Electronics in general, and embedded systems in particular, become more critical every day. There is hardly a single aspect of our lives that is not controlled, monitored, or connected by embedded systems. Even adventurers exploring the most remote regions of our planet carry satellite phones for emergency contact. The ever-increasing role of electronics places huge demands for functional safety and security in the chips and systems we design. I’d like to explore these two topics a bit and recommend that you view a webinar that we recorded earlier this year for a deeper dive.
Let me start by differentiating the two terms, especially since “safety” and “security” tend to be used almost interchangeably in everyday speech. Functional safety has a specific meaning when applied to electronics and embedded systems: a measure of the system behaving correctly in response to a range of failures. One commonly cited example of such a failure is an alpha particle flipping a memory bit. If this occurs in safety-critical logic, the design must include a mechanism to detect the failure and correct it if possible. Other failure examples include human error, environmental stress, broken connections, and aging effects.