We recently connected with some of our active contributors on Mender Hub to learn more about them, their projects, and their experience with Mender. We will share what we learned from them in a series of blog posts in the next three weeks.
Today, we are happy to share about Dan Walkes from Colorado. Dan is an Electrical Engineer who has spent most of the last 20 years writing firmware and software for everything from server class enterprise systems down to 8 bit microcontrollers and everything in between. In 2019, Dan joined the Embedded Systems Engineering program at CU Boulder as a part time Lecturer and Scholar of Engineering Practice, teaching a course on Internet of Things Embedded Firmware.
We recently reached out to Dan and asked a few questions.
Mender: How did you find out about Mender initially?
Dan: I’ve solved the firmware update problem several times for several different projects and have tried to stay up to date on the best solutions available. I have a platform of my own I’ve developed for secure updates over Bluetooth BLE (see http://securedeviceupdate.com). I was excited to learn about the Mender project because I think it’s a great approach to solving the problem of updates for embedded Linux devices, which is a large part of my professional focus. I especially like the idea to combine the update server and embedded firmware into a single project. I also appreciate the effort which has gone into making the project integrated with the Yocto framework and the impressive amount of work done with documentation and community support.
Mender: Do you use Mender yourself? If yes, tell us quickly about the project.
Dan: I’ve deployed Mender on multiple production platforms for clients, including a scientific instrument platform and a platform for IoT image processing. I have created a community contribution for the Nvidia Tegra hardware platform.
Mender: What is your aspiration for Mender Hub being a maintainer?
Dan: I appreciate the Mender project and the help provided by the community and development team. I’m motivated by the idea that others might find my contributions useful, and the assurance that my clients are able to continue to use the Mender framework to solve their update needs as their projects evolve.
Mender: What do you see as the biggest challenges in embedded / IoT industry today?
Dan: I believe security, reliability, and a living and vibrant product roadmap should be front and center in any IoT or embedded development. This is one of the reasons a secure and reliable device update strategy is so important.
Mender: What are some of the most interesting trends you see in the industry?
Dan: I see a blurred line between the capabilities of what used to be called “software” and the capabilities of what Embedded developers call “firmware”. This ultimately means we can do more amazing things on device hardware at a given BOM cost target than ever before. I see concepts like continuous deployment working their way to the firmware realm instead of only being something server software developers get to have in their back pocket.
Mender: What can be done to make connected devices more secure?
Dan: Militant avoidance of development shortcuts which sacrifice security best practices for perceived ease of development or speed to market. Good technical choices made early on in the development process. Good communication about security justification to all project stakeholders, especially non-technical ones. An understanding and agreement from all project stakeholders that security is always a moving target, hackers don’t stop finding ways to break software, and you need a long term strategy to keep up.