Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Renesas MCUs add security to IoT applications

Steve Rogerson
October 10, 2019



Japanese electronics giant Renesas has unveiled a family of 32bit Arm Cortex-M microcontrollers with extra security for intelligent IoT applications. The RA MCU family combines security, connectivity, HMI, flexible software and a partner ecosystem.
 
The ecosystem should help accelerate the development of IoT applications with core technologies such as security, safety, connectivity and HMI. Designing with the MCUs is said to make it easy for engineers to develop IoT endpoint and edge devices for industrial and building automation, metering, healthcare, and home appliance applications.
 
The family is PSA certified level one and includes the RA2 series up to 60MHz, RA4 up to 100MHz, RA6 up to 200MHz and the dual-core RA8 to be released later.
 
“RA MCUs offer customers the ultimate IoT security by combining our secure crypto engine IP with Nist CAVP certifications on top of Arm TrustZone for Arm v8-M, while also providing tamper detection and reinforcing resistance to side-channel attacks,” said Roger Wendelken, senior vice president at Renesas. “Scalability and compatibility across the RA family let customers build a range of products, and they can quickly begin development with our flexible software package using Amazon FreeRTOS, Thread X or other RTOS and middleware.”
 
The first five RA MCU groups are comprised of 32 scalable MCUs with Arm Cortex-M4 and Cortex-M23 processor cores. They have from 32 to 176 pins, along with 256kbyte to 2Mbyte of code flash memory, 32 to 640kbyte SRAM, and USB, Can and Ethernet connectivity.
 
“With today’s fast pace of innovation, developers need to accelerate their time-to-market without compromising on crucial features such as security and connectivity,” said Dipti Vachani, senior vice president at Arm. “The new RA family of MCUs is PSA certified, demonstrating that it is built on sound security principles, enabling developers to improve security and safety in high-performing endpoint devices.”
 
The family FSP provides an open architecture that allows users to re-use their legacy code and combine it with software examples from Renesas and ecosystem partners to speed implementation of complex functions such as connectivity and security. The FSP features Amazon FreeRTOS and will also add out-of-box support for Thread X RTOS and middleware on Cortex-M23 and Cortex-M33 MCUs by early 2020, offering a device-to-cloud option for developers. These out-of-box options can be replaced and expanded with any other RTOS or middleware.
 
The roadmap will roll out additional MCUs in 2020 with more technologies, features and a growing partner ecosystem. The roadmap offers PSA certified and Trusted Firmware-M (TF-M) API compliant devices, including Cortex-M33 MCUs, low-power Cortex-M23 MCUs, and BLE/IEEE 802.15.4 wireless IoT products. MCUs with TF-M and PSA certification should give users the confidence and assurance to deploy secure IoT endpoint and edge devices and smart factory equipment for Industry 4.0.
 
The family strengthens the company’s established 32bit MCU range, including the RX family and Renesas Synergy platform, all designed to provide differentiation and value to users. Synergy is based on the Cortex-M core and features MCUs combined with commercial-grade, warranted software and development tools. The Renesas eXtreme (RX) family has a proprietary RX core with 32bit CoreMark/MHz performance and large code flash memory and SRAM.
 
The first wave of RA devices incorporates hardware-based security features from simple AES acceleration to integrated crypto subsystems isolated within the MCU. The secure crypto engine provides symmetric and asymmetric encryption and decryption, hash functions, true random number generation (TRNG), and key handling, including key generation and MCU-unique key wrapping.
 
An access management circuit shuts down the crypto engine if the correct access protocol is not followed, and dedicated RAM ensures that plain-text keys are never exposed to any CPU or peripheral bus. The development environment offers on-chip debug, IDEs, compiler, support tools, board evaluation kits, design files, schematics, PCB layouts and BoM.
 
The first five MCU groups are available now from Renesas worldwide distributors with prices ranging from US$2.50 to $7.00 in 10,000-unit quantities.