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24 Oct 2018, 9:06

Putting security back into IoT development – Microchip’s MicroAVR-IoT WG Development Board

Whilst many manufacturers continue to focus on developing Wi-Fi SoCs and microcontrollers that speed up time to market, new IoT-enabled designs can be put at risk of hacking when adequate security measures are not in place. Microchip’s new MicroAVR-IoT WG Development Board is designed to meet both requirements, speeding up cloud-connected developments whilst protecting them against hackers.

IoT Prototyping Projects Within Minutes

The AVR-IoT WG allows engineers to create IoT projects within minutes of removing it from the box. Containing a range of hardware including a battery charging circuit, a debugger, multiple sensors, and GPIO, it offers designers the 20MHz processing power of the ATMEGA4808, an 8-bit microcontroller with up to 48KB of Flash, 6KB of SRAM, and 256 bytes of EEPROM.

For Wi-Fi connectivity, the board contains a low power ATWINC1510 2.4GHz b/g/n module which is interfaced via SPI and can be used with multiple network services including DHCP, DNS, TCP, UDP, HTTP, and HTTPS.

The AVR-IoT WG aims to simplify the process of programming microcontrollers using external programmers, helping users to avoid a number of common errors which can crop up . It has an integrated debugger, the nEDBG, which acts as a virtual com port, a debugger, and a data gateway. Perhaps the most important feature of the nEDBG is a mass storage device which allows drag-and-drop programming. This means that a compiled program can simply be dragged onto the AVR-IoT WG as if it were a removable device such as a USB flash drive. 

Protection from Hackers

Microchip have recognised that printers, refrigerators, and other IoT devices are still recruited for large-scale DDoS attacks, so the AVR-IoT WG development board also integrates an ATECC608A CryptoAuthentication device which helps to offload cryptographic functions from the main processor and offers protected storage for up to 16 elements (keys, certificates, or data), hardware support for asymmetric sign, verify, and key arrangement, hardware support for symmetric algorithms (SHA-256 and AES-128), secure boot support, guaranteed unique 72-bit serial number, and integrated random number generator. ATECC608A devices come pre-registered on Google Cloud IoT Core and are ready for use with zero touch provisioning. The video below explains in more detail how the AVR-IoT increases protection against security breaches:

Authenticated Cloud Connectivity

Whilst it’s a fully functional IoT device, the AVR-IoT WG development board has been specifically designed with Google Cloud IoT in mind. This is important because Google Cloud IoT incorporates authentication solutions, including the use of hardware root of trust, simple code implementation based on JSON Web Token. It has no dependency on TLS thanks to the JWT architecture. Google Cloud IoT also enables the creation of smart, secure nodes.

 Reducing Power Circuitry

The AVR-IoT WG integrates a charger circuit based on the MCP381 to enable connection of external Li-ion batteries and removing any requirement for additional circuitry. This means it can be integrated into prototype designs for consumer applications without the need to design power control circuitry. It also helps with “always on” situations where power is normally provided via the USB connector but an external battery keeps the system operating during power outages.

The AVR-IoT WG board also integrates two LEDs for power indication. The red LED indicates charge and low battery voltage and the green LED indicates that charging is complete.

Innovative product and technology marketeer, enthusiastic writer and translator, and author of the ultimately underwhelming blog "Oneday711": technology, travel, sport. Particularly interested in the impact innovation has on our lives - good and bad.

24 Oct 2018, 9:06