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ARM explains how it'll get one trillion IoT devices online

Posted Sep 22, 2017 by James Walker
IoT is expected to explode over the next decade as growing numbers of connected devices come online. This poses challenges across several domains, ranging from security and networking to trust. ARM recently explained how it's tackling the issues.
Public faith will be critical to IoT success  says ARM
Public faith will be critical to IoT success, says ARM
Pexels / Pok Rie
ARM, best known for the low-power processors used inside most smartphones, is betting big on IoT, the next major growth area to benefit from its technology. Since being acquired by SoftBank in a $32 billion deal last year, the company has been tasked by its new owner with achieving a lofty goal. SoftBank wants ARM to bring one trillion IoT products online by 2035.
The target illustrates how pervasive tech firms expect IoT products to be. Items from your home's thermostat to individual components of industrial reactors will be Internet-enabled, connected together and mined for data insights.
Reaching this level of IoT utility requires a paradigm shift in technology which ARM aims to enable. Its products are already uniquely suited for IoT, possessing an attractive performance to power ratio that makes them ideal for the task.
In an interview with the MIT Technology Review, ARM director of research collaborations Chris Doran explained how the company's approaching IoT and the issues it presents. He said the one trillion devices aim "isn't an absurd number" but recognised it's not an achievement that can be reached overnight.
Public faith will be important to success, with acceptance of IoT one of the biggest tests for the technology. Doran noted that other forms of "future tech" have suffered from initial waves of bad press that have hindered them ever since. Singling out genetically modified crops as an example, Doran said IoT could fare similarly if its initial implementation is rushed or beset with issues.
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This makes it especially important that concerns such as security vulnerabilities and excessive connectivity are addressed. Over the past few years, there have been successive security scares linked to IoT devices. Consumers and downstream manufacturers are increasingly concerned that their products aren't adequately secured. Data leaks risk jeopardising service integrity and customer safety.
Doran suggested this will create a cascade effect that will eventually make security the most important feature of a device. In the same way fast processors and then large batteries became key selling points, security will soon become the primary buying factor.
"Commercial imperatives will kick in: toy companies [for example] will quickly lose faith and only buy from suppliers who can guarantee a level of security in their product," Doran said during the interview. "You'll see this more and more: computing is shifting from who's got the most performant device to who's got the most energy-efficient device, and the next step will be who's got the most secure device."
IoT could transform industry and commerce. It's also the gateway to true automation and full connectivity. The concept's not without its issues though. ARM will struggle to bring one trillion devices online if consumers reject them or they all leak data through open backdoors.
IoT's already seeing use on a small scale but complete transformation is still some way off. Doran's comments show ARM's accepting of this, recognising the need to move carefully and properly evaluate each step. Although companies are already talking about the benefits, getting lost in excitement could be a misstep that ultimately delays IoT migration.