The IoT is amongst the most lauded and highly anticipated technologies of today. Yet, as a relatively newer technology, there are still various questions, challenges, and barriers to entry for new engineers.
Now, Arduino, a company that has been breaking down barriers to entry into the electronics industry since 2005, is looking to enter the IoT space. This week, Arduino and Foundries.io have announced a formal partnership for the deployment and maintenance of IoT projects with the new Arduino Portenta X8.
Arduino’s Portenta X8. Image used courtesy of Arduino
This article will discuss some of the challenges for IoT projects, the collaboration between Arduino and Foundries.io, and Arduino’s newest product, the Portenta X8.
Challenges for IoT: Security and Maintenance
The development of the IoT has led to a series of new and unique device challenges.
One of these challenges is ensuring security for the IoT, where devices are highly interconnected within a large network. The interconnectivity of IoT devices makes them inherently susceptible to security flaws, as an exploit in any part of the network could potentially render a single device vulnerable.
IoT vulnerable areas. Image used courtesy of Arm and the IoT Security Foundation
Beyond this, IoT devices are generally designed to be deployed remotely. This design feature can add significant challenges to device lifecycle management, as engineers will require comprehensive software and tools to maintain and upgrade their device over its lifetime sufficiently.
These considerations ultimately result in proper IoT security and maintenance requiring substantial effort from engineers.
Overall, the firmware and Linux distributions must be robust and meticulously designed to ensure secure deployments. All of this together tends to be quite difficult and could ultimately serve as a barrier to entry for engineers.
Arduino and Foundries.io
To help address the challenges of maintaining and securing IoT devices, Arduino and Foundries.io have teamed up for Arduino’s newest product.
Through this collaboration, Arduino will be using Foundries.io’s FoundriesFactory solution to aid in the secure development and deployment of devices built on its new Portenta X8.
FoundriesFactory is a cloud platform designed to develop, deploy, and maintain secure IoT solutions running embedded Linux. Devices running with FoundriesFactory can be monitored and updated over the air (OTA) in real-time, allowing engineers to continually secure and maintain their IoT devices over a lifecycle.
By allowing users of their Portenta X8 to access FoundriesFactory software, Arduino aims to lower barriers for entry and decrease time to market while ensuring highly secured IoT deployments.
Beyond the use of FoundreisFactories software, the new Portenta X8 offers an exciting new set of hardware.
Portenta X8 is a single-board computer for IoT, and as such, it employs both a microcontroller unit (MCU) and a microprocessing unit (MPU) onto the device.
Arduino’s MPU of choice here is the NXP i.MX 8M Mini, NXP’s first embedded multicore applications processor. The MPU consists of a 1.8 GHz quad Arm Cortex-A53 core and a 400 MHz general purpose Cortex-M4 core processor for low power applications.
Board-level diagram of the Portenta X8. Image used courtesy of Arduino
The processor is then accompanied by an STM32H747X MCU. The MCU is a dual-core device consisting of a 480 MHz Cortex-M4 alongside a 240 MHz Cortex-M4 core.
In this arrangement, the M4 serves as the control unit for external devices such as motors or other time-dependent peripherals. The M7, on the other hand, serves to interact with the i.MX 8M Mini and coordinate executions on a systems level. The MCU also offers 2 MB of Flash and 1 MB of RAM.
Other notable system blocks include:
- A Murata 1Dx dual WiFI 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth 5.1 radio module for connectivity
- 2 GB of DDR4
- 16 GB of eMMC
- A dedicated cryptographic chip for improved on-device security
Securing the Future of IoT
All in all, Arduino has been an important staple in the industry for educating engineers as well as allowing for rapid prototyping of new devices. Turning its attention fully to the IoT, Arudino’s collaboration with Foundries.io looks to be trying to make the new Portenta X8 a valuable option for engineers and hobbyists alike. It will be interesting to see how Arduino continues to bridge the gap between makers and professionals.
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