Intel Labs announces the formation of the Intel Strategic Research Alliance (ISRA) on energy-efficient security for SoC devices in Brazil

SoC-based devices are expected to proliferate significantly in the coming years. One well-known source projects the total number of Internet connected devices globally to reach 25 billion by 2015 and 50 billion by 2020. Securing SoC-based devices and their associated data is challenging for a variety of reasons: integration of third party IP modules, physical exposure of devices to attackers, lack of administrative configuration or management, low-cost design and manufacturing requirements, limited hardware resources (processor, memory, storage), and highly constrained power budgets.

To address this growing challenge, Intel Labs today announced the formation of the Intel Strategic Research Alliance (ISRA) for Energy-Efficient Security for SoC devices in Brazil.  The focus of this research effort is to explore the implications of power constraints on the design and implementation of security in SoC devices. Power constraints in most SoC-based devices follow from their reliance on finite lifetime batteries which, when depleted, will terminate the device’s operation. Security solutions (e.g. data encryption) significantly increase the processing requirements of the device and have, in general, become more computationally demanding as security algorithms have evolved to become more robust and as data requirements have sharply increased. Meanwhile, capacity gains in battery technology have increased only incrementally over the years. The result is the well-known battery gap between security solution requirements and available power capacity.


While previous work on lightweight security solutions broadly address the problem of constrained hardware resources in SoC-based devices, Intel believes that much more can be done to design and optimize security solutions specifically for energy efficiency.  For example:

  • Minimizing power requirements in security algorithms often leads to a different set of design and optimization decisions.
  • Awareness of power management features in the underlying hardware platform can figure in to the design of security algorithms and solutions.
  • Security solutions can exploit context-specific information to improve implementation efficiency without compromising robustness.
  • The cloud context of many SoC devices leads to additional strategies for power reduction in security solutions.


The goals of this Alliance are:

1. Demonstrate approach feasibility for a constrained SoC energy budget (x) or a range of energy budgets (x, 1.1x, 1.2x, …) associated with future SoC devices.

2. The energy overhead costs of using the approach remains within 10-15% of the overall SoC device energy budget.

3. For those approaches providing alternatives to standard or established approaches, 10-100x reduction in required energy under average operating conditions.

4. Sufficiently robust for application-specific requirements and operational conditions.

The universities participating in the alliance and their areas of focus are as follows:

  • University of Sao Paulo – asymmetric cryptography for embedded systems
  • University of Brasilia – security protocols based on physical unclonable functions
  • University of Campinas – software implementation of cryptographic algorithms
  • Pontificia Universidade Catolica do Parana – energy-efficient anomaly detecting
  • Universidade Technologica Federal do Parana – energy-efficient anomaly detecting
  • Universidade Federal do Parana – energy-efficient anomaly detecting
  • Federal University of Minas Gerais – energy-efficient tracking of information flow in SoCs

About David Ott:  David works for Intel Labs where he develops and directs collaborative university research programs in security and communications.  David holds M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Computer Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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