Wibu-Systems Blog

Software protection dongles and embedded systems

Posted by John Browne on Jun 13, 2012 4:58:00 AM

There are plenty of reasons to use a software protection dongle even when you're running an embedded system. Some people believe that embedded systems are immune to piracy because the software has to be tied to a specific piece of equipment. 

Embedded system with CodeMeter software protection dongle

But piracy may not be the primary concern for embedded systems; theft of intellectual property is. Increasingly today the machine is only a tool; it's the IP that the machine uses that has huge value. After all, a competitor can take your machine apart and see how it works. From that information they can build a competitor, knock-off, or even possibly improve on it. However, the software that makes the machine really valuable is a different matter.

We're finding an increased interest in using CodeMeter as a protection device for IP--basically the customer uses a CmStick or CmCard with additional flash RAM and stores their IP on the RAM in encrypted form; only the presence of a valid license will decrypt it.  Further, a password can be placed on the CodeMeter software protection dongle preventing access in the event it falls into the wrong hands. That's two factor authentication. 

A typical use for this is commercial weaving systems that make polo-style shirts or tee shirts. The patterns and/or embroidery on those shirts may represent valuable IP (for example, the pattern to make a logo). Preventing the data from falling into the hands of counterfeitors makes it harder for fake shirts to be produced. In this case the CodeMeter software protection dongle can store not only the programs to drive the weaving machine but also the IP in the form of designs or logos. 

Above is a picture of a Beckhoff CX1010 industrial PC with a CmStick (USB) and a separate CmCard (CF). This device can run either Windows Embedded or Windows CE.

Topics: dongles, software protection