Arm expands IoT solutions and adds to virtual hardware platform - Embedded.com

Arm expands IoT solutions and adds to virtual hardware platform

Arm announcements as part of its Total Solutions for IoT include new Corstone subsystems, new Cortex-M processor, new products supported on virtual hardware platform, and new Open IoT SDK Framework as part of Project Centauri.

Arm has unveiled an expansion of its ‘Total Solutions for IoT’ roadmap, with two new Corstone subsystems for Cortex-M and Cortex-A processors, and adding more platforms, including Raspberry Pi, to its Arm Virtual Hardware. As part of the new lineup, it has also launched the Arm Cortex-M85 processor, its highest performance Cortex-M to date.

Almost every marketer you talk to in the chip industry talks about massive IoT market opportunities, but the fact remains that integration of processor intellectual property (IP) and building a system-on-chip (SoC) can be challenging. This is even more so where you have increasingly higher performance and security requirements, but don’t necessarily have the development resources to get to market quickly enough.

Hence Arm’s strategy, launched six months ago, is to provide validated and integrated subsystems as part of its total solutions for IoT offer. The first of these was the Corstone-300 solution for keyword recognition launched last year. Now it has added the Corstone-310 solution for voice recognition and Corstone-1000 for cloud native edge devices. Future Corstone products could include vision systems, object recognition, and smart sensor fusion.

Arm total solutions for IoT overview
Arm Total Solutions for IoT is a solutions-based approach to IoT design, along with virtual hardware replicating its Corstone designs in the cloud to enable software development without needing access to silicon, and Project Centauri, an initiative to scale IoT innovation by enabling software reuse and leverage. (Source: Arm)

Arm’s vice president of IoT and embedded, Mohamed Awad, said that it’s all about simplifying the development. He commented, “Developers are faced with an ever-increasing demand for higher performance, increased security and less complex development flows, all while getting products to market faster than ever. They need more choice, simpler development and more secure processing to continue to scale.”

Hence Arm total solutions for IoT combines hardware IP, platform software, machine learning (ML) models, and tools to simplify development and accelerate product design. The foundation of this is Corstone, a pre-integrated, pre-verified IP subsystem that frees silicon designers to focus their time and efforts on differentiation.

Two new total solutions

The two new subsystems launched as part of its total solutions for IoT portfolio are for:

  • Cloud-native edge platform using the new Corstone-1000 for Linux capable design for cloud-native applications.
  • Voice recognition using the Corstone-310 based on the new Arm Cortex-M85.

The solution for cloud native edge devices is the first designed for Cortex-A and is based on Corstone-1000. Arm said this total solution makes the power and potential of operating systems like Linux easily available to IoT developers for the first time. It allows application-class workloads to be developed for devices such as smart wearables, gateways, and high-end smart cameras. The Corstone-1000 is Arm SystemReady-IR compliant and features a hardware secure enclave that supports PSA Certified for a higher level of security.

Arm Corstone-1000 block diagram
Arm Corstone-1000 block diagram. (Source: Arm)

The new total solution for voice recognition is based on the Corstone-310 subsystem. It is pre-integrated with the new Cortex-M85 and the Arm Ethos-U55 to create Arm’s highest ever performance MCU-based design. The solution is targeted at use-cases ranging from smart speakers and thermostats to drones and factory robots. Developers can also take the Corstone-310 and create a whole range of additional high-performance products by combining it with different reference software.

Arm Corstone_310_Block_Diagram
Arm Corstone-310 block diagram. (Source: Arm)

The Arm Cortex-M85 is a natural architectural upgrade path to Armv8-M for applications requiring significantly higher performance. It offers:

  • A 30% scalar performance uplift compared to the Cortex-M7.
  • Arm Helium technology to support endpoint ML and DSP workloads
  • Enhanced security with Arm TrustZone technology. It also includes pointer authentication and branch target identification (PACBTI), a new architectural feature with enhanced software attack threat mitigation to help achieve PSA Certified Level 2, a security baseline for IoT deployments.

Renesas’ EVP & GM for its IoT and infrastructure business unit, Sailesh Chittipeddi, said, “As we expand our high performance and advanced IoT security MCU business, Renesas welcomes the timely introduction of Cortex-M85, providing industry breakthrough performance.”

Also commenting on the new processor, Ricardo De Sa Earp, EVP for the general-purpose microcontroller sub-group at STMicroelectronics, said, “Adding the high-performance and TrustZone capabilities of the Cortex-M85 core to an STM32 MCU is a major opportunity for developers to push the limits for new connected and secure applications and will open up a new range of AI use cases.”

Virtual hardware library now includes NXP, ST, and Raspberry Pi

Arm virtual hardware is designed to enable software development in advance of silicon. It allows the Arm ecosystem to easily adopt cloud-based development and CI/CD, without the need for large custom hardware farms. Arm said hundreds of developers have used Arm virtual hardware to date and based on developer feedback, it is introducing several new virtual devices to broaden the virtual development environment’s appeal. New additions will include Arm virtual hardware for the new Corstone designs as well as seven Cortex-M processors ranging from Cortex-M0 to Cortex-M33. The library is being expanded further with third party hardware from partners including NXP, STMicroelectronics and Raspberry Pi.

A key benefit of extending the virtual hardware to ecosystem devices and a majority of Cortex-M products, it makes it easier for independent software vendors and cloud service providers to take advantage and build upon the large number of Arm-based IoT and embedded devices which are already deployed.

Offering virtual hardware clearly has a lot of support from many in the industry as developers look for faster routes for development and getting a product to market in a timely manner. Qiao Zhao, Head of the PaddlePaddle Product team at Baidu, commented, ““As the IoT continues to evolve, the integration of open-source platforms for deep learning with SoC design platforms will hugely increase the efficiency of smart device development. With the deep integration of the PaddlePaddle (PP) industry-level model library and inference capability with Arm Virtual Hardware, developers can quickly and efficiently deploy the PP-series models, one of the most popular industry-grade models on GitHub, on Cortex-M based hardware, to quickly complete the prototype validation of endpoint AI systems.”

Zach Shelby, co-founder and CEO of Edge Impulse, added, ““Finding the right balance between DSP configuration and model architecture against memory and latency constraints is a big challenge for edge ML developers. By having access to a broader range of models on Arm Virtual Hardware, we can easily estimate performance across a wider spectrum of IoT devices, all in the cloud. This will ultimately provide developers with a faster turnaround and give them the confidence they need to deploy optimized models to edge devices in the field.”

Raspberry Pi CEO, Eben Upton, said, “Offering an easily accessible, virtual version of Raspberry Pi through Arm Virtual Hardware will permit even more developers to test out our technology, solve problems and express themselves through creative projects.”

New open IoT SDK framework

Arm’s Project Centauri was launched a while ago to enable the portability and re-use of software across a range of devices and allow the Cortex-M software ecosystem to coalesce around a consistent set of standards. This includes the Open-CMSIS-Pack, which is already supported by 9,500 microcontrollers and 450 boards, enabling software vendors to easily scale their offerings across all of these devices.

Now, Arm is delivering the first release of the Open IoT SDK Framework as part of Project Centauri. This contains the new Open-CMSIS-CDI software standard, a community driven project hosted in Linaro that defines a Common Device Interface (CDI) for the Cortex-M ecosystem. Eight key industry players are already involved including silicon partners, cloud service providers, ODMs and OEMs.

Arm Cortex-M85, Corstone-310 and Corstone-1000 are available for licensing now and can be accessed in the cloud as part of Arm total solutions for IoT. Arm virtual hardware can be accessed here, and third party hardware is available from partners including NXP (iMX8 Arm Cortex complex), ST Microelectronics (STM32U5 discovery kit) and Raspberry Pi (RPi4).


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