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IBM, ARM Partner On IoT Development

The deal gives IBM access to ARM's IoT sensor technology and provides developers better and faster ways to analyze and process the data once it has been collected.
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IBM keeps building up its Internet of Things effort, announcing this week a partnership with ARM, the world's leading foundry for RISC chip-based IoT sensors.

The deal, which the two companies announced Sept. 3, calls for out-of-the-box compatibility between ARM embed-enabled devices and IBM's IoT platform, formally known as IBM IoT Foundation. This connectivity should enable the development of tools capable of analyzing IoT data streams.

It will also allow access to IBM Bluemix, Big Blue's platform-as-a-service offering, as well as a new security platform empowering users to set their own levels of data security.

"Our strategy is to work with industry standards, to be able to connect devices of multiple types and forms," said Chris O'Connor, IBM's general manager of IoT. "We are very purposefully reaching out to people like ARM."

Before the agreement, it might take an integrator weeks to master the knowledge, gain trial experience, and figure out how to make the standards work when building the bridge between the device and the IoT platform, O'Connor explained. With standardized connectivity, "any engineer can do this in hours," he said.

IBM has no overlap with ARM's product offering, so the two companies can partner without worrying about stepping on each other's turf.

"IBM does not build embedded sensors, nor are we trying to build the software," O'Connor said. Likewise, each kernel of software is made to run on its dedicated sensor. "ARM is the expert in doing this," O'Connor noted.

The IBM IoT platform is designed to aggregate, organize, and analyze the incoming sensor data as the user sees fit, O'Connor continued.

Particularly notable here is security. IBM provides the protocols and switches that allow the user to secure data in the cloud, secure the connection between the senor and the software platform, or secure the sensor devices themselves. Users will have a guide that tells them which security method is ideal for a particular need and what the systems overhead will be for that choice, O'Connor explained.

There are three layers to IBM's IoT capability. The first is connectivity, which is embodied in Thursday's ARM announcement, O'Connor said. That effort is ongoing.

Concurrently, IBM wants to encourage and enable development of IoT solutions among the developer community. At this level, developers will figure out optimal usage and configuration of sensors and the information they transmit to data centers.

The third layer is "transformation," when analysis of the aggregated data changes the way corporate users do business, O'Connor described. All three of these layers will continue to change over the next five to ten years, he added.

"The client interest IBM sees in the Internet of Things has exceeded our plan's expectations," O'Connor continued. This is forcing IBM to speed up its IoT implementation twice as fast as planned, he said, without going into further details.

[Read about how Intel is investing in IoT.]

IBM's Internet of Things effort was announced last March, with the company setting aside $3 billion to invest in IoT solutions over the next four years. Competition in this sector is not limited to IT companies exclusively, since Siemens, General Electric, and Hitachi are all crafting IoT solutions.

ARM, based in Cambridge, UK, is a $1.2 billion maker of microprocessors used for everything from smartphones to TV set-top boxes. The company makes particular use of RISC-based processors given their lower power needs, greater efficiency, and lower heat output, ideally suited for mobile applications.