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  • ARM IoT Mbed Update

    Normally press release events with ARM tend to be somewhat arms-length Ė a canned pitch followed by limited time for Q&A. Through a still unexplained calendar glitch I missed a scheduled call for a recent announcement. To make up I had the pleasure of a 1-on-1 with Hima Mukkamala, GM of IoT cloud services at ARM. Hima is a heavy hitter, previously head of engineering and a senior exec for GE Digitalís Predix platform. So while the rest of us pronounce on the IoT, heís actually lived it, particularly the IIoT.

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    The topic was an announcement ARM made recently at the Hanover Messe, on their Mbed solutions for the IoT, from edge devices to the cloud. Hima walked me through the standard pitch of course but with much more opportunity for me to ask questions. Thanks to which I now have (I think) a better understanding of the strategy and advantages of the solution.

    This starts with the very rapid growth ARM is seeingĖ theyíre anticipating 100B devices shipped from 2017 to 2021, equal to the number shipped in the preceding 26 years. Since they should have better insight than most into whatís coming out over the coming 3 years, this clearly supports exponential growth. Which makes management and security a big potential headache. Iíve talked before about security and the advantages of diversity, but at this scale I can also see the appeal of putting all your eggs in one basket and watching that basket very carefully.

    You should know the essentials of the solution by now Ė Mbed OS running on the edge device and at the other end, Mbed cloud providing the platform for management, provisioning and authorizations. ARM naturally points to the ubiquity of their hardware footprint and their strength in building partnerships as essential in delivering solutions to a very wide variety of needs in the inevitably diverse IoT space.

    That said, I was encouraged to hear that this isnít a monopolistic play, not just because we need healthy competition or because it would anyway be impractical but also because Iím a big believer that focused targets lead to more quickly to tangible results. So Mbed OS is free and open (at least to run on Cortex-M class cores) and provides for the security and communication features you would build around such designs. Meanwhile in Mbed cloud, Hima acknowledged that the customer landscape is already very mixed; theyíre already running multiple apps at this level so Mbed cloud has to coexist, bridging gaps where needed but otherwise letting customer solutions call the shots. He noted a partnership they have established with IBM Watson IoT as an example where they are collaborating in a broad solution.

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    On the focus topic, Himaís pitch opened with what I had assumed was a generic IoT applications slide, but he clarified these are ARMís IoT solution focus areas. As one example he cited work they have done with Alphatronics to support building a solution for waste recycling management in Belgium. Youíve probably heard of a similar concept before; trash containers at centralized disposal sites signal when they are empty, near full or full, enabling trash disposal trucks to optimize pickup. This reduces transportation costs and staffing at these trash facilities and also checks that only approved customers are using the facility.

    Another example Hima offered was in utilities. This area bristles with regulations. One aspect of those restrictions, at least today, is that management cannot be in a public cloud (I can imagine this being a concern in many IoT applications, whether or not constrained by regulations). To support this kind of need, ARM is now offering Mbed on Premises, a way to support Mbed Cloud, with all the connectivity, security, certification etc. management, in your private cloud.

    ARM also announced an out-of-the-box Mbed solution they call Mbed Client Lite, for constrained applications such as pallet management (in the logistics focus area). Part of the advantage of this being a canned solution is that it comes pre-packaged with channel security and remote secure update. Solutions for pallet management and other high-volume, low-cost uses are exactly where providers will be tempted to cut security corners unless the right solutions are handed to them on a plate. ARM have also partnered with a couple of established certificate authority/identity service providers, so thereís hope that eventually IoT security may be wrested under control (and that day canít come too soon).

    Itís a good story Ė device-to-cloud integration allowing for private as well as public clouds, out of the box security for low-end devices, broad partnerships as always with ARM and application examples already in deployment. How well competitive solutions (eg RISC-V-based devices) can work in this environment is less clear to me, but I guess weíll find out. You can learn more about the Mbed solutions HERE.