Over the past four decades, the operative slogan for the embedded world has been "faster, lower power, and cheaper." With the advent of wireless technologies, and subsequent cost reductions, the embedded world is going through a ‘big bang’ phenomenon, with forces so lethal that very few can predict how the future landscape will be formed after the lava cools down.
What is clear is that these forces are mandating the adoption of certain fundamental technologies, such as embedded security, to at least ensure our survival as we traverse this black hole. First and foremost, we must protect ourselves and our assets. For this, we must trust and be trusted. The ability to implement security to ensure trusted sources and to ensure trusted data sets are here today…
From the inception of electronics systems, and until not too long ago, it was rather easy to define an embedded system as a machine dedicated to performing a specific task. An ATM machine, a home appliance, or a medical device.
Over the past five years, the proliferation and cost reduction of various wireless connectivity solutions, along with advances in enterprise level cloud computing, have worked hand in hand to create the first revolution in the embedded world, now commonly referred to as IoT (Internet of Things).
The proliferation of sensors, ubiquitous connectivity, and almost infinite cloud resources, have given new meaning to embedded systems, akin to giving life to machines. Accurate and cost-effective sensors that sense light, temperature, pressure, humidity, sound, and more sophisticated ones such as accelerometers, GPS, passive infrared and vision sensors, are giving the eyes, the nose and the ears that our embedded machines’ brains lacked. Hence, giving life to embedded machines.
Once machines have lives, the potential exists to increase their value exponentially. Simultaneously, machines with lives can be tricked to mis-behave, just as hackers have proven so over the years.
"Once you have connectivity, you need security." This simple statement can sum up the era we are in. Every day, insular and standalone machines are being connected to other machines or to the cloud for enhanced productivity and value. And as soon as machines are connected, they become vulnerable to attacks. Introduction of highly robust security mechanisms will give us the ability to identify and protect our lively machines in a connected world.
While embedded security brings about many values, in its simplest form, one can define it as the ability to identify each and every machine via a unique identifier, which leads to trust.
Two forces that have been maturing on the backs of the internet, Artificial Intelligence (until now mostly used in search engines and social media), and Blockchain (the foundational technology for Cryptocurrencies) are beginning to spill over to the embedded world.
Today’s AI based services are mainly driven based on input from enterprise systems that feed off of PCs and mobile platforms. However, there is a rapid move to adapting these enterprise level AI and Blockchain platforms into the embedded world. As I said earlier, machines with sensors have become lively. Considering the number and diversity of machines that exist in our factories, our hospitals, our homes, and commercial venues, and once our secured machines can be trusted, then the application and adoption of AI can exponentially expand our machines’ value proposition. In order for AI algorithms to work properly, they need to be able to trust the data source and the data sets. The data source is what we have already talked about when we added security to our embedded machines. How about the data sets?
Cryptocurrencies rely on the foundational technology of Blockchain. A technology that encrypts electronic transactions and records them on a distributed network of computers. Blockchain has already mushroomed beyond cryptocurrency and is enabling the enterprise world, financial and insurance institutions, government and private record keeping institutions, and many other fields to adopt the Blockchain fundamentals to further secure their data sets and the associated transactions.
As Blockchain finds its way into the embedded world, then the data sets that are produced by the embedded machines can also be trusted and used beyond their natural homogenous configurations. If one machine in the chain fails or is tampered with, then because of Blockchain, the other machines will make up for the loss of the failed machine by providing the history, data, and associated transactions to the inquiring officer. And heterogenous machines (a home appliance and an elevator) can now establish an intelligent transaction directly with each other.
At IAR Systems, we have been investing in, and innovating solutions to address our customers’ needs as we transition from BC (Before Connectivity) to AC (After Connectivity) to today’s vicious Big Bang era. For over thirty years (BC), our development tools have been used by thousands of engineers around the world to make some of the best embedded machines out there.
With the advent of connectivity and the need for security, IAR Systems has acquired SecureThingz and is in the process of providing the same high-quality tools that embedded designers expect of us, for securing their machines by instituting security regimes that flow from project concept to development phase, and finally into the manufacturing phase.
And as we traverse this embedded Big Bang era, IAR systems will continually innovate to ensure our customers can focus on what they do best, and not worry about the piping required to get to their destination.
Please stay tuned as I will use this platform to continually elaborate on how AI and Machine Learning, embedded Security and Blockchain, and Cloud versus edge computing are forming how companies are re-innovating their commercial solutions.