Intrinsic ID is the world’s leading provider of security IP for embedded systems based on physical unclonable function, or PUF, technology. The technology provides an additional level of hardware security utilizing the inherent uniqueness in each and every silicon chip. Intrinsic ID has offices on three different continents and these offices are populated by colleagues from all around the globe. A diverse team of driven and skilful professionals enables Intrinsic ID to innovate the hardware security landscape with its PUF-based solutions.
Today we want to learn a bit more about one of the Intrinsic ID flagship products, QuiddiKey. To do this, we spoke with Dr. Sven Goossens, one of the engineers responsible for this product. Sven is a Senior Hardware Engineer in our R&D office in Eindhoven, The Netherlands, and recently celebrated his fifth anniversary at Intrinsic ID.
Congratulations on this milestone, Sven! To start off, could you tell us a bit more about yourself?
Thanks! In 2011 I started my professional career as a PhD candidate at the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Electronic Systems group. My background is Electrical Engineering, and the practical discipline I have always been most interested in is programming. It is a really fun way to solve real-word problems, especially when you stay close to the border between hardware and software.
In my spare time I have programmed most of the control code of the highest-rated escape room in the Netherlands: it is cool to see this entire room come to life as effectively a theme park ride, and it is even better when people experience it for the first time. Unfortunately, I cannot discuss any more details – I would not want to spoil the surprises! Beyond that, I enjoy running, a good podcast, the usual stuff.
When you came to work for Intrinsic ID five years ago, what was your specific motivation to choose our company? And has it met your expectations?
When I graduated from my PhD studies, I felt like I needed a shift in topic, so I went looking for a new challenge. The choice to live and work in Eindhoven was not incidental: this place hosts an all-you-can-eat menu of the smartest and most innovative companies in the world. I was tangentially aware of the concept of PUFs, and thought the idea was really interesting. I noticed Intrinsic ID had an open position, and it seemed like a company that applied science but still had a strong research component. This felt like a place where I could apply my skills, and at the same time get the opportunity to learn about PUF security from the experts.
Looking back, I have absolutely no regrets: the team is great to work with, and there are so many different aspects to the topics that I am now working on, both in breadth and in depth, that it is almost impossible not to enjoy my work.
One of the most important products the hardware team is working on is QuiddiKey. Could you explain to us a bit more about this product?
QuiddiKey is the Intrinsic ID hardware security IP block: viewed as a black box, it takes a raw SRAM PUF response, and turns it into a reliable, stable value that you can use as the root of trust of the security system on your chip. QuiddiKey contains a fuzzy extractor, various cryptographic cores, and a controller to execute algorithms and move data to the right places. From the user perspective, QuiddiKey handles (device-unique) key derivation, key wrapping, random-number generation and a few other things.
And how do you look at the evolution QuiddiKey has gone through since you joined the team five years ago? What have been the most significant developments for the product, in your opinion?
When I started five years ago, the development of the third generation of QuiddiKey had just begun. We were taking the experience of the previous generations to build a robust and extendable base that turned out to be scalable in many different directions: functionality and reliability increased, and it became possible to tailor QuiddiKey to fit the specific needs of customers through various optional components. Behind the scenes, a lot of things have changed as well: the team has grown significantly in size, and our testing and development infrastructure has been upgraded to support the architectural changes.
And finally, what can we expect from QuiddiKey developments in the near future? Is there anything specific that you are excited about?
One of the focus points that we are addressing now is cryptographic-algorithm validation. This means that we give users the controls to demonstrate that QuiddiKey, as integrated on their chip, faithfully executes the cryptographic functions it supports according to the applicable NIST specification. The way that this process works is relatively new: it uses the ACVP protocol to interact with a server from NIST or a validation lab, first to obtain test vectors and in a later step to submit the answers that QuiddiKey produces. This enables very short feedback cycles on the correctness of the implementation from our point of view of as an IP company, and at the same time it gives our customers a smooth experience once they go through the process themselves: we have basically prepared and done all the work for them already.
Thank you for these great insights into your work at Intrinsic ID, Sven. We wish you many more years in our hardware team and we look forward to the developments we will achieve together.
Would you like to join Sven and become one of our new colleagues at Intrinsic ID? This is possible! We are currently expanding our R&D in Eindhoven (The Netherlands) and you can find the job opening here: www.intrinsic-id.com/careers. Don’t hesitate to join us!