ARM and IoT - Everybody is innovating for IoT, but some IoT platforms are already here, and are just maturing

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This blog was originally posted under: The Norfolk Punt

ARM has an interesting business model, which contrasts with that of, say, Intel. Like Intel, it designs many of the chips behind modern automated applications, but unlike Intel, it doesn’t build the chips itself, but licenses its designs to other fabricators. It has a very strong position in the embedded chip space – which provides the intelligence inside the “Things” in the Internet of Things (IoT; which (these days, at least) is probably going to live in the Cloud (see, for example, Google’s Cloud Platform)

However, the “elephant in the room”, trampling on this vision, is security. The intelligence in Things needs to be incorruptible. Obviously, if our world is going to be based on bilions of interconnected, communicating things; managed by collecting and analysing the “big data” produced by these things, in real time, we can’t allow criminals to take over the “Things” or their communications infrastructure, or even to sabotage their performance. Secure networking is important, and things won’t be simply communicating over the open Internet. At the minimum, I’d think that encryption of IoT traffic is going to be needed and the implications for Cloud governance and security are significant.

However, if we want low-latency, secure interactions managed in something like real time, the underlying hardware story is important too. We need a secure hardware platform – with security (probably including encryption) implemented in hardware, so as not to impact performance. Intel is working on this, of course (it is supposed to be why it acquired McAfee), with its Intel IoT Platform, but I was interested to read an article by Caroline Gabriel in Rethink Wireless, entitled “ARM pushes further into IoT with new security platform” (see here), which reminded me that ARM already has a strong story in this area since it acquired the Offspark IoT security firm (and that Intel is playing catchup to ARM in the mobile embedded arena). 

What ARM is doing, apparently, is giving its TrustZone security architecture a hardware implementation in its ARMv8-M 32-bit microcontrollers; thus bringing hardware-based security to every part of the core, but with minimal impact on real-time operations. As Dean Takahashi points out here, ARM is not about to give up the IoT to Intel any time soon.