If you ever have to design chips, you must write software which will make it possible for the hardware to link to software. There are many levels of this software. You have the BIOS (software stored on a small memory chip on the motherboard that enables our computer systems to start when turned on. loosely the firmware for input and output in our computing systems), which is the elemental software that enables microprocessors to booth up before they handshake to other software. From the BIOS, you get to the operating systems like Windows before you can get to applications like Microsoft Office.
If you are making sensors like webcams you need to make firmware that will make it possible for the hardware to be recognized by another level of software. This is the most important part of technology industry because if you cannot get this working, everything built on top will crash. In short, you cannot even build anything because you will have no hardware product. Before Facebook can make the Likes, the products like smartphones must exist and the firmware must be working really fine.
That is why Intel’s note that it has been shipping firmware-vulnerable chips is big news. This means that Intel software was vulnerable, even before we can get to operating systems like Windows or Linux. Largely, that is the closest you can get to the machines, and the silicon that makes them switch to our computational delights. In the world today, 99.99% of security solutions are not designed for that software level. You expect Intel Corp that wires the silicon to get the firmware to handover to the operating system will always own that space, efficiently.
CPU king Intel admitted that software it included in nearly every chip it sold in recent years is riddled with security vulnerabilities. PC users were urged to download a patch to eliminate the flaws that could allow a hacker to run malicious software or bypass security checks.
The security holes reside mainly in a feature called the “management engine” on Intel CPUs, like its brand new 8th generation Core Processor series. Intel said it had developed software patches to eliminate the problems, but listed only one manufacturer—Lenovo—that had created a way for customers to actually update their computers. While some other PC makers listed fixes on their own web sites, some of the vulnerable chips reside in smart, connected devices (part of the so-called Internet of Things) and may never be updated.
This is the phase of computing which we do not pay a lot of attention in Nigeria. Firmware development is really the zenith in software because without it, you will be unable to get hardware and software to talk to each other. Without that capability, you cannot design sensors and hardware solutions. It is the most sophisticated part of software development. Yes, it involves controlling electrical signals which must be handled the way they must be handled, and nothing less.
Meanwhile, the next iPhone will have augmented reality. Apple paid $30 million to acquire a Montreal virtual reality headset maker Vrvana. Typically, when Apple buys, you get the picture where it is going. This product will appear very soon in new iPhones.
----REGISTER for my Innovation for Growth Workshop, Lagos, Sept 2018.
---Visit our Store for my books, cases, frameworks and more. Now, enjoy our consolidated subscription for all contents (past, present and future).
-- We offer Advisory Services (tech, strategy & Africa).