ARM unleashes internet of things potential with starter kit

Chip-maker ARM has collaborated with IBM to launch the mbed IoT Starter Kit, pitched at SMEs and application developers

Chip-maker ARM has added a new element to its internet of things (IoT) strategy, teaming up with long-term technology partner IBM to launch an IoT Starter Kit using its mbed platform.

The mbed IoT Starter Kit – Ethernet Edition channels data from IoT devices into IBM’s Bluemix cloud platform to enable fast development, testing, and ultimately deployment, of smart products and services.

The product consists of an ARM mbed-enabled development board powered by a Cortex M4-based processor and a sensor input/output application shield.

Future versions are set to run ARM’s mbed operating system and mbed Device Server software to allow more security, comms and device management options, as well as connectivity over mobile networks and Wi-Fi.

ARM said the launch builds on recent momentum around IBM’s IoT Foundation and its own IoT Device Platform.

General manager of ARM's IoT business, Krisztian Flautner, said embedding intelligence and connectivity into devices from the outset will create far more capable cloud-connected products.

“Smart cities, businesses and homes capable of sharing rich information about their surroundings will be critical in unlocking the potential of IoT. The ARM IoT Starter Kit will accelerate the availability of connected devices by making product and service prototyping faster and easier,” he said.

IBM vice-president of IoT Meg Divitto said the IoT is about "bringing the physical and digital closer together", enabling businesses to understand and interact with what is happening around them.

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"In order to make this work, it needs to be simple to connect physical devices into the cloud and to build apps and insights around them," he said. "This is designed to substantially enhance that effort.”

ARM, which shipped more than 12bn chips into the marke in 2014, believes it is well positioned to help people build apps around its ecosystem, and claims to already have 39% of the embedded IoT market sewn up.

ARM IoT marketing vice-president Zach Shelby compared the IoT to how the worldwide web was 20 years ago.

He suggested the usability of the web had been held back by a poor user interface until technology developed to a point where people were able to create things such as Facebook.

“By 2018, more than 50% of IoT apps will be coming from startups that don’t even exist yet,” predicted Shelby.

IoT apps for beginners

Using IBM’s NodeRed tool, running on Bluemix in the cloud, IBM and ARM recently demonstrated the potential of the Starter Kit at a preview event in London.

The demonstration showed at first hand the ease with which the kit can be programmed using a drag-and-drop interface, with a minimum of coding expertise required to cause a number of outputs – in this case as simple as making an LED array flash in different colour combinations.

By 2018, more than 50% of IoT apps will be coming from startups that don’t even exist yet

Zach Shelby, ARM

The simple program was also able to send an SMS message to a smartphone, and a tweet to the @IoTAutomate Twitter account reading: “Starter Kit says hi.”

Retailing for between $50 and $200, the Starter Kit is pitched firmly at the entry level of the IoT spectrum, said Shelby.

“It should be of interest to anybody into making products, whether it’s one guy with a Kickstarter idea, up to people at large developers,” he said.

“We are focusing the software on smart city, smart home and simple wearables,” he added.

Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) high-performance computing, big data and visualisation solutions manager David Moss said the kit was a good jumping-off point for businesses considering new projects that required instrumentation of a connected device.

“The capabilities provided by the kit and its connection to the IBM IoT Foundation will help businesses realise rapid value during the development and production phases of a venture,” he said.

The STFC, which conducts research related to space science, environmental science, medicine and computing, has been road-testing the Starter Kit to create a big data demo product.

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