With Softbank’s resources behind it, ARM can accelerate its recent acquisitions spree to bolster its position in the Internet of Things. The UK-based processor IP company aims to establish the kind of dominance it enjoys in smartphones, in the far more diverse range of consumer and industrial connected devices which are now emerging.
Its latest purchases are both centered on the new NB-IoT standard, the LTE variant for low power wide area networks (LPWANs). Using software and hardware IP from these two NB-IoT specialists, Mistbase and NextG-Com, ARM will launch a fully integrated platform for the new standard.
Operators such as Vodafone are just starting to deploy commercial networks supporting the new standard, hoping to control wireless machine-to-machine systems such as smart metering and smart parking networks, rather than losing out to unlicensed spectrum alternatives such as LoRa or Sigfox.
That means devices will be proliferating for NB-IoT, and ARM needs to ensure these are tied into its IP. The company also knows that, while it could focus mainly on the processor in handsets, in many low power, low cost connected M2M devices there will be a fully integrated stack, and so it needs technology for the RF, baseband and software layers too. Developments like ARM’s MBED OS have already seen the company developing a full IoT platform and developer ecosystem around its microprocessor and microcontroller designs.
Now, helped by its new acquisitions, it plans to unveil a full NB-IoT offering which will be part of its Cordio family. Cordio has taken ARM deep into the area of radio IP, initially supporting a radio-to-software integrated solution for Bluetooth and 802.15.4, and now expanding into wide area IoT connectivity.
The new addition will be called Cordio-N NarrowBand IoT and will consist of the RF and baseband hardware, and corresponding software for Layers 1, 2 and 3, based on 3GPP Release 13 specifications. The integrated IP block will come with layer control, digital front end, RF interface and software. It will be available to be licensed and integrated with the new generation of Cortex-M microprocessor designs for low power devices.
ARM’s general manager for the wireless business, Paul Williamson, explained the top-to-bottom approach in a blog post last week, writing: “We are investing in radio design that will offer complete NB-IoT chip solutions from application software to antenna. This will cut the complexity of adopting cellular IoT technology. In enabling NB-IoT compatibility, we will save the industry years of development effort and improve access for developers by reducing the time it takes to get products approved by standards bodies and network operators.”
He added: “Our NB-IoT IP also complements ARM’s broader product portfolio, making it easy for partners to take advantage of our security and ARM mBED Cloud capabilities. Combining ARM NB-IoT IP with secure cloud connectivity will allow ARM’s chip partners to create industry leading products that tie into an end-to-end security system.”