Last year ARM went on a bit of a buying spree thanks to the financial help of its holding company, SoftBank. One of the companies that it scooped up was that of Simulity Labs for around 12 million pounds. The company was developing IoT security products based on eSIM technology and a robust OS that provides provisioning on a cellular network.
Many believe that the nearly ubiquitous cellular networks that surround us are the key to truly successful IoT products. There are massive cellular deployments around the world. It is a well regulated spectrum. Security through SIM cards is a well known and understood process. It is not impossible to break this security, but it is questionable if it is worth the time and effort to do so.
ARM has gone ahead and provided the means to productize and push this technology with the aim of providing a vast, secure IoT infrastructure that would be relatively easy to rollout with current cellular networks. There are multiple parts to this technology, but ARM is hoping to offer an all-in-one solution that would provide an inexpensive platform for OEMs and Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) to roll out products on.
The basis of this technology is the newly developed iSIM. Previously we have had several generations of SIM cards going from Mini SIM to the eSIM. This has shrunk the chip down in size fairly dramatically over the years, but ARM is pushing forward with the iSIM. This is a SIM that is actually integrated into an SOC to allow full functionality at only a fraction of the space needed. By integrating the SIM into the SOC it simplifies the physical implementation of a low cost IoT product utilizing a cellular network. The SOC would also feature an ARM CPU as well as a radio/modem to communicate with the cellular network. Due to it being an IoT device, it does not require a complex or high powered modem (not including high quality webcams that might utilize such a solution).
The ARM Kigen OS is SIM based and is integrated with the ARM CryptoIsland unit that is part of PSA (Platform Security Architecture). On the server side is the ARM Kigen Server Solutions which is a GSMA compliant remote SIM provisioning implementation. The SIM on the OS communicates with the cellular network and starts the server provisioning process. This is a secure solution from iSIM to server and allows for other operations such as remote firmware update as well as OTA updates for the OS. These are all wrapped up in PSA to allow the most secure experience possible.
ARM is looking to make it much easier to secure and commoditize cellular IoT. The combination of a low power ARM processor, low power modem, and the iSIM with Kigen OS gives a solid foundation for any device looking to take advantage of IoT. We have already seen less expensive IoT devices being easily hacked or exhibit no security at all, so this can be a huge jump in functionality and security for those willing to invest in this technology.
This news may not be interesting to those that typically come to this site to read about the latest CPUs and GPUs, but this is a change that could help bring about the promise of useful and secure IoT. Leveraging existing cellular networks (and future ones) to provide easy communication to servers and the internet could allow new and interesting implementations that might not have been risked due to security or connectivity concerns. It will be a while before we see the first devices, but the OS is ready now and physical designs are in the works. A more secure and scalable IoT future seems as though it is almost here.