New Electronics looks at how embracing standardisation will help to unlock and accelerate growth in IoT development.

More and more new devices are being designed with the aim of simplifying the development of IoT and industrial IoT solutions.

Last year saw the launch of the Matter standard, developed within the Connectivity Standards Alliance by a consortium of industry leaders, to ease device interoperability in the smart home.

The aim of the standard being to enable devices from different brands and ecosystems to seamlessly, reliably and securely communicate and in the process freeing consumers from ecosystem restraints.

Consumers will now be able to select devices based on desired features - whether a smart plug, smart lighting, or low-power smart devices and sensors - rather than having to consider complex or confusing connectivity requirements.

“The next generation of consumer and industrial devices needs the right combination of advanced MCUs and secure connectivity across the most important protocols, whether that’s Thread, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and now Matter. Combining edge processing capabilities with advanced security simplifies overall designs, reduces complexity and enables smart device manufacturers to bring innovative, next-generation products to market faster,” said Larry Olivas, Vice President and General Manager for Wireless Connectivity Solutions, NXP Semiconductors.

To that end, developers have been capitalising on major IoT growth opportunities across all sectors. To date, many connected devices are voice-enabled, but now the industry is seeing the next wave of IoT – which is giving rise to vision-enabled devices.

“IoT products with innovative computer vision technologies are transforming the world around us and delivering new experiences in diverse environments from retail to smart home, thanks to their ML capabilities,” said Paul Williamson, SVP and GM, IoT Line of Business, Arm.

“We are seeing a range of companies looking to build transformative, smart and secure vision devices. However, to capitalise on these new intelligent, ML-capable endpoint devices, developers must use standards to accelerate time to market and unlock true value for end users.”

Accelerating IoT development

According to Williamson, the traditional embedded IoT device market is changing into a new services-oriented model, where devices are connected, smart and can capture insights that deliver business value and efficiency.

“This is a generational change in requirements and existing device vendors need to adapt to this model as well as new entrants,” he believes.

But, with the growing number of IoT devices, there is also a growing number of connections, as developers try to address the growing demand for compute across all markets.

“Into such a fast-moving environment fragmentation can creep causing several negative implications, from costly software development to longer time to market. But, fortunately, there are several industry initiatives focused on creating a consistent set of standards to address challenges such as fragmentation and poor interoperability,” said Williamson.

And, as the IoT starts to rally around standards-based initiatives like Matter, Arm is among a growing number of companies that are working with its ecosystem to ensure common technologies are easily adoptable and scalable, so developers can instead focus on differentiation at the application layer for every manner of IoT use case.

As mentioned earlier, the Matter protocol is intended to solve the problem of interoperability for smart home devices. It is an application layer protocol that abstracts the underlying connectivity technologies such as Wi-Fi, Thread and Bluetooth LE.

“With the release of the Matter v1.0 SDK, Arm is working with the Connectivity Standards Alliance to ensure the ecosystem supports OEMs and other product developers in building these devices and collaborating on non-differentiating software also reduces integration overhead for developers and frees up resources to focus on differentiation and innovation,” said Williamson.

Arm SystemReady, for example, which was introduced in 2020, ensures operating system portability across a wide range of Cortex-A based devices by defining common boot standards and system architecture requirements.

“Adoption has been rapid and vast and there have now been over 100 certifications to date from industry leaders including ADLINK, Advantech, Arduino, ASUS, Eurotech, Kontron, NXP, Raspberry Pi, Renesas, Rockchip, and STMicroelectronics. It is crucial that we continue this industry collaboration to ensure OS portability while also raising the bar on security,” added Williamson.

Securing data

Securing the data will be one of the greatest technology challenges over the next decade of compute.

Governments now see device security as a critical national security issue and are looking to regulate the space. Consequently, cyber bills are front of mind for industry leaders, particularly EU legislation which will have a huge impact for businesses inside and outside of the European Union.

“We’ve been championing this cause for two decades, and here in 2023 we’re at a crunch point where regulation is changing how the technology ecosystem needs to engage with securing devices. Regulation, such as the EU Cyber Resilience Act, mandates that the next generation of devices be secure and updatable for the device's lifetime,” Williamson explained.

A growing number of companies are developing security solutions specifically designed for internet connected devices which tend to have a very small area footprint and have limited resources against current and future threats.

As the number of connected devices, machines, and sensors fuelling the Internet of Things (IoT) expands, each one represents a potential entry point for malicious intrusion.

The need for digital trust has therefor never been greater, what with new government legislation, safety regulations and higher security requirements.

“Security isn’t just an add-on that you can put into devices later; it must be built into the devices from the ground up in both hardware and software,” said Wiliamson.

“Secure boot is critical, and Arm SystemReady combined with APIs from PSA Certified helps define a common boot standard, which if adopted at scale, will dramatically improve the quality of security in devices.”

PSA Certified is a global partnership of security-conscious companies who are proactively building security best practices into devices at scale. Its security framework and independent third-party evaluation scheme was originally spearheaded by Arm and six other security ecosystem leaders and is now maintained by Applus+ Laboratories, CAICT, ECSEC Laboratory, ProvenRun, Riscure, SGS Brightsight, Serma, TrustCB, and UL who between them are providing the resources needed to build upon the Root of Trust.

PSA Certified has scaled to become one of the fastest growing, most valued security ecosystems, globally and it sha splayed a leading role in uniting industry, standards bodies, regulators and insurers together under one initiative.

PSA Certified has helped to accelerate the cross-industry collaboration required to untap the full potential of the IoT and is now approaching 150 certifications from over 85 partners, protecting consumers from the most common hacks.

“If you are an existing device vendor looking to scale connected devices, it is no longer deploy-and-forget. Programs like PSA Certified ensure best-in class security for connected devices, providing documentation, reference implementations, access to open-source security related APIs, and a certification programme,” said Williamson.

There is no sign that the diversity and pace of innovation in the IoT space is going to slow down any time soon. In fact, as of 2023, there are now double the number of internet connected devices – 16 billion – than people on the planet.

However, despite this surge in popularity, coupled with new levels of interoperability, we will only really see the benefits of this rapid growth in the IoT if developers are able to strike the right balance when it comes to standardisation and differentiation.