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NXP introduces modular IoT gateway with multi-protocol compatibility

Steve Rogerson
November 15, 2016

At last week’s Electronica in Munich, NXP Semiconductors ignored questions about its impending takeover by Qualcomm to concentrate on unveiling a modular IoT gateway for large node networks (LNNs) with pre-integrated, tested and RF certified support for a wide array of wireless communications protocols including Thread, Zigbee and wifi.
Targeting industrial applications, it lets developers easily build out gateways based on their choice of wireless protocols for end-to-end wireless communications in LNN configurations with supporting cloud options such as Amazon Web Services.
“Resilience of the network becomes important in industrial and commercial settings,” said Steve Tateosian (pictured), marketing director of the Dutch company. “The complexity goes up dramatically but so do the possibilities for energy savings.”
Operators of smart commercial buildings and smart industrial environments deploying massive mesh networks need to be able to commission, control and monitor thousands of end nodes. Built on a fully supported, open-source Linux platform running on the i.MX processors, the gateway addresses this demand by connecting Thread and Zigbee-based end node devices securely with the cloud through wifi or Ethernet. In addition, local intelligence enables time critical responses and operation even when cloud connectivity is not available. 
“With over 15 years of experience working with demanding wireless industrial as well as automatic meter reading and automatic meter infrastructure large node network applications, we learned that network security, flexibility, interoperability, scaling and robustness are critical to LNN commercial success,” said Robert Assimiti, CTO of Centero. “Consequently, for Centero's emerging innovations using Thread for LNN applications such as lighting, we are basing designs on the NXP modular IoT gateway.”
The gateway addresses network security requirements to protect user and system data through encrypted wireless communications, preventing unauthorised access, as well as interception, man-in-the-middle and replay attacks. Thread-based devices are authenticated to the network through the EC-JPeke DTLS protocol that prevents passphrases from being leaked or reverse engineered. Thread and Zigbee messages use AES encryption for base level security at their respective mesh network layers, while offering flexible support for applications to add additional end-to-end security layers.
It also provides access to the advanced security capabilities of the i.MX application processor, including high assurance boot, secure key storage, secure JTag, external tamper detection for passive and active events, and internal tamper detection for voltage, glitch and differential power analysis protection. Encryption software including Open SSL is accelerated via the cryptographic acceleration and assurance module. Trusted execution environment support is available as an NXP professional services product.
Commercial installations with thousands of nodes can leverage the built-in secure NFC tap-and-connect capabilities through the gateway. Using a smart phone application, end nodes can be quickly and securely commissioned to the network, even when the device that is being installed is not powered, which is common in smart buildings and industrial, as well as smart connected cities, oil and gas fields, and agriculture installations. 
The gateway reference design includes critical building blocks for quick customisation and application deployment including production ready hardware, schematics, bill of materials and fully documented software. Designers can evaluate, develop, prototype, iterate, field test, install and maintain LNNs for commercial settings starting with the platform.
Electronica also saw the final appearance of NXP’s standard products business that will become a standalone company called Nexperia from early next year. As such, it will not be affected by the Qualcomm takeover.
“Qualcomm from my point of view is already an important partner,” said Frans Scheper, executive vice president of the group and destined to be CEO of the new company. “This can only be strengthened by the Qualcomm-NXP transaction. But it won’t be a huge influence on us.”