Arm – the designer of processors used in billions of gadgets, smartphones, and other devices – has launched a new Internet-of-Things platform that it claims will be able to handle any data from any device on any cloud.
There's no shortage of organizations offering IoT solutions, but Arm claims its Pelion IoT platform stands out as it does not tie customers into a specific cloud provider – you are free to choose whatever service you want, and, according to the company, it will work with any device and any type data.
Pelion is possible thanks to a number of acquisitions: today's announcement being that Arm has bought Treasure Data, a biz that specializes in data management and will act as the "final piece of our IoT enablement puzzle," according to Arm.
It refused to say how much it had paid for the company but did say it was the "largest cash deal that we've done." Industry observers say the price was $600m.
Combined with another acquisitions – Stream, which deals with connectivity – and Arm's earlier Mbed Cloud attempt, the Brit chip designers claim that Pelion represents "something entirely new."
"Truly this is the first platform that provides everything from connectivity to devices to data," explained Arm's head of its IoT group, Dipesh Patel.
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In real terms, the platform is designed to make the grand promise of IoT – where you not only attach sensors to every piece of equipment you own but actually derive some meaningful, useful information from the huge quantities of data that they throw off – a reality. Pelion will offer a "single portal" that covers every single device.
On a conference call detailing the new platform, Arm's chief marketing officer Joyce Kim went for the usual vast future predictions: one trillion devices by 2035; terabytes of data; and so on.
"Whether it's an energy provider drawing data from its infrastructure to sense failures; a sensor-equipped building anticipating and then proactively dealing with occupants’ needs; or a retailer using data streams from its stores and warehouses to streamline operations – IoT systems can be transformational," the company said in its announcement. The key word of course being "can."
One of the most important aspects to administrating vast quantities of sensors on a disparate array of devices of course is security. While IoT theoretically provides an opportunity for huge efficiencies – recognizing problems before they occur and providing instant insights that could take a human overseer months to figure out – it also represents a huge potential security headache as vulnerabilities and security holes are indentified in IoT software and hardware.
In theory, something like Arm's Pelion should allow sysadmins to push out updates to all relevant sensors automatically. Whether that works or not is another question. As is the fine-in-theory concept that IoT platforms will take vast quantities of data and boil them down into something that a manager can actually learn something from.
To his credit, Arm's Patel did not make light of the issue: such a system is "incredibly complicated", he noted since it needs to cover everything from "ultra constrained" devices like temperature sensors to "constrained" devices like truck, to mainstream systems used by consumers, all the way to rich node and gateway devices. Every device will provide its own data stream in its own format over a different protocol, making it extremely difficult to make sense from the tidal wave of data.
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As to why you should go with Arm's platform rather than a solution from the literally hundreds of other IoT companies: the company is relying on two main things. First, its brand and ecosystem – it claims to be one of the few companies that can span so many different vertical industries – and second, its promise not to tie you in with its own cloud service. "You can use any cloud service you wish," promised Patel.
As for the key question of pricing, Arm only gave a vague idea of what the cost would be: it will be a software-as-a-service subscription (SaaS) model, paid on a monthly basis. Neither Patel nor Kim would give information beyond that, or say whether there was a revenue-sharing aspect to it.
Pelion, incidentally, was named after the mountain in Greece that was the home of Chiron the Centaur, who tutored ancient Greek heroes including Jason, Achilles, Theseus and Heracles. But Kin noted that it was "just a name we liked and has no meaning per se."
Vast IoT infrastructures are the future, we have been assured for several years. And tech companies are investing huge amounts of money and energy into it. But whether it is a game-changer or just the latest revenue-driving tech fad, we'll have to wait and see. ®