Electronic Design

IP/Security Controller Chip Makes Wireless M2M Applications A Snap

Don't look now, but the machines are talking to each other. They're not plotting to take over the world, though. They're using the M2M (machine-to-machine) protocol to perform simple telemetry or control operations. M2M applications are finding wider adoption as communications options grow and costs decline to a practical level.

Common applications include point of sale (POS) terminals, data collection terminals, telematics, power management, medical devices, elevator controllers, lighting controllers, parking meters, irrigation controllers, security alarms, and almost any other kind of remote monitoring and control function. Yet they're still very price sensitive, so adding circuitry and code to do the job is difficult. And as wireless options become available, security also becomes paramount.

Connect One's iChipSec CO711AG coprocessor handles all the necessary operations with minimal design issues. It's the latest in the company's series of Internet Protocol (IP) coprocessors, which make it fast and easy to incorporate IP connectivity for M2M applications with minimal product design.

These chips work with any host processor, any or no host real-time operating system, and most common communications devices (see the figure). The host runs the app while the iChip deals with all aspects of the IP connection. The communications link to the outside world may be a dial-up modem, a 10/100Base-T Ethernet port, a cellular modem, or a Wi-Fi radio.

The iChip's flash memory stores the IP protocols and configuration parameters, and the SRAM buffers prevent packet loss. The common high-level AT + i application programming interface (API) eliminates the need for any IP programming. The chip supports TCP/UDP sockets, email send and receive, e-mail attachments, Web client and server, FTP, Telenet, the Serial NET plug-and-play mode, remotely updatable firmware, and remote device management.

"This chip is used to network-enable products that might not be connected today or to add functionality or lower the cost of connectivity for networked devices. It includes all the protocols and drivers necessary to connect an existing device to wired or wireless LANs (local-area networks) or to wired or wireless modems," says Alan Singer, Connect One's VP of marketing and sales.

"It eliminates the need to do any low-level programming or a major rewrite of the host application. It also eliminates the need for you to maintain the network connectivity protocols," he continues.

"For example, if you have a medical device that today is connected by LAN but you want to add Wi-Fi connectivity, you have to do a lot of software engineering to add the drivers and security protocols. Most likely you know nothing about Wi-Fi connectivity, so you end up having to buy or develop this expertise. You also have to research the market to select the optimal hardware solution," he says.

"This may require a hardware redesign like adding more memory to store the protocols. It may require a change in the operating system since, for example, most commercially available Wi-Fi solutions have drivers that are written for Windows CE, Linux, or are available as part of expensive RTOS libraries. In addition, you have to maintain these protocols, which adds to the ongoing costs. So, we are talking about a big job in terms of time, cost, and complexity."

The CO711AG is a complete hardware and software drop-in solution that eliminates time, cost, and complexity. It offloads network connectivity and security from the host application. Its fast time-to-market typically only requires one man month of engineering times. Connect One maintains the networking and security protocols for free and offers free firmware updates.

The CO711AG is a drop-in system-on-a-chip that frees up processing on the host processor by offloading cryptography, network security, and TCP/IP. It also uses the SSL3/TSL1 protocol to support a secure client socket session on one secure FTP session. It supports digital signatures using RSA public and private keys and hash algorithms to sign and verify data.

Only one command is needed to open the SS3/TLS1 socket. An additional command opens a secure FTP session. Four commands set the parameters used to define the cipher suite, the certificate authority, the iChipSec certificate, and the iChipSec private key.

The chip uses X.509 client and server certificate authentication to perform both client and server authentication and to manage a chain of server certificates. It stores and manages up to four certificate authority certificates plus the private key for client certificate authentication.

The logical interface between the host device processor and iChipSec is Connect One's AT + i Protocol, a high-level API that enables fast and easy implementation and maintenance of the security and Internet protocols. AT + i doesn't require any Internet programming expertise, and it only requires minimum modification of the host application. AT + i's SerialNET plug-and-play operating mode doesn't require any change to the host applications. It enables CO711AG to act as a serial-to-Wi-Fi bridge.

The chip supports up to 10 simultaneous TCP and UDP sockets for multitasking Internet sessions and two TCP listening sockets for acting as servers. It also includes upper-layer Internet protocols like SMPT, POP3, MIME, HTTP, FTP, and Telenet clients and a Web server. It includes two Web sites, one for configuring the iChipSec and one for use by the application, that can serve up to three browsers simultaneously.

The CO711AG comes with 1 Mbyte of flash memory as well as the generous SRAM for packet buffering. The core and I/Os operate from 3.3 V and can run at speeds up to 66 MHz. The package is an RoHS-compliant 121-ball micro-ball grid array (µBGA).

Available now, the chip costs $13.75 in lots of more than 50,000 units. Evaluation boards are also available. Check out Connect One's other chips as well as its full line of ready-to-go device servers for connecting existing products to the Internet for M2M.

Connect One Semiconductors Inc.

TAGS: Components
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