Following the launch of its Cortex-M7 processor for embedded microcontrollers, ARM has announced some new software to help speed up the development and deployment of low-cost, low-power "Internet of things" (a.k.a. IoT) devices.
The software builds upon ARM's existing mbed development platform for Cortex-M-powered hardware. ARM's additions today include mbed OS, a free operating system, and mbed Device Server, a software toolkit that, in the company's words, "provides the required server-side technologies to connect and manage devices in a secure way." ARM aims to get the basic software "building blocks" of IoT devices out of the way so that vendors can focus on adding features and differentiating their products.
mbed OS will be offered for free both to developers and to device makers. ARM says the operating system's code base originates partly from Sensinode, which ARM acquired last year, and partly from "internal development." As I understand it, much of the OS will be open-sourced under an Apache 2.0 license, while some components will only be opened up to ARM's partners. Developers will be able to write their apps in C++, and the OS will support a wealth of networking protocols, from from 3G and LTE cellular to Bluetooth Smart, Wi-Fi, and 6LoWPAN. More features will be built in over time, as well.
mbed Device Server, meanwhile, consists of an API and other tools that will help bridge the gap between IoT devices and web services. ARM says the software is designed to "handle the connections and management of millions of devices." Unlike mbed OS, mbed Device Server will have to be licensed for commercial use—though it will be freely accessible to developers.
ARM cited several sample use cases for mbed OS and mbed Device Server. (You can use the buttons above to switch between them.) In a couple of them, the operating system powers a "low-power wearable" with a Cortex-M-based microcontroller inside. ARM told us last week that the Cortex-M series powers "many smartwatches," though it lacks the hardware required to run "rich" operating systems like Android Wear. mbed OS should make it easier for device makers to crank out cheap, connected smartwatches, however.
The third example shows mbed OS and mbed Device Server in a non-consumer setting. There, the software powers smart street lights and links them together, turning what ARM calls "little data" into "big data." Gathering information from street light sensors across an entire city, the company says, can help track patterns in traffic and keep congestion to a minimum.
Many companies are already on board with mbed OS and mbed Device Server. ARM's press release names a couple dozen, including plenty of big names like Ericsson, Freescale, IBM, Renesas, and ST. ARM says it plans to make mbed OS available to partners for "early development" this quarter, setting the stage for the first production devices to debut next year.