Embedded Systems have a large array of applications as it constitutes the network of essential cogs that makes complex and multi-functional systems operate.
Whether it’s a smart watch or complex and bulky satellite system, they all need their own customized computing and memory systems that have their own Size, Weight and Power limitations. Design Engineers have to keep in mind these constraints and have to work to suit the requirements of the device or system while spearheading the latest trends in the embedded systems sector. Mr Thilak Kumar, Head of Field Engineering Operations, Wind River shared with ELE Times some of the latest trends that are doing the rounds in embedded systems-
Multicore which has been around for a while is finally gaining acceptance in certain select markets and application areas. According to Mr Thilak Kumar, “A new addition to this power segment is the availability of 64-bit processors that now enables a system designer to leverage more than 4GB of RAM. Embedded operating system vendors offer support for 64-bit hardware architectures that theoretically makes for faster and more efficient system.”
Virtualisation is also becoming a buzz-word in the Embedded Systems space, as consumer requirement is driving systems to become larger and more complex. “With systems getting larger and complex, there’s a lot of emphasis on systems consolidation in order to reduce SWaP (Space, Weight and Power) as well as the overall cost of the system. In order to support this, we need operating environments that are capable of running multiple applications on a single hardware. This necessitates a layer such as Hypervisor that can virtualize multiple operating systems and efficiently run them using common hardware resources yet ensure that each of these operating systems do not interfere in each other’s operation.”
IoT has taken centre stage in the electronics industry which necessitates the inclusion of connectivity protocols in all devices of all application areas. “These protocols cater to Personal Area Networks, Local Area Networks as well as Wide Area Networks. There is a need for variety of protocols ranging all the way from Industrial Protocols such as BacNet or EtherCat to automotive protocols such as CAN (Controller Area Network) to communication protocols for 3G and 4G. The amount of connectivity support available is very critical for the successful adoption of the platform.”
And while connected and smart devices are becoming more and more alluring to customers the question of security and of the protection of the privacy of these customers and organizations has become pertinent. Thilak Kumar says. “security has to be designed in the system, and cannot be an afterthought” and embedded system designers are working towards addressing the problem of security by taking into account Device Security, Data Security and Communication Security.
“Developers also need to account for security at each phase of the device lifecycle at the design phase and it is critical to prevent the introduction of malicious code during the development process. Prevention measures might include signed binary delivery, assuring the authenticity and non-alteration of code, and developing on a software platform that has been certified under industrial security standards such as IEC 62443 and IEC 27034. In the execution phase, the goal is to establish a “root of trust” to prevent untrusted binaries from running, which in turn ensures that the right software is in place on the right hardware and that they trust each other. Establishing a root of trust might entail the use of secure boot technology and cryptographic key signatures to prevent unsigned code from executing. During the operation of the device, multiple measures can be deployed to prevent malicious attacks, including controls to prevent unauthorized access and securing networks using encryption. And when the device is at rest, measures such as encrypted storage and secure data containers should be in place to prevent onboard data access.”
Another key trend in embedded systems is “the availability of Freemium Operating Systems These offerings are proven for commercial deployments and the barrier for adoption is extremely low. One such offering is Wind River Rocket which is an embedded OS developed for Rapid IoT development and supports various classes of MCUs (Micro Controller Units) – ideal for building sensors, wearables, industrial controllers and other resource-constrained smart, connected devices.”
ELE Times complete interview with Wind River’s Thilak Kumar will be published in the April Issue of ELE Times print magazine.
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