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Sunday, July 28, 2019

RISC-V chip reshuffles code to boost cybersecurity

By Nick Flaherty

Researchers at the University of Michigan have developed a chip architecture to proactively defend against threats, avoiding the need for patches.

Called MORPHEUS, the chip blocks potential attacks by encrypting and randomly reshuffling key bits of its own code and data 20 times per second, significantly faster than a human hacker can work and thousands of times faster than even the fastest electronic hacking techniques.

“Today’s approach of eliminating security bugs one by one is a losing game,” said Todd Austin, U-M professor of computer science and engineering and a developer of the system. “People are constantly writing code, and as long as there is new code, there will be new bugs and security vulnerabilities.

“With MORPHEUS, even if a hacker finds a bug, the information needed to exploit it vanishes 50 milliseconds later. It’s perhaps the closest thing to a future-proof secure system.”

Austin and his colleagues have demonstrated a prototype processor that successfully defended against every known variant of control-flow attack, one of hackers’ most dangerous and widely used techniques. The prototype is based around the open source RISC-V instruction set architecture through Agita Labs, a startup company founded by Austin and U-M computer science and engineering professor Valeria Bertacco, also an author on the paper.

A key point is that the MORPHEUS architecture is transparent to software developers and end users. This is because it focuses on randomizing bits of data known as “undefined semantics.” Undefined semantics are nooks and crannies of the computing architecture—for example the location, format and content of program code is an undefined semantic.

Undefined semantics are part of a processor’s most basic machinery, and legitimate programmers don’t generally interact with them. But hackers can reverse-engineer them to uncover vulnerabilities and launch an attack.

The chip’s churn rate can be adjusted up or down to strike the right balance between maximising security and minimising resource consumption. Austin said a churn rate of once every 50 milliseconds was chosen for the demonstration processor because it’s several thousand times faster than even the fastest electronic hacking techniques, but only slows performance by about 1%. The architecture also includes an attack detector that looks for pending threats and increases the churn rate if it senses that an attack is imminent.

The technology could be used in a variety of applications, from laptops and PCs to Internet of Things devices, where simple and reliable security will be increasingly critical.

“We’ve all seen how damaging an attack can be when it hits a computer that’s sitting on your desk,” he said. “But attacks on the computer in your car, in your smart lock or even in your body could place users at even greater risk.”

Austin said that instead of using software to patch known code vulnerabilities, MORPHEUS bakes security into its hardware. It makes vulnerabilities virtually impossible to pin down and exploit by constantly randomising critical program assets in a process called “churn.”

Related stories:

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

End-to-End 5G mmWave test network opens in Europe

By Nick Flaherty

Qualcomm Technologies has expanded its 5G NR testing facilities in Europe to include a new lab for end-to-end over-the-air (OTA) configurations for 5G NR millimeter wave (mmWave). 

The lab is based at the Qualcomm Technologies’ research and development (R&D) centre in Farnborough, UK, and will allow OEMs and European operators to test and fine-tune mmWave devices and network configurations.

Sony is the first OEM to take advantage of the lab, providing pre-commercial mmWave mobile form factor devices to the facility to test the capacity, throughput, latency and reliability of mmWave in multiple deployment scenarios.

For dense urban environments, indoor venues and enterprises, mmWave brings massive capacity, multi-Gigabit peak throughput and low-latency connectivity to smartphones, laptops and more. In addition, the ability to carry higher data rates for users makes 5G perfect for deployment in high-density indoor environments such as stadia and shopping centres, often as a complementary technology for sub-6 5G deployments.

“This new facility is part of the continuous investment that Qualcomm Technologies is making in 5G research,” said Enrico Salvatori, senior vice president and president of Qualcomm Europe. “While the initial European industry focus is currently on sub-6 5G deployments, this facility will provide our innovative customers with the opportunity to see and test the benefits of 5G NR mmWave technology for themselves. 

"Qualcomm Technologies, its customers and collaborators are at the heart of the 5G networks and devices now being rolled out across Europe and this is just the beginning. Utilizing all types of spectrum, including low, mid and high bands, is critical for the success of 5G. Deployments across these bands will work hand-in-hand to bring consumers exciting new user experiences.”

Sony demonstrated a 5G NR mmWave technical evaluation mobile device earlier this year based on the Snapdragon 855 Mobile Platform and Snapdragon X50 5G modem and antenna modules with integrated RF transceiver, RF front-end and antenna elements.

“We are pleased to be the first OEM to supply devices for Qualcomm Technologies’ new lab, and we see this as a great opportunity for operators to come and see mmWave in action,” said Mitsuya Kishida, representative director and president, Sony Mobile Communications. “Sony believes that mmWave is the ideal technology companion for sub-6 5G deployments and we are working with operators across Europe to bring mmWave to commercial deployment.”

“Thanks to a multi-year successful collaboration last year TIM and Qualcomm Technologies completed the first 5G NR videocall using mmWave spectrum in Europe at the TIM 5G Innovation Hub in Rome,” said Elisabetta Romano, chief technology innovation officer, TIM. 

"We also deployed 5G mmWave coverage throughout the San Marino Republic, making it the first European nation to be fully 5G covered. In both cases we implemented the Snapdragon X50 5G modem test device. TIM has a broad and complete frequencies portfolio for full 5G evolution, including a wide range of frequencies in sub-6 GHz and, in particular, 3.7 GHz band, which is being used for 5G commercial services in big cities." 

"mmWave is the perfect companion in developing indoor coverage for ultra-capacity and throughput, and low latency use cases such as Industry 4.0 or high-density hot spots. With the opening of Qualcomm Technologies’ new 5G mmWave lab, we will continue to work with Qualcomm Technologies to accelerate the development of a complete 5G ecosystem to boost and accelerate Italy’s digital transformation, thereby improving the user experience of our customers.”

“In June 2018, with the help from Qualcomm Technologies, we became the first Russian mobile operator to demonstrate the real-life mmWave capabilities of 5G,” said Frederic Vanoosthuyze, chief technology and IT officer, MegaFon. “The MegaFon laboratory that hosted the demonstration has been key to our plan to deploy a 5G network, and we would like to congratulate Qualcomm Technologies on its new lab, which displays its continued dedication to developing mmWave technologies in Europe.”

The end-to-end testing is based on implementations of the 3GPP 5G NR Release 15 standards. The mobile test devices are based on the Snapdragon X50 5G and X55 5G modem family and antenna modules with integrated transceiver and Qualcomm Technologies RFFE solutions. 

The network will later enable concepts that are expected to be supported from Release 16 and beyond based on flexible gNodeB base stations and the 5G Next-Gen Core network. With the recent launch of the Snapdragon X50 5G modem, Qualcomm Technologies has taken another leap forward to supercharge the rollout of 5G globally. Both the Snapdragon X50 and X55 5G modem are designed to provide support for mmWave and sub-6 GHz spectrum – meaning fewer hurdles for OEMs to deliver benefits of 5G – multi-gigabit speeds and low latency.

Additionally, the lab will enable Qualcomm Technologies to demonstrate 5G mmWave based low-latency and high throughput data communication, in support of OEM and Carrier customers, as a part of validation and test of 3GPP standards.

Qualcomm website

Friday, July 19, 2019

Transceiver for '6G' wireless

By Nick Flaherty

Engineers at the University of California, Irvine, have developed a transceiver that leapfrogs over the 5G wireless standard operating in the 28 to 38GHz range into the proposed 6G standard which is expected to work at 100GHz and above.

The chip developed by UCI's Nanoscale Communication Integrated Circuits Labs with a 55nm SiGe BiCMOS process from TowerJazz and STMicroelectronics measures 2.5 x 3.5 mm and operates in the 115-135-GHz band using an 8PSK receiver with multi-phase RF-correlation-based direct demodulation. 

"We call our chip 'beyond 5G' because the combined speed and data rate that we can achieve is two orders of magnitude higher than the capability of the new wireless standard," said Payam Heydari, NCIC Labs director and UCI professor of electrical engineering & computer science. "In addition, operating in a higher frequency means that you and I and everyone else can be given a bigger chunk of the bandwidth offered by carriers."

The key is that the output of the RF direct conversion receiver architecture is demodulated bits, avoiding the need for power-hungry high-speed-resolution data converters. It has a maximum conversion gain of 32 dB and a minimum noise figure (NF) of 10.3 dB, giving a a data rate of 36Gb/s at a distance of 30cm, consuming a total DC power of 200.25 mW. As a result, this could be used to replace high speed fibre optic cables in data centres say the researchers.

"Our innovation eliminates the need for miles of fibre optic cables in data centres, so data farm operators can do ultra-fast wireless transfer and save considerable money on hardware, cooling and power," said Huan Wang, a UCI doctoral student in electrical engineering & computer science and an NCIC Labs member.

"The Federal Communications Commission recently opened up new frequency bands above 100 gigahertz," said lead author and postgraduate researcher Hossein Mohammadnezhad, a UCI grad student at the time of the work who this year earned a Ph.D. in electrical engineering & computer science. "Our new transceiver is the first to provide end-to-end capabilities in this part of the spectrum."

Heydari said that in addition to enabling the transmission of signals in the range of 100 gigahertz, the transceiver's unique layout allows it to consume considerably less energy than current systems at a reduced overall cost, paving the way for widespread adoption in the consumer electronics market.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Posix operating system runs on manycore chip

By Nick Flaherty

French multicore chip maker Kalray is supporting the eMCOS POSIX1 Real Time Operating System (RTOS) from eSOL in Japan to run on Kalray’s MPPA intelligent processor. The deal is aimed at Automotive, Industrial and Medical Markets. This support extends the already existing eMCOS Core profile that has been available for several years on the MPPA architecture.

eSOL supports the AUTOSAR automotive standard allowing the use of a wide range of applications on the MPPA processor including advanced control frameworks like Robot Operating System for robot control, Autoware for autonomous driving, and other embedded software frameworks. eSOL also has a strong presence and experience on medical and industrial markets.

eSOL’s distributed microkernel architecture enables optimal use of manycore processors such as Kalray’s MPPA, especially with the transition from MPPA 2nd generation Bostan to 3rd generation Coolidge, reusing similar tools to develop applications.

“Massive system consolidation especially on the automotive domain, are now becoming realistic architecture option with the impressive amount of power available on the current and next-generation of Kalray’s intelligent processor” said Masaki Gondo, eSOL CTO. “eSOL and Kalray will continue this fruitful cooperation to provide relevant optimized and integrated solutions to satisfy our joint customers’ ever-growing needs for performance, safety and security.”

"Disruptive technology such as Kalray’s MPPA needs development environment such as eSOL’s eMCOS to enable smooth adoption at customers for a wide and growing range of applications. eMCOS POSIX provides a full-featured RTOS ensuring POSIX compatibility to OEMs, with the capability to execute multiple applications in parallel” said St├ęphane Cordova, Vice-President of Embedded Business Unit at Kalray, “Combining eMCOS with the high performance of MPPA® processors gives customers a unique solution for a fast ramp up."

The eSOL POSIX multi-process RTOS offers the capability to define complex systems such as autonomous vehicles. While eMCOS Core provides a PSE51 single-context POSIX API for high-performance parallel computing, eMCOS POSIX adds PSE53 multi-process POSIX support for advanced software integration where more memory is available.

eSOL and Kalray are also cooperating to provide AUTOSAR-compliant software platforms, including both AUTOSAR Classic Platform and Adaptive Platform, to conform to modern automotive standards. This integration will help customers aggregate more functions on MPPA®-based systems, while still meeting the isolation and safety level requirements.

Monday, July 08, 2019

Oxford PV raises $90m for perovskite solar cell production ... Excitons boost solar cell efficiency ... Wireless charging at a distance approval ... Danifuse deal with NI

By Nick Flaherty


. Oxford PV closes $90m round for perovskite solar cell production

. Littelfuse breaks ground on Asian power module assembly plant

. Danisense partners with National Instruments on power analysis

. Excitons boost silicon solar cell efficiency to 35 percent

. Ossia gets approval for wireless charging at a distance


. Power entry module integrates fuse holder

. DC-DC converter in a standard quarter brick aims at hi-rel designs

. 600V and 700V MOSFET families built on 300mm technology


. CAN bus IMU for autonomous car safety

. Avnet Silica and ON Semiconductor - Designing for the IoT as Intelligence Moves to the Edge

. NI-Key Considerations for Powertrain HIL Test

26 5G devices announced last month for a total of 90

By Nick Flaherty

The Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) today confirmed that the number of announced 5G devices has more than doubled in the last three months, with 26 new devices added in June alone. The total of commercialised 5G devices that have been announced is now 90 globally, from 39 vendors. New 5G device form factors reported for the first time include drones, laptops and robots.

The June 2019 5G Ecosystem Report containing summary statistics can be downloaded for free from

At the end of June 2019, GSA had identified 39 vendors who have confirmed the availability of forthcoming 5G devices with 90 different devices including regional variants, up from 64 in May. There were 13 announced 5G device form factors, compared to nine in the previous month.

Breakdown per form factor:
  • 25 phones (plus regional variants)
  • 7 hotspots (plus regional variants)
  • 23 CPE devices (indoor and outdoor)
  • 23 modules
  • 2 Snap-On dongles / adapters
  • 2 routers
  • 2 IoT routers
  • 2 drones
  • 1 laptop
  • 1 switch
  • 1 USB terminal
  • 1 robot
“As we see operators commercially launching their first 5G services, so this is being mirrored in the wider 5G ecosystem with a significant acceleration in the rate of new device announcements,” said Joe Barrett, President, GSA. 

 “Significantly, we’re also seeing range of form factors continue to grow as manufacturers turn to 5G to deliver the connectivity in their new devices. While not all devices are available immediately and specification details remain limited for some devices, what is beyond any doubt is that the 5G vendor ecosystem is racing to fulfil a need in the market for an ever-increasing range of connected devices capable of delivering new services, experiences and economies.”

Monday, July 01, 2019

Cryogenic batteries take on power stations ... Inductive charging can kill batteries ... Electrothermal storage uses volcanic rock

Power news by Nick Flaherty at eeNews Europe Power

. World’s first giga-scale cryogenic battery takes on power stations

. Inductive charging threat to lithium battery performance

. Volcanic electrothermal energy storage system starts up in Germany

. BMW test car explores the limits of electric drives

. Dutch energy harvesting PMIC boosts NB-IoT chip

. Stretchable nanogenerator mimics electric eel’s skin discharges


. Dual output 20W and 40W DC-DC converters for railway systems

. Bi-directional current sense amplifier with PWM rejection boosts motor efficiency

. TTI: MLCC shortages: considering your options

. NI-Key Considerations for Powertrain HIL Test

Top stories in June on the Embedded blog

By Nick Flaherty

Last month saw some significant 'long tail' interest in older stories on the blog, back to 2017 and even 2010.

From the more recent stories, the move to superconductivity at room temperature saw the most interest, although the need for high pressures is still a barrier to overcome. The move to 5nm chips is also on the way with the first certified low power design platform, while the emergence of narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) capability at the lower frequency of 450MHz will reduce power consumption further and extend the range between sensor nodes in the Internet of Things, particularly on farms. This is why Sony subsidiary Altair showed the technology operating on connected tractors. Microsoft buying ThreadX remains an interesting story, and we are keeping a close eye on how that will emerge in the market against Amazon FreeRTOS.