Low Power, Secure Boot MCUs are Designed for IoT Implementations

Nuvoton Technology has launched a new low power, robust security M261/M262/M263 series MCU designed for IoT applications. It is based on an Arm Cortex-M23 secure core for Armv8-M architecture, running up to 64 MHz with 512 KB flash in dual bank mode supporting Over-The-Air (OTA) Firmware update and 96 KB SRAM.

The MCUs’ power consumption in the normal run is down to 45 μA/MHz in DC-DC mode. It implements a secure boot function and hardware crypto acceleration to achieve high security of IoT devices. For IoT connectivity and sensors, the MCU integrates SDHC 2.0, USB 2.0 FS OTG, CAN Bus 2.0B and a 3.76 MSPS ADC for sensing data from sensor devices. Two types of evaluation boards, NuMaker-IoT-M263 (shown) and NuMaker-M263KI, are available for the MCUs.
The M261/M262/M263 series is downward compatible with Nuvoton Arm Cortex-M0 microcontrollers. The low supply voltage ranges from 1.8 V to 3.6 V and operating temperature ranges from -40℃ to 105℃. The MCU series provides multiple power modes for different operating scenarios, integrating RTC with independent VBAT to support low power mode. The power consumption in normal run mode is 97 μA/MHz (LDO mode) and 45 μA/MHz (DC-DC mode). Standby power-down current is down to 2.8 μA and Deep power-down current is less than 2 μA. The low power, low supply voltage, and fast wake-up (9 μs from Fast-wakeup Power-down mode) features make M261/M262/M263 series suitable for battery-powered IoT applications.

The robust security functions include secure boot function to ensure that a device boots using only trusted software through a series of digital signature authentication processes. The M261/M262/M263 series integrates complete hardware crypto engines such as AES 256/192/128, DES/3-DES, SHA, ECC, and True Random Number Generator (TRNG). Furthermore, it provides 4-region programable eXecute-Only-Memory (XOM) to secure critical program codes and up to six tamper detection pins against outer physical attack, which significantly improves the product security.

The M261/M262/M263 series is equipped with plenty of peripherals such as Timers, Watchdog Timers, RTC, PDMA, External Bus Interface (EBI), LPUART, Universal Serial Control Interface (USCI), Qual SPI (QSPI), SPI/I²S, I2C, Smart Card Interface (ISO-7816-3), GPIOs, and up to 24 channels of PWM. Those peripherals make it highly suitable for connecting comprehensive external modules. It integrates one set of Secure Digital Host Controllers (SDHC) compliant with SD Memory Card Specification Version 2.0, achieving a transfer rate of 200 Mbps at 3.3V and 50 MHz operations.

The SD card for fast data storage is therefore available. For high performance analog front-end circuit blocks, it integrates up to a 16-channel 12-bit 3.76 MSPS SAR ADC, two 12-bit 1 MSPS voltage type DAC, two rail-to-rail analog comparator (ACMP), temperature sensor, low voltage reset (LVR), and brown-out detector (BOD) to enhance product performance and reduce both external components and form factor.

NuMicro M261/ M262 / M263 series consists of three series:

  • NuMicro M261 series – suitable for classic IoT node devices and wireless communication modules applications
  • NuMicro M262 USB 2.0 FS OTG series – integrating 1 set of USB 2.0 FS OTG interface (crystal-less design), suitable for connecting USB host/device for data transfer
  • NuMicro M263 USB/CAN series – integrating 1 set of CAN Bus 2.0B and 1 set of USB 2.0 FS OTG interface (crystal-less design), suitable for industrial and automotive applications requiring CAN Bus for data communication.

The NuMicro M261/M262/M263 series provides 9 product part numbers. The package types include QFN33 (5mm x 5mm), LQFP64 (7mm x 7mm), and LQFP128 (14mm x 14mm). Pin compatibility in the same package makes optimizing product features and performance easy.

Two types of evaluation boards, NuMaker-IoT-M263 and NuMaker-M263KI, are available for selecting the suitable development environment to speed-up product design based on the NuMicro M261/M262/M263 series. NuMaker-IoT-M263 board is a new platform focusing on IoT products design, it integrates 9-axis sensor, environmental sensor, and popular wireless communication modules including Bluetooth module, Wi-Fi module, and LoRa module. A 2G/3G/4G-LTE/NB-IoT module with GPS function is available for purchase. With the IoT software package provided by Nuvoton, connecting the cloud of Arm Pelion, Amazon AWS, and Ali-Cloud is hazard-free. And the development of IoT products can be completed quickly.

The Nu-Link debugger is available for evaluation and product development. Third-Party IDEs such as Keil MDK, IAR EWARM, and NuEclipse IDE with GNU GCC compilers are also supported.

Nuvoton Technology | www.nuvoton.com

Dual-Core Arm Cortex-M-Based Chip Breaks MCU GHz Barrier

NXP Semiconductors has announced the i.MX RT1170 family of crossover MCUs that combines high performance, reliability and high levels of integration for use in industrial, IoT and automotive applications. NXP claims the i.MX RT1170 family is a technology breakthrough with MCUs that run up to 1 GHz while maintaining low-power efficiency. To achieve an optimal balance of power, performance, and cost-effective integration, the solution uses advanced 28 nm FD-SOI technology, making NXP the first company to build MCUs in this advanced technology node.

The i.MX RT1170 MCU features include: a dual-core architecture with the Arm Cortex-M7 core running up to 1 GHz and Cortex-M4 running up to 400 MHz, 2D vector graphics core, NXP’s pixel processing pipeline (PxP) 2D graphics accelerator, and EdgeLock 400A, the Company’s advanced embedded security technology. The MCU s architected to deliver a record-setting 12ns interrupt response time, 6468 CoreMark score and 2974 DMIPS while executing from on-chip memory. The new crossover MCU integrates up to 2 MB of on-chip SRAM, including 512 KB that can be configured as TCM with Error Code Correction (ECC) for Cortex-M7 use, and 256 KB of TCM with ECC for Cortex-M4 use.

The i.MX RT1170 dual-core system pairs a high-performance core and a power-efficient core with independent power domains of operation, enabling developers to run applications in parallel or reduce power consumption by turning off individual cores as necessary. For example, the energy-efficient Cortex-M4 core can be dedicated to time-critical control applications, such as sensor hub and motor control, while the main core runs more complex applications. Additionally, its dual-core system can run ML applications in parallel, such as face recognition with natural language processing to create human-like user interactivity.

For edge compute applications, the GHz Cortex-M7 core significantly enhances performance for ML, edge inference for voice, vision and gesture recognition, natural language understanding, data analytics, and digital signal processing (DSP) functions. The combination of GHz performance and high density of on-chip memory speeds up face recognition inference time by up to 5x compared to the today’s fastest MCUs in the market, in addition to having processing bandwidth to improve accuracy and immunity against spoofing. The GHz core is also exceptionally efficient in executing computationally demanding voice recognition, including audio pre-processing (echo cancellation, noise suppression, beamforming, and barge-in) for improved cognition.

The i.MX RT1170 family incorporates NXP’s EdgeLock 400A embedded security sub-system, that includes High Assurance Boot (HAB) – NXP’s version of secure boot, secure key storage, SRAM-based PUF (physically unclonable function), high performance crypto accelerators for AES-128/256, Elliptical Curve Cryptography, RSA-4096 encryption algorithms, hashing acceleration for SHA-256/512, in addition to tamper detection. The i.MX RT1170 MCU also features in-line encryption engine (IEE) and on-the-fly decryption engines (OTFAD) to address the challenge of protecting the confidentiality of data stored in internal and external memories with no latency impact. The IEE is designed to encrypt and decrypt on-chip SRAM and external SRAM/PSRAM/DRAM, while OTFAD operates on external serial and parallel flash memories.

As the industry’s first MCU to integrate a 2D vector graphics core with support for Open VG 1.1 API, the i.MX RT1170 family enables the development of attractive user interfaces at low power by off-loading intensive graphics rendering to the GPU. The GHz core also brings 720p displays at 60fps refresh and 1080p HD screens at 30fps to create immersive visual experiences. The complementary combination of a GPU and high-performance core can be especially useful for smart home, industrial and automotive cockpit applications.

NXP’s i.MX RT Crossover MCUs are supported by NXP’s MCUXpresso Software and Tools – a common toolkit designed for MCUs to significantly reduce development effort, time and cost by providing high-quality tools that work together seamlessly and in conjunction with the larger Arm Cortex-M ecosystem. Customers can develop machine learning applications for i.MX RT crossover MCUs using NXP’s eIQ machine learning software development environment. 

NXP Semiconductors | www.nxp.com

 

Secure 240 MHz MCU Provides Wi-Fi and 43 GPIOs

Espressif Systems has announced the ESP32-S2, a truly secure, highly integrated, low-power, Wi-Fi microcontroller SoC supporting Wi-Fi HT40 and having 43 GPIOs. Based on an Xtensa single-core 32-bit LX7 processor, it can be clocked at up to 240 MHz. With state-of-the-art power management and RF performance, IO capabilities and security features, ESP32-S2 is well suited for a wide variety of IoT or connectivity-based applications, including smart home and wearables.

With an integrated 240 MHz Xtensa core, ESP32-S2 is sufficient for building the most demanding connected devices without requiring external MCUs. Users can leverage Espressif’s mature and production-ready software development framework (ESP-IDF).

ESP32-S2 supports fine-resolution power-control through a selection of clock frequency, duty cycle, Wi-Fi operating modes and individual power control of its internal components. When Wi-Fi is enabled, the chip automatically powers on or off the RF transceiver only when needed, thereby reducing the overall power consumption of the system. ULP co-processor with less than 5 uA idle mode and 24 uA at 1% duty-cycle current consumption. Improved Wi-Fi-connected and MCU-idle-mode power consumption.

Features:

  • CPU and Memory
    • Xtensa single-core 32-bit LX7 microcontroller
    • 7-stage pipeline
    • Clock frequency of up to 240 MHz
    • Ultra-low-power co-processor
    • 320 kB SRAM, 128 kB ROM, 16 KB RTC memory
    • External SPIRAM (128 MB total) support
    • Up to 1 GB of external flash support
    • Separate instruction and data cache
  • Connectivity
    • Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
    • 1×1 transmit and receive
    • HT40 support with data rate up to 150 Mbps
    • Support for TCP/IP networking, ESP-MESH networking, TLS 1.0, 1.1 and 1.2 and other networking protocols over Wi-Fi
    • Support Time-of-Flight (TOF) measurements with normal Wi-Fi packets
  • IO Peripherals
    • 43 programmable GPIOs
    • 14 capacitive touch sensing IOs
    • Standard peripherals including SPI, I2C, I2S, UART, ADC/DAC and PWM
    • LCD (8-bit parallel RGB/8080/6800) interface and also support for 16/24-bit parallel
    • Camera interface supports 8 or 16-bit DVP image sensor, with clock frequency of up to 40 MHz
    • Full speed USB OTG support
  • Security
    • RSA-3072-based trusted application boot
    • AES256-XTS-based flash encryption to protect sensitive data at rest
    • 4096-bit eFUSE memory with 2048 bits available for application
    • Digital signature peripheral for secure storage of private keys and generation of RSA signatures

Engineering Samples of ESP32-S2 beta will be available in June 2020.

Espressif Systems | www.espressif.com

 

Assortment of Tech Solutions Enable the Smart Home

IoT-Leveraged Living Spaces

From preventive maintenance for appliances to voice-controlled lighting, the subsystems that comprise a modern Smart Home continue to evolve. Providing the building blocks for these implementations, IC vendors are keeping pace with specialized MCUs, sensors platforms and embedded software to meet diverse requirements.

By Jeff Child, Editor-in-Chief

The evolution of Smart Homes is about more than pure convenience. Smart Home technologies are leveraging IoT concepts to improve energy efficiency and security, thanks to intelligent, connected devices. The topic encompasses things like power-saving motor control systems, predictive maintenance, cloud-based voice assistance, remote monitoring and more.

Clearly the market is an attractive one. According to the latest Smart Home Device Database from market research firm IHS Markit, the global Smart Home market is forecast to grow by nearly a factor of five to reach more than $192 billion in 2023, up from $41 billion in 2018 (Figure 1). The report says that the fastest-growing device types in the market include lighting, smart speakers and connected major home appliances.

Figure 1
According to research from IHS Markit, the global Smart Home market is forecast to grow by nearly a factor of five to reach more than $192 billion in 2023, up from $41 billion in 2018.

While it’s impossible to cover all the bases of Smart Home technology in a single article, here we’ll examine the microcontrollers (MCUs), analog ICs and special function chips that MCU vendors are developing to address Smart Home system designs.

Aware Appliances

An important piece of Smart Home technology is the idea of outfitting major home appliances with sophisticated maintenance features. With that in mind, in January Renesas Electronics launched its Failure Detection e-AI Solution for motor-equipped home appliances, featuring the Renesas RX66T 32-bit MCU. This solution with embedded AI (e-AI) enables failure detection of home appliances—such as refrigerators, air conditioners and washing machines—due to motor abnormality (Figure 2).

Figure 2
The Failure Detection e-AI Solution with embedded AI (e-AI) enables failure detection of home appliances—such as refrigerators, air conditioners and washing machines—due to motor abnormality.

Property data showing the motor’s current or rotation rate status can be used directly for abnormality detection, making it possible to implement both motor control and e-AI–based abnormality detection with a single MCU. Using the RX66T eliminates the need for additional sensors, thereby reducing a customer’s bill of materials (BOM) cost.

When a home appliance malfunctions, the motor operation typically appears abnormal when running and being monitored for fault detection in real-time. By implementing e-AI-based motor control-based detection, the failure detection results can be applied not only to trigger alarms when a fault occurs, but also for preventive maintenance. For example, e-AI can estimate when repairs and maintenance should be performed, and it can identify the fault locations. This capability provides home appliance manufacturers the means to boost maintenance operations efficiency and improve product safety by adding functionality that predicts faults before they occur in their products.

The solution uses the Renesas Motor Control Evaluation System and an RX66T CPU card. This hardware is combined with a set of sample program files that run on the RX66T MCU as well as a GUI tool that enables collecting and analyzing property data indicating motor states. In order to detect faults, it is necessary to learn the characteristics of the normal state. Using the GUI tool, system engineers can immediately begin developing AI learning and optimized fault detection functionality. Once the AI models are developed, the e-AI development environment (composed of an e-AI Translator, e-AI Checker and e-AI Importer) can be easily used to import the learned AI models into the RX66T. …

Read the full article in the October 351 issue of Circuit Cellar
(Full article word count: 3115 words; Figure count: 9 Figures).

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Dual-Interface Secure MCU Targets Contactless Banking Systems

STMicroelectronics has announced the ST31P450, a dual-interface secure microcontroller designed for contactless applications in banking, identity, transportation and pay-television. It features the latest 40 nm flash process as well as enhanced RF technologies. The ST31P450 is built on the proven 32-bit Arm SecurCore SC000 secure processor and meets ISO 7816 and ISO 14443 Type A smart-card and contactless standards. It supports the full range of MIFARE libraries including MIFARE Classic, MIFARE Plus and MIFARE DESFire.

ST’s 40 nm Flash technology creates an ultra-small die for dual-interface use cases such as banking and, with security-enhancing properties, increases safety and fraud prevention. Upgraded RF performance ensures ultra-reliable wireless connections for faster, easier contactless transactions.
In addition, the ST31P450 features new low-power cryptographic engines that minimize the energy budget and ensure superior product performance at low RF-field strength while executing cryptographic operations. The ST31P450 also comes with optimized loading firmware that makes life easier for card provisioners, offering post-issuance capability.

ST31P450 secure microcontroller, and its associated cryptographic libraries, are expected to achieve Common Criteria EAL5+, as well as EMVCo and CUP (China UnionPay) certifications within the coming months.

The ST31P450, with 450KByte non-volatile memory (NVM) and 10 KB RAM on-chip, is in production now.

STMicroelectronics | www.st.com

 

MCUs Suit Up for IoT Security Duties

Connected Confidence

In this IoT era of connected devices, microcontrollers have begun taking on new roles and gaining new capabilities revolving around embedded security. MCU vendors are embedding ever-more sophisticated security features into their MCU devices and other supporting security solutions.

By Jeff Child, Editor-in-Chief

As the Internet-of-Things (IoT) phenomenon proliferates, platforms of all kinds are getting more connected—everything from factories to cars to consumer devices. For their part, microcontrollers (MCUs) are key components in those connected systems. In turn, those MCUs have in recent years had to embed ever-more sophisticated security features on chip.

No single category of technology is the sole piece of the embedded security puzzle. The problems are multi-faceted: preventing intrusions by hackers, encrypting the data in case an intruder gets in, ensuring the components themselves aren’t tampered with—there are many layers to consider. Everything from application software to operating systems to data storage has a role to play in security. For the purposes of this article, we’ll focus on the technology solutions in the form of security-focused MCUs, software tool solutions and dedicated security edge devices. Over the last 12 months, the leading MCU vendors have beefed up those embedded security capabilities in a variety of diverse ways.

According to Julian Watson, senior principal analyst, IoT Connectivity at IHS Markit, the exponential growth of IoT devices is expected to continue on its upward trend and is predicted to jump an average of 12% per year from 27.8 billion units in 2017 to over 135 billion units in 2030. More IoT devices in the market means that more of consumers’ personal data is at risk and designers of these devices need to be responsible for ensuring that the IoT ecosystem is genuinely safe and secure for users.

PSoC MCU for IoT Security

Exemplifying those trends, in February Cypress Semiconductor released a new line of its PSoC 6 MCUs aimed at IoT security. The PSoC 64 Secure MCUs integrate standards-based system layer security software with the hardware layer features available in the ultra-low-power PSoC 6 architecture. Specifically, PSoC 64 Secure MCU devices provide an isolated root-of-trust with true attestation and provisioning services (Figure 1).

Figure 1
Aimed at IoT security. The PSoC 64 Secure MCUs integrate standards-based system layer security software with the hardware layer features available in the ultra-low-power PSoC 6 architecture—such as an isolated root-of-trust with true attestation and provisioning services.

In addition, the product line includes devices that deliver a pre-configured secure execution environment supporting the system software of various IoT platforms, providing TLS authentication, secure storage and secure firmware management. The MCUs also include a rich execution environment for application development, with an embedded RTOS from Cypress’ ModusToolbox suite that manages communication with the secure execution environment.

PSoC 64 Secure MCUs were one of the first Arm Cortex-M processors to be certified as Level 1 compliant within the Arm Platform Security Architecture (PSA) certification scheme, PSA Certified, utilizing a secure Trusted Firmware-M (TF-M) implementation integrated into the Arm Mbed OS open-source embedded operating system. The line is well suited for cloud-connected products that require protection of user data and trustworthy firmware updates, including personal healthcare devices, medical and chronic disease management equipment and home security solutions.

The line of PSoC 64 Secure MCUs is supported in Cypress’ ModusToolbox suite, which will allow designers to select the system firmware of secure IoT platforms—such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Arm Pelion and Alibaba—to develop their application, and then configure and verify their secure boot images. The MCUs include a hardware-based root-of-trust consisting of secured storage and firmware, establishing a command-based set of trusted services. The root-of-trust includes hardware accelerated cryptography, as well as true random number generation (TRNG).

Ultra-Small Secure MCUs

The latest MCU from Renesas Electronics with an IoT security twist was rolled out in July. The company announced four new RX651 32-bit MCUs supplied in ultra-small 64-pin BGA and LQFP packages. The MCUs are aimed at addressing advanced security needs for endpoint devices employing compact sensor and communication modules in industrial, network control, building automation and smart metering systems operating at the IoT edge. The new lineup expands Renesas’ RX651 MCU Group with a 64-pin (4.5 mm x 4.5 mm) BGA package that reduces footprint size by 59% compared to the 100-pin LGA, and a 64- pin (10 mm x 10 mm) LQFP that offers a 49% reduction versus the 100-pin LQFP.

Figure 2
The RX651 MCUs integrate connectivity, Trusted Secure IP (TSIP) and trusted flash area protection that enable flash firmware updates in the field through secure network communications.

The RX651 MCUs integrate connectivity, Trusted Secure IP (TSIP) and trusted flash area protection that enable flash firmware updates in the field through secure network communications (Figure 2). The increase in endpoint devices operating at the edge has increased the need for secure over-the-air (OTA) firmware updates. The new RX651 devices support this reprogramming requirement with integrated TSIP, enhanced flash protection and other technology advancements that offer a more secure and stable solution than other available solutions on the market. …

Read the full article in the September 350 issue of Circuit Cellar
(Full article word count: 2873 words; Figure count: 6 Figures.)

Vendor list:

Cypress Semiconductor | www.cypress.com
Maxim Integrated | www.maximintegrated.com
Microchip | www.microchip.com
NXP Semiconductor | www.nxp.com
Renesas Electronics America | www.renesas.com
STMicroelectronics | www.st.com
The Things Industries | www.thethingsindustries.com

Don’t miss out on upcoming issues of Circuit Cellar. Subscribe today!

Note: We’ve made the October 2017 issue of Circuit Cellar available as a free sample issue. In it, you’ll find a rich variety of the kinds of articles and information that exemplify a typical issue of the current magazine.

Arm Cortex M23-Based MCUs Feature FreeRTOS Kernel Support

Nuvoton Technology has announced that it is demonstrating the capability of FreeRTOS kernel support with the NuMicro M2351 Series. According to the company, the M2351 is one of the first Arm Cortex-M23 based MCUs that has a preconfigured example that embedded developers can use to run FreeRTOS on the officially supported Armv8-M architecture. Amazon Web Services (AWS) released the latest FreeRTOS kernel that includes a preconfigured example project for the Nuvoton NuMaker-PFM-M2351 evaluation board (shown).
At the beginning of 2019, the M2351 Series had achieved with Arm PSA (Platform System Architecture) Level 1 Certified and PSA Functional Certification. PSA Certified enables device makers to achieve the security required for their use cases through three progressive levels of security assurance, each requiring increasingly rigorous hardware and software evaluation, which are assigned by analyzing the use case threat vectors.

In achieving Arm PSA Functional API Certification, Nuvoton better enables ecosystem software compatibility to PSA standards, independent of hardware platforms. It’s highly configurable to suit target applications on constrained devices. As a very early Armv8-M architecture-based microcontroller vendor, Nuvoton has accumulated several IoT use cases covering a lot of devices connected to the internet with the M2351 Series.

Nuvoton Technology | www.nuvoton.com

Secure Wi-Fi MCU Provides IoT Connectivity Solution

Espressif Systems has announced the release of the ESP32-S2 Secure Wi-Fi MCU, a highly integrated, low-power, 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi SoC supporting Wi-Fi HT40 and 43 GPIOs. Based on the Xtensa single-core 32-bit LX7 processor, ESP32-S2 can be clocked at up to 240 MHz.

With state-of-the-art power management and RF performance, IO capabilities and security features, ESP32-S2 is well suited for a wide variety of IoT or connectivity-based applications, including smart home and wearables. With an integrated 240 MHz Xtensa core, ESP32-S2 is sufficient for building the most demanding connected devices without requiring external MCUs.

Features:

  • CPU and Memory
    • Xtensa single-core 32-bit LX7 microcontroller
    • 7-stage pipeline
    • Clock frequency of up to 240 MHz
    • Ultra-low-power co-processor
    • 320 kB SRAM, 128 kB ROM, 16 KB RTC memory
    • External SPIRAM (128 MB total) support
    • Up to 1 GB of external flash support
    • Separate instruction and data cache
  • Connectivity
    • Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
    • 1×1 transmit and receive
    • HT40 support with data rate up to 150 Mbps
    • Support for TCP/IP networking, ESP-MESH networking, TLS 1.0, 1.1 and 1.2 and other networking protocols over Wi-Fi
    • Support Time-of-Flight (TOF) measurements with normal Wi-Fi packets
  • IO Peripherals
    • 43 programmable GPIOs
    • 14 capacitive touch sensing IOs
    • Standard peripherals including SPI, I2C, I2S, UART, ADC/DAC and PWM
    • LCD (8-bit parallel RGB/8080/6800) interface and also support for 16/24-bit parallel
    • Camera interface supports 8 or 16-bit DVP image sensor, with clock frequency of up to 40 MHz
    • Full speed USB OTG support
  • Security
    • RSA-3072-based trusted application boot
    • AES256-XTS-based flash encryption to protect sensitive data at rest
    • 4096-bit eFUSE memory with 2048 bits available for application
    • Digital signature peripheral for secure storage of private keys and generation of RSA signatures
  • Power Consumption
    • ESP32-S2 supports fine resolution power control through a selection of clock frequency, duty cycle, Wi-Fi operating modes and individual power control of its internal components.
    • When Wi-Fi is enabled, the chip automatically powers on or off the RF transceiver only when needed, thereby reducing the overall power consumption of the system.
    • ULP co-processor with less than 5 uA idle mode and 24 uA at 1% duty-cycle current consumption. Improved Wi-Fi-connected and MCU-idle-mode power consumption.
  • Software
    • ESP32-S2 supports Espressif’s software development framework (ESP-IDF), which is a mature and production-ready platform, already used by millions of devices deployed in the field. Availability of common cloud connectivity agents and common product features shortens the time to market.

Engineering samples of ESP32-S2 beta are available this month (June).

Espressif Systems | www.espressif.com

Dual-Core MCUs Blend High Performance and Enhanced Security

STMicroelectronics has announced new STM32H7 MCUs which it claims are the industry’s highest-performing Arm Cortex-M general-purpose MCUs, combining dual-core performance with power-saving features and enhanced cyber protection. The new devices leverage a 480 MHz version of the Cortex-M7, the highest performing member of Arm’s Cortex-M family, and add a 240 MHz Cortex-M4 core.

With ST’s smart architecture, efficient L1 cache, and adaptive real-time ART Accelerator, the MCUs set new speed records at 1327 DMIPS and 3224 CoreMark executing from embedded flash. ST’s Chrom-ART Accelerator provides a boost to graphics performance. To maximize energy efficiency, each core operates in its own power domain and can be turned off individually when not needed.
Developers can easily upgrade existing applications through flexible use of the two cores. They can add a sophisticated user interface to an application such as a motor drive formerly hosted on a single-core Cortex-M4 MCU by migrating legacy code to the STM32H7 Cortex-M4 with the new GUI running on the Cortex-M7. Another example is to boost application performance by offloading intensive workloads such as neural networks, checksums, DSP filtering or audio codecs.

The dual-core architecture also helps simplify code development and accelerate time to market in projects where user-interface code may be developed separately from real-time control or communication features.

STM32H7 MCUs come with pre-installed keys and native secure services including Secure Firmware Install (SFI). SFI lets customers order standard products anywhere in the world and have the encrypted firmware delivered to an external programming company without exposing unencrypted code. In addition, built-in support for Secure Boot and Secure Firmware Update (SB-SFU) protects Over the Air (OTA) feature upgrades and patches.

Compared to flash-less processors, STM32H7 MCUs deliver high performance with the extra advantage of up to 2 MB Flash and 1 MB SRAM on-chip, says ST. This helps to better handle space constraints and simplify the design of smart objects in industrial, consumer and medical applications with real-time performance or AI-processing requirements. Moreover, the Cortex-M7 level 1 cache and parallel and serial memory interfaces offer unlimited and fast access to external memory.

Additional advanced features include Error Code Correction (ECC) for all flash and RAM memory to increase safety, multiple advanced 16-bit ADCs, external ambient-temperature range up to 125°C allowing use in severe environments, an Ethernet controller and multiple FD-CAN controllers giving communication-gateway capabilities, and ST’s latest high-resolution timer for generating precision waveforms.

ST has already extended the STM32Cube ecosystem by adding STM32CubeH7 firmware modules with application source code, including graphical solutions based on TouchGFX and STemWin graphical-stack library. There are also new Evaluation, Discovery and Nucleo boards. Developers can leverage all the standard elements of the STM32Cube development environment, including the ST-MC-SUITE motor-control toolkit, STM32Cube.AI machine-learning toolkit, STM32CubeMX, STM32CubeProgrammer and certified partner solutions for STM32.

STM32H7 dual-core MCUs are entering production and samples are available now. A broad selection of packages is offered, including WLCSP. Budgetary pricing starts at $8.19 for orders of 10,000 pieces The STM32H7 single-core MCUs including the Value line are also available at a budgetary pricing starting from $3.39 for orders of 10,000 pieces.

STMicroelectronics | www.st.com

Bluetooth Mesh (Part 3)

Secure Provisioning

In this next part of his article series on Bluetooth mesh, Bob looks at how to create secure provisioning for a Bluetooth Mesh network without requiring user intervention. He also takes a special look at an attack called Man-in-the-Middle which Bluetooth’s asymmetric key encryption is vulnerable to.

By Bob Japenga

Both of our cars are more than 15 years old. My only new car envy is with the lack of a modern audio system. With a rental car, I’m always envious of the Bluetooth support and the seamless way I can connect and reconnect my phone to the car’s system. Most of the new audio systems are well thought out and easy to use. For my birthday, I got a Bluetooth device that would connect my phone to my dumb audio system in both cars. I have been very happy with the devices although they have two quirks. One is that they don’t work when the car has been left outside and it’s below zero. After the car warms up, it will happily function. But it doesn’t like subzero temperatures.

The other quirk—pointed out by my grandchildren—is that when it powers up, it announces: “Waiting for Pairing.” And then when it is paired, it reports “Paired.” The quirk is that instead of saying “Waiting for Pairing” it sounds like it is saying “Waiting for Perry.” The first time my grandkids were in the car, they asked: “Who is Perry and why are we waiting for him?” Now I can only hear “Waiting for Perry” when I turn on the car.
Pairing is the way two standard Bluetooth devices establish the initial link for one-to-one networking (Figure 1). Bluetooth mesh needs a much more sophisticated and secure method of linking the many-to-many network. That method is called provisioning. I introduced Bluetooth mesh provisioning in my last article (Circuit Cellar 345, April 2019) [1]. So, if you haven’t read that article, as a minimum, it will be important to go back to understand the terms that were defined in that article and which I will be using in this article.

Figure 1
Pairing is the way two standard Bluetooth devices establish the initial link for one-to-one networking.

As I mentioned last time, the Bluetooth specification [2] states that only if an Out-of-Band (OOB) public key is used or if an OOB action is taken to pass the public key (using user supplied information), “provisioning is Insecure Provisioning.” This statement will basically jettison any project that does not use one of these two OOB methods when presented to a savvy IT group. It did for us. Imagine presenting to your CEO a new product line using Bluetooth mesh that doesn’t use one of these two methods. Most likely the savvy CEO will ask: “What is the projected return on our investment?” AND “Is it secure?” Would you want to say: “Well, we are using Insecure Provisioning but other than that it is secure?”

I’m not convinced that the specification is entirely accurate in this statement and would appeal to the Bluetooth SIG to reconsider their wording. I want to elaborate on this idea in this article and provide some means for making provisioning secure without using either of the two OOB methods to pass the public keys.

Man-in-the-Middle

As I mentioned last time, Bluetooth uses asymmetric key encryption during the first part of provisioning. Asymmetric key encryption has one basic security flaw. It is subject to what is called a Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) attack. Let me illustrate this attack.

Imagine that Bob and Barbara are happily married. I know, normally everyone uses Alice in these illustrations, but my wife’s name is Barbara. They want to communicate some secret birthday plans about their grandson Sean. So, they both send over clear text their public keys (B1 and B2) (Figure 2). Bob encrypts all of his messages with Barbara’s public key B2, and sends them to Barbara. Barbara decrypts all of Bob’s messages using her private key B2P. Barbara sends all of her messages to Bob using Bob’s public key B1 to encrypt the data. Bob decrypts Barbara’s messages with Bob’s private key B1P.

Figure 2
Shown here is an example exchange that would be insecure because it would be subject to a Man-in-the-Middle attack. However, during normal asymmetric key encryption, the attack can be prevented through authentication.

Imagine that grandson Sean is a curious computer whiz and wants to know what’s he is going to get for his birthday. He intercepts the public key exchange B1 and B2 between his grandparents. Instead of passing on their public keys, he sends them his public key S1. So, when Bob and Barbara send their messages encrypted with S1 to each other he intercepts them and decrypts them using his private key S1P since they are encrypting their messages with his public key S1. He finds out what he is getting for his birthday and then encrypts the messages using Bob and Barbara’s public keys and sends them back to them. Bob and Barbara are clueless to the fact that Sean now knows what he is getting for his birthday.

That example illustrates that, if during the provisioning process, the public keys are not exchanged OOB, the process would be insecure because they would be subject to a MitM attack. However, during normal asymmetric key encryption, the way this can be prevented is through authentication. If Bob can know that a key is authentically from Barbara, he would immediate recognize that the key that Sean sent was not from Barbara. During normal Internet asymmetric key encryption this authentication is done through Certificates of Authority created by a trusted signing authority.

The Bluetooth provisioning process includes authentication of the device as part of the process. Authentication can either be using an OOB technique or without OOB. So, I would contend that if you use some means of authenticating that does not transfer the credentials over the Bluetooth network, your provisioning process would be secure in spite of what the Bluetooth specification says (I am definitely treading on thin ice here!).

Read the full article in the June 347 issue of Circuit Cellar

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Preventing IoT Edge Device Vulnerabilities

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5 V MCU Family Provides Water Tolerant Touch Integration

NXP Semiconductor has announced its 5 V KE1xZ family of MCUs. Based on the Arm Cortex-M0+ core, the MCUs are suited for embedded control systems in harsh electrical environments and provide an integrated CAN controller and capacitive touch from 32 KB flash. Designed for a wide range of industrial applications, the KE1xZ family offers mixed-signal integration across a range of compact memory variants. The 1-MS/s ADC and FlexTimer modules, combined with NXP’s Freemaster software tools library and Motor Control Application Tuning plugin (MCAT) enable designs of Brushless DC (BLDC) and other motor-control systems.

NXP’s KE1xZ MCU family offers advanced noise immunity, water-tolerant touch and low-power wake-on-touch operation—essential features for the strict electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) standards of the industrial and home appliance markets. NXP’s touch IP, combined with software and tools provide a high level of stability, accuracy and ease of use, with continued responsiveness and functionality through wet conditions. It can sustain 10 V in conducted noise, in alignment with International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) 6100-4-6 test level 3.

Additional KE1xZ MCU features:

  • Internal 48MHz internal reference clock with 1% accuracy over full operating range
  • Boot ROM with built in bootloader and 128-bit unique device identifier (UID)
  • ADC self-calibration feature
  • Flash Access Control (FAC)
  • Cyclic Redundancy Check (CRC) generator module
  • Internal watchdog (WDOG) with independent clock source and external watchdog monitor (EWM)
  • On-chip clock loss monitoring
  • IEC 60730 Class B safety certification
  • LQFP package with 48- and 44-pin options

The KE1xZ MCU family will be available globally in March 2019 from NXP and its distribution partners with a suggested resale price from $0.79 at 10,000-unit quantities. NXP enables developers through its MCUXpresso software and tools ecosystem, along with its FRDM-KE15Z and FRDM-TOUCH development platforms (see image above), with respective suggested resale prices of $35 and $15. Third-party support is enabled from the broad ARM ecosystem.

NXP Semiconductor | www.nxp.com

 

May Circuit Cellar: Sneak Preview

The May issue of Circuit Cellar magazine is out next week!. We’ve been hard at work laying the foundation and nailing the beams together with a sturdy selection of  embedded electronics articles just for you. We’ll soon be inviting you inside this 84-page magazine.

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Here’s a sneak preview of May 2019 Circuit Cellar:

EMBEDDED COMPUTING AT WORK

Technologies for Digital Signage
Digital signage ranks among the most dynamic areas of today’s embedded computing space. Makers of digital signage players, board-level products and other technologies continue to roll out new solutions for implementing powerful digital signage systems. Circuit Cellar Chief Editor Jeff Child looks at the latest technology trends and product developments in digital signage.

PC/104 and PC/104 Family Boards
PC/104 has come a long way since its inception over 25 ago. With its roots in ISA-bus PC technology, PC/104 evolved through the era of PCI and PCI Express by spinning off its wider family of follow on versions including PC/104-Plus, PCI-104, PCIe/104 and PCI/104-Express. This Product Focus section updates readers on these technology trends and provides a product gallery of representative PC/104 and PC/104-family boards.

TOOLS & TECHNIQUES FOR EMBEDDED ENGINEERING

Code Analysis Tools
Today it’s not uncommon for embedded devices to have millions of lines of software code. Code analysis tools have kept pace with these demands making it easier for embedded developers to analyze, debug and verify complex embedded software. Circuit Cellar Chief Editor Jeff Child explores the latest technology trends and product developments in code analysis tools.

Transistor Basics
In this day and age of highly integrated ICs, what is the relevance of the lone, discrete transistor? It’s true that most embedded systems can be solved by chip level solutions. But electronic component vendors do still make and sell individual transistors because there’s still a market for them. In this article, Stuart Ball reviews some important basics about transistors and how you can use them in your embedded system design.

Pressure Sensors
Over the years, George Novacek has done articles examining numerous types of sensors that measure various physical aspects of our world. But one measurement type he’s not yet discussed in the past is pressure. Here, George looks at pressure sensors in the context of using them in an electronic monitoring or control system. The story looks at the math, physics and technology associated with pressure sensors.

MICROCONTROLLERS DO IT ALL

Robotic Arm Plays Beer Pong
Simulating human body motion is a key concept in robotics development. With that in mind, learn how these Cornell graduates Daniel Fayad, Justin Choi and Harrison Hyundong Chang accurately simulate the movement of a human arm on a small-sized robotic arm. The Microchip PIC32 MCU-based system enables the motion-controlled, 3-DoF robotic arm to take a user’s throwing motion as a reference to its own throw. In this way, they created a robotic arm that can throw a ping pong ball and thus play beer pong.

Fancy Filtering with the Teensy 3.6
Signal filtering entails some tricky tradeoffs. A fast MCU that provides hardware-based floating-point capability eases some of those tradeoffs. In the past, Brian Millier has used the Arm-based Teensy MCU modules to serve meet those needs. In this article, Brian taps the Teensy 3.6 Arm MCU module to perform real-time audio FFT-convolution filtering.

Real-Time Stock Monitoring Using an MCU
With today’s technology, even very simple microcontroller-based devices can fetch and display data from the Internet. Learn how Cornell graduates David Valley and Saelig Khatta built a system using that can track stock prices in real-time and display them conveniently on an LCD screen. For the design, they used an Espressif Systems ESP8266 Wi-Fi module controlled by a Microchip PIC32 MCU. Our fun little device fetches chosen stock prices in real-time and displays them on a screen.

… AND MORE FROM OUR EXPERT COLUMNISTS

Attacking USB Gear with EMFI
Many products use USB, but have you ever considered there may be a critical security vulnerability lurking in your USB stack? In this article, Colin O’Flynn walks you through on example product that could be broken using electromagnetic fault injection (EMFI) to perform this attack without even removing the device enclosure.

An Itty Bitty Education
There’s no doubt that we’re living in a golden age when it comes to easily available and affordable development kits for fun and education. With that in mind, Jeff Bachiochi shares his experiences programming and playing with the Itty Bitty Buggy from Microduino. Using the product, you can build combine LEGO-compatible building blocks into mobile robots controlled via Bluetooth using your cellphone.

Low-Power Wireless MCUs Provide Real-Time Performance

STMicroelectronics (ST) has announced its latest Bluetooth offering, its STM32WBx5 dual-core wireless MCUs. The devices come with Bluetooth 5, OpenThread and ZigBee 3.0 connectivity combined with ultra-low-power performance. Fusing features of ST’s STM32L4 Arm Cortex-M4 MCUs and in-house radio managed by a dedicated Cortex-M0+, the STM32WBx5 is power-conscious yet capable of concurrent wireless-protocol and real-time application execution. It is well suited to remote sensors, wearable trackers, building automation controllers, computer peripherals, drones and other IoT devices.
Security features of the STM32WBx5 MCUs include Customer Key Storage (CKS), Public Key Authorization (PKA), and encryption engines for the radio MAC and upper layers. The MCUs have up to 1 MB of on-chip flash and a Quad-SPI port for efficient connection to external memory, if needed. Additional features include crystal-less Full-Speed USB, 32 MHz RF oscillator with trimming capacitors, a touch-sense controller, LCD controller, analog peripherals and multiple timers and watchdogs. The balun for antenna connection is also integrated.

Leveraging ultra-low-power technologies of the STM32L4 line, STM32WBx5 MCUs feature multiple power-saving modes including 13 nA shutdown mode, adaptive voltage scaling, and the adaptive real-time (ART) accelerator to maximize energy efficiency and ensure long-lasting performance in self-powered applications. The integrated radio transmitter is optimized for high RF performance and low power consumption to maximize battery runtime. The RF output power is programmable up to +6 dBm in 1 dB increments, and the MCU draws only 5.2 mA when transmitting at 0 dB. Receive sensitivity is -96 dBm for BLE communication at 1mbps. Designed for a link budget of 102 dB, the radio ensures robust communication over long connection distances and includes support for an external Power Amplifier (PA).

STMicroelectronics | www.st.com

 

April Circuit Cellar: Sneak Preview

The April issue of Circuit Cellar magazine is out next week (March 20th)!. We’ve worked hard to cook up a tasty selection of in-depth embedded electronics articles just for you. We’ll be serving them up to in our 84-page magazine.

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Here’s a sneak preview of April 2019 Circuit Cellar:

VIDEO AND DISPLAY TECHNOLOGIES IN ACTION

Video Technology in Drones
Because video is the main mission of the majority of commercial drones, video technology has become a center of gravity in today’s drone design decisions. The topic covers everything including single-chip video processing, 4k HD video capture, image stabilization, complex board-level video processing, drone-mounted cameras, hybrid IR/video camera and mesh-networks. In this article, Circuit Cellar’s Editor-in-Chief, Jeff Child, looks at the technology and trends in video technology for drones.

Building an All-in-One Serial Terminal
Many embedded systems require as least some sort of human interface. While Jeff Bachiochi was researching alternatives to mechanical keypads, he came across the touchscreen display products from 4D Systems. He chose their inexpensive, low-power 2.4-inch, resistive touch screen as the basis for his display subsystem project. He makes use of the display’s Espressif Systems ESP8266 processor and Arduino IDE support to turn the display module into a serial terminal with a serial TTL connection to other equipment.

MICROCONTROLLERS ARE EVERYWHERE

Product Focus: 32-Bit Microcontrollers
As the workhorse of today’s embedded systems, 32-bit microcontrollers serve a wide variety of embedded applications-including the IoT. MCU vendors continue to add more connectivity, security and I/O functionality to their 32-bit product families. This Product Focus section updates readers on these trends and provides a product album of representative 32-bit MCU products.

Build a PIC32-Based Recording Studio
In this project article, learn how Cornell students Radhika Chinni, Brandon Quinlan, Raymond Xu built a miniature recording studio using the Microchip PIC32. It can be used as an electric keyboard with the additional functionality of recording and playing back multiple layers of sounds. There is also a microphone that the user can use to make custom recordings.

WONDERFUL WORLD OF WIRELESS

Low-Power Wireless Comms
The growth in demand for IoT solutions has fueled the need for products and technology to do wireless communication from low-power edge devices. Using technologies including Bluetooth Low-Energy (BLE), wireless radio frequency technology (LoRa) and others, embedded system developers are searching for ways to get efficient IoT connectivity while drawing as little power as possible. Circuit Cellar Chief Editor Jeff Child explores the latest technology trends and product developments in low-power wireless communications.

Bluetooth Mesh (Part 2)
Continuing his article series on Bluetooth mesh, this month Bob Japenga looks at the provisioning process required to get a device onto a Bluetooth mesh network. Then he examines two application examples and evaluates the various options for each example.

Build a Prescription Reminder
Pharmaceuticals prescribed by physicians are important to patients both old and young. But these medications will only do their job if taken according to a proper schedule. In this article, Devlin Gualtieri describes his Raspberry-Rx Prescription Reminder project, a network-accessible, the Wi-Fi connected, Raspberry Pi-based device that alerts a person when a particular medication should be administered. It also keeps a log of the actual times when medications were administered.

ENGINEERING TIPS, TRICKS AND TECHNIQUES

The Art of Current Probing
In his February column, Robert Lacoste talked about oscilloscope probes—or more specifically, voltage measurement probes. He explained how selecting the correct probe for a given measurement, and using it as it properly, is as important as having a good scope. In this article, Robert continues the discussion with another common measurement task: Accurately measuring current using an oscilloscope.

Software Engineering
There’s no doubt that achieving high software quality is human-driven endeavor. No amount of automated code development can substitute for best practices. A great tool for such efforts is the IEEE Computer Society’s Guide to the Software Engineering Body of Knowledge. In this article, George Novacek discusses some highlights of this resource, and why he has frequently consulted this document when preparing development plans.

HV Differential Probe
A high-voltage differential probe is a critical piece of test equipment for anyone who wants to safely examine high voltage signals on a standard oscilloscope. In his article, Andrew Levido describes his design of a high-voltage differential probe with features similar to commercial devices, but at a considerably lower cost. It uses just three op amps in a classic instrumentation amplifier configuration and provides a great exercise in precision analog design.