IoT Edge Applications for Micro Technic

Collaboration Between Danish Innovators Delivers a Robust Solution To Smart Energy Customers Featuring Microchip’s SAMA5D2 Family of MPUs.

There is a great deal of enthusiasm for the migration to low carbon and renewable energy sources. Many companies, governments and institutions are signing off on long-range strategies to break away from petroleum, natural gas and coal. These three fossil fuels make up 80% of the world’s consumption by most estimates and have been dominant energy sources for more than 100 years.

The Greening of the Energy Sector Meets the Expansion of IoT

New-world thinking requires that many interrelated elements in the oil and gas sectors are seen as a single system to minimize energy use while maximizing production. Every link in the chain requires new datadriven insight. The fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0) sees artificial intelligence, IoT, analytics and other digital transformation elements as being fully integrated with physical processes.

Analytics programs, automated procedures and predictive maintenance strategies are driving the uptake of innovative IoT solutions, which supply new layers of real-time data at an unprecedented scale.

As smart energy providers have been eager to integrate sensors with oil filters in demanding oil tanker and container ship environments, two Danish innovators collaborated to develop an industrial IoT solution that delivers uncompromising efficiency and embedded security.

From Global OEM Payment Solutions to IoT Security

Cryptera was founded as a payment technology company. From its headquarters in Glostrup (just west of Copenhagen in the region of Hovedstaden), it offers expertise in the fields of encryption, certification and secure provisioning and also markets a full range of solutions including hardware, software and services to protect sensitive information. With a history of over 2 million payment solutions deployed, Cryptera’s security pedigree has been recognized by top manufacturers of ATMs and fuel pumps around the world. In addition to serving as a Microchip Premier Design Partner, Cryptera has been appointed as a Visa®-certified facility for encryption key load.

With a respected reputation in developing electronic payment solutions for a broad range of international clients, Cryptera leverages three decades of expertise in cryptographic methods and certified secure processes to serve emerging applications for security in industrial IoT devices.

Cryptera’s partnership with Micro Technic represents the increasing focus on IoT security.
From its base in Aarup, 190 miles west of Copenhagen, Micro Technic has offered electronics design and manufacturing services for more than 40 years. With a record of achievement and expertise in the embedded PC technology and IoT hardware industries, the company has introduced a portfolio of standard products including intelligent sensors, gateways and wireless communications gear. Its data loggers are used in a variety of remote monitoring, industrial process and manufacturing applications for automotive and aerospace data collection and in geological and environmental monitoring. In addition to its design capabilities and manufacturing leadership, Micro Technic also markets its own family of Micronix-branded products, which helps customers connect their assets and services to external monitoring solutions.

The recent announcement of a partnership between Micro Technic and Cryptera confirms a commitment to integrated security for their combined customers. By establishing a security layer at the chip level of an IoT device, a root of trust can be established via the use of certificates and encryption. Together, IoT devices from Micro Technic, supported by a cloud-based IoT platform, can deliver a level of security that is on par with what you would expect to find in financial transactions and payment terminals. At the same time, customers can benefit from secure IP protection, communication and continuous software updates of the device over its lifecycle.

The Challenge

Global companies have an increasing desire to receive, monitor and act upon data in real time. Cloud connectivity has boosted the appeal and cost effectiveness of asset visibility applications as more and more companies commit to IoT. But at the same time, cyberattacks and ransomware have become an everyday threat. Organizations are raising their security profiles and mandating that their ecosystem partners do the same.

When an oil filter company saw security requirements increasing in an effort to address cybersecurity concerns in the energy sector, they realized that their own customers would need a more dynamic solution to optimize data collection and transmission at the edge. Network designers have favored edge computing in recent years as a way to guarantee low latency by combining data processing power and storage capability in an on-premise architecture. Data processed at the edge can be acted upon in real-time, and shared periodically with enterprise systems when appropriate connectivity is available.

Always-on cloud connections are not readily available in remote energy company environments or during the entirety of an oil tanker’s overseas travels. As new security layers contribute to the popularity of edge-based approaches, the potential for intellectual property and sensitive data exposure at the edge increases. 

Traditional approaches to collecting oil filter performance information were becoming too heavy as security layers increased. A new solution was required.

The Solution

A collaborative team worked with the customer to identify an approach that would collect sensor data from oil filters using a secure datalogger that executes edge computing applications on a hacker-protected platform.

The Micro Technic Skylark datalogger featuring Microchip’s SAMA5D2 series ultra-low power Arm® Cortex®-A5-based MPU was ultimately chosen. Cryptera and Micro Technic have years
of development success with SAMA5D2-based designs and the device’s feature set was an ideal match. The SAMA5D2 is a Cortex-A5 processor which runs up to 500 MHz and features
the Arm Neon™ SIMD technology engine, a 128 KB L2 cache and a floating-point unit. It supports multiple memories, including latest-generation technologies such as DDR3, LPDDR3 and QSPI Flash.

The SAMA5D2 includes state-of-the-art security features including secure boot, execution of encrypted code with an “on-the-fly” encryption-decryption process, integrity check monitor of the memory content, a hardware encryption engine, tamper pins and secure key storage. It is also PCIe® 5.0 pre-certified.

The Cryptera team highlights the security challenges at each stage in the lifecycle of a device. Common to them all is the need to protect the intellectual property in the firmware as well as protect the integrity and confidentiality of the data which is collected by, stored in and ultimately transmitted by the device. Once devices are in use, it is not just the firmware that is at risk but also the data which has been stored in the devices. Cyberattacks, physical security, data integrity and confidentiality during transfer must all be considered. Cryptera’s long history in the fintech space has made it an attractive partner in other highly regulated environments such as the oil and gas industries.

As a Microchip Design Partner, Cryptera has built extensive know-how and experience in utilizing the security architecture and features of the SAMA5D2 family of MPUs. The team draws from the design and production expertise they gained from developing an innovative PCIe-approved Near-Field Communication (NFC) card reader that was also based on the SAMA5D28.

Cryptera operates a secure backend with a Hardware Security Module (HSM) and a corresponding client provisioning setup that was delivered to Micro Technic. Customers using the
Skylark gateway benefit from protection against theft of intellectual property, secure Over-The-Air (OTA) firmware upgrades, protection against firmware modification and confidentiality of firmware and configuration data. The solution also allows for a distributed manufacturing setup without a risk for cloning and overproduction of the device.

Establishing root of trust and a secure boot sequence at the provisioning stage ensured firmware integrity. Cryptographic keys are stored securely, and since Cryptera also ensures
firmware confidentiality through encrypted firmware loads and updates, both Linux® configuration data and application loads can be updated OTA to preserve integrity and confidentiality.

The Result

The Micro Technic Skylark datalogger monitors a variety of information flows and operates independently from the customer’s communications networks. The Skylark solution is designed to integrate both hardware and software without the requirements of a larger investment. The device is an integral element of hybrid cloud IoT architectures in the demanding environments found in the oil and gas transportation sectors.

Skylark-based solutions benefit from an intuitive and easily configurable interface with a personal dashboard for data monitoring. Its purpose-built notification features enable customers to define various thresholds and related notification parameters.

The intelligent Skylark gateway comes with integrated Input/Output (I/O) for sensors and wireless communications. While the gateway is easy to connect, it is also designed as an extreme low-powered device which makes it fully compatible for battery-powered or remote applications.

A cloud-based dashboard can easily be configured to present impressive visual presentations of processed data. The Skylark datalogger also includes 16 programmable analog inputs, 24-bit resolution, a CAN bus, up to 125 kilosamples per second (ksps), eight digital inputs and eight digital outputs.

The conditional awareness and functional performance data from shipdeployed oil filters and sensors can deliver the actionable information that today’s energy companies leverage as they optimize the performance of machinery and their own use of energy throughout the supply chain. The locally anchored Micro Technic Skylark datalogger, with its ability to monitor and provide alerts in real time while simultaneously sending data to the cloud where is can be fed into additional data models, delivers true competitive and security advantages.

With the right preventative maintenance and with the amount of Industry 4.0 applications available, the oil and gas sectors may play a larger role in optimizing their collective uses of energy on the road to a greener future.