The smart city of FaaS

Wikipedia defines a smart city as an “urban development vision” that seeks to securely integrate multiple information and communication technology (ICT) and Internet of Things (IoT)
solutions for residents. More precisely, smart city infrastructure built around sensors and real- time monitoring systems allows officials to significantly improve quality of life for residents. For example, the Spanish city of Cantabria boasts 20,000 sensors that monitor pollution, noise, traffic and parking conditions.

Future smart city infrastructure will almost certainly be designed with chips in places that are difficult to reach, such as subterranean water pipes, air conditioning ducts and under streets and parking lots. Intelligent street lighting, responsive signage and next-gen Bluetooth beacons also require future-proofing to avoid frequent maintenance, security patches and physical upgrades. As such, silicon powering smart city infrastructure should be capable of supporting in-field feature configuration. To be sure, downstream configuration offers city engineers a far more targeted and sustainable method for maintaining smart infrastructure.

One potential approach to designing future-proof and easily maintainable smart city infrastructure is to build various systems around chips that supports in-field configuration.

Fortunately, ASIC and ASSP SoCs can now be fabbed with highly secure configurable features and/or services within a single chip design, including in-field provisioning of sensitive data and feature controls.

This ‘Features as a Service’ (FaaS) approach opens up a wide range of new possibilities for smart city architects. Such silicon can also be protected against current and future vulnerabilities by a hardware root-of-trust that facilitates secure OTA firmware updates. With FaaS, many instances of routine smart city maintenance would be simplified by reducing the need for on-site repair crews and physical removal of infrastructure.

Beyond smart cities, reprogrammable silicon will undoubtedly play a major part in evolving the burgeoning Internet of Things (IoT), which spans a broad range of applications and environments with various requirements. For example, rather than producing and inventorying models for a specific scenario, chipmakers can sell a single ‘minimum-functionality’ configuration, thereby allowing OEMs (or end customers) to pay for the enablement of additional capabilities.

Moreover, chips will need to address a growing range of third-party security requirements, necessitating the ability to store and protect cryptographic keys and parameters that vary by application and customer. Reprogrammable chips, enabling FaaS, will allow system architects to significantly extend the range of markets they can address per chip design.

Interested in learning more about in-field feature configuration for SoCs? You can check out our CryptoManager product page here.