ARM Holdings plc (Cambridge, England), best known as a licensor of processor cores and architectures, is introducing mbed OS a lean, configurable operating system, for use with clients such as wearable equipment, sensor nodes and the Internet of Things (IoT).
ARM is not the first company to make such as offer (see VxWorks RTOS Gets Revamped for IoT and Startup Preps OS for the Internet of Things) but its position as a leading supplier in smartphones and tablet computers, its business model of collaboration and the fact that mbed OS is free – at least on the client side, are likely to give the mbed OS a momentum that other approaches may lack.
For a start the operating system has grown out of ARM's mbed community, which was set up to help developers get started on Cortex-M microcontrollers. Launched in 2009 mbed has grown to 70,000 developers and have shared 9,000 projects in the open-source community. As such the OS is optimized for and at present only runs on Cortex-M microcontroller clients. It is also free for those clients.
However, ARM will license and charge for the mbed device server software which is intended to sit on server computers – of x86, ARM or other processor architecture, said Krisztian Flautner, who recently moved from being vice president of R&D at ARM to being general manager of the IoT business unit.
mbedOS provides common OS and connectivity across multiple applications. Source: ARM.
Also the operating system is modular and configurable allowing it to cater for a breadth of applications from something as potentially simple as a street lighting network to wearables networks and the smart home. The OS runs in 128kbytes of RAM or even considerably less, said Flautner.
"We're doing some software to make IoT easier to use," said Flautner. He added that the OS is designed to be event-driven, rather than an RTOS, low power by design with built in security, communications and device management.
The platform will be made available to ARM's mbed partners in the fourth quarter of 2014 with first production devices expected in 2015.
The operating system includes support for a range of communications standards such as Bluetooth Smart, 2G, 3G, LTE and CDMA cellular technologies, Thread, Wi-Fi, and 802.15.4/6LoWPAN along with TLS/DTLS, CoAP, HTTP, MQTT and Lightweight M2M.
The mbed Device Server, as well as connecting and managing clients also provides a bridge between the protocols used on IoT devices and the APIs used by web developers. In this way, ARM said, the aggregation of "little data" into cloud frameworks would be simplified.
"Deploying IoT-enabled products and services requires a diverse set of technologies and skills to be coordinated across an organization," said Simon Segars, CEO of ARM, in a statement. "ARM mbed will make this easier by offering the necessary building blocks to enable our expanding set of ecosystem partners to focus on the problems they need to solve to differentiate their products, instead of common infrastructure technologies. This will accelerate the growth and adoption of the IoT in all sectors of the global economy."
Launch partners for the mbed IoT device platform include Atmel, CSR, Ericsson, Farnell, Freescale, IBM, KDDI, Marvell, Megachips, Nordic Semiconductor, NXP, Renesas, Seecontrol, Semtech, Silicon Labs, Stream Technologies, STMicroelectronics, Telefonica, Thundersoft, u-blox, wot.io and Zebra.
"Today’s IoT devices largely exist in isolation and it has been impossible to realize a truly interconnected world where devices are interoperable with many different cloud services," said Flautner. "The ARM mbed IoT Device Platform will solve this by providing a common communication and management toolkit that can be used for a wide variety of purposes. We expect mbed to significantly speed up the large scale deployment of a new breed of both IoT devices and cloud services."
“As a leader in wireless networks, Ericsson welcomes initiatives to unify and accelerate the Internet of Things,” said Erik Ekudden, head of technology strategies at Ericsson Group Function Technology, in a statement issued by ARM. "ARM’s mbed platform has the potential to enable thousands, if not millions, of connected applications in Ericsson’s vision: the networked society."
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