ARM, IBM Partner to Create IoT Starter Kit

The ARM mbed IoT Starter Kit will including a Freescale development board that can be connected to IBM's Bluemix cloud platform.

IoT kit

ARM and IBM are partnering on a starter kit designed to make it easier for organizations and individuals to build connected devices for the Internet of things.

The ARM mbed IoT Starter Kit-Ethernet Edition will include a development board created by Freescale and ARM's mbed IoT operating system and will be connected to IBM's Bluemix cloud platform, which will offer such services as cloud-based analytics as well as mobile and application resources from Big Blue, according to the two companies.

The goal is to give users a way to quickly create smart device prototypes and services, with the first products developed via the kit to hit the market later this year, according to ARM officials. Ensuring the security of the data and connectivity into the devices will help drive the development of cloud-connected devices, according to Krisztian Flautner, general manager of ARM's IoT business.

"Smart cities, businesses and homes capable of sharing rich information about their surroundings will be critical in unlocking the potential of IoT," Flautner said in a statement, adding that the starter kit "will accelerate the availability of connected devices by making product and service prototyping faster and easier."

The Internet of things is expected to grow rapidly over the next several years, with the number of connected devices rising from 25 billion last year to more than 50 billion in 2020, according to Cisco Systems officials. Other vendors and analyst firms have other estimates for the number of connected devices—from smartphones and tablets to cars, home appliances and industrial systems—but agree the growth will be rapid.

Both ARM and IBM have been aggressive in pursuing the market, which IDC analysts have said could grow to more than $7.1 trillion by 2020. In early October 2014, ARM unveiled the mbed OS as part of its larger ARM mbed IoT Device Platform, which includes the free OS for devices powered by systems-on-a-chip (SoCs) based on ARM's Cortex-M design and the mbed Device Server.

Less than two weeks later, IBM announced the IBM Internet of Things Foundation, a new cloud service based on the Bluemix platform-as-a-service (PaaS) technology that is aimed at helping developers build applications for the IoT in a matter of minutes.

Meg Divitto, vice president for IoT at IBM, said that organizations are looking for an easy way to create and connect smart devices.

"In order to make this work for businesses, it needs to be simple to connect physical devices into the cloud, and to build applications and insights around them," Divitto said in a statement. "IBM Bluemix and the new ARM mbed starter kit are designed to substantially enhance that effort."

Early prototypes of the ARM IoT Starter Kit, which was announced Feb. 23 at the Embedded World 2015 show in Germany, were given to some customers, with positive results, according to company officials.

The kit includes Freescale's FRDM-K64F development board powered by an ARM Cortex-M4-based SoC. It also offers 1MB of flash storage, 256KB of memory, a five-way joy stick, a speaker, a temperature sensor and an accelerometer.

The board is connected to IBM's Bluemix cloud platform via Ethernet connectivity, though future versions could include connectivity through cellular, WiFi and Thread. ARM was one of the founders of the Thread Group, which is working on an open framework for enabling easier connectivity between smart residential devices.

The offering from ARM and IBM is joining a growing number of IoT starter kits aimed at helping developers and do-it-yourself enthusiasts more easily create smart, connected devices. The kits are coming from a broad array of vendors, from major players like Intel, Broadcom and Qualcomm to smaller companies like LittleBits.