Qualcomm Offering a New Chip-Based Platform
Qualcomm’s new Vision Intelligence Platform is part of this trend. The Qualcomm platform features the chipmaker’s first family of system-on-chips (SoCs) built specifically for the IoT using an advanced 10 nm FinFET (Fin Field Effect Transistor) process that produces substantially faster performance and efficiencies than previous chips. The platform’s chip models, QCS605 and QCS603, are designed to provide greater computing power for on-device cameras and machine learning. The company envisions these chips being used for a variety of applications, including robots, the smart home, and smart cameras. For utilities, these could become valuable in cameras mounted amid critical infrastructure such as substations, or in drones that monitor the grid.
Microsoft Promoting Its Own System
Similarly, Microsoft has introduced Azure Sphere, a new custom SoC operating system for the IoT. Azure Sphere has its own flavor of a Linux kernel, and includes a new security subsystem called Pluton. The idea is to provide greater IoT device security starting from the microcontroller level and moving up from there to the cloud. For example, Pluton is designed to prevent malicious code from tampering with firmware on a device, which could be quite useful for a utility or energy provider that oversees over-the-air upgradeable smart meters or sensors connected to the grid. The first certified hardware based on Azure Sphere is expected to be available later in 2018.
Other Offerings in This Market
SoftBank Group’s Arm semiconductor subsidiary announced enhanced capabilities for its Mbed IoT platform during Hannover Messe, one of the world’s largest industrial technology events, held annually in Germany. The Mbed platform, designed to help companies connect, secure, manage, and provision IoT devices, will now integrate Mbed’s Cloud solution with IBM’s Watson IoT and artificial intelligence platform. Arm also announced a collaboration with Cybertrust and GlobalSign in a bid to give industrial customers the flexibility to use their own security certificates in IoT deployments, something utilities are likely to appreciate given their penchant for managing and controlling their devices and systems in their own way.
Just a Glimpse of Market Momentum
None of these vendor moves will happen overnight, of course. They are cutting edge and will take months or even years to gain widespread adoption; some might even fizzle or fail. Nonetheless, they indicate vendors’ strong emphasis on the IoT, whether the focus is at the edge, in the cloud, or on security (for a deeper look at IoT security, see Navigant Research’s Managing IoT Cybersecurity Threats in the Energy Cloud Ecosystem). Momentum is building, and utilities need to stay apprised of how advances in IoT technologies could enhance their grid operations.