I am in Germany this week, attending the Embedded World conference show. Last year when I was here, the place was wild with wide-eyed excitement about the Internet of Things. This year, it looks as though a bit more reality has set in, with the show offering a special focus on embedded security and safety.
Embedded World is a substantial show, sprawled across multiple halls of the convention center in Nuremberg, Germany. It's also quite well attended, with more than 900 exhibitors and 25,000 visitors last year. Even more are expected this year.
Last year's theme was the Internet of Things, and it showed. Virtually every exhibit featured the IoT phrase prominently somewhere in their signage. And it really didn't seem to matter what their technology specialty area was. Even equipment racks were tagged as being suitable for IoT systems (data centers, presumably).
I got the sense that a lot of the exhibitors didn't really have a good grasp on the IoT at that time. The addition of network – particularly Internet – connectivity makes a profound change in what an embedded system can do, and the challenges that developers must face. Many of the exhibitors didn't seem like they had yet grasped the realities of this change. The few technical sessions I was able to attend seemed likewise lightweight.
But that was last year. This year, the conference organizers have added a second theme to their show: Safety and Security. To me, this bodes well for showing a dramatic jump in IoT sophistication. Safety and especially security are major challenges that IoT developers must recon with.
As part of their stated focus, the Embedded World organizers are sponsoring a special session and panel discussion under the slogan “Safe for the Future.” The emphasis will be on protecting critical industry infrastructure, and the session will feature speakers such as Dr Mathias Wagner, Senior Fellow and Chief Security Technologist at NXP Semiconductors, and Eugene Kaspersky, CEO of Kaspersky Labs.
The exhibit also has dedicated Hall 4A of the show floor to security and safety. Here, companies with a significant story to tell in the realms of safety and security in embedded systems design will be concentrated to magnify the impact of their message. Atmel, Cypress, and VIA Technologies are among the major companies with a presence in this area.
My first impulse on learning about this new theme for Embedded World was to cry “Bravo!” When I was running the IoT World website, I quickly learned two things about IoT security. One was that it was going to be a critically important element for the success of the connected embedded systems. That Internet connection opens the door for a host of malicious activities that most embedded developers have never had to face.