At the start of its big developer conference, ARM unveiled two secure processors for the Internet of Things, or making everyday objects smart and connected.
The Cambridge, U.K. chip design company — which was acquired last month for $31 billion by Japan’s SoftBank — believes that the Internet of Things will drive huge volumes of chip sales over the years. That’s why today it is introducing the ARM Cortex-M23 and ARM Cortex-M33 processor designs for customers who will take them and use them as the basis to design working semiconductor chips. The chips represent a big investment in technology that the company believes will drive the next wave of computing.
The company made the announcement at the start of its ARM TechCon event in Santa Clara, Calif. The M23 and M33 are the first in a new family of ARMv8 processors that incorporate the ARM TrustZone technology for better hardware security, said Michael Horne, vice president of marketing and sales in the IoT business group at ARM, in a press briefing. The designs make it easier for developers to create energy-efficient, secure, and connected IoT devices.
“These devices are set to become the processor of choice for Internet of Things devices,” Horne said. “We aim to have a comprehensive IoT offering which is efficient, scalable, and secure.”
Ten of the biggest microcontroller manufacturers have licensed the processors from ARM. Announced chip partners include Analog Devices, Microchip, Nuvoton, NXP, Renesas, Silicon Labs, and STMicroelectronics.
Most chip designs have trade-offs when it comes to efficiency, security, cost, and performance. But ARM has tried to consider all of these factors in designing the small, balanced chips that will serve as the brains of a lot of smart objects, Horne said. Applications for the processors vary widely and include remote health monitoring, smart lighting, streamlining logistics, and managing flood defenses.
For IoT to reach its potential, its foundation must be based on proven and trusted technology. The first Cortex-M processors, based on the ARMv8-M architecture with TrustZone technology, are based on 32-bit computing. The Cortex-M33 is 20 percent faster than past models, the Cortex-M3 and the Cortex-M4, and the M33 has better power efficiency.
For the applications where power efficiency is even more important, the M23 can offer ultra-low power in a tiny space. The Cortex-M family has served as the brains of more than 22 billion processors shipped to date. The M23 and M33 use the CoreLink SIE-200 to provide the interconnection between the processor and peripherals, using ARM’s TrustZone security tech.
Meanwhile, ARM announced its Mbed Cloud technology, which makes it simpler to connect IoT devices to cloud-computing resources in a secure way. The Mbed Cloud enables customers to flexibly and securely manage a vast array of IoT devices. It lets any two devices connect to each other, regardless of a particular connectivity technology. It identifies and trusts devices across various stages of their life cycles, and it orchestrates how trusted parties and devices can access sensor data. General availability of the Mbed Cloud is set for the first quarter of 2017.
The Mbed ecosystem has 14 new partners, including Advantech, Arrow, Avnet, Comtech Telecommunications Corp., Elan Microelectronics Corp., Future Electronics, Lierda, Myotest, Omnisense, Realtek, Rohm, Softbank Technologies, Toshiba, and WPG. More than 600 projects are underway.