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ARM Takes Security Smarts Into IoT

DUBLIN -- IoT World 2016 -- UK chip designer ARM has put the development of new security offerings at the heart of its strategy as it turns its attention from the smartphone market to the broader Internet of Things (IoT) opportunity.

The company, whose processor designs are used in most smartphones, was earlier this year acquired in a £23.4 billion ($28.9 billion, at today's exchange rate) deal by Japan's SoftBank Corp. , which reckons ARM Ltd. technology could be used to support billions of connected objects in future. (See SoftBank Muscles In on ARM in $32B Deal.)

SoftBank founder and CEO Masayoshi Son has gone as far as predicting that more than a trillion IoT devices will be deployed over the next decade, delivering more than 2.3 zetabytes of data into IoT systems every month.

Speaking at today's IoT World 2016 event in Dublin, Paul Williamson, the general manager of ARM's wireless business unit, said that security would be absolutely critical in this environment to prevent sabotage and give IoT developers the confidence to move forward.

"Security cannot be bolted on in IoT," he told attendees during a keynote session this morning. "In the PC world we had an isolated hardware platform you could retrofit but the world has changed and the attack surface is much broader in IoT, and that opens up opportunities for people entering the space with less noble intentions."

ARM has started by helping silicon partners to bring its TrustZone platform into an IoT environment. That has involved introducing new embedded processor cores that support TrustZone and ensuring developers can build chips while maintaining security.

TrustZone is currently used within smartphones and ensures consumers can use mobile banking applications securely.

Want to know more about the Internet of Things? Check out our dedicated IoT content channel here on Light Reading.

The IoT focus is also forcing ARM to become more of a services company than it has been historically. A new "mbed cloud" offering it has developed is aimed at guaranteeing security between devices and the cloud services to which they will connect. "It is not providing a service in the cloud but allowing people to build services on top of that platform and connect with a level of trust to that device," said Williamson.

ARM is offering "mbed cloud" on a software-as-a-service basis and says there are no "on-premises" requirements attached to its deployment.

That hints at a broader shift in ARM business model, although Williamson insisted the company's core business would continue to generate revenues mainly from royalties on sales of connected devices. "There is no significant change but the service side of the business will operate differently," he said.

SoftBank's takeover move has prompted some concern the Japanese company may try to alter ARM's approach -- which has proven hugely successful over the years -- in an attempt to inflate revenues and justify the amount it spent.

ARM made about £968.3 million ($1.2 billion) in revenues in 2015, up from £795.2 million ($981 million) in 2014, and saw profits before tax rise from £411.3 million ($507.4 million) to £511.5 million ($631 million) over the same period.

Last year, the company had 3,975 employees working around the world, with 1,577 based at its UK headquarters in Cambridge.

— Iain Morris, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, News Editor, Light Reading

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