ARM's acquisition of Offspark is the latest indication of the growing importance being placed on security in the burgeoning Internet of things.
ARM officials announced on Feb. 9 that the chip maker was buying Offspark, a Dutch company that specializes in securing software for devices and sensors in the Internet of things (IoT). Offspark's PolarSSL technology, an embedded open-source Transport Layer Security (TLS) technology, is already used in such devices as senor modules and smartphones, and ARM officials said it will be the foundation of the vendor's strategy around mbed communication security and software cryptography. It will be renamed ARM mbed TLS.
The companies released no financial details about the deal, which ARM officials said illustrate the chip maker's understanding of the central role security will play in the IoT.
"We have always said that security must be the foundation of any IoT system and the acquisition of Offspark is evidence of us making that happen," Krisztian Flautner, general manager of ARM's IoT business, said in a statement. "PolarSSL technology is already deployed by the leading IoT players. The fact that those same companies also utilize ARM Cortex processor and software technologies means we are now able to provide a complete bedrock solution for the industry to innovate from."
The IoT will be made up of tens of billions of "things"—from smartphones and tablets to cars, home appliances, industrial systems, residential and commercial surveillance systems and embedded sensors—that will be connected to the Internet and each other. Cisco Systems officials have predicted that the number of connected devices worldwide will grow from 25 billion last year to more than 50 billion by 2020. Of key concern is finding ways to secure all of those things and the data they hold.
As the industry rushes headlong into the IoT, the push to improve security also increases. Industry players are looking to everything from standards to embedded technology to developer initiatives to develop security capabilities around the Internet of things. Federal agencies also are weighing in. In a report issued last month, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said companies developing technologies and products for the IoT must ensure the security of their offerings and the data they collect.
"The only way for the Internet of things to reach its full potential for innovation is with the trust of American consumers," FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said in a statement at the time of the report's release.
ARM officials said developers will be able to use ARM mbed TLS as a standalone technology and that it also will be part of mbed OS. It also works with the Cryptobox technology in mbed OS that ensures secure execution and storage, according to the company. ARM officials said the chip maker will continue to extend the reach of ARM mbed TLS beyond embedded devices to include other systems as well.
The company will release mbed OS under an Apache 2.0 license later in the year, and it will include mbed TLS, the Thread specification and other technologies. The release of mbed TLS 1.3.10, is available now under GPL and to existing PolarSSL customers on polarssl.org.
The mbed OS is a free operating system that is part of ARM's mbed IoT Device Platform, which was announced in October 2014.
ARM has been pushing to leverage its dominant position in the smartphone and tablet spaces, and its strong presence in embedded devices, to advance its IoT ambitions. The vendor in September 2014 unveiled its 32-bit Cortex-M7 "Pelican" system-on-a-chip (SoC), which offers high compute and digital signal processing capabilities and is aimed at an array of high-end embedded systems, such as network edge routers to connected cars and other IoT devices.
In June 2014, ARM announced it was building a new chip design center in Taiwan for IoT and wearable devices, and a month later was among the founding members of the Thread Group, which is promoting the use of the Thread networking protocol to more easily connect Thread-enabled residential IoT systems and devices. Thread creates a wireless mesh home network that supports more than 250 devices, with each having a direct path to the Internet, according to the group.