Global shipments of cybersecurity microcontrollers to rise 91 percent by 2017

Cybersecurity microcontroller (MCU) global shipments are expected to almost double to 529 million units by 2017 because of increased demand for computer security and authentication tools.


Driven by demand for increased security in computers, authentication, and the machine-to-machine (M2M) market, global shipments of cybersecurity microcontrollers (MCUs) are set to nearly double by 2017.

Worldwide shipments of cybersecurity MCUs—also known as embedded secure MCUs—will rise to 529 million units in 2017, according to a new report entitled “Embedded Digital Security—World—2013” from the Smart Cards and Digital Security group at IHS Inc. (NYSE: IHS). This represents 92 percent growth from 276 million in 2013.

The attached figure presents the IHS forecast of global shipments of cybersecurity MCUs in all applications excluding smartcards.

Cybersecurity MCUs protect data in devices and communications and ensure that devices are operating in a trusted or expected manner. Features of cybersecurity MCUs include cryptography acceleration, secure-key storage and management and secure boot of computing systems. These MCUs are used in a wide variety of products and electronic devices, from PCs and servers, to electronic peripheral devices and medical consumables, to a broad range of systems that engage in M2M communications.

Driven by demand for increased security in computers, authentication and the machine-to-machine (M2M) market, global shipments of cybersecurity microcontrollers (MCUs) are set to nearly double by 2017. Courtesy: IHS Inc.

“Cybersecurity MCUs are playing a key role in defending a world that is increasingly at risk from hackers, cyberattacks, and counterfeit products,” said Sam Lucero, senior principal analyst covering M2M & the Internet of Things for IHS. “Because they are the principal hardware element enabling security in a diverse range of applications, cybersecurity MCUs will see widespread usage and fast growth in the coming years.”

There are three applications for cybersecurity MCUs: trusted platform modules (TPM), authentication and M2M.

A matter of trust

The TPM market represents the application of security technologies to the PC and server markets in a standardized fashion.

Until recently, TPM functionality has mostly been implemented on enterprise PCs and servers. This is now starting to change, as TPMs are also being used in the consumer-oriented Google Chromebook laptop and in certain tablet PCs, such as the Fujitsu Stylistic Q572.

Nevertheless, IHS anticipates that through 2017 TPMs will mostly find use in enterprise computing applications. This is because of the complexity associated with activating and configuring a TPM, which is too technically challenging for most consumers. Another inhibiting factor is the great diversity of security needs of enterprises, spanning both financial loss assessments and regulatory mandates.

To thine own self be true

A wide diversity of end products could potentially make use of cybersecurity MCUs for authentication purposes, including brand protection, revenue assurance, and product safety and reliability. IHS has identified three major clusters of product types that use secure MCUs as authentication co-processors: electronic peripheral devices, luxury goods and medical consumables.

But there are many other applications that could employ authentication technology. For example, during the research for this report, IHS came across the need for secure MCUs to be used in casino gaming devices to comply with gaming regulations.

M2M mania

The M2M market represents a communications model that uses various network connectivity technologies—including cellular—to integrate sensors, devices and machines into applications that automate monitoring and control functionality, or that enable transparent content delivery.

The market opportunity for secure MCUs is in two areas. First, secure MCUs can be integrated directly onto the motherboard of the host device, or the host device can use an application processor that has embedded a firmware-based secure MCU. Second, the device can embed an M2M form factor) SIM card into a cellular module. The directly embedded market opportunity for secure MCUs in M2M is by far the smaller of the two areas mentioned above at the present time.

The M2M area represents the fastest-growing segment of the cybersecurity MCU market, with 20 million units set to ship in 2017, up from 2.7 million units in 2013.

However, if secure MCUs were to become recognized as an essential underpinning of the Internet of Things, growth could be much higher. That is, if secure MCUs are deployed into most Internet-connected devices and become a cornerstone of enabling cybersecurity, the market opportunity for directly-embedded secure MCUs would expand into the billions of units.

- Edited by CFE Media. See more security-related research.

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