Future Electronics – How new components help improve the security of the IoT

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By: Paul Donaldson, Vertical Markets Director, Future Electronics (EMEA)

While the Internet of Things (IoT) is by far the hottest trend in the electronics industry today, it is worth remembering that the term ‘Internet of Things’ first emerged some 15 years ago. And even before that, the industry was developing devices which could connect to other devices by means of M2M (machine-to- machine) communications.

After all these years, it is fair to say that IoT deployment is now gathering speed. Internet connectivity from the factory floor to building management systems to lighting networks is becoming pervasive. The impact on the lives of everyone will be huge, bringing great benefits but also some risks. And the prime risk is security: how do we protect potentially billions of connected devices from hacking and malicious interference which could compromise personal privacy or threaten public safety?

Every electronics OEM developing an internet-connected device will be aware of the importance of securing the safe and reliable operation of their product. The difficulty comes in deciding how best to implement security. Even the basic concept of security in the IoT means different things to different people. What is more, the security requirements for IoT devices vary by application and by operating environment.

Network firewalls and protocols can carry much of the burden of securing the flow of traffic at a high level. But how can end-point devices, which usually have a specific function with limited resources to perform it, be properly protected?

Part of the answer is in improvements to the communications technologies most widely used by IoT end points. Both the LoRaTM and Sigfox low-power wide-area wireless networking technologies have considerable security capabilities built into them. The Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) wireless connectivity protocol, now in its fifth generation, also offers improved protection for internet connections thanks to new LE Privacy 1.2 and LE Secure Connections features.

This helps to secure user data when in transmission. Designers can also find in this issue of FTM new components for implementing security at the device level. These include robust authentication ICs from NXP Semiconductors, shown on page 19, and STMicroelectronics microcontrollers, on page 20, and microcontrollers which provide encryption functions, again from NXP and ST, on page 17. Components providing protection against physical tampering such as switches from Diodes Inc. and TE Connectivity are shown on page 15.

For advice on using these devices, and on implementing security more generally in IoT devices, please ask the security experts at Future Connectivity Solutions. Simply send your security question to info@my-ftm.com.

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