Imagination, TSMC Collaborate To Make Secure IoT Subsystems

Imagination announced a partnership with TSMC to develop a series of IP subsystems for the Internet of Things in order to accelerate the time to market for both companies' customers. The collaboration will include products being built on a range of process nodes, from 55nm down to 10nm.

Suk Lee, TSMC senior director, Design Infrastructure Marketing Division, said, "In order to simplify our customers' designs and shorten their time-to-market, TSMC and our ecosystem partners are transitioning from chip-design enablers to subsystem enablers. We are working closely with Imagination, an established IP leader, as part of our new IoT Subsystem Enablement initiative to help companies get their IoT and connected products to market more quickly and easily."

The current in-development IoT devices include small sensors that come with an M-class CPU combined with an ultra-low power Ensigma Whisper RPU that supports Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and the newer 6LoWPAN (Low power Wireless Personal Area Networks) standard, as well as on-chip RAM and flash.

The 6LoWPAN networking protocol will be used by the Thread Group, of which Imagination seems to be a member now. The Thread Group was initially started by Google and ARM, and the protocol offers peer-to-peer mesh networking capabilities for IoT devices, which means they don't have to be connected to the Internet directly, only to a "gateway" such as a smartphone. This protocol should reduce the attack surface and increase the security of IoT devices taking advantage of it.

Speaking of security, the new subsystems on which Imagination and TSMC will collaborate will include Imagination's OmniShield solution that can create up to eight secure domains enforced by hardware where certain software or apps can be separated from others. Imagination is currently leading the chip market with this type of solution, so the more IoT chips end up using such a solution, the better it will be for the security of IoT devices.

The subsystems on which the two companies collaborate starts from small smart sensors but goes to connected audio devices, connected audio and video, mobile devices, digital TVs, and even up to higher-performance compute devices.

Imagination's IP blocks can be licensed as well as customized with the customers' own IP to create different solutions for a variety of use cases. The company's IP families include the OmniShield-enabled MIPS CPUs and PowerVR GPUs, as well as the Ensigma radio processing units and the FlowCloud framework for connecting IoT devices directly to the cloud.

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Lucian Armasu
Lucian Armasu is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He covers software news and the issues surrounding privacy and security.