Embedded system design survey finds devices can kill

2nd March 2016
Nat Bowers

Highlighting the need for increased focus on safety and security, Barr Group has announced key findings from its 2016 Embedded Systems Safety & Security Survey. The survey incorporates complete responses from more than 2,400 qualified engineers, 46% from North America, 33% from Europe and 11% from Asia. Such a large, worldwide response makes this independent survey the first truly comprehensive look at the state of safety-critical and security-aware engineering design practices for the devices that drive business and industry worldwide.

Barr Group, a provider of vendor-neutral training and objective consulting services, conducted this survey to better understand the state of safety- and security-aware embedded systems design around the world. The data that emerged from this survey indicated reasons for the engineering community to be concerned and for design practices to be improved. Key findings include:

  • Poorly designed embedded devices can kill - in the case of product malfunction, 29% of respondents’ current design projects could result in injury or death;
  • Security is not taken seriously enough - only 31% of respondents who report that security is a design requirement consider that requirement more important than meeting the project’s delivery schedule; and
  • Proactive techniques for increasing safety and security are used less often than they should be - only 38% of respondents currently subject all their software source code to peer review and respondents use static analysis tools in less than half of current projects.

Despite highlighting these disturbing trends and others, the survey does reveal that reliability - crucial to both safety and security - is highly valued by embedded systems designers. Over 90% of respondents say that reliability is at least as important as meeting the project schedule and 38% of respondents report that the reliability requirements of their current project are higher than those of previous projects.

Andrew Girson, CEO, Barr Group, commented: “At Barr Group, our ultimate concern is the state of safety-critical and security-aware embedded device design. The results of this survey indicate that the attention paid to safety and security issues in the design of embedded devices, particularly those that connect to the internet, is not what it should be.”

Webinar to provide more detailed analysis

To provide an in-depth analysis of the full survey results, Barr Group CEO Andrew Girson and CTO Michael Barr will host a free 1-hour webinar at 1PM EST, 8th March 2016. The webinar will explore topics such as the correlation between devices that can kill or injure and design teams’ engineering practices and look at how design teams differ across the world in their respective approaches to safety and security. Interested engineers and managers can register for the webinar at:

Barr Group will also be hosting two classes in Munich in May:

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