Embedded Systems Conference 2018 Schedule – IoT, Security, Artificial Intelligence, and More

The Embedded Systems Conference takes place each year in Boston, US in April or May. This year, the event will occur on April 18-19, and the organizers have published the schedule with 7 tracks: Advanced Technologies, Center Stage (free), Embedded Hardware Design & Verification, Embedded Software Design & Verification, IoT and Connected Devices, Keynotes (free) and Special Event (free).

Even if you can’t attend, it’s always useful to have a look at the schedule to learn about potential industry developments. So I’ve made my own virtual schedule with some of the sessions I found relevant to this blog.

Wednesday, April 18

  • 8:00 – 10:00 – An Introduction to RTOS by Jean Labrosse (Software Architect, Silicon Labs)

This tutorial will help you understand what RTOSs are and how they work so that you can make better use of their features. The class will explain what an RTOS is and why you should use one. We’ll explain what tasks are, why you need a stack for each task, how and when an RTOS decides which task to run, what a preemptive kernel is, how to split your application into tasks, what are semaphores and how to use them, what’s the difference between semaphores and mutexes, and how to assign priorities to tasks. We’ll also talk about priority inversions, how to reduce power consumption, and more.

  • 10:00 – 10:45 – Arm v8-M Trustzone Primer by  Bob Boys (Product Manager, ARM)

Security for embedded and IoT applications has become crucial. How can you protect your products from hackers or virus attacks? ARM v8-M is a new family of processors with proven TrustZone technology. First implemented in ARM11 and Cortex-A, it is now available in Cortex-M processors. The first devices are Cortex-M23 and Cortex-M33, and will be shipping from various semiconductor companies starting in 2018.

A live demonstration of a non-secure function calling and secure function and returning. An Arm Fast Model simulator will be used. You will be able to replicate this as no hardware is used. Compiler hints using AC6 LLVM based will be discussed as well as a survey of RTX requirements and other software components.

  • 11:00 – 11:45 – Creating AI That Thinks and Feels with Chris Wiltz (Senior Editor, Design News, UBM), Katherine Andriole, PhD (Director of Research Strategy and Operations, MGH & BWH Center for Clinical Data Science), Ashley McManus (Marketing Director, Affectiva),  Gunnar Newquist (Founder & CEO, Brain2Bot Inc.), Thurston Taylor (Technical Director, OEM Business Division, BISTel)

For artificial intelligence to work and play alongside humans it’s going to have to understand us, and maybe even behave more like us. Natural language processing is only the beginning as we move toward AI that can understand how we feel and even predict our actions. This panel will take a look at the latest advancements toward making AI feel less like machines. Can understanding our own brains help us make smarter AI? How long until your AI coworker is just as good as a human one? Attendees will come away with a better understanding of the latest trends in AI and what the future holds.

  • 12:00 – 12:30 – Biomedical Innovation – A Report From the Frontier by Jeff Karp (Professor of Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School & MIT)

An all-star academic and industry-leading biomedical engineer, Jeff Karp will share exclusive insights at the forefront of regenerative medicine as well as explore the latest thinking at the intersection of biology and medicine.

  • 13:00 – 13:45 – Catastrophe Averted: AI That Continues to Learn After Deployment by Anatoly Gorshechnikov (Co-Founder & CTO, Neurala)

One of the major hassles of Deep Learning is the need to fully retrain the network on the server every time new data becomes available in order to preserve the previous knowledge. This is called “catastrophic forgetting,” and it severely impairs the ability to develop a truly autonomous AI (artificial intelligence). This problem is solved by simply training on the fly — learning new objects without having to retrain on the old. Imagine a toy that can learn to recognize and react to its owner, or a drone that can learn and detect objects of interest identified while in flight. Without catastrophic forgetting, this is all possible. Neurala’s Anatoly Gorshechnikov will discuss how state-of-the-art accuracy, as well as real-time performance suitable for deployment of AI directly on the edge, moves AI out of the server room and into the hands of consumers, allowing for technology that mimics the human brain.

  • 14:00 – 14:45 – Securing the Internet of Things by Brad Jackson (Senior Field Application Engineer, Green Hills Software)

No abstract available

  • 15:00 – 17:00 – Keeping Sensitive Information Secure — Always Secure
    by Paul Schneck (Principal, Schneck Consulting)

Security is only as good as its weakest link. And, once information is lost it is gone for good.

This tutorial describes an approach for securing data created in an embedded IoT device. The data is only shared among trusted parties. Copying or stealing data as it is being sent to others will result in obtaining encrypted copies of data. Similarly, stealing data from within the device will yield only encrypted data.

The system uses both symmetric (shared key) and asymmetric (public key) encryption. Because the system is small and easy to implement manufacturers can avoid the difficulties (bugs, complexity, protocol failures) plaguing large, complex security “solutions.” Equally important, the system extends to desktops, mobile devices, and servers, creating a large ecosystem of shared secure data.

All data is encrypted with a random symmetric key and never leaves the device in unencrypted form. The symmetric encryption key is itself encrypted by the public key of the partner device(s) with which the data will be shared. Public key(s) are validated by a trusted certificate authority (possibly maintained by the equipment manufacturer). The symmetric key along with additional parameters are encrypted by the validated public key(s) and sent to the partner device(s).

Attendees will learn

  1. how to build systems with robust security
  2. a straightforward secure protocol cascades symmetric key and public key encryption
  3. hardware-enforced mandatory encryption foils malware and data thieves
  4. the approach forms the basis of an extensible secure ecosystem for IOT
  5. the ecosystem includes PCs, mobile devices, and entertainment devices

Thursday, April 19

  • 8:00 – 8:45 – Marketing Malarkey & the Truth About Ultra-Low Power Design by Jack Ganssle (Principal Consultant, TGG)

Vendors are waging battles about their low-power microprocessors that can run on a coin cell for years. Some of what they claim is somewhat disingenuous; other claims are irrelevant. This session covers real-world data on what sort of battery life can be expected (based on millions of data points the author has gathered experimentally), what mitigation strategies are appropriate, what low sleep currents really mean, and other sources of leakages that will drain the cells long before the MCU does. This session specifically focuses on coin cell applications.

Takeaway: Real problems, and solutions, with regard to designing battery-powered systems.

  • 9:00 – 9:45 – Jump Starting Code Development to Minimize Software Bugs
    by Jacob Beningo (President, Beningo Embedded Group)

Debugging an embedded system is one of the most time-consuming and expensive activities that embedded software developers engage in. Survey results show that the average team can spend as much as 40% of a development cycle debugging their software. Developers can easily prevent, detect, and eliminate bugs to dramatically decrease the time they spend debugging their embedded system. In this session, we are going to examine several techniques such as assertions, code reviews, and tracing that can be used to quickly detect bugs. We will develop a robust process that attendees can follow and implement to decrease the time they spend debugging and spend more time innovating.


  1. A code debugging process
  2. How to detect bugs when they occur using assertions
  3. Leveraging trace technology to detect bugs
  4. Tools necessary to debug a system
  5. How to create a robust code review process
  6. Leverage code analysis tools to detect potential bugs and pain points
  7. Debugging best practices
  • 10:00 – 10:45 – The IoT Botnet Wars, Linux Devices & the Absence of Basic Security Hardening by Drew Moseley (Technical Solutions Engineer, Mender.io)

In this session we will discuss the various malware infecting Linux IoT devices including Mirai, Hajime, and BrickerBot, and the vulnerabilities they leverage to enslave or brick connected devices. We will walk the audience through specific vectors they used to exploit devices and cover some basics in security hardening that would have largely protected from many of the widespread malware.

Some of the fundamental security concepts we will cover include:

  • Closing unused open network ports
  • Intrusion detection systems
  • Enforcing password complexity and policies
  • Removing unnecessary services
  • Frequent software updates to fix bugs and patch security vulnerabilities

We will also delve into the arguments and counter-arguments of vigilante hacking with Hajime and BrickerBot as examples and the potential long-term consequences in this new age of connected devices.

Takeaway: This presentation will help the embedded development community understand real-world security risks in bringing their devices online and what specific measures to take to help defend their devices.

  • 11:00 – 11:45 – Connecting & Securing the IIoT’s Autonomous Systems
    by Bob Leigh (Director of Market Development, Autonomous Vehicles, RTI), Dan Gandhi (Driverless Car Systems Engineering Lead, NextDroid) 

One of the key drivers of the IIoT market today is automating systems that are currently operated manually — from cars to medical systems to the power grid. These are all highly complex and dynamic systems that must coordinate many software components distributed across diverse platforms.

To get a competitive edge, intelligent system manufacturers must meet demanding requirements including safety, security, and fast data processing. Satisfying these mission-critical control requirements is much more challenging than early stage IIoT implementations that focused on monitoring (predictive maintenance, cloud analytics, etc.) and optimization. This session will answer some of the key questions confronting architects and developers of autonomous systems.

Takeaway: The advanced technology needed to develop and secure autonomous systems including connectivity software, sensors, robotics and data-centric security, and how to leverage industry standards to implement a robust foundation for highly resilient and responsive distributed control systems.

  • 12:00 – 12:45 – Strategies for Developing Hundreds of Successful Products with a US/China Team by Ken Haven (President/CEO/Founder, Acorn Product Development)

Successfully developing products with engineering teams in the U.S. and China requires people, process, collaborative tools, and an ongoing investment in fostering teamwork. Acorn has developed hundreds of products for customers worldwide over the past 12+ years utilizing its engineering teams in China and the U.S. for products in the Medical Device/Laboratory Instrument markets, as well as for Consumer, Industrial, and Telecom markets.

This session will focus on the key elements that have led to the success of this collaboration, along with areas that are still being developed, such as:

  • Finding and retaining the right people
  • Cross training/local immersion
  • Collaborative engineering tools
  • How to divide and manage the work load – leveraging the best skills of each team
  • Understanding cultural differences and how to best work with them
  • How to minimize risk and maximize efficiency
  • Looking to the future: Areas for ongoing improvement of the team’s effectiveness
  • Vetting and working with suppliers overseas to improve DFM

We’ll also show how an example project is worked by our US/China team, along with some of the ongoing challenges and rewards of utilizing this approach.

  • 13:00 – 13:45 – The Impact of IoT on Engineering Jobs by Cees Links (General Manager, Wireless Connectivity Business Unit, Qorvo)

As the Internet of Things (IoT) pushes automation to new heights, people will perform fewer and fewer “simple tasks.” Does that mean the demand for highly technical employees will increase as the need for less-technical employees decreases? What will be the immediate and long-term effects on the overall job market? What about our privacy and is the IoT secure? These are loaded questions, but ones that are asked often. Cees Links, wireless pioneer, entrepreneur, and general manager of the Wireless Connectivity business unit in Qorvo, will address these questions, as well as expectations for IoT’s impact on society, in this keynote presentation.

  • 14:00 – 16:00 – Securing IoT: Deep Trust from Device to Cloud by Steve Singer (Senior Director of Worldwide Field Applications Engineering, Rambus)

With more than 35 billion IoT devices expected to be deployed by 2020, security of these devices must go beyond just encryption of communication. Establishing deep trust between device and cloud is required. In this tutorial, an expert from Rambus will discuss simplifying IoT device security by establishing trust early in the device life cycle. This trust can then be extended to simplify the management of encryption certificates, and managed security over the life cycle of the device for IoT solution providers. Security advantages and implementation will be reviewed from the embedded system of the IoT device through to the Cloud.

There are many other interesting other talks which could not make it into this virtual schedule.

In order to attend the event, you’ll need to register and get either a free expo pass (can not attend paid sessions), or a conference pass to access all events with pricing as follows:

  • Standard (until April 13) – $1,099
  • Onsite – $1,299

People who registered before January 5 (Super Early Bird) could do so for $749.

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