ARM Plans Chip Design Center for Wearables, Internet of Things

Company executives announce the new center at Computex, and say it will be established in Taiwan.

Internet of things

ARM is ramping up its efforts in the increasingly competitive markets of the Internet of things and wearable devices with the creation of a new chip design center in Taiwan.

ARM officials announced the new CPU design center June 2 during the Computex 2014 show in Taipei, saying it was important to put the facility in close proximity with semiconductor manufacturers and other partners that are playing a role in ARM's chip design and development efforts.

"The new design center will have a particular focus on the development of ARM Cortex-M processors which are the market-leading design choice for IoT products," CEO Simon Segars said in a statement. "Establishing a new, world-class CPU design team in Taiwan will allow us to work even more closely with key regional partners seeking to accelerate this market."

The design center will open by the end of the year, according to ARM officials.

ARM rolled out its first Cortex-M chips, aimed at the embedded market, in 2010, focusing more on energy efficiency and less on compute performance than its systems-on-a-chip (SoCs) that are found in the bulk of smartphones and tablets. In 2012, the company unveiled its low-power Cortex-MO+ design, which officials said was specifically targeted at the smart systems that will populate the Internet of things (IoT).

The IoT refers to the growing trend of putting greater intelligence into a range of machines—from appliances and televisions to manufacturing systems, surveillance cameras, automobiles and light bulbs—that are connected to the Internet and pass data between themselves. It could be a boon for organizations, which are expected to see greater efficiencies and faster business decisions, as well as consumers.

Cisco Systems officials have said that by 2020, the IoT could mean as much as $19 trillion for businesses worldwide. IDC analysts said IoT revenues could hit $7.3 trillion in 2017. A survey by ARM last year indicated that businesses are investigating how they can take advantage of the Internet of things, with 96 percent of respondents saying they expected their organizations to be leveraging it in some manner by 2016.

IDC analysts also are forecasting a rapidly growing wearable device market, with unit shipment jumping from more than 19 million this year to 111.9 million in 2018.

ARM officials see an opportunity for the company's low-power SoC designs, which are licensed by a wide range of chip makers.

"The Internet of Things runs on ARM," ARM's Segars said at the time the survey was released in October 2013. "By connecting the next 30 [billion] devices, the ARM ecosystem is transforming lives by improving the management of our cities, health services, environment and education systems. Our technologies provide the functional building blocks in a huge range of products including cars, heart monitoring systems, washing machines and lighting. Energy efficiency and miniaturization are essential in these technologies."

Tech vendors—including ARM's competitors—are looking to rapidly grow their capabilities in these areas. Intel has been aggressive in this area, launching a new line of processors—Quark—that will be smaller and more energy-efficient than the vendor's Atom platform and that will target the IoT. The giant chip maker also has laid out its roadmaps for the IoT and wearable devices, launched a $100 million fund aimed at companies building technology for smart devices, and invested in some companies working in the areas of the IoT and wearables.

Intel on May 29 unveiled its In-Vehicle Solutions for the automotive industry, an initiative that was born out of the chip maker's Internet of Things Group.

ARM also is working with chip maker Advanced Micro Devices to develop embedded chips—including a 64-bit SoC called Hierofalcon—for the IoT.