Multi-application MCUs offer integrated high security

24th June 2015
Barney Scott

Freescale has announced the Kinetis K8x multi-application MCU family, delivering high levels of integrated security on an ARM Cortex-M class platform. Creating a secure embedded application has previously required a main processor, a security co-processor to perform cryptographic functions, and in some cases an IC for physical tamper protection. Kinetis K8x MCUs perform all of these functions for savings in cost, size and power.

By building exceptional security into this general market MCU family, Freescale is bringing secure connectivity to IoT applications such as POS equipment, smart energy gateways, home automation and building controls, portable healthcare devices and wearables.

Kinetis K8x is the first multi-application MCU family based on ARM Cortex-M technology with hardware asymmetric cryptography, which provides significant improvements to cryptographic throughput. Authentication is an order of magnitude faster than software implementations, freeing up code space and boosting power efficiency while meeting the needs of the latest communications protocols. Being the industry’s first MCU with patent-pending, on-the-fly decryption for external serial NOR flash, the Kinetis K8x MCU family supports execution from encrypted external memories, allowing secure scalability. Embedded tamper resistance capabilities on the Kinetis K8x MCU family protect against both physical and passive attacks. Together, these highly advanced technologies deliver world class security for a wide array of applications.

The Kinetis K8x MCU family addresses scalability challenges customers face when designing for the fast-evolving IoT market. Surpassing the boundaries of a traditional MCU, Kinetis K8x devices leverage SD/eMMC, DRAM and the latest serial memories with quad/octal support, and execute in place (XIP) functionality. Large cache memory reduces latency and power consumption when using external memories. Additionally, boot and serial NOR flash options allow for added expandability. Multiple pin-to-pin and software compatible Kinetis devices are available from Freescale, offering scalable security levels. And a wide variety of memory interfaces provides the ability to securely update firmware and accelerate product development.

Kinetis K8x MCUs support design flexibility with available FlexIO peripherals. Added functionality can be achieved by emulating multiple serial, parallel or custom interfaces using software drivers provided by the Kinetis software development kit (SDK). Further system cost and power efficiency optimisations are realised with a subset of GPIO pins and associated functions that can operate at a separate voltage supply for mixed-voltage applications. In addition, multiple static and dynamic chip power configurations are available for aligning current consumption to specific applications.

Freescale will highlight several security features, as well as the FlexIO peripheral capability of its Kinetis K8x MCU family, at the Freescale Technology Forum this week. A Kinetis K81-based point of sale reference design targeting payment card applications will showcase tamper pins for secure mesh, chip security and cryptographic drivers. Other planned demonstrations include a camera interfacing with a Kinetis K80 MCU’s FlexIO peripheral, and utilising software drivers to send, receive and store camera data.

Freescale offers full enablement support for the Kinetis K8x MCU family to simplify and speed the design of secure IoT edge-node products. This includes easy-to-implement software drivers in the Kinetis SDK with support for public key cryptography. Customers can accelerate their designs by leveraging hardware enablement options with nearly unlimited memory resources. Application development for K8x MCUs is enabled by Freescale Freedom and Tower development boards, including the TWR-PoS-K81 payment application reference design.

“Broad market MCUs are the critical enablers of innovative end-node applications, and for the IoT to evolve, these MCUs must enable highly securable product designs,” said Steve Tateosian, director of Microcontroller Platforms, Microcontroller Group, Freescale. “Freescale is leading the industry to secure the IoT’s end-nodes. We continue to evolve our portfolio of security features for products based on Kinetis MCUs, and we have aligned our K8x MCU family to tackle future IoT security challenges.”

Freescale is now delivering Kinetis K8x MCU samples and development boards to lead customers worldwide. Full production for the K8x MCUs is planned for Q4 2015. For pricing or additional information, please contact a local Freescale sales office.

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