Arm Strikes to Accelerate IoT Development With Virtual Hardware Platform

October 22, 2021 by Jake Hertz

From start to finish, device development can take years. Hoping to accelerate the process for IoT devices specifically comes Arm Total Solutions' Virtual Hardware and Project Centauri.

Being a multidisciplinary field, the Internet of Things (IoT) requires immense amounts of collaboration in the development cycle of a product. OEMs, silicon designers, and software developers must deal with requirements such as connectivity, security, and the rapid evolution of machine learning (ML), creating complex requirements that hinder the IoT development process. 

This week, in an attempt to decrease IoT devices' time to market, Arm has announced Arm Total Solutions. As a whole, Total Solutions is an initiative to accelerate IoT product development by supplying engineers with reference code, machine learning models, hardware IP, and virtual development platforms. Within Total Solutions are two significant tenants: Virtual Hardware and Project Centauri. 


Arm's roadmap for IoT.

Arm's roadmap for IoT. Image used courtesy of Arm


This article will briefly cover each initiative and how Arm believes they can help push IoT forward. 


IoT Challenges 

One of the biggest challenges in the development lifecycle of an IoT device is that hardware and software development, for the most part, cannot be done in parallel. 

Before the software team can start developing applications such as ML models for their specific hardware, the hardware itself needs to exist already. The development of the hardware itself, of course, is a lengthy and arduous process in itself. From ideation to completion, the hardware product lifecycle can take years, consisting of countless revisions, design reviews, tests, and design for manufacturing. 

In the interim, it is difficult for a software developer to be fully productive. They can use development kits to get their software off the ground, but it isn't easy to get software fully developed without access to the product-specific hardware and all of its quirks.


Virtual Hardware 

This week, Arm is challenging this narrative with the release of Arm Virtual Hardware.


Traditional versus Virtual Hardware's software development flow.

Traditional versus Virtual Hardware's software development flow. Image used courtesy of Arm


Arm's Virtual Hardware is a new, cloud-based development platform that provides functionally accurate models of Arm-based SoCs for application developers to build and test software with before and after silicon and hardware availability. The platform runs in the cloud, simulating hardware dependencies, including memory and peripherals, which allow the software team to develop on realistic models. 

Built with a significant focus on ML development, Virtual Hardware is optimized to allow developers to experiment, test, and iterate on different ML network configurations in a way that is much quicker than with traditional hardware. 

 Now let's dive into Arm's other main focus: Project Centauri.


Project Centauri 

Along with Virtual Hardware, Total Solutions introduces Project Centauri

Project Centauri is a new ecosystem that provides a set of device and platform standards and reference implementations for device boot, security, and cloud integration for the Arm Cortex-M.


The major offerings of Project Centauri.

The major offerings of Project Centauri. Image used courtesy of Arm


The major offerings of Project Centauri include foundational standards, such as cloud service-to-device specifications and common cryptographic service provider (CSP) middleware interfaces, as well as secure device management such as secure provisioning and OTA updates. 

The hope for Project Centauri is that it will help drive the standards and frameworks required to scale IoT innovation in software. 


Accelerating IoT 

The increasing demand and complexity for IoT greatly hinder the development of products on the design side. 

Arm hopes to expedite this process through the introduction of Total Solutions. Consisting of Virtual Hardware and Project Centauri, Total Solutions, which is currently in beta testing, looks to be a promising step forward.

It will be exciting to see if these initiatives take off, especially if they can back up their claims with accelerating IoT design times.