mbed IoT Platform – accelerating IoT device deployment

Having followed the development trends of the “Internet of Things” (IoT), it is easy to see how connected devices will transform our lives in the future as much as email, texting, and mobile phones have changed the way we communicate today.  In order for this revolution to occur, billions of smart devices will have to connect and transfer data to locations that can process it and provide the end user with meaningful information.  Unfortunately, the definition of how these devices are to connect and transfer data has not been fully refined and the development of the device and server side components of this communication mechanism can be daunting.

Fortunately, ARM has recently announced its mbed IoT platform (Figure 1) that consists of a new version of its mbed OS for devices and the mbed Device Server software.  mbed OS is an operating system designed for ARM’s Cortex-M microcontrollers and the latest version will include the connectivity and device management functionalities required by IoT devices.  The mbed Device Server is software created to run on a server, and handle accepting connections from devices and make them accessible to web applications, using open source protocols.  In developing the mbed IoT Platform, ARM has provided all of the software needed to facilitate the rapid prototyping and deployment of IoT devices.  In addition, it provides the tools needed to get started, such as a command line and Web based IDEs for software development.

Figure 1: mbed IoT Platform (credit: mbed.org)

ARM's goal with the mbed IoT Platform is obviously to accelerate the development and deployment of IoT devices based on its microcontroller technology, and providing the software is a great start.  Fortunately, ARM has partnered with numerous companies to expand the resources available to IoT device developers.  This mbed IoT Platform ecosystem includes device manufacturers, service providers, communication companies, and more.  One partner, NXP Semiconductors, has developed the ARM mbed LPC1768 Module, seen in Figure 2, which contains a Cortex M-3 microcontroller.  Combining this evaluation module with the mbed application board provides all of the hardware needed to prototype an IoT device.

Figure 2: mbed LPC1768 Module and Application Board

Another ARM mbed partner is IBM, whose Internet of Things Foundation is a fully managed, cloud-hosted service that handles the server side of IoT devices, including devices based on the mbed IoT Platform.  IBM provides a "recipe": its term for a tutorial that provides step-by-step instructions and software on how to connect the LPC1768 Module and Application Board to the Internet of Things Foundation.  Once connected, data from the device can be logged remotely on the server or viewed live online.  This prototype IoT device shows that the hardware, software, and services are available today to create and deploy IoT devices.

ARM and its mbed IoT Platform partners are continuing to develop new tools for IoT device developers.  Previewed earlier this year, the new ARM mbed based starter kit for the IBM Internet of Things (IoT) Cloud is expected to be released in early 2015.  This kit will allow developers to extend the connectivity of their prototype IoT devices to use cellular based connectivity.