Considering the “Instead Ofs”

Several articles in this issue describe new approaches that will be needed to tackle persistent problems.

Gene Armstrong is the senior director of applications for Paper Battery Company.  The “instead of” that Armstrong shares with us in this issue, in his article, “Smart Energy Grids Integrating Renewables Require New Local-Storage Technologies,” involves lead-acid batteries. Instead of having to accept the baggage of unreliability, short life span and toxicity that comes with these batteries, can we find new paradigms for transportation and smart energy?

During my conversation with Dr. Pim Tuyls of Intrinsic-ID in January, also found in this issue, he made it clear that one of the drivers for using his company’s advanced physically unclonable functions (PUF) security and trust technology is “The speed with which the IoT is advancing, [which has] brought us to a completely new scale of security and trust.”

For help taking on the enormity of keeping the IoT trustworthy, some “instead ofs” for OEMs are taking shape.  Icon Labs president and co-founder Alan Grau answered questions for EECatalog recently, and he urges OEMS not to repeat what happened with RTOSes when addressing embedded security, as you’ll read in the writeup of our interview.

Instead of C?
Andrew Girson, Barr Group co-founder, gives us some of the results of a survey on “the state of safety and security in embedded devices.” He comments on one initial finding, that “C remains the language of choice for embedded devices,” by noting that, while this finding comes as no surprise, that “the limitations of C have significant implications for quality, safety, and security.”  Something to consider:  Initial survey results also indicate that  “Almost one-third of the products that will result from current design projects could injure or kill someone if the product malfunctioned.”

I don’t know if the Barr Group survey considered asking the question, “How important is tailoring a lean software stack to you?” but Dedicated Computing’s article in this issue, written by the company’s director of engineering, Andrew Herger, explains why this lean stack approach is important, not just for security, but also for performance.  Herger also points out that “Cyber-attacks can target any component within a system; devices don’t necessarily need to be connected to the Internet or part of a Cloud solution to be vulnerable to security issues or threats.”

There is much more on Smart Energy, the IoT and Security in this issue, but I will leave you with just one more “instead of” that I took away when I had the pleasure of delving into all these articles and speaking with individuals for the Q&A articles: Instead of big: small—Mike Demler of The Linley Group posits that “After years of making their cores bigger and faster, processor-IP vendors are now looking for the next little thing.” Demler backs up his claim with specifics about what ARM, Imagination Technologies and others are doing, and his article makes great reading.

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