Tuesday, November 29, 2016

This week's Power News

 This week's Power News from EETimes Europe

. EnOcean Alliance teams with IBM on energy harvesting smart building standards

. Report challenges reuse of batteries over recycling

. Toyota promises better batteries

. Energy harvesting smartwatch runs without battery


. Synthetic diamond protects maintenance-free radiation-powered battery

. Replacing lead in flexible perovskite solar cells

. Nanomaterials create flexible supercapacitors

. Research project aims to “liquefy” electric energy


. Modular passive harmonic filters guarantee IEEE-519 compliance

. 3D stacked-inductor packaging cools modules

. Advanced common mode chokes save space on PCBs



prpl Foundation teams with CABA for MIPS-based security in the home

By Nick Flaherty www.flaherty.co.uk

Digital device adoption in the smart home. Source: prpl Foundation Smart Home Security Report
The prpl Foundation has teamed up with the Continental Automated Buildings Association (CABA) on together on research projects to improve standards in smart home security.

The Foundation is an open-source, community-driven, collaborative group with a focus on enabling next-generation datacentre-to-device portable software and virtualized architectures, based around the MIPS architecture. 
“prpl’s alliance with CABA is an incredibly important step in the advancement of smart home technology,” said Art Swift, president of the prpl Foundation. “By collaborating with CABA’s wealth of smart home security experts and members, we will work together to provide high quality research and guidance that will push IoT industry standards to make sure that consumers are kept safe as connected device usage in their homes grows.”

Prpl’s recent Smart Home Security Report found that the smart home is already here(see graphic above) and device adoption in certain cases has reached a tipping point despite it being insecure. By aligning itself with CABA, an organization that is supported by an international membership of nearly 350 companies and 25,000+ industry professionals, the two organizations will progress security developments within smart home technologies.

“We are delighted to enter this alliance with the prpl Foundation as a demonstration of our commitment to developing industry standards and protocols across industry initiatives,” said Ron Zimmer, president and CEO of CABA. “We look forward to participating in prpl’s vibrant, open-source communities, in particular the security working group, and collaborating on future smart home projects.”

The prpl Foundation promotes the use of open source software to better security and interoperability of the Internet of Things (IoT). It has created a comprehensive framework for Securing Critical Areas of Embedded Computing, a peer-reviewed, actionable guide that has been put in to practice with a successful proof of concept.

“IoT security is not a problem that is going to be fixed by one single entity, it will take the industry at large to get involved to create communities and advance our knowledge of the subject matter,” said Swift. “Prpl is pleased to be working with CABA and welcomes the opportunity to work with others to promote better standards for IoT and making the connected world more secure for consumers.”

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Shuffling code to foil cyber attacks

By Nick Flaherty www.flaherty.co.uk

Researchers in the US have developed a new program that tries to preempt cyber attacks by allowing programs to continuously scramble their code as they run, effectively closing the window of opportunity for an attack. 

"Shuffler makes it nearly impossible to turn a bug into a functioning attack, defending software developers from their mistakes," said David Williams-King, a graduate student at Columbia Engineering. "Attackers are unable to figure out the program's layout if the code keeps changing."

Even after repeated debugging, software typically contains up to 50 errors per 1,000 lines of code, each a potential avenue for attack. Though security defenses are constantly evolving, attackers are quick to find new ways in.
In the early 2000s, computer operating systems adopted a security feature called address space layout randomization, or ASLR. This technique rearranges memory when a program launches, making it harder for hackers to find and reuse existing code to take over the machine. But hackers soon discovered they could exploit memory disclosure bugs to grab code fragments once the program was already running.

Shuffler was developed to deflect this latter style of code-reuse attack. It takes ASLR's code-scrambling approach to the extreme by randomizing small blocks of code every 20 to 50 milliseconds, imposing a severe deadline on would-be attackers. Until now, shifting around running code as a security measure was thought to be technically impractical because existing solutions require specialized hardware or software.

"By the time the server returns the information the attacker needs, it is already invalid --Shuffler has already relocated the respective code snippets to different memory locations," said study coauthor Vasileios Kemerlis, a computer science professor at Brown University.

Designed to be user-friendly, Shuffler runs alongside the code it defends, without modifications to program compilers or the computer's operating system. It even randomizes itself to defend against possible bugs in its own code.

The researchers say Shuffler runs faster and requires fewer system changes than similar continuous-randomization software such TASR and Remix, developed at MIT Lincoln Labs and Florida State University respectively.

As an invitation to other researchers to try and break Shuffler, Williams-King is currently running the software on his personal website. (He can check that the code is shuffling and whether anyone has attacked the site by reviewing the program's logs).

On computation-heavy workloads, Shuffler slows programs by 15 percent on average, but at larger scales--a webserver running on 12 CPU cores, for example--the drop in performance is negligible, the researchers say.

This versatility means that software distributors as well as security-conscious individuals could be potential end users. "It's the first system that is trying to be a serious defense that people can use, right now," said Williams-King.

Shuffler needs a few last improvements before it is made public. The researchers say they want to make it easier to use on software they haven't yet tested. They also want to improve Shuffler's ability to defend against exploits that take advantage of server-crashes.

"Billions of lines of vulnerable code are out there," said the study's senior author, Junfeng Yang, a computer science professor at Columbia Engineering and member of the Data Science Institute. "Rather than finding every bug or rewriting all billions of lines of code in safer languages, Shuffler instantly lets us build a stronger defense."

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Power news this week

Power News from EETimes Europe

. Solar socket sticks to window to provide power
. Hearables boom prompts Varta IPO

. Panasonic starts mass production of high speed GaN gate drivers


. Steel-brass battery aims for smart homes
. Researchers fireproof lithium-ion batteries
. Researchers produce first 3D printed permanent magnets


ON Semiconductor expands support for IoT with modular development platform

By Nick Flaherty www.flaherty.co.uk

ON Semiconductor has launched a modular IoT Development Kit (IDK) that provides engineers with all of the hardware and software building blocks needed to speed the evaluation, design and implementation of medical, home, and industrial IoT applications.

The kit combines power-efficient devices for smart and connected IoT designs that includes sensors, power management, connectivity, processors and actuators. By combining these with a comprehensive software framework, the IDK offers a modular, easy to use and compact platform that provides developers with access to everything they need to rapidly develop cloud-based IoT designs.
The ON Semiconductor IDK incorporates a variety of module options for sensing, wired and wireless connectivity and actuation. Its software development framework encompasses an embedded operating system (ARM mbed OS), drivers, APIs for hardware shields, a graphical user interface (GUI), and sample applications code. Built-in support for cloud software enables the platform to deliver data into the cloud for value added services such as analytics. The extensible modular architecture includes a variety of industry-standard interfaces such as Arduino and Pmod, allowing the integration of existing and future modules from both ON Semiconductor and third parties.

“ON Semiconductor offers a one stop shop of leadership semiconductor elements for industrial, medical and home IoT applications. By providing a single, modular, extensible platform that combines hardware, software and support for integrating third parties, the new IDK allows engineers to quickly and easily harness the power of ON Semiconductor solutions and significantly simplify the prototyping of cloud-based applications,” said Wiren Perera, IoT Strategist for ON Semiconductor.

The IDK is capable of supporting numerous application areas, including industrial automation, intelligent lighting, building automation, smart cities and a wide range of medical monitoring designs.

The IoT Development Kit will be available through distribution partners.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Power news this week

Power News from EETimes Europe
. Panasonic boost from Tesla solar roof and powerwall

. Battery storage project funding booms as smart grid schemes hit

. Daimler to establish global battery production network

. EPC & Taiwan designers JJPlus collaborate on GaN for wireless charging

. Trilayer electrode structure boosts lithium silicon battery capacity by a third

. Researchers produce first 3D printed permanent magnets

. Researchers fireproof lithium-ion batteries

. Power core module integrates FPGA and hybrid drive stage for electric aircraft


. First digital multiphase PWM controllers with AVSBus and synthetic current control

. Single chip power protection and control for USB Type-C

. Intelligent battery charger for automotive and industrial applications fits into IP21 DC-DC converter package


Monday, October 31, 2016

Top embedded stories for October

By Nick Flaherty www.flaherty.co.uk

The shifting sands of IoT make for interesting reading through September and October as engineers try to get a grip on how the market is changing. The big story of Qualcomm acquiring NXP hasn't made it through to the list quite yet,but expect that to show up in November along with all the news from the big bi-annual Electronica show in Germany.

In the meantime power and wireless charging continue to be interesting topics, while the movements of MicroEJ and Micrium being bought by Silicon Labs show there is plenty of interest in embedded operating systems. And of course IoT security remains a strong theme with the Prpl Foundation creating an IoT security group for MIPS devices.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Bombshell deal hits the embedded industry

By Nick Flaherty www.flaherty.co.uk

The $47bn takeover of NXP and Freescale by Qualcomm by the end of the year is a bombshell for the embedded industry. Both NXP and Freescale have major focus on embedded while Qualcomm has not - the main angle is the cellphone and networking business.

While the move will push Qualcomm into the automotive electronics business, there are signficant risks to the embedded divisions. NXP also has leading positions in automotive infotainment, networking and safety systems, with solutions designed into 14 of the top 15 infotainment customers in 2016 but also serves more than 25,000 customers through its direct sales channel and global network of distribution channel partners.

The deal is largely financed by Qualcomm's offshore cash to avoid US taxes. Qualcomm says the transaction is structured to enable tax efficient use of offshore cash flow to rapidly reduce leverage.

“With innovation and invention at our core, Qualcomm has played a critical role in driving the evolution of the mobile industry. The NXP acquisition accelerates our strategy to extend our leading mobile technology into robust new opportunities, where we will be well positioned to lead by delivering integrated semiconductor solutions at scale,” said Steve Mollenkopf, CEO of Qualcomm. “By joining Qualcomm’s leading SoC capabilities and technology roadmap with NXP’s leading industry sales channels and positions in automotive, security and IoT, we will be even better positioned to empower customers and consumers to realize all the benefits of the intelligently connected world.”

The combined company is expected to have annual revenues of more than $30 billion, addressable markets of $138 billion in 2020 and leadership positions across mobile, automotive, IoT, security, RF and networking. 

Qualcomm sees complementary technology leadership in strategically important areas such as general purpose and automotive grade processing, security, automotive safety sensors and RF, as well as mobile SoCs, 3G/4G modems and security.

In networking the new company would be a leader in network processors for wired and wireless communications and RF sub-segments, Wave-2 11ac/11ad, RF power and BTS systems.

Costs will also be slashed.  Qualcomm expects to generate $500m a year in savings in the first two years.

“We have taken significant action to build a foundation for profitable growth and the acquisition of NXP is strongly aligned with our strategy," said Mollenkopf. "Our companies both have substantial expertise in delivering industry-leading solutions to our global customers, built upon a shared commitment to technology innovation, focused R&D investments and strong financial and operational discipline.”

“The combination of Qualcomm and NXP will bring together all technologies required to realize our vision of secure connections for the smarter world, combining advanced computing and ubiquitous connectivity with security and high performance mixed-signal solutions including microcontrollers. Jointly we will be able to provide more complete solutions which will allow us to further enhance our leadership positions, and expand the already strong partnerships with our broad customer base, especially in automotive, consumer and industrial IoT and device level security," said Rick Clemmer, NXP Chief Executive Officer. “United in a common strategy, the complementary nature of our technologies and the scale of our portfolios will give us the ability to drive an accelerated level of innovation and value for the whole ecosystem. Such a strong fit will bring opportunities for our employees and customers, as well as provide immediate attractive value for our shareholders, in creating the semiconductor industry powerhouse.”

Sir Peter Bonfield, Chairman of NXP’s Board of Directors, said, “This is a major step in my ten years’ Chairmanship of NXP, and I am very pleased to see that the board of NXP has unanimously approved the proposed transaction and fully supports and recommends the offer for acceptance to NXP shareholders.”

Sierra Wireless backs Cat-M1 and cat-NB1 to expand cellular footprint in global IoT market

By Nick Flaherty www.flaherty.co.uk

Sierra Wireless has launched modules for Category-M1 (Cat-M1) and Category-NB1 (Cat-NB1) LTE networks supporting the 3GPP standard for low-power wide-area (LPWA) technologies, which was designed specifically to enable new IoT services.

For businesses developing IoT applications for markets such as energy, transportation and smart cities, Sierra Wireless’ LPWA solutions will simplify wireless integration and system development with cloud-connected modules, lower the cost and power consumption of devices and enable reliable and resilient connectivity links for locations with coverage challenges, such as deep indoors and in rural areas.

“Having shipped more than 120 million cellular modules, no one understands the challenges that businesses face in deploying IoT services better than Sierra Wireless,” said Dan Schieler, Senior Vice President, Embedded Solutions for Sierra Wireless. “LPWA technologies eliminate many of those challenges because they allow cellular to address a broader range of use cases, making it cost effective to connect billions more devices. Our essential and smart application processing LPWA module options make it easy for existing customers to expand their deployments and for new customers to begin designing connected IoT products in applications where cellular previously wasn’t a fit.”

Sierra Wireless has been working with the 3GPP, a global cellular standards development organization, since 2010 to develop a cellular standard for IoT. With the commercialization of Cat-M1 and Cat-NB1 LPWA technologies, cellular is now a superior option for many IoT applications that were previously restricted to short-range technologies due to cost and battery life. LPWA technologies now combine lower cost, broader coverage and better battery life with the globally available and secure cellular infrastructure. They are expected to connect more objects in cities, homes, hospitals and stores, and on roads and remote infrastructure, enabling a more connected world.

“LPWA will greatly expand cellular’s IoT market because it was specifically designed to meet the cost, power and coverage requirements for not only traditional markets but also new, untapped markets for IoT applications,” said Dan Shey, Managing Director and Vice President at ABI Research. “As the market share leader in cellular modules, Sierra Wireless is well positioned to help their customers execute on the new business models and opportunities that LPWA will bring.”

Sierra Wireless AirPrime HL and WP Series modules are the smallest embedded modules (22 x 23 mm) to be completely interchangeable across 2G, 3G, 4G and LPWA technologies. They use the CF3 form factor, which is footprint compatible across product lines, providing customers with the option to develop smarter by building their connected IoT product or service on a single module.

“The GSMA’s Mobile IoT Initiative quickly aligned the mobile industry behind common and complementary LPWA technologies in licensed spectrum that were published by 3GPP,” said Graham Trickey, Head of Connected Living, GSMA. “We are very pleased to see the commercialization of mobile IoT technologies taking place. Bringing cellular standards to LPWA is key to expanding its footprint in the developing IoT.”

The AirPrime CF3-based Cat-M1 and Cat-NB1 cellular modules are fully compliant with the 3GPP Release 13 standard. The HL Series for the LTE Cat-M1 air interface is in carrier trials now and sampling with lead customers. The HL Series for the LTE Cat-NB1 air interface is in development now and will be trialing with carriers soon. The WP Series will be available in 2018. 


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