Security of data or code
But while a time-triggered protocol can provide deterministic delivery times for messages and control signals as part of a safety-aware design, it does not, of itself, provide security of data or program code. But Freescale for one is providing hardware assistance for cryptography on a broad range of its industrial microcontrollers and microprocessors with Ethernet.
"We have internal activity going on in a safety and security project," said Pia Huesch, a field applications engineer manager for Freescale.
Renesas Technology Corp. is introducing an initiative called R-Secure, which is making use of the security features found in the company’s smartcard microcontroller chips. Renesas has been in the smartcard microcontroller business for 15 years and reckons itself to be number two behind Infineon.
Vincent Mignard, marketing engineer with Renesas Technology Europe GmbH said that there is a growing awareness of the need for security and that it has to be addressed at some point in hardware. The Renesas R-Secure initiative plans to take the Renesas 16-bit smartcard microcontroller core and integrate it with application-specific peripherals and software to address particular markets.
"The first application is power metering. At the moment there is almost no security but most of the utility companies have plans to introduce powerline communications to collect usage data. Customer data is sensitive," he said.
Mignard said many utility companies plan to build out from basic metrology to offering security and safety services to customers, such as the ability to detect unusual usage or lack of usage which might signal a problem in an elderly person’s home.
Authentication and anti-counterfeiting is another business opportunity for R-Secure, said Mignard pointing out that it could be worth fitting a unique identifier to prevent counterfeiting to something as simple as a printer cartridge. So far, Mignard said, Renesas was only addressing the smart metering application and adding serial buses such as SPI rather than Ethernet. Mignard said the R-Secure initiative could move out to certain automotive applications in time.
ARM Holdings plc (Cambridge, England) also has experience of adding security to the cores it licenses to semiconductor companies. ARM offers a dedicated series of cores for smartcard applications, such as SIMs, and its TrustZone technology to support secure data for financial transactions on mobile phones.
Haydn Povey, product manager for deeply embedded CPUs at ARM, took a different position saying that although there is a greater awareness of security in networked embedded applications, and moves from 64-bit encryption to 128-bit, that security is often catered for in software. Povey said ARM licensees had benefitted as this had driven many embedded applications from 8- and 16-bit microcontrollers and on to 32-bit devices.
"Designers often use hardware at first but then the technology tends to move back into software," said Povey.
Mignard of Renesas protested that everything could not be done in software. "Where do you store the codes, the keys, the secrets?" he said.