SafeTEE: Combining Safety and Security on ARM-based Micro­controllers

We are proud to announce that our paper on SafeTEE, a novel safety and security architecture for ARM-based microcontrollers, got accepted at DATE 2022! This blog entry gives a short introduction to the architecture, whereby more information is available in the corresponding paper.

Embedded systems play a key role in numerous industries and application areas. Complexity of modern products is growing rapidly with more embedded devices being included steadily. In a modern car, electronics now account for over 40% of the production cost, a figure that has doubled in just ten years [1]. This increase can be traced back to the ongoing trend of digitalization occurring across all industries.

SafeTEE Architecture Overview

Even worse, these embedded devices are tailored towards a dedicated use case, often running only a single application. Implementing multiple applications on the same device reduces costs, but also introduces new challenges, especially for those applications with high requirements in terms of safety or security (called safety- or security-critical applications). Proper isolation of these applications in a mixed-criticality system is key to a successful consolidation of applications. SafeTEE is the first of its kind to solve these challenges on ARM-based microcontrollers.

SafeTEE ensures the protection of security-critical applications’ assets, interference-free execution of safety-critical applications and also protects the most vulnerable program code in a Trusted Execution Environment (TEE). To achieve isolation between multiple applications as well as the TEE, SafeTEE relies on the TrustZone hardware security technology provided in ARM microcontrollers. This technology is widely available in off-the-shelf hardware. A detailed description of the design can be found in the paper.


While SafeTEE focuses on low-level embedded devices, Sanctuary can also combine complex safety and security requirements on more powerful platforms.

[1] Deloitte, “Semiconductors – the Next Wave,” press release. [Available here].

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