ARM Looks to Accelerate Development of IoT Devices

The chip designer is bringing new capabilities to its mbed Internet of things platform and unveiling reference designs for wearables and smart cities.

IoT developers

SANTA CLARA, Calif.—ARM is expanding its mbed Internet of things platform with new features for managing devices, new reference architectures and the latest technology preview of its mbed operating system.

On the eve of the company's TechCon 2015 show here, ARM officials on Nov. 9 unveiled the new offerings that they said will enable companies to secure and launch more scalable Internet of things (IoT) devices, and will enable the chip architecture designer to gain a stronger foothold in such areas as wearable and smart cities systems.

"ARM mbed partners now have access to the fundamental building blocks to develop and securely deploy IoT devices at any scale," Krisztian Flautner, general manager of ARM's IoT business, said in a statement. "Since the launch of the mbed IoT Device Platform last year, we have focused our efforts on providing the mbed partnership with the tools to scale deployments from a single cloud-connected sensor to a host of more intricate devices that enterprise-grade IoT solutions demand."

Most of the smartphones and tablets on the market today run on low-power systems-on-a-chip (SoCs) designed by ARM and manufactured by the likes of Qualcomm and Samsung. Apple's A9 chip is based on ARM's architecture. The company is making an aggressive push into the IoT as it expands the playing field against Intel, which also has designs on the space. Intel earlier this month rolled out new low-power Quark chips aimed at the IoT, as well as new development platforms, software and services.

It's understandable why the chip makers are turning their attentions to the fast-growing IoT. Estimates from analyst firms and tech vendors have the number of connected devices worldwide hitting more than 50 billion by 2020, and IDC analysts expect spending on the IoT to reach $1.7 trillion by that year.

ARM officials announced the company was developing the mbed OS for the IoT, and throughout this year have made moves to expand the platform, from buying IoT security company Offspark to partnering with IBM to bring analytics capabilities to mbed-based devices.

The new offerings are aimed at helping designers and builders to shorten the amount of time needed to develop hardware while making them more scalable and secure. The mbed Device Connector will enable developers to connect devices within prototype deployments and to more quickly build secure Web applications. Developers can use the software—available at—with up to 100 devices that can handle up to 10,000 events per hour.

The latest technology preview of mbed OS, for use with ARM's Cortex-M microcontrollers (MCUs), will enable developers to take advantage of the chip designer's mbed TLS open-source and commercial SSL library as well as manageability features. It also offers native OS support for the Thread IoT specification being developed by the Thread Group, one of several industry bodies working on developing a standard framework for enabling interoperability between IoT devices.

ARM also is unveiling two reference platforms that officials said will help developers reduce the amount of time between developing the prototype and coming out with a final device. The mbed Wearable Reference Design is targeting wrist-based connected devices that will offer a full interactive experience to the user while providing as much as eight weeks of battery life.

The mbed Smart City Reference Design will focus on infrastructure monitoring and industrial applications using the sub-GHz 6LoWPAN (IPv6 over Low power Wireless Personal Area Networks) and CoAP (Constrained Application Protocol) mesh networks that will manage large numbers of devices, officials said.

ARM officials will talk about the new platform capabilities and demonstrate the reference architectures during the TechCon 2015 show, which will run Nov. 10-12.

A number of tech vendors made announcements Nov. 9 around the mbed platform. Freescale Semiconductor announced that its FRDM-K64F board now supports the platform's technologies, including the new OS.

"ARM mbed IoT Device Platform fills a critical gap by providing a comprehensive, standards-based platform for microcontrollers," Geoff Lees, senior vice president and general manager of Freescale's MCU Group. "mbed helps our customers speed time-to-market with off-the-shelf technologies that support key IoT requirements such as connectivity and robust security."

STMicroelectronics, another semiconductor maker, said its STM32 family of Cortex-M-based MCUs, sensors, connectivity, and power-management products will run with the new OS, while Alcatel-Lucent last week said it is adding ARM's mbed platform to its MotiveSmart device interoperability program.