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What is the Titan M2 security chip in Google’s Pixel phones?

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With the Pixel 6 series, Google began developing its in-house Tensor SoC. But that wasn’t the first time the search giant used a piece of custom silicon in its smartphones – the Pixel 2’s Pixel Visual Core was technically the first. One generation later, the company announced that Pixel 3 devices would include a hardware security module dubbed Titan M. Then, in 2021, Google followed it up with the Titan M2. The security chip has since become a selling point for Google phones like the Pixel 7 series and Pixel 6a.

So in this article, let’s take a closer look at the role of the Titan M2 in Pixel devices, how it works, and why it’s even necessary in the first place.

What is the Titan M2 chip all about?

Picture showing Google's Titan and Titan M security chip

Google’s Titan server chip (left) and first-generation Titan M security chip (right)

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The Titan M2 is a dedicated security chip included in Pixel 6 and Pixel 7 series smartphones. Google designed the Titan M2 in-house so that it could exercise complete control over its feature set. The chip is based on the RISC-V CPU architecture and contains its own memory, RAM, and cryptographic accelerator.

The Titan M2 is one of the many measures Google has employed to improve smartphone security over the years. The company uses the chip in its Pixel phones to provide an additional layer of protection on top of Android’s default security measures.

Google designed the Titan M2 chip to augment Android’s default security measures.

Take Android’s mandatory full-disk encryption. On most devices, it relies on a security feature known as a Trusted Execution Environment (TEE), which is essentially the secure area of a processor. Android devices store their encryption keys within this secure area, which is in turn guarded with your pattern, PIN, or passcode. In other words, the TEE isolates cryptographic keys and never reveals them to the user or even the operating system.

 

Virtually all smartphone SoCs in this day and age have a TEE or similar secure environment. On Snapdragon chips, it’s commonly referred to as the Qualcomm Secure Execution Environment (QSEE). Apple’s Arm-based chips like the M1 have the Secure Enclave. With these secure environments in place, malicious apps cannot access decryption keys, biometrics, and other sensitive data.

With the Pixel 3, Google decoupled the TEE from the chipset and used a separate security module instead. The Titan M, which has now been replaced by the Titan M2, can almost be considered a standalone processor by itself. The chip has its own flash memory for storing sensitive data and runs its own minimal operating system (sometimes called a microkernel).

The Titan M2 is a separate chip that doesn’t share resources like memory or cache with the main processor.

It’s worth noting that dedicated security chips aren’t a new concept. Many computer motherboards have a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) chip that serves the same purpose, albeit with less flexibility.

What does the Titan M2 chip do?

Pixel 3 XL showing unlocked bootloader

Gary Sims / Android Authority

Unlike the main SoC that performs general-purpose tasks, a dedicated security chip like the Titan M2 executes very few functions. This vastly reduces the number of potential attack vectors since most software cannot directly interact with the security chip.

As for what the security chip actually does, let’s start with booting the Android operating system. When you turn on a Pixel device, the Titan M2 communicates with the bootloader to validate that you’re running the latest known version of Android. This check ensures an attacker hasn’t rolled back your device’s operating system to an older, potentially unsafe version. Google also states that the chip safeguards against malicious attempts to unlock the bootloader.

The Titan M2 comes into play as soon as you press the power button, quite literally.

Once booted, the phone’s storage remains encrypted and inaccessible until you clear the lock screen prompt. The Titan M2 plays a key role here as it stores the decryption keys. Even if an attacker tampers the operating system to try and brute-force their way through the lock screen, the chip will limit the number of attempts at the hardware level. Titan M2 will only reveal the decryption keys if you enter the correct pattern or PIN.

But what if an attacker tries to tamper with the Titan M2 directly? Google thought of that too. You can’t change or update the chip’s firmware without the device’s pattern or PIN. The company also says it hardened the chip against side-channel attacks like power analysis and voltage fluctuations.

The Titan M2 also supports Android StrongBox, which is a safe storage space for cryptographic keys used by third-party apps. A payment app, for example, could request the chip to generate and store a private key for your saved cards. And with Android’s Protected Confirmation, the chip also supports the universal FIDO authentication standard. This means you can use Pixel phones as a physical two-factor authentication key for your online accounts. In terms of security, Google treats it as on par with the $30 Titan Security Key.


The Titan M2 hasn’t revolutionized smartphone security by any means, but it does eliminate some key potential attack vectors. Google is currently the only smartphone maker to use a dedicated security module. However, that doesn’t mean other Android devices aren’t secure enough. The Arm chips used in modern smartphones also have isolated and secure environments, just not to the same degree as the Titan M2.

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A Quick Guide to Better CMM Maintenance

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CMM

A coordinate-measuring machine, also known as a CMM, is a specialized piece of equipment common in high-precision manufacturing. It uses coordinate technology to measure and replicate the dimensions of particular objects.

CMMs are a lot more accurate than regular measurement gauges. This characteristic makes them the equipment of choice for quality assurance in certain industries, like aerospace, defense, and medical manufacturing.

Despite being a powerful piece of equipment and the most versatile measuring tool in the metrology industry, CMMs can also be quite delicate. They require the right environment and proper maintenance practices to maintain accuracy and reliability.

The Importance of Proper CMM Maintenance

It’s essential to clean and inspect each part of your machine to ensure it stays efficient and accurate. Preventative maintenance ensures that your CMM remains accurate and performs at its best. It also improves your machine’s longevity.

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Without proper CMM maintenance, you could risk damaging your CMM. Repairs would involve operational delays and additional costs.

CMM Preventative Maintenance Tips

Preventative maintenance practices are ones your team could do by yourselves. It’s best to schedule regular maintenance checks for your CMM daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly. These checks can alert you immediately to possible problems with your CMM.

Remove dust and dirt regularly

Clean and well-maintained air bearings ensure your CMM works as it should. These frictionless and stable bearings help ensure accuracy and efficiency. Dust and dirt can clog your machine’s air bearings, affecting its overall performance.

Aside from your machine’s air bearings, dust could also get into other surfaces and crevices. These tiny particles could affect your machine’s accuracy.

Handle Stylus Tips Properly

The stylus is the tip that makes contact with the object you want to measure with your CMM. Despite this significant role, the stylus can be fragile and require careful handling. Too much force could cause it to bend or break.

Clean your stylus with a cleaning agent and a lint-free cloth. Make sure to remove any residue from workplace materials.

Ensure Good Air Quality

Most CMMs use air bearings, and good air quality is essential to keep them running smoothly. Various air quality issues could affect machine performance and even burn out machine motors.

For air quality maintenance, ask and address the following questions:

  • Do the lines have condensation, oil, or other contaminants?
  • Is the airflow constant?
  • Are you using the proper pressure?

When To Call a Professional

Most preventative maintenance practices are simple enough to be performed internally. However, some issues require professional attention. You can also conduct regular professional maintenance checks to ensure you don’t miss anything.

Below are some procedures that require professional assistance. Many CMM suppliers also offer maintenance services alongside their machinery.

Conducting CMM Training

CMMs are highly specialized pieces of equipment. To handle them properly, your staff needs professional training.

Training courses allow you to get trained by CMM experts on the tools and knowledge necessary within your industry. Regular training sessions also help keep you updated on industry trends and standards.

Sensor Malfunctions

CMM sensors are critical to your machine’s speed and accuracy. They should be professionally inspected and calibrated annually.

Routine sensor maintenance can significantly improve the efficiency and accuracy of your machine. CMM sensors include the following:

  • Scanning probe
  • Single point laser
  • Line laser
  • Electronic touch trigger probe
  • Video camera

Faulty Bearings

Neglected air bearings could cause them to falter in their accuracy and stability. Properly maintained air bearings ensure a smooth, stable, and accurate measurement process.

A professional metrology company can thoroughly inspect your air bearings to prevent further machine damage.

A CMM is a significant investment for any business. Good maintenance practices help your machine last and perform at its best, thus making the most out of this investment.

 

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Nintendo’s discounted Switch game vouchers are back

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Nintendo’s Switch Online service has become a better deal over time, offering more perks than just the ability to play games online. On top of getting access to SNES and NES classics, and cloud save backups (for most games, save a couple dozen), Nintendo announced an even bigger perk yesterday: discounted game vouchers.

All subscribers can buy a two-pack of these vouchers for $99.98, and a huge range of first-party (in other words, typically discount-averse) Nintendo games are looped in. I encourage you to check out the full list, but some highlights include the brand-new Fire Emblem Engage, Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe, Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon, Metroid Dread, Splatoon 3, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and Pokémon Scarlet and Violet. Important note: you both have to be a subscriber to buy and use these vouchers.

It’s great that this list is more expansive than Nintendo’s first swing at this deal in 2019. But this perk could actually turn Switch Online into a must-have service because it allows you to pre-purchase up to four sets of vouchers (totaling eight games), and keep them for 12 months from the date of purchase. With $20 in savings with each pair of vouchers, buying four bundles will save you up to $80, assuming that each title normally costs $59.99. If you buy a lot of games, this is a smart way to save a little bit of money on every forthcoming purchase.

I know what you might be thinking: “Can I use one on The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom?” Nintendo has not currently listed the deliriously anticipated sequel to Breath of the Wild, which is set to release on May 12th, 2023. Polygon has reached out to Nintendo to see if it’ll eventually become eligible, but did not hear back in time for publication.

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You can get a free seven-day trial for Switch Online here, and you can easily subscribe to the service directly from the Switch’s eShop (it costs $3.99 per month, $7.99 for three months, or $19.99 per year). However, you can purchase (or gift) a one-year subscription with a digital code via Best Buy for $19.99. With a family subscription that costs $34.99 per year, up to eight Switch accounts can reap the perks of Switch Online.

For players who want all the perks, access to Goldeneye 007 and other N64 and Sega Genesis games, and complimentary DLC for some Switch games like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, you’ll need Nintendo’s Switch Online plus the Expansion Pack tier, which costs $49.99 per year for one account, or $79.99 per year for a family subscription.

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Canadian discovery could help batteries last longer

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A chance discovery in a Canadian laboratory could help extend the life of laptop, phone and electric car batteries.

According to scientists from Dalhousie University in Halifax, common adhesive tape in batteries may be the reason many devices lose some of their power while off or not being used, which is a phenomenon known as self-discharge.

“In our laboratory we do many highly complex experiments to improve batteries, but this time we discovered a very simple thing,” Michael Metzger, an assistant professor in Dalhousie University’s physics and atmospheric science department, said in a news release. “In commercial battery cells there is tape—like Scotch tape—that holds the electrodes together and there is a chemical decomposition of this tape, which creates a molecule that leads to the self-discharge.”

The solution is simple, too, Metzger says: replace the polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, plastic tape commonly used inside batteries with something more durable and stable.

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“It’s a commercially relevant discovery,” Metzger said. “It’s a small thing but it can definitely help improve battery cells.”

Metzger and his team have been trying to understand why lithium-ion battery cells in inactive devices tend to lose some of their power and self-discharge, something that has long frustrated consumers and manufacturers alike.

“Every manufacturer of lithium-ion cells in the world wants to make self-discharge as small as possible,” Metzger told CTVNews.ca in a joint statement with graduate student Anu Adamson. “In every battery there is a small rate of self-discharge that slowly drains the battery. This is very inconvenient for users and a big headache for industry.”

The electrodes that power batteries are separated by an electrolyte solution that is usually a form of lithium. After exposing several battery cells to different temperatures, researchers were surprised to see that electrolyte solution had turned bright red when it normally should be clear, which was something they had never encountered. The discovery was made by Adamson and two other students.

Chemical analysis of the red electrolyte solution revealed that at higher temperatures, a new molecule had been created inside the battery through the decomposition of common PET adhesive tape, which is often used to hold components together inside batteries. Strong and lightweight, PET is also frequently used for plastic packaging, drink bottles, clothing fibres and more.

Researchers realized that the red molecule, dimethyl terephthalate, was acting as a redox shuttle, meaning that it can transport electrons between a battery’s positive and negative electrodes, creating self-discharge and depleting power even when a battery is not in use. Ideally, the shuttling of electrons within a battery should only happen when a device is on.

“It’s a very simple thing—it is in every plastic bottle and no one would have thought that this has such a huge impact on how the lithium-ion cells degrade,” Metzger said in the news release. “It’s something we never expected because no one looks at these inactive components, these tapes and plastic foils in the battery cell, but it really needs to be considered if you want to limit side-reactions in the battery cell.”

The findings are outlined in a pair of studies published on Jan. 20 and Jan. 23 in the peer-reviewed Journal of The Electrochemical Society. The researchers are now testing PET tape substitutes.

“Since the PET in the tape is the culprit that creates the redox shuttle, we need to replace it with a polymer that is more stable and does not decompose in the harsh chemistry of a lithium-ion battery,” Metzger and Adamson told CTVNews.ca. “So far, the results look very promising, and we plan to publish a new research paper on improved polymers for lithium-ion battery tapes soon.”

According to the researchers, their work has been attracting interest from “some of the world’s largest computer hardware companies and electric vehicle manufacturers,” which are eager to reduce self-discharge and improve battery performance.

“We visited some of these companies and they are planning to implement more stable polymers in their battery cells,” Metzger said.

In the release, Metzger noted: “One of the engineers said, ‘I heard you guys found out something is wrong with PET tape.’ So, I explained to him that it’s causing this self-discharge and asked him, ‘What are you using in your cells?’ He said, ‘PET tape.'”

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