Talk with anyone in IoT and you will hear that innovation and growth is accelerating at a rapid rate. McKinsey estimates that the economic value of the IoT economy, which includes hardware, software and services, will grow from about a trillion and a half today to nearly $13 trillion by 2030.
From intelligent, AI capable endpoint devices to autonomous systems, IoT developers are creating a diverse ecosystem of products and services. However, if we are to realize the full potential of IoT, a frictionless cloud-to-endpoint is critical. This can only be made possible if we standardize the common building blocks of IoT. This removes redundant investment and friction, while creating the space for innovation to flourish across the huge variety of IoT use cases.
When you think about standardization in the tech sector, some may think this is a sure-fire way to stifle innovation. The opposite couldn’t be more true for the IoT and embedded markets. While it’s not about creating standards for standards sake, in the diverse IoT markets, it is vital for the entire ecosystem from silicon providers to OEMs and developers, to have standardization at the foundation. This will enable greater innovation opportunities and more focus on product differentiation where it matters.
Despite all the positive stories of IoT growth and innovation, there is one word that still haunts many in the industry – fragmentation. Why is this the case? Firstly, IoT is not just one market. It’s a collection of markets, including industrial, home automation, supply chain management, healthcare and many more. Across these different markets there’s a huge variety of devices, requirements, use cases and, in some cases, regulation.
At present, IoT device makers and developers need to port their software for every new product and every new market. This limits the ability to invest in differentiation, meaning a limited return on investment (RoI) because companies are simply unable to scale.
The good news is that the industry is working together to create a consistent set of standards that will enable portability and re-use of software across a range of services, eliminating scale-killing fragmentation.
Standardization for differentiation
Standardization helps to breed creativity, innovation and, more importantly, differentiation. By achieving the right balance of standardization and differentiation, IoT developers can leverage existing software and do not need to worry about compatibility issues, instead spending time and resources innovating their products and applications. The only way to scale and address the myriad of IoT markets and use cases is to standardize on common functionality, as this frees up space for innovation and differentiation. This fuels new areas of product and application development across growing, diverse IoT markets.
Within the IoT industry, Arm is playing a critical role in standardization. Our aim is to create a level of consistency across common, repeated functional blocks, like security and over-the-air (OTA) updates. Widely accepted industry standards can help accelerate IoT deployments, and two Arm initiatives – Project Cassini and Project Centauri – are focused on enabling standardization, software and scale in this ecosystem.
Project Cassini is an open, collaborative, standards-based initiative to deliver a seamless cloud-native software experience for devices based on Arm Cortex-A and Arm Neoverse. It enables processing of data throughout the edge, and lays the foundation for a cloud-native developer experience across a diverse and secure edge ecosystem. Edge platforms from IoT gateways to smart cameras can boot the Linux OS and run things like Kubernetes right out of the box.
Project Cassini implements robust standards that allow for leveraged software development on hardware aligned to the initiative. MediaTek is architecting its Genio 1200 chipset for high-end AIoT markets to meet Project Cassini specification to ensure software compatibility and core security functionality.
Richard Lu, VP of MediaTek’s AIoT business unit, said, “We needed to make sure that the Genio 1200 is compatible to the many IoT standards that exist today. This is why having Arm’s Project Cassini-aligned hardware is so important to MediaTek, as Project Cassini provides the standardization for the industry.”
To further help software developers scale and achieve software portability, we launched Project Centauri, a new collaborative initiative for the Arm Cortex-M ecosystem. Project Centauri delivers foundational standards for tasks including how software is packaged and delivered, and how cloud services can access key on-device features. It also includes aspects of device security such as Trusted Firmware-M and PSA Certified, as well as bringing together our extensive software ecosystem support. Project Centauri defines foundational standards to ensure IoT applications are portable across virtual and physical microcontroller hardware.
It’s not just the IoT and embedded space where standards can make a huge difference. Arm has worked closely with automakers, semiconductor and cloud technology leaders to define an open-standards based architecture for the software defined vehicle, with reference hardware platforms to allow workload exploration in advance of silicon. SOAFEE (Scalable open architecture for embedded edge) will help add functional safety and real-time capabilities required for autonomous workloads. Arm is working with partners across the value chain to ensure two key things: firstly, standard-compliant development platforms for SOAFEE become rapidly available; and, secondly, SOAFEE contributions to cloud native software standard frameworks are successful.
Unleashing IoT’s potential
It goes without saying that IoT is a complex space full of scale and fragmentation. Striking the right balance with standardization to enable partners to continue differentiating where it matters will help to deliver the IoT’s enormous growth. The Arm ecosystem aims to achieve the standardization of common, functional IoT building blocks, which can be leveraged to enable huge differentiation across diverse IoT markets. But we can’t do it alone. Which is why we continue to look at further collaborations with IoT and embedded partners to ensure software and security compatibility regardless of the IoT device or the market, helping unleash the true potential that IoT has to offer.
Mohamed Awad is vice president of IoT and embedded at Arm.
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