My colleagues have just returned from the Embedded Technology conference and exhibition, held annually at the Pacifico Yokohama Convention Centre in Japan.

ET is one of the world’s largest trade shows for embedded system designers and managers – and Imagination has had yet another impressive presence this year. Among the many demonstrations shown at the event, there were a few platforms that caught the attention of many visitors:

But perhaps the most interesting demonstration on display resulted from the collaboration with SELTECH, one of our community partners designing hypervisors for MIPS CPUs. Since our MIPS M-class CPUs are the world’s first MCU class processors to incorporate hardware virtualization, SELTECH has been able to port their fully featured FEXEROX hypervisor to our innovative and award winning CPUs. This allows us to show how next generation, virtualization-based security enables multiple operating systems to run separately and securely on one CPU – even if it is a microcontroller!

Seltech DemoThe FEXEROX hypervisor executes Linux and a real-time operating system simultaneously and perfectly isolated from each other

We are seeing more and more usage scenarios for embedded devices requiring a high level of security and reliability. For example, mobile devices have to run multiple applications securely such as DRM for multimedia streaming, e-health data collection or in-app billing; automotive electronics require protection against malicious attacks.

All connected devices must provide multi-domain security and reliability.

Offering support for full hardware virtualization and multiple trusted execution environments is a key requirement for providing a high level of security and reliability. This enables separate virtual machines to run in isolated execution environments and therefore create a framework that protects users against unauthorized accesses by malicious software.

MIPS Warrior CPUs support full hardware virtualization and multi-domain trusted execution environments across the range.

In the demo below, a development platform integrating a MIPS M5150 CPU is running both Linux and uiTRON as guest operating systems under the control of the hypervisor; uiTRON is controlling the motor while Linux is just running text screen commands.

The new FEXEROX hypervisor from SELTECH running on the MIPS M5150 CPU from Imagination

The demo shows how the two operating systems run on a common platform in complete isolation from each other (i.e. any change in either OS does not affect the operation of the other). For instance, after uiTRON boots up and starts running the motor control application, Linux is loaded and executes a line command without interfering with the motor operation; when Linux is rebooted, the motor carries on running.

FEXEROX on MIPS M5150 MCU - demo operation overviewThe demo shows the real-time operating system executes commands while Linux is rebooting

Similarly, booting up Linux first and then loading uiTRON and running the motor app has no effect on the behavior of the Linux operating system.

We are delighted that we have been able to work with SELTECH to create a compact yet powerful hypervisor for MIPS. FEXEROX delivers amazingly small code size (32 KB); when combined with the performance efficiency of MIPS M5150, it  represents a major advantage in the area of embedded systems.

The innovative MIPS M5150 CPU has already won numerous awards and accolades, including the Electron d’Or award for Best processor and IP, a Top Embedded Innovation award from Embedded Computing Design magazine, and a mention on the Hot 100 list for 2014 from EDN. I am very excited to see how this powerful microcontroller-type processor will bring a new class of secure applications to embedded processing.

For more news and announcements about MIPS CPUs, follow us on Twitter (@ImaginationPR, @MIPSGuru, @MIPSdev) and keep coming back to our blog.

About the author: Alex Voica

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Before deciding to pursue his dream of working in technology marketing, Alexandru held various engineering roles at leading semiconductor companies in Europe. His background also includes research in computer graphics and VR at the School of Advanced Studies Sant'Anna in Pisa. You can follow him on Twitter @alexvoica.

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