Samsung is rolling out eMRAM for the IoT

Subject: General Tech | March 11, 2019 - 01:16 PM |
Tagged: everspin, eMRAM, Samsung, iot, Optane

Embedded magnetic RAM has been around for a bit, usually thanks to the work of Everspin whom have licensed their technology to GLOBALFOUNDRIES, though today Samsung has announced they are developing their own.  It is less expensive to produce than STT-RAM, PC-RAM or memristors yet offers many of the same advantages over flash memory, namely much higher performance and lower electrical requirements.  

Samsung is a ways from production, according to The Register Samsung doesn't expect to tape out a 1Gb eMRAM test chip until later this year.  This would be a big leap forward for the performance of embedded systems, as ARM is working with Samsung to ensure compatibility and we may even see eMRAM onboard ARM chips once Samsung's production lines ramp up.  It will be interesting to see what effect this will have on the market once it arrives; hopefully a larger splash than a certain other type of non-volitile memory!

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"Samsung this week claimed it is mass-producing and commercially shipping embedded magnetic RAM (eMRAM) to replace EEPROM, SRAM, and NAND memories in embedded electronics."

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Source: The Register

Ah, boss? I just overheard someone say they spotted the microphone!

Subject: General Tech | February 20, 2019 - 12:34 PM |
Tagged: nest, google, alphabet, iot

You may recall a news story last summer, about USB fans which were handed out to journalists that showed how oblivious many people are when it comes to security.  The recent news about the microphone in Google's Nest Secure shows that the lesson still has not been learned, though there is certainly an extra level to this particular story.  Google recently announced that they would be activating the microphone embedded in the Nest Secure, something which they completely neglected to document that their home security system contained.

The Nest Secure consists of several sensors to detect a window or door opening, as well as a base with a speaker to sound alerts and a keypad to verify the user.  You would not reasonably expect such a thing to contain a microphone, let alone an undocumented one.   Google insists that they simply forgot to include it in the parts list and that this is all just an innocent misunderstanding.  They are also asking you to believe that the microphone has never been enabled and that there is no possible way that it might have been secretly recording conversations. 

As a point in Google's favour Ars Technica does point out that every other product Google sells has a microphone in it, and so it would be reasonable to suspect one was present in the Nest.   In a world where your TV spies on you, an update can brick your shoes and you can buy smart locks that will ensure you will never be able to go home again, just to mention a few, having your security system spying on you does not seem too far fetched.

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“The on-device microphone was never intended to be a secret and should have been listed in the tech specs. That was an error on our part.” According to the company, "the microphone has never been on and is only activated when users specifically enable the option.”

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Source: Ars Technica

The Internet of Ubuntu things

Subject: General Tech | January 23, 2019 - 02:00 PM |
Tagged: canonical, ubuntu core, iot

Canonical is one of the few that take the security of the various connected devices, colloquially known as the Internet of Things, seriously.  They released an OS called Ubuntu Core 18, based on Ubuntu 18.04 LTS, to the internet back in December which is designed to offer a way not only to secure your IoT devices but to update them as well.  All hardware has digitally signed snaps which let you verify the state of it's firmware and software at any time to ensure no one has been mucking about in it.  Along with the virtualisation comes a decade of security updates, with patches that can be released to x86, x64 and ARM based hardware simultaneously. 

The Inquirer mentions that while most of these patches will be free, there may be some with a small cost associated, which may indicate they will support discontinued products and those with tiny market shares.

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"There's loads more to discover about Ubuntu Core 18, which was first made available as a preview in December. As ever, its open source and it's free to download."

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Source: The Inquirer

Open the pod bay doors Google ...

Subject: General Tech | November 1, 2018 - 01:56 PM |
Tagged: google, security, iot, Home Hub

There is an undocumented web API in Google's Home Hub which is causing a bit of concern over at The Register and elsewhere.  This mysterious connection is available to anything on the same WiFi network as the Home Hub and it does not check for any authentication or tokens which means anyone connected to your WiFi can successfully connect and start to play with your settings.  Currently there is code which is capable of rebooting the device or to completely delete the current configured network, requiring you to rebuild it from scratch.  That could be very annoying if the delete command is coming from malware already inside the house, as it were. 

Hopefully there will be some basic authentication added ASAP, as that is a very blatant oversight.

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"A spokesperson for Google confirmed that any device, computer, or smartphone on the Wi-Fi network of a Home Hub can command the assistant as described above – that includes mischievous malware on a PC, for example."

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Source: The Register

Das Keyboard Launches Q-Series Cloud Connected RGB Keyboards

Subject: General Tech | September 6, 2018 - 09:31 AM |
Tagged: X50Q, smart keyboard, RGB, q series, Omron, mechanical, keyboard, key switches, iot, das keyboard, connected, cloud, 5Q

Das Keyboard has introduced their Q-series of "smart, cloud-connected keyboards" which use the company's Q-software to bring notifications directly to key backlighting. It's an interesting concept, and the software connects to both IFTTT and Zapier services "to light up the 5Q and X50Q keyboards with notifications - all color-coded and displayed on keys determined by the user", according to Das Keyboard.

The first of the two announced models is the 5Q, shown here with its silicon-padded wrist rest attached:

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"The Das Keyboard 5Q is a cloud-enabled, open API, RGB mechanical keyboard that helps boost productivity through dazzling performance and the industry’s fastest electronics."

What are these fast electronics? Exclusive to the 5Q is 'Real-Time One' (or RTO) which is an analog technology that Das Keyboard states "detects key presses in 0.4 milliseconds and reports it to the computer within 1 millisecond—up to 45 times faster than other keyboards". RGB lighting is onboard, naturally, and here Das Keyboard is offering what they call "RGB+", which is a ultra-bright solution they claim to be "many times" as bright as other keyboards:

"Extra-bright RGB backlighting electronics called Das Keyboard RGB+, along with custom surface-mount LEDs, optimized lens and ultra-clear light guide—making the 5Q keyboard many times brighter than any other RGB keyboard currently on the market."

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These are mechanical keyboards, both of which offer Omron Gamma Zulu switches, as the company describes:

"A modern best-in-class, soft tactile key switch that provides users with faster, effortless typing and gaming sessions. Das Keyboard’s Gamma Zulu switches have a 1.5mm actuation point, a total travel of 3.5mm and can withstand an unsurpassed 100 million actuations..."

Next we have the X50Q:

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The X50Q adds a swappable top plate design (and includes alternate textured WASD keys), but does not have the RTO analog system - and costs $50 less than the 5Q. Pricing for these keyboards is at the high end of the premium keyboard market, with MSRPs of $249 for the 5Q and $199 for the X50Q. Both models are available now.

Full press release after the break.

Source: Das Keyboard

Your smart plug's connected to your idiotbox, the idiotbox is connected to your WiFi, the ...

Subject: General Tech | August 22, 2018 - 12:59 PM |
Tagged: iot, security

Belkin offers a smartplug called the Wemo Insight which provides real time energy usage stats, allows you to program your lights to turn on and off at various times and is a decent  replacement for The Clapper; it is also a fairly serious security risk.  The UPnP protocol it utilizes is vulnerable to a buffer overflow attack which could allow an attacker access to other devices connected to your WiFi network.  The proof of concept provided by McAfee shows a successful attack on a Roku, initiated from the smartplug, as you can see over at El Reg.

Perhaps you should keep that old tech if you don't like touching light switches.

"The flaw, spotted in Belkin's Wemo Insight smartplugs, would potentially allow an attacker to not only manipulate the plug itself, but also allow hopping to other devices connected to the same Wi-Fi home network."

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Source: The Register

GTC 2018: Nvidia and ARM Integrating NVDLA Into Project Trillium For Inferencing at the Edge

Subject: General Tech | March 29, 2018 - 03:10 PM |
Tagged: project trillium, nvidia, machine learning, iot, GTC 2018, GTC, deep learning, arm, ai

During GTC 2018 NVIDIA and ARM announced a partnership that will see ARM integrate NVIDIA's NVDLA deep learning inferencing accelerator into the company's Project Trillium machine learning processors. The NVIDIA Deep Learning Accelerator (NVDLA) is an open source modular architecture that is specifically optimized for inferencing operations such as object and voice recognition and bringing that acceleration to the wider ARM ecosystem through Project Trillium will enable a massive number of smarter phones, tablets, Internet-of-Things, and embedded devices that will be able to do inferencing at the edge which is to say without the complexity and latency of having to rely on cloud processing. This means potentially smarter voice assistants (e.g. Alexa, Google), doorbell cameras, lighting, and security around the home and out-and-about on your phone for better AR, natural translation, and assistive technologies.

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Karl Freund, lead analyst for deep learning at Moor Insights & Strategy was quoted in the press release in stating:

“This is a win/win for IoT, mobile and embedded chip companies looking to design accelerated AI inferencing solutions. NVIDIA is the clear leader in ML training and Arm is the leader in IoT end points, so it makes a lot of sense for them to partner on IP.”

ARM's Project Trillium was announced back in February and is a suite of IP for processors optimized for parallel low latency workloads and includes a Machine Learning processor, Object Detection processor, and neural network software libraries. NVDLA is a hardware and software platform based upon the Xavier SoC that is highly modular and configurable hardware that can feature a convolution core, single data processor, planar data processor, channel data processor, and data reshape engines. The NVDLA can be configured with all or only some of those elements and they can independently them up or down depending on what processing acceleration they need for their devices. NVDLA connects to the main system processor over a control interface and through two AXI memory interfaces (one optional) that connect to system memory and (optionally) dedicated high bandwidth memory (not necessarily HBM but just its own SRAM for example).

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NVDLA is presented as a free and open source architecture that promotes a standard way to design deep learning inferencing that can accelerate operations to infer results from trained neural networks (with the training being done on other devices perhaps by the DGX-2). The project, which hosts the code on GitHub and encourages community contributions, goes beyond the Xavier-based hardware and includes things like drivers, libraries, TensorRT support (upcoming)  for Google's TensorFlow acceleration, testing suites and SDKs as well as a deep learning training infrastructure (for the training side of things) that is compatible with the NVDLA software and hardware, and system integration support.

Bringing the "smarts" of smart devices to the local hardware and closer to the users should mean much better performance and using specialized accelerators will reportedly offer the performance levels needed without blowing away low power budgets. Internet-of-Things (IoT) and mobile devices are not going away any time soon, and the partnership between NVIDIA and ARM should make it easier for developers and chip companies to offer smarter (and please tell me more secure!) smart devices.

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Source: NVIDIA

ARM Introduces Kigen OS for Cellular IoT

Subject: General Tech | February 21, 2018 - 09:00 AM |
Tagged: modem, Kigen, iSIM, iot, cortex, cellular, arm

Last year ARM went on a bit of a buying spree thanks to the financial help of its holding company, SoftBank. One of the companies that it scooped up was that of Simulity Labs for around 12 million pounds. The company was developing IoT security products based on eSIM technology and a robust OS that provides provisioning on a cellular network.

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Many believe that the nearly ubiquitous cellular networks that surround us are the key to truly successful IoT products. There are massive cellular deployments around the world. It is a well regulated spectrum. Security through SIM cards is a well known and understood process. It is not impossible to break this security, but it is questionable if it is worth the time and effort to do so.

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ARM has gone ahead and provided the means to productize and push this technology with the aim of providing a vast, secure IoT infrastructure that would be relatively easy to rollout with current cellular networks. There are multiple parts to this technology, but ARM is hoping to offer an all-in-one solution that would provide an inexpensive platform for OEMs and Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) to roll out products on.

Click here to read the rest of our coverage of ARM Kigen and iSIM!

Source: ARM

A disHarmonious sound has arisen from Logitech's customers

Subject: General Tech | November 8, 2017 - 01:15 PM |
Tagged: logitech, iot, harmony link

If you own a Logitech Harmony Link and registered it then you already know, but for those who did not receive the email you should know your device will become unusable in March.  According to the information Ars Technica acquired, Logitech have decided not to renew a so called "technology certificate license" which will mean the Link will no longer work.  It is not clear what this certificate is nor why the lack of it will brick the Link but that is what will happen.  Apparently if you have a Harmony Link which is still under warranty you can get a free upgrade to a Harmony Hub; if your Link is out of warranty then you can get a 35% discount.  Why exactly one would want to purchase another one of these devices which can be remotely destroyed is an interesting question, especially as there was no monthly contract or service agreement suggesting this was a possibility when customers originally purchased their device.

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"Customers received an e-mail explaining that Logitech will "discontinue service and support" for the Harmony Link as of March 16, 2018, adding that Harmony Link devices "will no longer function after this date."

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Source: Ars Technica

Come on baby, IoT fear the reaper

Subject: General Tech | October 20, 2017 - 02:24 PM |
Tagged: security, Reaper, iot

There is another IoT botnet running rampant, with several million devices already infected inside over a million businesses and homes, according to the report over at The Inquirer.  Experts are expecting the IoT_reaper to be worse than Mirai once it is activated as it is far more sophisticated than that botnet.  Some time in the near future you can expect serious issues as routers, IP cameras and fridges start launching DDoS attacks.  There is little that you can do at this point apart from ensuring your devices are patched and the firmware is up to date.  You can get an idea of the scope of this botnet by following the link in the story.

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"Check Point first unearthed the botnet, codenamed 'IoT_reaper', at the beginning of September and claims that, since, it's already enslaved millions of IoT devices including routers and IP cameras from firms including GoAhead, D-Link, TP-Link, Avtech, Netgear, MikroTik, Linksys and Synology."

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Source: The Inquirer