Official Blog of Silicon Labs

    Publish
     
      • New Flex Gecko Wireless Solution Takes Low Power to New Extremes

        Lance Looper | 11/319/2017 | 04:47 PM

        We have some great news for customers looking to differentiate their low-power and long-range wireless devices using our proprietary wireless EFR32 Flex Gecko  family. Silicon Labs just released another proprietary wireless solution – the new Flex Gecko EFR32FG14, which achieves significant low power gains and offers many of the same peripheral capabilities found in our previous Flex Gecko solutions.

        The EFR32FG14 expands on the success of the EFR32FG1 products by offering remarkable low-power benefits with up to 48 percent sleep current reduction, and new flexibility to connect to more peripherals, such as VDAC and OpAmp support. The new solution maintains RF performance enhancements from previous solutions while offering similar Flash and RAM memory options and improved security features.

        As always, our first priority during our design process is to listen to what our customers need to say and strive to make improvements based on their feedback. This new Flex Gecko solution is no different, and our customers will immediately see the low-power and performance benefits. New improvements to the EFR32FG14 include enhanced 2.4 GHz RF performance, deep sleep data processing, improved security with a new true random number generator security management unit, and boosted Sub-GHz performance with improved 2/4 (G) FSK sensitivity.

        To simplify product spec comparisons, we specified the test conditions of our Flex Gecko products in our documentation materials as clearly as possible, with minimum and maximum values for key parameters, and also provided RAIL-based application code examples using the FM modes.

        With more than 250 million Silicon Labs proprietary wireless ICs shipped to date, the new Flex Gecko solution furthers our expertise and footprint in the proprietary wireless market. The wireless Flex Gecko portfolio supports sub-GHz and 2.4 GHz designs with a single chip, simplifying board development, inventory management, and time to market for our customers. Our new solution along with all of our Flex Gecko devices are footprint compatible with the Blue Gecko and Mighty Gecko devices, allowing customers to add multi-protocol support into their designs later with minimal changes. Ultimately, Flex Gecko provides a seamless migration path to multi-protocol applications requiring the addition of BLE, Zigbee or Thread.

        The EFR32FG14 product will be used for a wide variety of low-power and long-range communications devices, such as smart meters, electronic shelf tables, home automation, security systems, lighting controls, medical emergency devices, and agricultural applications.

        As the IoT market continues to explode, the popularity of proprietary wireless solutions increasingly grows as designers look to optimize the performance and cost of their products without being constrained by industry standard or alliance requirements. From a market standpoint, we understand how critical it is for our designers to design a highly optimized proprietary network, which can often make a product stand out from competing products with unique performance and feature differentiators.

        Despite the popularity of proprietary wireless solutions – building out the designs can sometimes be a challenge for designers as it requires a deep understanding of all aspects from the physical layer and regulatory requirements to the network layer and application layer. Our Simplicity Studio development software simplifies this process and helps Flex Gecko customers maximize their hardware while creating unique device innovations. Go here to learn more about our supporting software development kits.

      • Employee Spotlight – Pranav Kaundinya

        Lance Looper | 11/318/2017 | 03:24 PM

        Pranav Kaundinya has been a member of the Power and Isolation – Design team since September 2015. In his role as Design Engineer he’s involved in the entire pipeline of chip design, starting from NPI (new product introduction) to supporting applications and testing products after a launch.

        Kaundinya was born in India, but lived in New York for several years before returning to India for middle and high school. He attended MIT in Boston before interning at Silicon Labs in the summer of 2014. As an NCG (new college graduate), Kaundinya has continually demonstrated his organizational and technical skills. Principal Design Engineer, Alan Westick said of Kaundinya, “[He] has been productive on his own assignments, striking the right balance between using proven design approaches where possible while coming up with creative solutions where innovation is needed to meet the product requirements.”

        Kaundinya’s favorite thing about working at Silicon Labs is the people. He thinks Silicon Labs employees are “talented and friendly people to work with and learn from.” He said, “Even though we’re no longer a startup, we’re still a small company and run like a startup in many ways (e.g. Tyson comes to our happy hours).”

        When asked where he’d go if he could travel anywhere in the world, Kaundinya said he’d go hiking in Bhutan, “the happiest place in the world.” He added, “I think it would be a unique experience to visit one of the last places in the world that is relatively untouched by technology and globalization (TVs were banned in Bhutan until the early 2000s). It’s also really hard to visit.”

        Always up for a challenge – we like your style! We’re proud to have you on the Silicon Labs team. Keep up the great work!

         

      • Introducing Dynamic Multiprotocol Software for Wireless Gecko SoCs

        Lance Looper | 11/310/2017 | 12:33 PM

        Today we’ve introduced multiprotocol wireless software to drive advanced functionality for next-gen IoT applications by making it possible to unlock key benefits of both the Zigbee and Bluetooth low energy protocols. One of the exciting things about this multiprotocol solution is that it makes additional functionality possible for IoT devices without the complexity and cost that comes with a two-chip architecture, reducing cost and size by up to 40 percent.

        Users can commission, update, control, and monitor Zigbee mesh networks over Bluetooth with smartphone apps and the software makes it easier to deploy indoor location-based services by extending Zigbee-based lighting systems with Bluetooth beacons.

        Smart lighting is one application that benefits because consumers can use their smartphone to simplify device setup. Added to this, commercial Zigbee systems can be updated via a Bluetooth smartphone or tablet. IoT products inside the home can connect to popular automation platforms and that support Zigbee while at the same time supporting connectivity to smartphones for simple setup, control, and monitoring. Smart Buildings will also be able to get in on the action. Building automation systems based on Zigbee can be extended, making it possible for employees to interact using Bluetooth enabled devices.

        For lighting in particular, multiprotocol connectivity is an area that is making it possible for manufacturers to distinguish themselves. Multiprotocol functionality makes it possible to simultaneously combine protocols like Zigbee with Bluetooth® on a single chip through intelligent time-slicing. Used together, a lamp can communicate with established Zigbee mesh-enabled devices while providing Bluetooth beaconing and smartphone-enabled light control. Hardware supporting multiprotocol and developer tool features to consider when selecting a platform for designing control and lighting systems are also examined. 

        Check out the whitepaper, “Enhancing Smart Lighting with 802.15.4 Mesh, Bluetooth, and Multiprotocol Connectivity.”

        Our dynamic multiprotocol software is driven by powerful wireless protocol stacks and an advanced radio scheduler running on Micrium OS. The software development kit (SDK) is available in Simplicity Studio and includes a connected lighting demo supported on selected Wireless Gecko starter kits and mobile app reference designs.

         

         

         

         

      • Employee Spotlight – Helge Langen

        Lance Looper | 10/300/2017 | 09:35 AM

        Helge Langen joined Silicon Labs as a summer intern during the summer of 2016. In his current role as Hardware Engineer for the IoT MCU & Wireless team in Oslo, Langen’s responsibilities include hardware design, design testing and firmware development. He said his role requires him to “combine technical knowledge with creative skills to achieve the desired level of esthetically pleasing products.” His typical day at the office entails working on a variety of projects that can range from using a computer, a microscope and tweezers or even a hammer!

         

        spotlight-banner1.jpg

         

        His supervisor, Jørn Norheim said Langen is great at his job and requires little or no detailed information. He continued, “Regularly we get into the situation where I say, ‘Oh, [Langen] already did that thing I was thinking we should do to get the project completed. Well, that’s nice!’” Norheim continued, “He’s the sort of person that does not spend too much time talking, but rather spends his time on doing. Really, really well.”

         

        Langen’s favorite thing about working at Silicon Labs is he gets to do things he enjoys every day with a team of nice, talented people, while having fun. In addition to his day job, Langen is an avid runner. In fact, Norheim calls him “one of Norway’s best runners.” Langen said his favorite Silicon Labs value is ‘we do the right thing’ because it reminds him of when he’s running. “The competition is sufficiently fierce to force me to do the right things at practice every day to keep up – since there will always be someone else doing the right things most of the time as well,” he said. “Having success in the semiconductor business requires no less attention to continuous improvements.”

         

        Helge Langan, we’re glad you’re on the Silicon Labs team. Keep up the great work!

         

        Helge Langen_blog.jpg

      • KRACK Vulnerabilities and Protecting Deployed Products

        Lance Looper | 10/298/2017 | 12:35 PM

        Recently a vulnerability called KRACK in Wi-Fi security, which exploited the Key Reinstallation process part of WPA2, was discovered and published by researchers. This impacts all manner of Wi-Fi-based devices, including phones and laptops, but more importantly it’s affecting connected cameras, bulbs, medical devices, and HVAC systems as well. This class of devices, referred to as IoT devices, are especially vulnerable because they don’t come with an easy way to locate, identify, and update them in the field. Since these devices do not have a user interaction model or attendant management infrastructure such as the ones that are taken for granted with smartphones, they are at risk for an extended period of time.

         

        Vendors are, rightly, working diligently to make software updates available that will patch the issue. Even after the patch is made available, the issue still remains because distributing these updates to the product fleet is a significant gap. Current retrofitting processes, such as emailing customers or dispatching field service teams to update the products, are simply too slow, expensive, or do not provide enough coverage. According to HD Moore, a network security researcher at Atredis Partners, some of these devices may stay vulnerable for decades[1].

         

        The solution lies in designing in an efficient device management service for product fleets, be it consumer or commercial connected products, from day one as insurance against future vulnerabilities. The service needs to have three key aspects:

         

        1. End-to-End security that addresses data at rest security on the product itself, which includes data encryption. This, coupled with data in motion security, ensures data sent to and received from the device from any cloud service is fully protected.
        2. A management platform that can identify, authorize, provision, activate, and deactivate devices from production to in-field deployment and eventual end-of-life of product.
        3. An efficient software update distribution mechanism that can update products in the field reliably without bricking the device fleet at scale.

         

        Silicon Labs’ offers a solution to this problem in the form a cloud-based service called Zentri Device Management Service. This is a hardware agnostic service that is already helping customers identify the security posture of their fleet and apply software updates gradually or all at once. Additionally, the service can monitor the security fleet and be used to selectively disable or de-activate compromised devices.

         

        Learn more at zentri.com and sign up for additional information here.

         

         

        [1] https://www.wired.com/story/krack-wi-fi-iot-security-broken/

         

         

      • KRACK WPA2 Encryption Protocol Vulnerability

        Lance Looper | 10/292/2017 | 04:57 PM

        There has been significant press coverage regarding the KRACK attack on the WPA2 protocol used in most modern Wi-Fi systems. With the attack, the security of WPA2 becomes equivalent of using an open, insecure Wi-Fi network. Any service using secure protocols at higher level, such as HTTPS, TLS etc. are still secure.

         

        We are working on patches for our Wi-Fi products.

         

        In the meantime, the mitigation is to secure the implementations using secure application level protocols, such as HTTPS, TLS etc. This should not only be done due to KRACK, but also because that would protect against open Wi-Fi networks, spoofed access points, or monitoring from ISPs or governments. So all systems should be secured at the application levels regardless of KRACK.

         

        Links for how to use TLS / HTTPS:

        https://www.silabs.com/documents/login/application-notes/AN974-WG-TLS-SMTP-Example.pdf

        https://docs.zentri.com/zentrios/wz/latest/cmd/apps/tls-client

        https://docs.zentri.com/zentrios/wz/latest/cmd/apps/https-server

        https://docs.zentri.com/zentrios/wz/latest/cmd/apps/https-intermediate-certs

        https://docs.zentri.com/zentrios/wz/latest/cmd/apps/web-page-tls-cert

         

        Links regarding the attack:

        https://www.krackattacks.com/

        https://www.wired.com/story/krack-wi-fi-iot-security-broken/

        https://www.wi-fi.org/news-events/newsroom/wi-fi-alliance-security-update

      • IoT Device Security: What Designers Need to Know

        Lance Looper | 10/279/2017 | 11:42 AM

        As the number of IoT devices hitting the market continues to explode, the pace of security threats mounting grows right alongside it. If security isn’t addressed seriously by embedded designers, the vulnerabilities of connected products could significantly stall or halt IoT market growth. That being said, security is a serious priority, not an afterthought.

         

        Fortunately, designers have many options on the best way to build security into connected product designs. Yet the process of building a highly secure IoT device is complicated and requires critical trade-offs by product designers. The trick is weighing the needs of the user and the limitations and strengths of the hardware and wireless infrastructure.

         

        Lars Lydersen, Senior Director of Product Security at Silicon Labs, just released a whitepaper titled, “Security Tradeoffs and Commissioning Methods for Wireless IoT Protocols,” which provides solid recommendations and guidance on the often perplexing task of commissioning wireless devices onto a network.

         

        City_Banner.png

         

        The whitepaper provides a snapshot of some of the key lurking security threats that are relentlessly calculating new ways to hack into connected devices. Several examples mentioned include the passive listeners, who don’t block traffic, but instead listen for valuable data, or the Man-in-the-Middle (MITM) active attacker, who intercepts all traffic while maintaining a disguise to prevent the other communicator or device from knowing it’s talking to an adversary.

         

        In order for devices to combat these cunning and ever-shifting tactics successfully, a number of scenarios and trade-offs need to be taken into consideration by the embedded designer. For example, when securing wireless or wired links, a secret key must be provided between the devices. During this commissioning phase, strong authentication action must be made by the user, infrastructure or operations on the device side in order to avoid MITM attacks. But this approach can place unforeseen requirements on the device interface or online connectivity for the end device.

         

        This is just one example of the complexity involved in commissioning - the paper provides specific guidance on a variety of secure IoT approaches. Typically, three different types of commissioning schemes are available for designers. The whitepaper explores the details of these schemes, including permissive, which happens without authentication; a shared key, which allows the commissioning device and onboarding device to authenticate using a shared identical key; and the certificate-based commissioning scheme; which authenticates the key exchange using public key cryptography primitives.

         

        Today’s most popular IoT protocols include Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Low Energy, Zigbee and Thread. All of the protocols support out-of-band commissioning. Lydersen’s paper provides several specific recommendations for out-of-band commissioning, such as Near-Field Communication or details on how to derive a key from another standard.

         

        Overall, if you need a quick and informative review of commissioning wireless scheme options and the different levels of security available – this read is a must.

         

        New IoT security threats are a constant. Therefore, educating ourselves on the best security approaches to safeguard IoT must be, as well. Enjoy the whitepaper!

      • Employee Spotlight – Marius Munder

        Lance Looper | 09/272/2017 | 10:00 AM

        This month, we’re highlighting Marius Munder, Senior Staff Applications Engineer. Munder began working at Telegesis in 2002 and officially became a Silicon Labs employee in November 2015 through the Telegesis acquisition. When he is not traveling to the High Wycombe site, he’s based out of his home office near Dortmund, Germany.

         

        spotlight-banner1.jpg

         

        Since the acquisition, Munder has enjoyed working with different business units and meeting new people on the Silicon Labs team. Munder says Telegesis’s culture was very similar to Silicon Labs and the main differences were at the project management level “where Telegesis used to have a certain nativity only a startup could afford.” Marius added the acquisition gave him and his coworkers incredible access to new resources in terms of people and information. His favorite thing about working at Silicon Labs is being able to work with a variety of people “allowing [him] to continuously learn and contribute first hand.”

         

        As a member of the Applications Engineering team, Munder interacts with some of Silicon Labs’ largest and most strategic customers. A typical day for Munder involves writing specs, hands on hardware and software work and of course, answering lots of e-mails! Earlier this year, because of his knowledge of the Zigbee stack, Munder was asked to provide customer support during an “extremely pressure packed situation,” said Senior Director of RF Stacks, Bob Power. He added, “Marius brought a tremendous amount of technical expertise, along with a very calm demeanor and provided tremendous value.”

         

        When asked if he could have one wish granted, what would it be and why, Munder said, “1,000 more wishes. No, seriously, I would wish that I didn’t even need that one wish in the first place, because that would mean that everybody on the planet would live in peace and happiness already.”

         

        Marius Munder, we’re proud to recognize you in our June Employee Spotlight. Thank you for everything you do for Silicon Labs!

         

        Marius Munder photo_Blog.jpg

      • Delivering the Industry’s Best Jitter Performance and Power Efficiency on a Single Chip

        Lance Looper | 09/270/2017 | 10:00 AM

        This week we’ve released the new Si522xx PCIe clock generators, bringing best-in-industry jitter performance and energy efficiency to PCI Express® (PCIe®) Gen1/2/3/4 applications. This new clock family delivers on the stringent requirements of PCIe Gen 4 and Separate Reference Independent Spread (SRIS) standards with 20 percent jitter margin to spare, and its jitter performance (0.4 ps RMS) also provides up to 60 percent jitter margin for PCIe Gen 3.

         

        The PCIe standard, originally developed as a serial interconnect for desktop PCs, and has become popular in blade servers, storage equipment, embedded computing, IP gateways, industrial systems, and consumer electronics. High-output clock generators like the Si522x family reduce the number of buffers needed as data bus usage expands in these types of systems. Designed specifically for clock-distribution-intensive applications, the Si522x family supports up to 12 outputs from a single device. This higher output count per device reduces BOM cost. The clocks’ output drivers take advantage of our innovative push-pull HCSL technology, eliminating external resistors required by conventional constant-current output drivers.

         

        Additionally, internal power filtering prevents power supply noise from affecting jitter performance while reducing component count, saving about 30 percent of board space compared to competing solutions.

         

        Developers designing battery-powered applications like digital cameras are especially concerned about power consumption. The 2-output Si52202 clock is optimized for low-power 1.5 V to 1.8 V applications, offering the lowest power consumption for PCIe applications. Packaged in a small 3 mm x 3 mm 20-pin QFN, the clock is also 45 percent smaller than competing solutions.

         

        For more information, visit www.silabs.com/pcie-learningcenter.

         

         

         

      • Silicon Labs Bluetooth Implementations Unaffected by BlueBorne

        Lance Looper | 09/257/2017 | 10:39 AM

        A collection of Bluetooth vulnerabilities named “BlueBorne” has just been made public by the security research company Armis. The vulnerabilities are not in the Bluetooth standard itself, but rather in the specific implementations of the Bluetooth standard. The Silicon Labs Bluetooth implementation is different from the affected implementations. Therefore, products based on our Bluetooth software are immune to BlueBorne.

         

        This has been disclosed responsibly, which means that vendors have had time to issue security patches. Therefore, please update and patch all Bluetooth-products based on Android, Windows, iOS or Linux! And if in doubt, follow best practice and update all smart products regardless of protocol and software platform.

         

         

        As a note, fighting BlueBorne shows the importance of being able to software upgrade connected devices, as discussed here:

        http://www.newelectronics.co.uk/electronics-technology/the-iot-requires-upgradable-security/156211/

         

        References:

        https://www.armis.com/blueborne/

        https://www.wired.com/story/turn-off-bluetooth-security/

        https://techcrunch.com/2017/09/12/new-bluetooth-vulnerability-can-hack-a-phone-in-ten-seconds/