Fi coverage across Stamford Bridge will be provided via a 'Small Cell as a Service' where Ericsson designs, builds and operates the network, including designing and building its own WiFi devices. Offering the network as a service can help to offset the higher costs of the chip development.

Many fans used their smartphones to share photos and videos via social media, often stretching cellular networks to the limit. So Ericsson will design, build and operate a carrier-grade Wi-Fi access network and then manage it on Chelsea FC’s behalf.

In 2015, Legia Warsaw became the first football club in Europe to sign a Small Cell as a Service contract with Ericsson. In 2016, Ericsson became the connectivity partner for the Ricoh Arena stadium in Coventry, England, home to Aviva Premiership rugby team Wasps and Wasps Netball.

However, this leads to more fundamental challenges for system developers. Installing a series of small cells around a stadium is the first step, but then there are wider embedded networking issues.

Zeetta Networks is working with the Aston Gate Stadium in Bristol on a large-scale demonstrator of its Software Defined Networking technology

The £1.8m project see the NetOS software deployed throughout the stadium to connect tens of thousands of devices including mobile phones; cash tills; turnstiles; display screens; HVAC; sensors and building management systems, all with software that is easy to set up, monitor and reconfigure in real time. Zeetta will also develop a programmable platform for new services by extracting data analytics from the network for new software apps.

“Stadia and other large venues, across the UK and beyond, are challenged by their consumer need for more data and faster response time particularly as they scale up their activities into new business areas,” said Vassilis Seferidis, CEO of Zeetta Networks. “This first-of-a-kind deployment forms a key part of our business plan by demonstrating our technological capabilities and the resulting commercial benefits for our customers.” 

“We’ve been working with Zeetta Networks for the last 12 months and it is exciting to see the potential uses of this system unfold,” said Martin Griffiths, chairman of Ashton Gate. “Sports stadia across the globe struggle with connectivity and real-time evaluation of data. I believe we are just scratching the surface of what this NetOS platform can deliver and look forward to seeing its implementation over the coming year. Using Ashton Gate Stadium as a live test lab I’m confident that we will be able to drive greater fan engagement along with significant returns to our businesses.”

Related stories

Chinese RTOS platform vendor creates alliance for smart cities and energy IoT

By Nick Flaherty

Envision Energy in Shanghai has created an open-platform alliance that connects energy pioneers and IoT technology innovators to accelerate the digitalisation of clean energy.

The 'Energy IoT and Smart City Technology Alliance' consists of Envision, Microsoft, Accenture and others to use the Envision EnOS IoT platform. This enables users to build, deploy and operate energy management applications efficiently and reliably by combining real time computing with connectivity, a device library and a big data platform.

Microsoft's Azure Cloud Platform provides secure and flexible data storage and computing; and Accenture's Enterprise Service expertise ensures a seamless application integration process. Envision also intends to use ARM's web-based mbed development tools to collect intelligence from physical assets to EnOS.

"The old energy paradigm is breaking down and will be replaced by a new era of energy. Envision is leading a global energy technology revolution in an open and collaborative way. The purpose of this alliance is to accelerate the digital transition and solve challenges through great team work. Together we are dedicated to making the new era of beautiful energy a near-term reality," said Envision founder and CEO Lei Zhang.

"The powerful combination of Microsoft's Cloud and Envision's IoT platform will help millions of enterprises and consumers in hundreds of cities across the world to embrace digital transformation, creating a new benchmark for the entire energy industry," said Alan Crozier, Corporate Vice President, Chairman and CEO of Microsoft's Greater China Region.

Going forward, the Energy IoT and Smart City Technology Alliance will focus on enhancing technological and network exchanges and beneficial business practices among its member companies.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Circular AMOLED modules target wearable applications - video

By Nick Flaherty

andersDX has launched a round colour AMOLED display for wearable and instrumentation applications, complementing the circular PMOLED and touchscreen modules that it already offers. 

“The new circular colour AMOLED module brings the coolest display technology around to the wearable and hand held instrument market," said Paul Hooper, Display Group Manager at andersDX. "I can’t overstate the impact this technology makes on the user: with all-round viewability, a high contrast ratio and exceptional appearance. These displays are economic for relatively low volume applications, allowing industrial, medical and specialist consumer customers to create a user interface that puts their product in a class of its own.”

The module is 1.3” in diameter, but can be customised to suit the individual application. It features a 360(RGB) × 360 dot matrix display with a brightness of 350 cd/m2. The module is just 0.6mm thick and has a rated operating temperature of -20° to 60°C. andersDX is also offering a 1.13” diameter Passive Matrix OLED TFT from Truly. A new range of circular TFT displays will be added to the portfolio in the coming weeks.

The display technology is based on a Low Temperature Poly-silicon (LTPS) backplane with a pixel density up to 500 PPI, and andersDX is offering AMOLED displays of up to 6" initially, increasing to 10.1"in the future.

Friday, July 14, 2017

u-blox starts narrowband IoT trials in Brazil

By Nick Flaherty

Swiss communications module maker u-blox is starting trials of narrowband IoT systems in Brazil with Huawei.

The trials are using NB-IoT or Cat NB1 networks in Brazil for metering and tracking applications.

These trials reflect u-blox's focus to meet pent-up demand for low power wide area (LPWA) connectivity using the NB1 technology which was standardized by 3GPP in June 2016. The benefits of NB1 over other cellular radio technologies include lower device complexity, ultra-low power operation, and support for more than 50,000 devices per single cellular cell. As it uses a licensed spectrum-based network, it also offers greater security and high robustness from interference.

"We are excited to partner with u-blox to help our mutual customers migrate to the new, low-power and low-cost Narrowband IoT technology that also offers excellent coverage," said Eduardo Takeshi, senior manager of network operator partner Vivo IoT. 

"The low power consumption of u-blox SARA-N2 and improved coverage of NB-IoT networks in Brazil will bring important benefits to our solutions," said Welson Regis Jacometti, CEO at smart metering company CAS Tecnologia.

Embedded in the test device is the u-blox SARA-N2 NB-IoT module, the first cellular NB-IoT module compliant to the 3GPP Release 13, Narrowband IoT (LTE Cat NB1) standard. Designed for use in applications such as smart buildings and cities, utilities metering, white goods, asset tracking, and agricultural and environmental monitoring, the module will operate for 10+years from a single-cell primary battery. The 16 mm x 26 mm LGA form factor, using u-blox nested architecture, facilitates simple upgrades from u-blox GSM, HSPA or CDMA modules and ensures future-proof, seamless mechanical scalability across technologies.

"Allowing for easy migration across 2G, 3G and 4G, cellular modules from u-blox support a comprehensive set of communication protocols with minimal signalling overhead to conserve power," said Suresh Ram, President u-blox America. "We are working with our partners and customers to introduce products with our modules where longevity of operation and reachability in poor propagation conditions are mission critical."

Related stories:

Cadence eyes Japanese car makers for Tensilica DSP core with RTOS port

By Nick Flaherty

Cadence Design Systems has worked with a Japanese university to port an automotive real-time operating system smart vehicles to its configurable digital signal processor core for the first time. 

It teamed up with the Embedded Real-Time System Laboratory of Nagoya University to port the AUTOSAR-compliant TOPPERS ATK2-SC1 (Toyohashi OPen Platform for Embedded Real-time Systems Automotive Kernel version-2 Scalability Class 1) to the Cadence Tensilica processors and DSPs. This is the first AUTOSAR software to be ported to the architecture, which can be configured with custom instructions, tools and software.

Nagoya University and Cadence jointly ported the ATK2-SC1 to the Tensilica processor platform, validating that it functions correctly and operates at competitive performance levels. This opens up Japanese companies working on advanced driver assistance system (ADAS), human machine interface (HMI), autonomous driving system and other automotive applications requiring the high computational capabilities of Tensilica processors.

Automotive electronic systems are increasing exponentially in complexity, making it increasingly challenging for electronic control units (ECUs) to perform their specific control functions while also connecting to the various automotive networks reliably. The AUTOSAR architecture organizes the building blocks that compose the ECU software stack, allowing multiple suppliers and OEMs to collaborate on the development of critical system components. Reuse of well-defined software components allows ECUs to be developed quickly and efficiently, and systems are becoming more heterogeneous in their deployment of processors and DSPs.

The broadly adopted and production-proven TOPPERS ATK2-SC1 real-time operating system (RTOS) automotive kernel, which manages the detailed timing of software tasks in automotive system control applications, is one of the most critical of these software building blocks. Now that Nagoya University and Cadence have ported the ATK2-SC1 to the Tensilica processor family, ECU developers can take advantage of the Tensilica DSP architectures to optimize their processors for their specific application without changing the RTOS automotive kernel. This enables them to start early development of automotive applications on the AUTOSAR OS while maintaining the high quality and dependability required for safety-critical automotive systems.

“With the growing popularity of ADAS and autonomous driving applications, automotive is becoming an increasingly promising market for the electronics industry. As a result, we are seeing growing demand for a standard platform for application development,” said Hiroaki Takada, Ph.D., a professor in the Embedded Real-Time System Laboratory at Nagoya University. “Through our recent collaboration with Cadence, we were able to validate the TOPPERS automotive kernel running on Tensilica DSPs and make it available for embedded software engineers to start their early development.”

“This collaboration with Nagoya University supports Cadence’s automotive ADAS enablement strategy and marks the first time the AUTOSAR software layer has been ported to a Tensilica processor,” said Raja Tabet, Corporate VP, Emerging Technologies at Cadence. “Many automotive applications such as radar, lidar, vision and audio/noise reduction are computationally intensive and therefore well suited to Tensilica DSPs, which are highly customizable to the specific tasks. Support for AUTOSAR via the ATK2-SC1 enables developers to take advantage of the computational benefits of Tensilica DSPs while maintaining portable, platform-independent code.”

The TOPPERS ATK2-SC1 port supports all Tensilica processors and DSPs and Cadence will be demoing the ATK2-SC1 on Tensilica processors at CDNLive Japan 2017, being held next week (July 21) in Yokohama.

10Gbit USB 3.1 second generation hub controller eyes USB-C

By Nick Flaherty

VIA Labs in Taiwan has developed the world’s first USB-IF certified USB 3.1 Gen 2 Hub controller with an eye on future USB-C systems.

The VL820 USB 3.1 Gen 2 Hub Controller has achieved SuperSpeed USB 10Gbit/s certification from the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF), filling out the complete range of support.

The VL820 supports one upstream port and four downstream ports, each capable of supporting SuperSpeed USB 10Gbps devices, while providing backward compatibility for previous generation USB devices. The support for USB-C is an an optionally configurable USB Billboard Device for Alternate Mode applications such as Thunderbolt 3 peripherals or DisplayPort over USB-C multi-function dongles.

“The VIA Labs VL820 has been over two years in the making, and our top priority during the development process was ensuring excellent interoperability,” said Jay Tseng, Director, VIA Labs Inc. “Throughout this process, we co-tested with every major USB 3.1 Gen 2 Host provider and various device manufacturers and test tool companies in a collaborative effort to reach this goal.”

"Certified USB products from companies including VIA Labs lay the foundation for successful market adoption and interoperability,” said Jeff Ravencraft, USB-IF President and COO. “USB-IF is pleased that VIA Labs has achieved certification of its USB 3.1 Gen 2 Hub controller, representing the final piece to ensure a fully functional SuperSpeed USB 10Gbps ecosystem guided by the USB-IF compliance program.”

The controller has two configurations: VL820-Q7 is the standard configuration in a QFN-76 9x9mm package. VL820-Q8 is optimised for USB-C, integrating muxes for the upstream port and two downstream ports in a manufacturing-friendly QFN-88 10x10mm package.

The VIA Labs VL820 Hub controller is available now and shipping in quantity. It is already seeing strong adoption in USB-C peripherals, docking stations, monitors, gaming devices, and other product categories., says VIA, with end products will be available as early as Christmas.

More details are at and an evaluation board is available at

Related stories:

Thursday, July 13, 2017

ARM buys SIM card security software firm for IoT boost

By Nick Flaherty

Processor core developer ARM has bought a small real time operating system provider that focused on SIM cards to boost security for the Internet of Things (IoT).

The £12m deal came just eight months after the Foresight Group invested £4m in Simulity Labs, which develops embedded operating system software and related server systems for SIM cards and embedded SIMs ('eSIMs'), allowing Internet of Things (IoT) devices to securely connect to networks using cellular LTE modems.

Simulity successfully transitioned its business model to software licensing, launched into the IoT market with its eSIM technology and increased staff numbers by 25%, with new international offices in South Africa and India to supplement existing offices in Northern Ireland and Wales.

"The institutional backing of Foresight allowed us to scale the business and continue to build our world leading team and technology, whilst also providing huge credibility in discussions with large global corporates. Foresight has worked closely with us, particularly during the exit process," said Stéphane Fund, Founder and CEO of Simulity. is now flagged as part of ARM.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

ST fills out its low level software for ST32 controllers

By Nick Flaherty

STMicroelectronics has completed its free Low-Layer Application Programming Interface (LL API) software for STM32 microcontrollers (MCUs) to suport register level code.

 The LL APIs enable expert embedded designers to work within the STMCube development environment, and optimise code down to the register level using ST-validated software for faster time to market.

The combination of LL APIs and Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL) software in all STM32Cube packages now gives developers complete flexibility when choosing how to control device peripherals. They can use the HAL to reuse portable code or use LL APIs to optimise for performance, smallest code footprint and lowest power consumption. Code examples tailored to run on the associated STM32 Nucleo board provide templates that simplify porting to other STM32 MCUs. Having the whole range covered allows designers to  target exactly the device they need.

This comes from the peripheral initialisation services that are functionally equivalent to STM32 Standard Peripheral Libraries (SPLs) so that the LL APIs can provide a migration path from the older SPLs to the STM32Cube ecosystem. Using the LL APIs can deliver higher performance, comparable to that of STM32Snippets direct-register-access code examples.

The LL APIs are MISRA-C 2004 compliant except where indicated, and have been checked using Grammatech CodeSonar static analysis tool for code quality and reliability. An automatic-update mechanism inside STM32CubeMX keeps the LL APIs up to date with the latest releases.

As a further boost to productivity, the STM32CubeMX tool automates the generation of peripheral-initialisation code with LL APIs for STM32L0, STM32F0, STM32L4, and STM32F3 MCUs. Support for the remaining STM32 series will be added in the coming months. A written guide and an automated tool for the SPL-to-LL code migration are also available.

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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

File management system certified for safety critical and IoT systems

By Nick Flaherty

The FileX file management software developed alongside the ThreadX real time operating system is the first Industrial Grade commercial file management system to be certified by SGS-TÜV Saar for embedded development in safety-critical systems. 

FileX has achieved the highest level of certification for IEC 61508 SIL 4, IEC 62304 Class C, ISO 26262 ASIL D, and EN 50128 SW-SIL 4 safety standards. IEC 61508 and all standards that are derived from it, including IEC 62304, ISO 26262, and EN 50128, are used to ensure the functional safety of electrical, electronic, and programmable electronic safety-related medical devices, process control systems, industrial machinery, and railway control systems.

SGS-TÜV Saar, formed through a joint venture of Germany’s SGS-Group and TÜV Saarland, is the leading accredited, independent company for testing, auditing, verifying, and certifying embedded software for safety-related systems worldwide. It has evaluated the relevant parts of Express Logic’s modified waterfall development process for FileX, with phase overlap and phase blending, to ensure that best development practices have been followed for:
  • Requirements management
  • Design
  • Implementation
  • Verification
  • Maintenance
Using an extensive test suite, SGS-TÜV Saar reviewed all testing and features of FileX. The FileX test suite, composed of a large number of application simulations, effectively performs functional “black box” testing over the entire FileX TCP/IP stack. The testing exercises 100 percent of the generic FileX C code — including 100 percent branch coverage.

The Safety Manual documents these quality-assurance measures, which enable developers to use FileX in safety-critical software development for even the most rigorous Safety Integrity Level (SIL 4) and Automotive Safety Integrity Level (ASIL D) requirements, according to IEC 61508, IEC 62304, ISO 26262, and EN 50128, without further qualification.

“The achievement of SGS-TÜV Saar certification for FileX will enable our customers to simplify their certification process, thus saving project time and money and reducing risk,” said William Lamie, CEO of Express Logic. “This certification provides significant evidence of the exceptionally high quality of our FileX product.”

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Monday, July 10, 2017

Power news this week

By Nick Flaherty

. Advanced Energy to acquire Excelsys Technologies

. Delta discontinues older industrial power supplies

. Acquisition sees boom time for semiconductor equipment


. Breakthrough for molecular diodes

. Transparent solar cells power smart sunglasses

. Custom battery enables smart watch buckle


. TVS diode arrays for powered USB interfaces

. 150V high side N-Channel MOSFET driver supports 100% duty cycle

. SMD solid-state fuse has a breaking capacity up to 1000A at 125VAC


. C&K: Optimized Switch Solutions for Smart Metering Applications

. Coilcraft: Choosing Inductors for Energy Efficient Power Applications

Post quantum security becomes an issue for IoT

By Nick Flaherty

It is ironic that just as the world of the Internet of Things (IoT) is adding encryption security to devices that the technology is changing.

While engines for 256bit long AES encryption is now being added to controllers, the development of quantum computers is raising fears that this encryption technology could be more easily broken.

So now the industry is looking at ‘post-quantum’ or ‘quantum resistant’ security techniques. These are new types of encryption that use signatures rather than random numbers and 256bit primes numbers. Many of these new techniques are power hungry so we are back to the same challenges for IoT designs with developers looking at different ways to secure the system.

For example, SecureRF’s Group Theoretic Cryptography methods are the world’s first linear-in-time algorithm for low-power, and no-power devices. The quantum-resistant, one-way functions are based on a Group Theoretic Cryptography technique called E-Multiplication. It is the foundation for several cryptographic constructions including a Public Key Agreement (asymmetric) and Secret Key (symmetric) methods, a Digital Signature method, a cryptographic Hash method, a pseudo-random number generator, and even a block cipher.

It is suited for securing wireless sensors, NFC and RFID tags, mobile payment devices, micro-controllers, and machine to machine (M2M) applications found in the Smart Grid and building automation markets. It supports a wide range of cryptographic functions including identification, authentication, and data protection.

The authentication enables validation between devices to confirm identity. Message authentication codes and digital signatures can be used to ensure data integrity against modification or forging. This cryptographic function is used in anti-counterfeiting applications.

The data protection element secures the entire data stream that is being carried, including the commands and information.

· It also supports data protection that employs the process of obscuring information to make it unreadable without special knowledge. Encrypting the data, with a key management protocol, allows trusted users to read the data.

Unlike classic cryptographic protocols such as RSA and ECC, the security of these Group Theoretic protocols is not based on any problem known to be susceptible to a quantum computing attack, which makes them viable candidates for post-quantum asymmetric cryptography.

Group Theoretic Cryptography is used in products and solutions developed by SecureRF, is available as a Security Tool Kit in several programming languages, as a core for FPGAs and ASICs, and in Verilog or VHDL for direct integration to an existing device.

There’s a lot more detail in the white papers, technical presentations and patents.

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