STMicroelectronics signs built-in design contracts with Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure is the latest episode in the semiconductor industry ‘s push to securely connect Internet of Things (IoT) devices to the cloud. Reference platform built around it STM32U5 microcontrollers and STSAFE-A110 A security feature built into these MCUs works in conjunction with the AWS and Azure platforms to facilitate secure cloud connections for low-resource IoT devices.

This reference implementation qualifies for AWS FreeRTOS as well as Microsoft Azure RTOS and IoT middleware software platforms. It is also certified to work with Arm trusted firmware for embedded systems (TF-M) embedded systems services. This software integration saves development time and costs and simplifies compliance with PSA-certified security guidelines.

Let’s take the case of the reference implementation for AWS platforms implemented on ST B-U585I-IOT02A IoT node detection kit built around the company’s STM32U5 microcontrollers. Here, FreeRTOS, which provides software libraries for connecting various IoT endpoints to the AWS cloud or other endpoints, has a kernel optimized for embedded systems with limited resources. In addition, the long-term support (LTS) of AWS, supported on versions of FreeRTOS for two years, ensures that developers have a stable platform for deployment and support of their IoT devices.

Figure 1 In addition to the STM32U5 microcontroller, the reference implementation includes USB, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Low Energy connectivity and multiple sensors. Source: STMicroelectronics

The next building block in strengthening IoT designs – Arm’s trusted firmware for embedded systems (TF-M) – offers secure booting, secure storage, cryptography and certification services to form the basis of a device-specific runtime (TEE). Arm TF-M firmware designed for Arm v8-M architectures integrates easily TrustZone capability of Arm Cortex-M33 core based MCUs.

A similar agreement with Microsoft Azure

STMicro has announced a similar secure cloud connectivity agreement with Microsoft’s Azure IoT platform. In addition to Arm TF-M support, the reference implementation includes Microsoft Azure RTOS, a middleware package optimized for IoT endpoints, and resource-limited endpoints. The software combines the compact footprint of ThreadX RTOS with memory management and connectivity services, including support for NetX Duo IPv4 / IPv6 and TLS security socket.

Figure 2 The built-in security solution combines STM32U5 microcontroller hardware and Azure RTOS & IoT Middleware software. Source: STMicroelectronics

Similar to the AWS solution, the STM32U5 IoT Detection Kit is built around the STM32U5 microcontrollers and the STSAFE-A110 security element included in these MCUs. The STSAFE-A110 security element comes with preloaded IoT object credentials, which simplifies providing connections between connected objects and the cloud.

IoT developers have long struggled to simplify manufacturing, security, and provisioning, while tackling trade-offs between security and IT sophistication. They could either rely on complex and expensive solutions such as hardware security modules (HSMs) on their production lines or implement simpler solutions with significant security gaps.

Co-created embedded solutions, such as those offered by ST in collaboration with AWS and Azure, relieve ISPs of the historical burden of protecting confidential credentials during product production. These security-enabled solutions offer a authentication scheme and customization service that facilitates automated and secure attachment of connected objects to the cloud.

The cloud-compatible batch of chips is delivered to the production site, where a technician can register them using a smartphone. At a time when end-to-cloud connections have become a major vulnerability to cyberattacks, this is a welcome relief. And this is possible mainly through collaboration between embedded processor vendors such as ST and cloud service providers such as Azure and AWS.

Majid Ahmad, editor-in-chief of EDN and Planet Analog, has covered the electronics design industry for more than two decades.

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