LONDON—The Embedded Microprocessor Benchmark Consortium (EEMBC) trade group plans to embrace the Internet of Things with two forthcoming benchmarking exercises addressing edge-node IoT energy consumption and IoT security.
The 38-member EEMBC, best known for its CoreMark processor and ULP (ultra-low power) microcontroller benchmarks is now heading up towards the system with working groups addressing entire edge-node power consumption, including RF communications, and another on security.
Both benchmarking exercises are expected to build on the energy measurement platform and profile approach used for ULPBench.
However, because of the complexity, the output from these working groups is likely to be more than benchmarking to aid purchase decisions, two working-group co-chairs told EE Times Europe. It could also include information on system decomposition and partitioning, the exposition of numerous use-cases, design guidelines, examples of best practise and Wikipedia-style continuously updated web pages.
Quantifying edge-node complexity
The IoT edge-node power consumption working group is the most advanced and has developed a physical test-rig to benchmark the combination of microcontroller plus RF communications.
[Learn more about Implementing a LoRa RF Layer in an IoT SmartCity Application at ESC Boston]
The benchmark is intended to be communications protocol agnostic. Brent Wilson, a director of applications engineering, at Silicon Laboratories Inc. (Austin, Texas), who serves as co-chair of the working group, said "We're looking at things like battery-powered edge-node performance whether that includes ZigBee, Bluetooth, Thread." He added that LoRa "is in the field of view" as is SigFox's proprietary long-range communications for IoT. He added that partly it is a matter of resources and expertise.
Part of the approach is to deconstruct a use case activity such as the operation of a ZigBee light switch into a number of sub-tasks that contribute to power consumption. So a sub-task might be the energy cost of sending two bytes of data over the communications channel likely to be Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). These sub-tasks can then be individually measured and added together to produce a total benchmark. This at the very least is expected to shed light on where energy inefficiencies may lie. The working group has started by developing a list of prominent use cases: these are the wireless light switch and a heart-rate monitor such as might be found in a piece of wearable electronics.
Other sub-tasks might include CPU operations such as encryption, filtering, data fusion. Although the theoretical scope of the work is vast Wilson is not fazed. He said that all the world's microcontroller vendors are involved in the effort and ARM is participating very actively. He said the group expects to produce the first definitive results by the end of 2016.
Security working group
The more recent working group is on security in IoT applications and is complementary to previous group. The call for expressions of interest only went out recently but produced a very strong response, said Ruud Derwig, software and system architect at Synopsys, who acts as co-chair of the working group.
Again all the microcontroller vendors are interested in taking part as well as providers of security IP in both software and hardware forms.
What the working group will not do is try to set standards or certify products as being compliant to standards. There are other bodies for that, said Derwig. What the group will try to do is looking at the energy efficiency of implementation. As well as benchmarking this is likely to involve a lot of educational work in the form of a "cookbook" for developers of systems, guidelines and examples of best practice.
The benchmarking will focus on the implementation of security in terms of software and hardware IP and SoCs in terms of energy consumed, memory used, latency and bandwidth, said Derwig. "IoT is broad so the first thing to do is try and find the sub-domains which may determine architecture and security required, such as smart-home, medical and wearables." Derwig said these areas were where members had asked the working group to start although its remit also includes industrial, automotive and energy supply sectors.
While the focus is on edge-nodes and gateways Derwig said that security is by necessity an end-to-end solution that can include the cloud. Benchmarking will include such facets as data in-use, in-flight and at-rest, cryptographic functions, identification and authentication.
Derwig said that while the working group has yet to settle down and begin its work 25 people responded to the initial call and there is clearly a recognition that enhanced understanding and implementation of security is important to the roll out of the Internet of Things.
Derwig said that as the security working group is starting out it could take 18 months for the first benchmark results to appear.
—Peter Clarke covers business news and analog for EE Times Europe.