Inside Advanced Scale Challenges|Wednesday, January 23, 2019
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Startup Focuses on Updating IoT Devices 

As consumer angst grows over Internet of Things security and performance, IoT startups are surfacing with schemes for safeguarding IoT devices from evolving attacks while fixing a rash of software glitches.

Chip makers such as Arm Ltd. are investing heavily in new architectures designed to shore up IoT security from hub to edge. This week, a startup emerged from stealth mode with a “micro-platforms” framework for continuously updating embedded gear, a feature that among other things addresses easy-to-hack factory security settings on IoT devices.

Foundries.io said its IoT security architecture includes Linux and Zephyr distributions. The startup said the latter version is the first distribution of the Linux Foundation’s Zephyr Project developing a real-time operating system (RTOS) for IoT embedded devices.

Targeting the automotive, embedded and IoT edge markets, the startup said Tuesday (Aug. 21) its design seeks to reverse IoT fragmentation by enabling constant updates of firmware, operating systems, applications and services. “Without the ability to update to the most current software, these networked devices face risks of failure and of cyberattacks,” the startup warned.

The startup’s timing is propitious. A vendor survey released this week by cloud monitoring specialist Dynatrace found low consumer confidence amid growing concerns about IoT performance and security. The survey of 10,000 IoT users found that 64 percent have encountered performance issues and worry that software glitches will pose dangers for applications like self-driving cars, healthcare and smart homes.

“The delivery chain behind every connected device is extremely complex,” said Dave Anderson, a “digital performance expert” cited by Dynatrace. “Businesses are already struggling with cloud complexity, but IoT magnifies this with sensors, masses of new data and dynamic containerized workloads.”

Meanwhile, established players like Arm and startups such as Foundries.io are moving to lock down IoT security. Armlaunched its "secure core" approach last fall aimed at bulletproofing IoT network security at the microcontroller level.

Those efforts address the explosion of IoT devices that is expected to hit 21 billion by 2020, according to Gartner Inc. (NYSE: IT). The startup’s approach is based on a pair of “minimal, secure, over-the-air updatable software platforms” that update firmware, kernel, services and applications. Those components can be kept current throughout a product’s lifetime.

Along with Arm, Foundries.io said its micro-platforms support x86 and RISC-v processor as well as a range of development frameworks ranging from Raspberry Pi 3 to Intel NUC 7, the chip maker’s mini-PC.

The Linux version includes firmware and kernel that can be updated. The embedded distribution handles either cloud-native services and applications or software containers.

The Zephyr version of the micro-platform uses the project’s RTOS as well as microcontroller boot software to update IoT devices.

Applications include upgradable smart devices used in homes or the factory floor along with network gateways and edge computing devices that can be reconfigured wirelessly, including software updates for car autopilots and drones.

 

About the author: George Leopold

George Leopold has written about science and technology for more than 30 years, focusing on electronics and aerospace technology. He previously served as executive editor of Electronic Engineering Times. Leopold is the author of "Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom" (Purdue University Press, 2016).

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