Saturday, August 19, 2017

Zingbox raises $22m to automate IoT security with AI

By Nick Flaherty

Stanford spin-out ZingBox has raised $22m to roll out its artificial intelligence software to identify attacks and take the tech out of IoT security. 

The funding, the company's second round, was led by Dell Technologies Capital and Triventures.

Zingbox claims its IoT Guardian software is the industry’s only IoT security solution based on device personalities. It uses machine learning algorithms to discover and assess the baseline normal behaviour of an IoT node, detect anomalous activities and provide real-time protection across an organization’s entire IoT footprint. The patent-pending system has a model of each IoT device’s 'personality', analysing communication to and from every device, watching constantly for deviations in behaviour and providing alerts for any suspicious behaviour.

“Dell Technologies Capital invests in innovative founders and companies that can use our technical resources and unique go-to-market channels to bring their breakthrough technology to customers around the globe,” said Raman Khanna, managing director of Dell Technologies Capital. “As more and more hospitals, retailers and businesses deploy IoT solutions, security is top of mind and ZingBox’s machine-learning approach to IoT security helps them address this fundamental challenge.”

“The company brings the right solution at the right time for healthcare organisations that need real time visibility and cyber protection to optimise operations and provide uninterrupted, quality patient care,” said Dr. Peter Fitzgerald, Co-Founder & Managing Partner of Triventures. “ZingBox’s deep and unique understanding of IoT and medical device behaviour delivered in a seamless SaaS solution will be a gamechanger for its customers.”

Friday, August 18, 2017

MIPS wins Mediatek LTE modem chip slot

By Nick Flaherty

MediaTek is using the multi-threaded MIPS I-class processor cores from Imagination Technologies for its latest LTE cellular modem chips. The first device from MediaTek featuring MIPS technology is the new flagship MT6799 Helio X30 processor which uses MIPS in its Cat-10 LTE modem. 

The relationship with MediaTek takes MIPS into high-volume smartphone modems, and demonstrates the performance and efficiency advantages MIPS multi-threading technology can provide in many real-time, power sensitive applications such as LTE, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things (IoT) as the technology moves  into industrial designs.

The MIPS I-class CPU is a key component of the integrated 4G LTE Advanced modem which features 3x carrier aggregation downstream to support 450Mbit/s data rates and 2x carrier aggregation upstream to support 150Mbit/s. The MIPS multi-threading capability enables the MIPS CPU to do more work every clock cycle. This can be particularly advantageous in balancing power, performance and cost, and can boost real-time responsiveness and performance where multiple latency-sensitive tasks must be handled simultaneously.

“With their powerful multi-threading capability, MIPS CPUs offer a combination of efficiency and high throughput for LTE modems that contributes significantly to system performance,” said TL Lee, general manager of the Wireless Communications division at MediaTek.

While this is a boost in the battle against ARM, it comes against the backdrop of the MIPS division being up for sale, as is the rest of Imagination Technologies, so the new owner of the MIPS technology has yet to be determined.

Related stories:

Thursday, August 17, 2017

First flexible 2.4GHz antenna designed specifically for metal surfaces

By Nick Flaherty

Laird has developed a flexible 2.4GHz antenna designed to be used directly on metal surfaces without detuning, boosting the performance of IoT applications. A higher performance antenna provides longer range or longer battery life.

The patented mFlexPIFA antenna is just 2mm thick and aimed at wirelessly connecting everything from household appliances and automated equipment to medical devices and millions of other items. It is based on a Planer Inverted-F Antenna (PIFA) structure comprised of a mylar antenna element with a foam core, resulting in a low profile, flexible antenna.

The mFlexPIFA antenna can be mounted in a wide range of embedded and external applications with metal surfaces and enclosures. It is available in a 2.4 GHz version for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Zigbee, Thread, and general ISM applications. It is also certified for use in selected Laird Bluetooth and Wi-Fi modules.

The key is that the antenna can be placed directly onto metal surfaces without detuning the antenna, which until now has been a major challenge for product designers and OEMs. It also can be used on concave or convex curved metal surfaces to provide greater flexibility in design.

“Products with a lot of integrated metal and metal enclosures have historically provided significant challenges for antenna implementation, and Laird has solved this problem with the mFlexPIFA,” said Scott Lordo, Laird’s senior vice president and general manager. “Typically, placing an antenna near metal surfaces will detune the antenna, but the mFlexPIFA addresses this critical technical challenge.

“The mFlexPIFA joins our family of antenna solutions that are engineered to provide unmatched quality and flexibility, and solve real-world antenna design challenges, especially in products that will become a part of the Internet of Things,” he said, adding that Laird is a trusted source for wireless design, and provides custom antenna design services, product development, and on-site EMC certification and testing.

For more information about Laird’s mFlexPIFA, click here

Related stories:

Multicore Atom edge devices boost IoT performance

By Nick Flaherty

Super Micro Computer has launched a full suite of all-in-one systems for the growing Embedded Appliance, Intelligent Datacentre and Network Edge markets with long lifetime support. 

The compact systems and motherboards are designed around the new Intel Atom C3000 (Denverton) SoC feature lower thermal and power requirements and can improve performance by 2.5X compared to the previous generation for IoT designs.

Supermicro's A2 series motherboards feature 2 to 16 Atom cores, up to 128GB ECC memory, quad 10G SFP+ or RJ45 ports and up to 7 years long life. The  A2SDi series motherboards are optimised for low-power servers, storage appliances, or web hosting applications and are integrated with Intel QuickAssist technology (QAT) for network security appliances. These new low power full-featured motherboards extend Supermicro's embedded Server Building Blocks for transportation and communications infrastructure, retail applications, digital signage, industrial automation, digital security and surveillance, cloud and cold storage, medical imaging and network/security appliances.

"Our new Atom C3000 solutions can deliver 2.5X more performance to the Edge, which helps increase overall enterprise efficiency and drives improved competitiveness and productivity," said Charles Liang, President and CEO of Supermicro. "As the embedded server market continues to evolve, Supermicro has become the solution provider of choice with enterprise-class engineering, manufacturing and support expertise in this area."

The motherboards are in the Flex and mini-ITX form factors with additional building blocks for a wide range of edge applications including vCPE, NFV, SDN and SD-WAN. The boards support up to 6-cores in the Atom C3958 with quad 10G and up to 128GB memory on the A2SDV-16C-TLN5F.
For system form factors, solutions range from a 16W 1U box and compact 25W 1U rackmount to a 9W mini-tower and even a 3U MicroCloud system designed for entry-level dedicated hosting and memory caching applications.

Designers can choose between AC or DC power supplies and fan-less options. Networking and storage expansion capabilities with mini-PCIE and M.2 sockets make it easy to scale application hosting and storage.

Related stories:

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Modelling tool for rolling out edge computing infrastructure

By Nick Flaherty

Schneider Electric has developed a software tool that empowers partners to rapidly and accurately plan and design integrated, customised and highly reliable edge solutions. 

The APC Local Edge Configurator features an intuitive, easy-to-use interface, enabling partners to design a comprehensive, validated edge architecture, including rack, single-phase uninterruptible power supply (UPS), security, power distribution and software, in a plug-and-play model. This helps them provide redundancy and physical security with speed, agility and simplicity.

The growth of big data, the Internet of Things (IoT) and the explosion of data-intensive applications increases the need for real-time data processing, high bandwidth transmission and significantly reduced latency traditional data centres are unable to support. This necessitates the use of distributed IT environments at the network edge. Once relegated to disorganised, insecure wiring closets, these deployments are becoming highly critical, requiring more availability, security, redundancy and resiliency at the access layer than ever before. As a result, specifying, building and ensuring system component compatibility within these systems is becoming expensive and time-consuming for channel organisations.

"In response to a growing need for real-time access to information, edge computing is revolutionising the way in which data can be collected, processed and shared. As a result, edge deployments are becoming mission critical, and ensuring compatibility and validation of systems components is increasingly complex for the channel," said Shannon Sbar, Vice President, North America Channels for the APC power brand owned by Schneider Electric. "APC Local Edge Configurator delivers Certainty in a Connected World by eliminating these obstacles, empowering partners to easily build, test and ship fully integrated solutions, delivering the power and value channel partners need to remain competitive, and maximising the business opportunity around edge."

The online tool  draws from a comprehensive, automatically updating library of all currently available APC physical infrastructure solutions, as well as leading storage, networking, converged and hyperconverged systems from Cisco, Nutanix, Dell EMC and others.

The final physical architectures can be shipped as individual components or a fully integrated system when designed with the Cisco-certified APC NetShelter SX with Shock Packaging or built from the Micro Data Centre Xpress system. These latter options enable system integrator partners to limit the time and costs necessary for full manual integration and provide an easily installable product for customers.

Securing 3D printers with gold nanorods

By Nick Flaherty

Researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology and Rutgers University have developed a three-layer system to verify that components produced with 3D printing have not been compromised. 

The system uses acoustic and other physical techniques to confirm that the printer is operating as expected, and nondestructive inspection techniques to verify the correct location of tiny gold nanorods buried in the parts. The key is that the technique is independent of printer firmware and software in the controlling computer which may itself have been compromised.

"These 3-D printed components will be going into people, aircraft and critical infrastructure systems," said Raheem Beyah, the Motorola Foundation Professor and associate chair in Georgia Tech's School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. "Malicious software installed in the printer or control computer could compromise the production process. We need to make sure that these components are produced to specification and not affected by malicious actors or unscrupulous producers."

The technique uses acoustic measurement of the 3-D printer in operation. When compared to a reference recording of a correct print, this acoustic monitoring -- done with an inexpensive microphone and filtering software -- can detect changes in the printer's sound that may indicate installation of malicious software.

It also uses physical tracking of printer components. To create the desired object, the printer's extruder and other components should follow a consistent mechanical path that can be observed with inexpensive sensors. Variations from the expected path could indicate an attack.

The detection of the nanorods in the finished components is the third element. This uses Raman Spectroscopy and computed tomography (CT) to detect the location of gold nanorods that had been mixed with the filament material used in the 3-D printer. Variations from the expected location of those particles could indicate a quality problem with the component. The variations could result from malicious activity, or from efforts to conserve printer materials. This uses similar techniques to medical imaging, and the gold contrast materials were tested to make sure they wouldn't compromise the structural integrity of the printed components.

The researchers tested their technique on three different types of 3- printers and a computer numerical control (CNC) machine using a polyethylene tibial knee prosthesis as a test case. Beyond detecting malicious activity or quality problems, the technique could stop inadvertent production problems, reducing materials waste.

"Our focus now will be on testing the resilience of this technology and its resistance to intrusion and malicious attacks," said Javanmard.

Among the challenges ahead will be obtaining good acoustic data in the noisy environments in which 3-D printers typically operate. In the research reported by the researchers, operation of other 3-D printers near the one being observed cut the accuracy significantly, but Beyah believes that challenge can be addressed with additional signal processing. The technique will also be applied to additional types of printers, and to different materials.

With the capabilities of 3-D printers growing and their cost declining, Beyah believes the use of additive manufacturing techniques will continue to expand. The validation and intrusion detection system will therefore become more critical.

"The idea that additive manufacturing processes could be compromised to intentionally hurt someone hasn't really been considered with some of these applications," he said. "There is a good bit of room to improve the security of 3-D printers, and we think that will start with applications that are closest to humans, such as implants and medical devices."

Growth in security for Industry 4.0 is still slow says report

By Nick Flaherty

Consideration of security for the next generation of industrial systems is still slow, says a new report.

GrammaTech commissioned the report from VDC detailing the growing concerns in cyber-physical manufacturing systems within today’s smart factories. The report, “Industry 4.0: Secure by Design,” summarizes the results from surveying over 500 engineers to find that for Industry 4.0 to succeed, smart factories must be made secure by design, meaning security concerns should guide decisions from the earliest stages and through the full system development lifecycle.

According to 46% of developers surveyed by VDC, cyber security concerns are very or extremely important on their current project, up from 37% two years ago.

IoT is opening up a broad range of new business opportunities and solutions like the smart factory. Unfortunately, the introduction of connectivity can unearth new vulnerabilities and magnify any existing software quality issues.

One of VDC’s recommendations is a testing regimen including dynamic testing and static analysis to provide greater assurance that vulnerabilities are discovered and fixed. This can help embedded development teams secure their devices and accelerate their time-to-market in industry 4.0, as well as industries such as medical devices, aerospace, and transportation where software capabilities are key drivers of innovation and competitive advantage.

“Based on our research, action to prevent or mitigate vulnerabilities is not rising in parallel with the increasing awareness of the impact of security failures,” said André Girard, Senior Analyst at VDC. “Embedded engineers surveyed report that over 24% of their projects have no security actions taken.”

"The results found by VDC agree with what we see with our customers,” said Mark Hermeling, Senior Director of Product Marketing at GrammaTech. “GrammaTech has been promoting a security-first design approach that leverages automated software tools as much as possible. Advanced static analysis, for example, plays an important role in a secure design lifecycle.”

“Increasing the use of automated testing tools, starting in the early stages of software design can help their engineering teams prevent many common coding errors and security weaknesses,” said Girard. “The low existing use-rates of static analysis and binary analysis — tools that can help in the code acceptance process — suggests many Industrial Automation & Control engineering teams are not yet following best practices for third-party code use.”

Customised robotic OS and SDK aims to simplify system development

By Nick Flaherty

Vincross has launched a six-legged, all-terrain, highly maneuverable robot using its proprietary operating system called MIND.

The HEXA robot and its complete software developer kit (SDK) are available for backing on Kickstarter to simplify the development of robotic systems.

The MIND SDK and easy-to-follow documentation allows developers to create Skills that control HEXA’s movements. MIND also comes with a 3D Simulator where users build robot functionality with the click of a mouse. HEXA’s easy-to-use App provides access to user-created Skills and allows the operator to remotely control the robot.

“We all have this dream of what robots should be, of robots interacting with and helping humans on a daily basis. But the reality is, robots have a long way to go. To date, the industry has focused on single use robots for industrial labs or household cleaning purposes or robots for children. There hasn’t been a single robot or platform built for the masses – especially for those developers and innovators eager to create on robots,” said Tianqi Sun, founder and CEO of Vincross. “Our robotics ecosystem represents a breakthrough, where people can now build, learn and accelerate innovation in the field of robotics, ultimately turning society’s vision of robots into reality.”

“The single biggest impediment to technologies like robotics and AI is that talented developers don’t have ready access to the full technology stack required to engineer new products. These new technologies require full integration between hardware, the OS and product application design,” said Jenny Lee, Managing Director at GGV Capital. “With the launch of HEXA, Vincross is filling a palpable gap in the market for individuals who want to break into the booming robotics revolution. Tech enthusiasts, developers and innovators now have a comprehensive platform with Vincross’ hardware and software to teach themselves how to enable their vision.”

HEXA can nimbly handle different environments and terrains and the compact, lightweight body makes it convenient to fit into daily life. The camera includes night vision and allows it to interact with and learn from the world around it. Other sensors include two three-axis accelerometers for balance, a built-in distance measuring sensor and an infrared transmitter.

The MIND OS is based on the Linux kernel and is optimised for robots. It integrates various libraries and drivers to easily control the robot hardware and network. With MIND, individuals can integrate voice interaction and third-party device interaction with a mobile phone or IoT home appliances.
The SDK is powered by Golang and can seamlessly integrate third-party libraries, such as ROS and OpenCV. With a highly abstracted toolkit, there’s no need to know underlying hardware and complex mechanics, which means individuals are free to focus on building software applications that bring ideas to life.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Broadcom bids to dominate 802.11ax

By Nick Flaherty

Broadcom aims to dominate the market for 802.11ax with three new devices covering residential and enterprise routers and smartphones.

The Max WiFi devices enable up to four times faster download speeds, six times faster upload speeds, four times better coverage, and seven times better battery life than 802.11ac. The chips are designed to kick-start an ecosystem of Wi-Fi routers, residential gateways, enterprise access points, and client devices.

Max WiFi supports delivery of simultaneous video, voice, data and IoT services with an architecture that is optimised for internet upload and cloud storage. Broadcom expects a typical family of four expected to have an average of 50 connected devices by 2022, with the amount of media content exchanged among mobile devices through the cloud increasing exponentially. 

“The 802.11ax Wi-Fi protocol is significant for users as it functions in the critical 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands and adds OFDMA while retaining backward compatibility with legacy protocols," said Andrew Zignani, Senior Analyst at ABI Research. "The Wi-Fi device and traffic explosion, higher density Wi-Fi deployments, growing use of outdoor Wi-Fi, and the need to support a great variety of different device types will require more efficient Wi-Fi implementations that can help to deliver richer experiences for enterprise and consumer applications that are hungry for bandwidth.”

Broadcom’s ecosystem of Max WiFi products includes BCM43684, BCM43694 and BCM4375.

The BCM43684 is a chip targeted for the residential Wi-Fi market while the BCM43694 is optimized for use in enterprise access points with support for 4 streams of 802.11ax over a 4.8 Gbps PHY and e
160 MHz Channel Bandwidth.

The BCM4375 is a smartphone combo chip that supports two 2 streams of 802.11ax with Bluetooth 5.0+ including Low-Energy Long Range (LELR) and Real Simultaneous Dual-Band (RSDB) operation. This has a 1.429 Gbps PHY Rate and uses 1024 QAM modulation with multi-user MIMO, although technical details are not yet publicly available.

Broadcom is sampling the chips to early access partners in retail, enterprise and smartphone, service provider, and carrier segments, including Asustek, Arris, D-link, Netgear and TP-link.
“Advancement in the WLAN standards are critical to keep pace with the reliable delivery of quadruple play services to an increasing number of wireless connected devices in the home," said Larry Robinson, President of ARRIS CPE Products which develops TV set top boxes and routers. "The 6th generation WLAN standard, 802.11ax, adopts many of the established technologies from cellular standard such as LTE enabling true “carrier grade” Wi-Fi. This will allow service providers to provide their subscribers a best in class wireless experience that matches the WAN speeds provided by state of the art xDSL, DOCSIS and PON technologies. ARRIS is partnering with Broadcom to bring 802.11ax technology to the latest generation of Telco and Cable operator gateways.”

“D-LINK is working aggressively with Broadcom to bring the advances of 802.11ax technology to our customers. With the 6th generation of Wi-Fi, users can expect to connect more devices with better reliability and faster speeds,” said Anny Wei, CEO of D-LINK.

Cypress adds iCloud support for IoT designs

By Nick Flaherty

Cypress Semiconductor has updated its development platform for the IoT to add iCloud remote access support for Wi-Fi-based accessories using Apple's HomeKit.

The Wireless Internet Connectivity for Embedded Devices (WICED) Studio platform (acquired from Broadcom) API can now be linked to the Cypress CYW43907 Wi-Fi controller to create hub-independent platforms that connect directly to Siri voice control and the Apple Home app remotely. 

“Emerging smart home applications are providing some of the most tangible improvements to our everyday lives, not only giving us the convenience of controlling our lighting, appliances and thermostats remotely, but the ability to manage their usage and power consumption profiles more efficiently—which is a win-win for the environment and consumer pocketbooks,” said Brian Bedrosian, Vice President of Marketing for the IoT Business Unit at Cypress. 

“Our new WICED Studio development platform lets OEMs bring HomeKit support to their smart home products, enabling Siri control and convenient control using an iPhone, iPad or Apple Watch.” For example, the WICED platform is used in Leviton Manufacturing' Decora Smart family of lighting switches and dimmers with HomeKit support.

Using Cypress’ WICED development platform and ultra-low power CYW20719 Bluetooth/BLE MCU, developers can integrate HomeKit support into products such as smart lighting devices, leverage Siri voice control and connect to the Apple Home app seamlessly.

WICED Studio provides a single development environment for multiple wireless technologies, including Cypress’ Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and combo solutions, with an easy-to-use application programming interface in the world’s most integrated and interoperable wireless SDK. The kit includes the market’s most broadly deployed and rigorously tested Wi-Fi and Bluetooth protocol stacks, and it offers simplified application programming interfaces that free developers from needing to learn about complex wireless technologies. The SDK also supports Cypress’ high-performance 802.11ac Wi-Fi solutions that use high-speed transmissions to enable IoT devices with faster downloads and better range, as well as lower power consumption by quickly exploiting deep sleep modes.

The CYW43907 SoC integrates dual-band IEEE 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi with a 320MHz ARM Cortex-R4 RISC processor and 2 MB of SRAM to run applications and manage IoT protocols. The SoC’s power management unit simplifies power topologies and optimising energy consumption. The WICED SDK provides code examples, tools and development support for the CYW43907.

The WICED Studio SDK enables cloud connectivity in minutes with its libraries that uniquely integrate popular cloud services such as iCloud, Amazon Web Services, IBM Bluemix, Alibaba Cloud, and Microsoft Azure, along with services from private cloud partners and China’s Weibo social media platform. It has a single installer package for multiple wireless technologies with an Eclipse-based Integrated Development Environment (IDE) that runs on multiple operating systems, including Windows, MacOS and Linux.

A key factor is that the SDK is microcontroller (MCU)-agnostic and provides ready support for a variety of third-party MCUs to address the needs of complex IoT applications. The platform also enables cost efficient solutions for simple IoT applications by integrating MCU functionality into the connectivity device. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth protocol stacks can run transparently on a host MCU or in embedded mode, allowing for flexible platform architectures with common firmware.

Developers can access the WICED Studio platform, ecosystem and community at

Monday, August 14, 2017

Power news this week

By Nick Flaherty

POWER NEWS from eeNews 
. Perovskite stacked solar cell beats silicon efficiency for the first time

. £1.5m UK project for hybrid high frequency response power system

. Nissan sells off battery business to Chinese investor

. Hydrogen power for DC power grid

. Solid polymer rechargeable alkaline battery could take on lithium ion

. Consortium sets up battery gigafactory 'foundries'

. AirFuel demo sends 33W of wireless power

. Flexible buck converter extends battery life of USB Type-C PD devices

. First programmable USB Type-C switch for manufacturing and test

. Managing the successful adoption of new low-voltage memory ICs

. CUI: Medical Design Standards for Power Supplies to IEC-60601-1

. Spin Transfer: Advanced MRAM Technology

Multi-Band LTE/Wi-Fi/GNSS antenna with centimetre profile for IoT

By Nick Flaherty

PCTEL has launched a multi-band LTE/Wi-Fi/GNSS antenna with a sub-inch profile for IoT, precision agriculture and public safety applications. 

The rugged antenna combines PCTEL’s high rejection multi-GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) technology for precision timing and location tracking with high performance multi-band data connectivity. 

“Complex, high performance antennas are critical for modern public safety communications, as well as for commercial applications such as mobile asset management. However, vehicles and autonomous systems have limited space for antenna installation. PCTEL’s sub-inch antenna addresses these space limitations while delivering high performance multi-band coverage,” said Rishi Bharadwaj, Senior Vice President and General Manager of PCTEL's Connected Solutions group. 

“PCTEL also offers external and embedded antenna system design services for customers with more severe antenna size constraints or other specialized requirements,” he said.

The ruggedized ultra-low profile housing is less than 25mm and the GNSMB-COV supports multi-band LTE MIMO and dual-band 2.4/5 GHz Wi-Fi for data connectivity, as well as GPS, GLONASS, BeiDou, and Galileo GNSS satellite technologies. All GNSS elements feature PCTEL’s proprietary high rejection technology to ensure reliable satellite connectivity in the presence of LTE signals or other interference. The antenna has been fully tested for use in extreme environments and on heavy agricultural equipment.

Microchip launches In-Circuit Debugger with wider voltage range and higher speed

By Nick Flaherty

Microchip has launched an in-circuit programming and debugging development tool for its PIC microcontroller and dsPIC digital signal controller portfolios. The MPLAB ICD 4 includes all the features of the MPLAB ICD 3 debugger while adding increased speed through a faster processor and increased RAM.

The MPLAB ICD 4’s significant improvement in speed is accomplished through a 32bit MCU running at 300 MHz. This, combined with an increased buffer memory of 2 MB, results in a product that is up to twice as fast as its predecessor.

The puck-shaped debugger is housed in a durable, black case with a brushed aluminium top and is accented with an LED light strip to indicate debugging status. The tool has a wider target voltage range, from 1.20 to 5.5 V, as well as an optional 1 Amp of power when using an external power supply.

There is a selectable pull-up/pull-down option to the target interface and a configurable interface speed for optimised programming and debugging as well as support for JTAG debug.

The MPLAB ICD 4 supports all PIC microcontrollers and dsPIC digital signal controllers in Microchip’s portfolio through the MPLAB X Integrated Development Environment (IDE). This simplifies the design process for customers when they choose to migrate from one PIC MCU to another to meet the needs of their application.

Related stories:

Kalray uses massively-parallel processor for 'Just a bunch of flash' JBOF arrays

By Nick Flaherty

French massively parallel chip designer Kalray has developed a controller for  the next generation of data centre storage servers.

Available in the autumn, the KTC40 includes a PCIe board based on Kalray's MPPA2 manycore processor, as well as the all important complete software stack. This supports both NVMe-oF (embedded non-volatile memories over fabrics) and Ethernet JBOF (Just a Bunch Of Flash) to improve the density of SSDs. 

Using JBOF eliminates the need for costly and power hungry dual x86 controller and the associated DDR memory, reducing the cost of JBOFs by 65% and increasing SSD density within the JBOF by 60%. This gives an overall reduction in power consumption of 65%1. 

"We are excited to offer this unique solution to our data centre customers," said Eric Baissus, CEO at Kalray. "KTC40 will give our customers a new range of possibilities for optimizing their JBOF. This means increased SSD density, as well as big savings in both the cost of the JBOF itself and in terms of significant reductions in power consumption within the JBOF. We are confident that this will be a leading solution in the new era of Ethernet-compatible JBOFs."

Related stories:

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Supermicro backs Intel ruler SSD form factor

By Nick Flaherty

Supermicro has developed a petabyte solid state drive in the ruler form factor recently announced by Intel.

With a total of 32 NVMe "ruler" SSDs in a 1U system and each with up to 32TBytes, the system provides petabyte scale storage for IoT and big data applications in the data centre. 

Compared to current U.2 SSD 2U storage systems, the new form factor provides more than double the capacity per rack unit and is 40% more thermal efficient. The 1U system will support a half petabyte of NVMe storage capacity this year and a full petabyte early next year.

"Our new 'ruler' based system with 32 'ruler' form factor SSDs in 1U is the latest example of how Supermicro continues to push the innovation envelope for NVMe technology," said Charles Liang, President and CEO of Supermicro. "With more than double the capacity and 40% more thermal efficiency, this Supermicro 'ruler' system will take us to Petabyte scale in a single 1U system in the near future – an unimaginable territory just a short time ago."

"The 'ruler' form factor for Intel SSD is designed from the ground up with today's data centers' needs in mind, and brings dense storage and efficient management on a massive scale to the data center, breaking free from the legacy of hard drives and add-in cards," said Bill Leszinske VP, Strategic Planning and Business Development at Intel's NVM Solutions Group. "We are excited to, once again, transform the way data is stored, build on our long history of storage innovation and see tomorrow's groundbreaking solutions delivered today using this technology."

With over 100 NVMe based platforms in its X11 server and storage portfolio, the support of Supermicro is a positive more for the form factor. For example, the Supermicro BigTwin system supports up to 24 NVMe drives in 2U as well as 24 memory modules per node.

"Supermicro provides industry leading support for RAM and NVMe density on the BigTwin model that we are deploying for the new Intel Xeon Scalable processors. These systems allow us to support up to 6 NVMe drives per node for a total of 24 NVMe drives in 2U. This addresses the rapidly increasing performance demands that our clients put on our platforms," said William Bell VP of Products at PhoenixNAP which provides cloud, bare metal dedicated servers, colocation and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) solutions.

Supermicro has also developed 1U and 2U Ultra X11 servers with 20 directly attached NVMe SSDs. These have a non-blocking design, allocating 80 PCI-E lanes to the 20 NVMe SSDs. This approach provides the lowest possible latency to provide up to 18 million IOPS in throughput performance.

Related stories:

Friday, August 11, 2017

IoT 'thingbots' set to become the next dark web

By Nick Flaherty

IoT devices are becoming the “cyberweapon delivery system of choice” by today’s botnet-building attackers and are set to become the next dark web says the latest report from US security firm F5. 

The report tracks Telnet attack activity and, through a series of global maps showing infected systems, tracks the progression of Mirai, as well as a new thingbot called Persirai. The report also includes a list of the administrative credentials attackers most frequently use when launching brute force attacks against IoT devices.

Mirai systems in Europe — June 2017

Telnet attack activity grew nearly three time (280%) over the last six months, mainly from the massive growth due to the Mirai malware and subsequent attacks. However, the level of attacking activity at the moment doesn’t equate to the current size of Mirai or Persirai, indicating there are other thingbots being built that we don’t yet know about. Since there haven’t been any massive attacks post Mirai, it’s likely these thingbots are just ready and waiting to unleash their next round of attacks.

Almost all (93%) of the attacks occurred in January and February while activity significantly declined in March through June. This could mean that the attacker “recon” phase has ended and that the “build only” phase has begun. 

The top attacking country in this reporting period was Spain, launching 83% of all attacks, while activity from China, the top attacking country from the prior two periods, dropped off significantly, contributing less than 1% to the total attack volume. The top 10 attacking IP addresses all came from one hosting provider network in Spain: SoloGigabit.

SoloGigabit was the source of all attacks coming from Spain in this period. Given that SoloGigabit is a hosting provider with a “bullet proof” reputation, F5 assumes this was direct threat actor traffic rather than compromised IoT devices being forced by their thingbot master to attack.

Although IoT devices are known for launching DDoS attacks, they’re also being used in vigilante thingbots to take out vulnerable IoT infrastructure before they are used in attacks and to host banking trojan infrastructure. IoT devices have also been subject to hacktivism attacks, and are the target of nation-state cyber warfare attacks.

The Persirai, development shows attackers are now building thingbots based on specific disclosed vulnerabilities rather than having to launch a large recon scan followed by brute forcing credentials.

From a manufacturing and security perspective, the state of IoT devices hasn’t changed. In the short term, IoT devices will continue to be one of the most highly exploitable tools in attackers’ cyber arsenals, and thingbots will continue to be built until IoT manufacturers are forced to secure these devices, recall products, or bow to pressure from buyers, says the company.
Related stories:

'Ruler' form factor for solid state drives squeezes 1PB into a 1U rack

By Nick Flaherty

Intel has launched a new form factor doe solid state drives (SSDs) that is in the shape of a ruler. The new format can take storage up to a petabyte (1PB) in a 1U rack in data centre applications. 

Using the ruler form factor to squeeze 1PB of solid state memory into a 1U rack 

“We are in the midst of an era of major data center transformation, driven by Intel. These new “ruler” form factor SSDs and dual port SSDs are the latest in a long line of innovations we’ve brought to market to make storing and accessing data easier and faster, while delivering more value to customers,” said Bill Leszinske, Intel vice president, Non-Volatile Memory Solutions Group (NSG), and director, strategic planning, marketing and business development. “Data drives everything we do – from financial decisions to virtual reality gaming, and from autonomous driving to machine learning – and Intel storage innovations like these ensure incredibly quick, reliable access to that data.”

The new “ruler” form factor, so-called for its long, skinny shape, shifts storage from the legacy 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch form factors that follow traditional hard disk drives, and the add-in card form factor, which takes advantage of PCIe card slots, and delivers on the promise of non-volatile storage technologies to eliminate constraints on shape and size. 

This reduces cooling and power needs and with Intel's 3D NAND technology will enable up to 1PB in a 1U server – enough storage for 300,000 HD movies, or about 70 years of nonstop entertainment. Both Intel Optane SSDs and Intel 3D NAND SSDs in the “ruler” form factor will come to market in the near future says the company.

Intel’s solid state drive site.

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Culligan uses Ayla network for smart home WiFi water monitoring

By Nick Flaherty

US water treatment company Culligan is using the Internet of Things (IoT) platform from Ayla Networks for its first smart home product.

The Culligan Connect for HE sensors can monitor and control Culligan High-Efficiency (HE) water softeners remotely, from anywhere in the world—and Culligan dealers can monitor system status and provide more proactive service to homeowners.

“Ayla’s extensive expertise, breadth of IoT technology and experience with leading appliance brands made us confident their IoT infrastructure could manage uptime, security, scalability and all the other capabilities necessary for a successful smart home product,” said Zach Schroeck, director of retail and product management for Culligan International. “Now that we have our first connected product on the market, we look forward to expanding our connected capabilities throughout our product portfolio.”

Culligan Connect systems use Ayla embedded agents to connect via Wi-Fi to the Ayla cloud, and Culligan used Ayla’s Agile Mobile Application Platform (AMAP) to design its mobile app.

“Culligan has designed an elegant two-phase interface to leverage the IoT data generated by their connected water softeners: a mobile app for end customers and a web-based portal for dealers,” said David Friedman, CEO and co-founder of Ayla Networks. “The Culligan Connect product takes full advantage of the Ayla IoT platform to deliver a smart home appliance that will add real value for both homeowners and Culligan dealers.”

The Culligan Connect Wi-Fi accessory can conserve water and energy by tracking water usage, allowing users to bypass treated water for outdoor cleaning and watering applications. Users receive push notifications or alerts when salt supplies are low or if there’s unexpected water flow when residents are away from home.

Culligan dealers can use the IoT data generated through the Culligan Connect accessory to monitor the status and settings of connected water softeners easily, from their desks, receive diagnostic and system status reports and error alerts remotely, at any time and track usage data to make sure the system is sized correctly and to predict when it’s time to regenerate the salts. This allows them to contact customers when there’s a problem rather than waiting for customers to contact them and proactively schedule service visits based on individual customers’ needs. This saves time and cost by knowing the nature of system errors before sending a truck to the customer’s home.

The Culligan Connect accessory is currently compatible with Culligan high-efficiency (HE) water softeners in the United States and Canada. 

Ayla Networks' cloud platform-as-a-service (PaaS) is a member of the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Partner Network, so all connected products running on the Ayla IoT cloud gain the security and availability benefits of the AWS cloud infrastructure. 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Portugal rolls out first NB-IoT smart meter

By Nick Flaherty

The first operational pilot project using electrical energy smart meters and NB-IoT communications technology has start in the Parque das Nações in Lisbon. 

Huawei, which has been one of the main contributors towards standardizing NB-IoT technology, has developed the NB-IoT Smart Meter in partnership with JANZ CE and u‑blox. EDP Distribuição is using this technology for a pilot project as part of the UPGRID project of the Horizon 2020 Program of the European Commission. The infrastructure network using NB-IoT technology has been installed by NOS, based on Huawei’s technology, making NOS the first operator in Portugal to test the 4.5G – IoT technology on its network infrastructure.

NB-IoT offers a battery life of up to 10 years, a gain of 20dB over conventional GSM networks and support more than 100,000 connections per cell. This helps with the automatic detection of failures, improving the time needed to restore service and quicker detection of problems so that teams can be allocated immediately and precisely on the ground for the problem to be resolved rapidly;
The Parque das Nações area in Lisbon was chosen by EDP Distribuição to pilot the project among around 100 customers, until the end this year. This cluster of the city is already covered by NB-IoT and has been equipped with two NOS base stations, which provide NB-IoT coverage. Intelligent energy management in the homes of these customers, who will also play an active role in helping to improve their energy consumption efficiency, represents a relevant practical example for this technology.

“We are really proud of NOS’ involvement in this innovative project, which will make a real difference in making electricity consumption more efficient in Portuguese homes in the near future. Working with long term partners, such as Huawei, and with new companies with a vision of the future, is always a guarantee of success and will strengthen the competitive position of NOS,” said Manuel Ramalho Eanes, board director of NOS. 

"We strongly believe that this technology will be the driver for mass adoption of IoT due to its unique advantages," said aid Chris Lu, CEO of Huawei Portugal. "Huawei is also contributing towards faster development of the E2E ecosystem, by deploying several labs around the world focused on the integration of NB-IoT technology in a variety of devices. We are proud to participate in this first successful NB-IoT Electricity Smart Meter project with our partners NOS, EDP Distribuição, JANZ CE and u-blox, and we renew our commitment to continuing partnerships of this kind to develop the maturity of the NB-IoT ecosystem in Portugal.”

"u-blox has been an early pioneer developing technical expertise and thought leadership in NB-IoT. Since years, we’ve worked closely with Huawei and with global mobile operator partners to complete technology demonstrators and the first successful commercial trials of pre-standard NB-IoT in several Industrial IoT and Smart Metering applications. With SARA-N2, a 3GPP compliant NB-IoT module, u-blox keeps driving innovation to the Smart Metering industry, and we are now really pleased and proud to support, along with our partners JANZ CE, Huawei, NOS and EDP distribuição, the world first electricity smart metering pilot performed on a live commercial network and using 3GPP standard NB-IoT technology," said Andreas Thiel, Co-Founder and Executive VP, Cellular Products & IC Design at u-blox.

Starter set for COM Express Type 7 server-on-modules triggers modular micro server designs

By Nick Flaherty

congatec has launched a new COM Express Type 7 quick starter set as the basis for OEM’s modular micro server designs. 

The new quick starter set simplifies the evaluation of the first server-on-modules designed to the PICMG COM Express Type 7 standard for cloud, edge, and fog server applications. Engineers further benefit from reduced validation efforts of their own carrier board layouts, as they can re-use the proposed best practice components and PCB design schematics for their own dedicated next-gen modular micro servers. congatec provides the schematics of the new carrier board (conga-X7/EVAL) to all registered quick starter set customers for free.

The starter set is intended to kickstart designs of Industry 4.0 micro servers communicating in real-time, redundant fog servers, and transcoding cloudlets at the edge of carrier-grade infrastructures typically operating on a massive scale. It targets commercial temperature (0°C to 60°C) as well as extended temperature ranges (-40C to +85°C) for rooftop and public transportation installations and is universally applicable. 

With 4x 10 Gbit and 1x 1 Gbit Ethernet, 4x USB 3.0 and baseboard management controller providing VGA, iKVM and virtual storage the evaluation carrier board can instantly be used at any test designer’s standard workspace.

“Cloud, edge, and fog application markets are all brand new – and engineers need a trustworthy platform strategy to ensure fastest time to market for their challenging and usually time critical projects," said Christian Eder, Director Marketing at congatec. "By offering a quick starter set that is compiled out of our COM Express Type 7 modules, complementary cooling solutions, and our new evaluation carrier board conga-X7/EVAL, we provide everything engineers require for the computing cores of these servers."

The congatec conga-X7/EVAL evaluation carrier board for COM Express Type 7 server-on-modules features 4x 10 Gigabit Ethernet SFP+ interfaces, which can be equipped with optical (XFP) or copper transceivers, as well as a Gigabit Ethernet port. 

For server extensions, the board executes 32 PCI Express lanes via 1x PCIe x16, 1x PCIe x8 and 2x PCIe x4 slots. Further extensions include 4x USB 3.0/2.0 and a COM port. Its Intelligent Platform Management Interface (IPMI) features include an integrated board management controller, adding 1x VGA for local displays as well as iKVM to transport keyboard, video and mouse signals over LAN for remote management. 

For SSDs or HDDs, there are 2x SATA Gen3 interfaces and the PCIe lanes support NVMe for fast mass storage devices. Further features include 1x LPC header, 1x I2C bus, 1x SM bus, 1x 8 Bit GPIO and fan control. The power supply supports ATX PSUs as well as 12 VDC plain via banana jacks. For custom designs, congatec provides the PCB schematics and bill of materials to registered customers.

The quick starter set comprises a selection of standard products that engineers can bundle according to their specific demands. Typical quick starter sets for COM Express Type 7 integrate the conga-X7/EVAL carrier board plus its schematics, which are freely downloadable for registered customers along with a choice of micro server processor modules.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Fuzz testing identifies IoT and industrial control vulnerabilities

By Nick Flaherty

EDA vendor Synopsys has carried out analysis on potential zero-day exploits in the open source protocols and common file formats used across six key industries, including automotive, financial services, government, healthcare, industrial control systems, and Internet of Things (IoT). 

The results stem from more than 4.8 billion fuzz tests conducted by Synopsys’ customers in 2016 using the Defensics Fuzz Testing solution. Perhaps better known for chip design tools, Synopsys has been concentrating on software integrity as well. 

“Fuzz testing is a powerful component of the Synopsys Software Integrity Platform to uncover zero-day vulnerabilities and help organizations protect their software,” said Andreas Kuehlmann, senior vice president and general manager for the Synopsys Software Integrity Group. “By analysing such a large data set from our customers, the fuzzing report provides visibility into unknown, hard-to-find vulnerabilities and highlights where security teams should look to improve the quality and security of their software.”

The report found that  the overall average time to first failure (TTFF) — the first instance when a protocol crash is recorded — was 1.4 hours. In the case of more mature protocols, the length of time is in hours. But with less mature protocols, that time could be as short as a few seconds, indicating a higher likelihood of exploitable vulnerabilities.
The least mature protocol tested in 2016 was IEC-61850 MMS (ICS). This is a niche protocol used in IoT and industrial control systems. The average TTFF for IEC-61850 MMS was 6.6 seconds.
The most mature protocol tested in 2016 was TLS client (Core IP). This is commonly used for secure web browsing including online banking and e-commerce. The average TTFF for TLS client was 9 hours.

According to a recent Forrester Research report, “Security pros have applied fuzz testing and application hardening tools on web applications for many years. However, these tools are finding new footholds in the IoT market, where applications are hard to crawl with traditional prerelease testing tools like DAST and face the same tampering threats as mobile applications. As IoT applications become more prevalent, expect fuzz testing and application hardening tools to have a rebirth.”1

The Synopsys Fuzz Testing product was used to identify the infamous Heartbleed vulnerability OpenSSL, which had gone unidentified for more than two years and impacted more than 500,000 websites. The product uncovers hidden, unknown vulnerabilities and helps organisations improve software security with advanced test suites for 250+ standard network protocols, file formats, and other interfaces. It not only uncovers dangerous unknown vulnerabilities, but also provides expert remediation advice to help organizations future-proof the software they rely on.

Download the full copy of the Synopsys State of Fuzzing 2017 report.

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High density 10 channel 1553 XMC card uses PCIe backplane

By Nick Flaherty

Alta Data Technologies has launched a high density (up to 10 channels) XMC MIL-STD-1553 interface card with the highest channel count.

The XMC-1553  uses a PCI Express 2.1 backplane to provide the 10 channels for PCI Express, VPX, VME, Single Board Computers (SBC), CompactPCI (or Express) PXI systems. It includes Alta’s advanced AltaAPI software development kit for a wide variety of operating systems. Commercial, extended temperature and conduction cooled options are available.

“The XMC-1553 offers amazing channel count options (1553A, 1553B and WMUX PP194) with an upgraded 2.1 PCI Express and internal memory design to reduce process I/O cycles in the customer's system. This new card represents a technology advancement to reduce the customers’ system footprint with reduced power and weight – freeing up valuable I/O slots on SBCs or VPX, VME, cPCI type systems,” said Harry Wild, Alta VP of Sales.

“The XMC-1553 card incorporates Alta’s proven AltaCore-1553 protocol engine along with industry unique signal capture and signal generator capabilities to provide advanced features for embedded, test and simulation applications," said Jake Haddock, CTO of Alta. "This is the only COTS product on the market that can execute and pass the AS4111 5.2 protocol tests, and our AltaAPI development kit, with over 100 example program templates, greatly speeds-up the application development process. In addition, all our cards work with AltaView analyzer software and have independent device control over 1553A/1553B channels and ARINC channel banks.”

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congatec looks to drive IoT cloud API standardisation with ComX

By Nick Flaherty

German board maker congatec is looking to develop a standard for APIs and middleware in the Internet of Things (IoT).

ComX would go beyond the current specifications for computer-on-modules and target API and middleware standardization including APIs for IoT Gateways or embedded features of COM Express Type 7 server-on-modules. This would also include approved circuit diagrams and logic for demanded carrier board implementations such as FPGA integration, switching logic for USB-C, or for SMART battery logic.

However there is intense competition between cloud APIs, so congatec is coming at this from the computer module hardware up.

“Significant improvements for design efficiency are highly demanded by embedded and IoT system engineers, who are faced with the design challenge of having to deliver more new product designs in the same or even shorter time frames. They can meet these challenges by switching from full custom, single PCB designs to more flexible designs based on application ready computer-on-modules. We can boost this efficiency even more, by offering an additional standardization on top of the computer-on-module centric specifications”, said Christian Eder, director marketing at congatec and draft editor of various PICMG and SGET specifications.

The goal of ComX is to establish an additional design-in and API standardization on top of the core standards to further simplify the development of customers’ dedicated applications based on standard embedded computing building blocks.
“ComX standardization includes the CPU technology independent implementation of a carrier board. A clever designed carrier board can use I2S for ARM and HDA for x86 sound implementation,” said Eder.  “An important standardization within the server sector was accomplished by launching the COMe Type 7 specification. Now we need to extend the EAPI standardization for server type functionality.”

congatec itself has a new Cloud API designed for IoT gateways and edge servers and a proposed element of SGETs API standardizations as the universal hub between local sensor networks and the IoT clouds. This allows communication with local smart sensors, processes and converts the acquired data and executes automated actions based on a local rule engine, reducing traffic to the IoT cloud and enabling fast local actions. Secure bidirectional data exchange with any suitable clouds is achieved by using the TLS secured MQTT protocol. Clients can access this cloud via https in client or administrator mode. 

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