Functional Safety (FuSa) for Robotics Overview

Functional safety standards and technologies provide businesses with trusted harm-prevention approaches for developing and implementing robots and other machine systems applications.



Key Takeaways

  • Human and robot interactions are becoming essential across industries and are driving the need for functional safety.

  • Functional safety helps systems detect and mitigate malfunctions to help keep people safe.

  • Intel offers functional safety‒capable products that help streamline and accelerate development of safety-critical applications for robotics solutions according to international functional safety standards.1

  • Intel’s functional safety‒capable technologies can accelerate the development of their safety-critical applications, workflows, robotics, autonomous systems, and industrial controls, while also meeting international standards.1



What Is Functional Safety?

As more companies across industries integrate collaborative and autonomous robotics technology into their business and robots become more advanced and capable, the importance of meeting functional safety (FuSa) requirements increases greatly.

Simply stated, functional safety is the concept that people should be physically protected from technology. This concept is based on a set of standards and automated safety systems that are implemented into larger machine systems. Those integrated automated safety systems enable the detection and mitigation of malfunctions in technologies. The International Organization for Standardization standard 26262 (ISO 26262) defines FuSa as “an absence of unreasonable risk caused by malfunctioning electrical and/or electronic (E/E) systems.”

Functional safety can be achieved in several different verticals, including:

  • Industrial automation and control
  • Energy and utilities 
  • Autonomous and smart objects
  • Automotive
  • Transportation and fleet

No matter the industry, the main goal of FuSa is to ensure that an automatic protection system is in place to mitigate systematic failures. Oftentimes, these failures are caused by flaws in design, manufacturing, procedure, or documentation. They can also be the result of sudden, unpredictable hardware failures.

“FuSa is achieved when there is ‘an absence of unreasonable risk caused by malfunctioning electrical and/or electronic (E/E) systems.’”

ISO 26262

What Are the Benefits of Functional Safety?

Embracing a functional safety approach offers businesses several benefits:

Functional Safety and Robotics

As technology advances and robots and humans work closer together, the need for industrial robot safety has become even more essential. See how the role and necessity of FuSa evolves based on the degree of robot-human interaction in the graphic below:

Why Robot Safety Is Important

Collaborative work between humans and robots is increasingly common. This drives the need for robots to operate safely in order to avoid serious harm, including loss of human life.

Even though occupational health and safety are always top priority, robot safety-related incidents can also have significant business impact. Compliance to regulatory requirements for safety, fines from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in the United States or similar organizations in other countries, damage to company reputation, lawsuits from injured workers, and extended periods of downtime are additional robot safety considerations that should be taken seriously.

FuSa and Robot Safety Standards

FuSa and robotic safety standards are created by several global governing bodies of representatives from various industries, governments, consumer groups, and professions. When developing safety standards, these groups often use the hazard-based safety engineering methodology, which enables them to take a “systematic and analytical approach to safety by identifying all hazardous sources and implementing measures to either reduce or mitigate energy transfer to the human body.” 

International safety standards are set by:

  • International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC)
  • International Organization for Standardization (ISO)

Countries, such as the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and more, also have their own standards governing bodies. Some well-known organizations include:

  • Canada: CSA Group
  • United Kingdom: BSI
  • United States: ANSI

When specifically designing industrial robotic technologies, three primary robot safety standards must be considered: 

ISO 13849

Set by the International Organization for Standardization, the ISO 13849 machinery control systems safety standard helps customers achieve functional safety when designing and integrating safety-related parts, including software. This standard applies to a wide variety of technologies, including electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, and more, as well as specific parts used in machinery control systems. Customers who follow ISO 13849 can ensure the control system will be capable of mitigating identified risks in the event of a failure. 

ISO 26262

Set by the International Organization for Standardization, the ISO 26262 automotive electronic system safety standard helps customers avoid systematic faults and also detect, control, and mitigate any random hardware problems that may cause a malfunction of the system.

IEC 61508

Created by the International Electrotechnical Commission, IEC 61508 offers functional safety standards for the “lifecycle of electrical, electronic or programmable electronic (E/E/PE) systems and products.” It requires customers to analyze the potential risks or hazards of the components of systems or devices that perform the automatic safety functions. In this analysis, customers must determine the likelihood that identified potential hazards and their consequences will occur. IEC 61508 also provides customers with four safety integration level (SIL) categories that indicate the level of system failure risk; the higher the SIL number, the lower the potential of failure.

Intel’s FuSa Robotic Technologies

Intel’s functional safety-capable technologies help customers accelerate the development of their safety-critical applications, workflows, robotics, autonomous systems, and industrial controls, while also meeting international standards such as IEC 61508 (industrial) and ISO 13849 (robotic controllers). 

Our FuSa-capable solutions are built using a four-pillar approach:

  • An in-house team of dedicated engineers with FuSa expertise 
  • Intel’s functional safety lifecycle process that has been certified by an external party for up to SIL 3 according to IEC 61508 and up to ASIL D according to ISO 26262
  • Software tools and methodologies that standardize and automate the safety analysis of its systems-on-a-chip
  • Technical documentation, software libraries, and hardware-based diagnostics that help customers create high-performance, functional safety‒compliant systems in an affordable, scalable way

Our technologies were designed to not only meet the strict functional safety standards our industrial customers require, but to help them reduce costs and speed time to market as well.    

Intel Atom® x6000E processors help simplify and accelerate the development and deployment of applications for stationary robotic controllers and AMRs. Select SKUs within the Intel Atom® x6000E processor series have obtained IEC61508 SIL2 and ISO13849 certification from TÜV SÜD, a certification agency. Additionally, our processors provide customers with a complete set of technical documentation—safety manual, safety analysis, and user guides.

11th Generation Intel® Core™ processors are enhanced with the Intel® Functional Safety Essential Design Package to help speed the development and certification of mission-critical applications that must comply with FuSa standards.

To further streamline development, reduce certification risks, and accelerate time to market, we worked closely with international standards governing bodies to achieve FuSa certification for Intel® FPGAs.  

Customer Success Stories

Businesses across industries are leveraging Intel’s FuSa-enabled technologies and solutions to improve and accelerate the process of getting robotics and automated technologies certified for deployment. 

For example, computer manufacturer and software developer SECO developed the SM-C93 SMARC module to help OEMs develop new certified solutions quickly. SECO built the SM-C93 on Intel Atom® x6427FE and x6200FE processors—which is Intel’s first platform enhanced for IoT with integrated FuSa capabilities—to bring a modular, flexible, and small-form factor FuSa technology to Smart Mobility ARChitecture (SMARC) implementations.

NexCOBOT also turned to Intel to accelerate robot deployments with its Intel-powered, FuSa-capable SCB 100 industrial PC (IPC) board. The SCB 100 offering provides robot builders and their customers the support and documentation they need to accelerate their system-level certification process for Cat 3 PLd.

Intel Helps Businesses Better Protect People, Products, and Workplace Environments

The importance of functional safety in robotics cannot be overstated. Constantly changing standards, an ever-present need for safety, and the increasingly critical role of compute in robotics and automation, have businesses looking for flexible, reliable, and innovative solutions. Intel’s FuSa-capable technology, expertise, established methodologies, and technical documentation can meet the needs of these companies and accelerate the development of safety-related applications and workflows for robotics and autonomous systems all while meeting—and exceeding—safety requirements.



Functional safety is important because it ensures there are proper measures and systems in place to identify and mitigate technology failures before they become hazards or safety risks to humans or the environment in which the technology operates.

The main tenets of a functional safety-centric approach are to ensure businesses are following international functional safety standards, preventing systematic failures, controlling system failures, protecting systems from misuse, and completing risk assessments early during the design period.

Robots have the ability to increase safety in industrial settings by assisting humans in tasks that may be dangerous or performing tasks in place of humans. However, before robots can increase safety for humans, businesses must adhere to FuSa standards to make sure that people are physically protected from robot-related accidents. FuSa standards ensure that an automatic protection system is in place and is capable of mitigating systematic failures in machines, such as robots.