ARM TechCon 2016 is now one for the books. For many of the over 4,500 in attendance, the highlight was hearing from Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son on his rationale for buying ARM Holdings and how it fits into his vision of “singularity”. (Not to mention the $100B fund behind this vision.) For me, while it was interesting to listen to the man known as “the Bill Gates of Japan”, the most notable announcement was ARM’s mbed Cloud platform, an innovative step toward a fully-functioning Internet-of-Things (IoT) delivered through an innovative software-as-a-service (SaaS) business model. Here’s what caught my attention.
ARM mbed logo (Source; ARM)
The mbed portfolio has many components, but at the risk of oversimplifying, here’s what you get:
- mbed Device Connector: a software stack that enables you to connect IoT devices to the cloud without building the whole infrastructure yourself
- mbed OS: a platform operating system for devices
- mbed Client: a library that enables devices to connect to partner based cloud services
- mbed TLS: a collection of libraries that provide security and cryptography
- mbed Cloud: a Software-as-a-Service package including device management (any device on any network or cloud), provisioning, and—maybe the most important—secure and reliable software updating
This is why I think this is so important. Today’s internet works largely because of a service called the Domain Name Service (DNS) which, in short, connects URLs to IP addresses. We need the same sort of mechanism for IoT, but it has to do a lot more than just DNS. (Remember we are talking about machine-to-machine transactions for tens of billions of devices.) Not only does it have to perform a similar function of connecting the path, but It must also be able to attest and guarantee that this device is what it says it is. In fact, rather than the somewhat casual way DNS works today, this needs to be a binding and enforceable declaration. (That is probably the subject of a different conversation.) It needs to govern the rights and privileges for the use of each device and its data—rights that can be granted, removed after a specified time or transaction, and be revoked if someone or something ‘misbehaves’. Further, this service needs to be federated: connected in an organized way where the trust of every individual instance is guaranteed. It needs to be able to work locally without sending everything all the way back to (insert your favorite deity) for permission. It needs to check in occasionally to ensure everything is ok and any changes are known.
Mbed Cloud doesn’t yet do all of this. It can run in a cloud or locally, and the ARM folks admit they don’t have the federated model but will likely need it. It is certainly a step in the right direction and is the first scheme I’ve seen that starts at the bottom and works its way up. There are others schemes, but they are usually based on a secure vLAN and terminate at a gateway. This leave the rest for someone else to figure out.
Some of those in attendance were surprised to see this kind of offering from ARM as a cloud service. I think this was rather ingenious as it allows the evolution to begin and something tells me we’ll probably need some! As you can see, the potential reach of mbed Cloud is vast. This is why I think it’s the most impactful thing I saw at ARM TechCon 2016.
Other companies with activity in this space are IBM with their Watson IoT Initiative, Intel and a variety of IoT initiatives, General Electric (GE) and their focus on Industrial IoT, Dell with their IoT gateways and vertical focus, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) with IoT computing and gateways, and a host of smaller companies creating devices and solutions.