IBM and ARM Have Announced a Joint Project for Creating Embedded Products and Integrating them with the "Internet of Things". This Isn’t the 1st Time that the 2 Companies Have Worked Together — they Teamed Up Last Year as well, with ARM’s Embed Platform — but, this New System is More Powerful, Flexible and Integrates with IBM’s BlueMix Cloud Platform. The New Starter Kit is Formally Known as the IoT Starter Kit – Ethernet Edition. It’s Based Around the Freescale K64F Platform, which Uses a Cortex-M4 Processor with an Integrated Floating Point Unit and DSP. The Chip is Clocked at 120MHz with 256KB of RAM and 1MB of Flash. That’s a Significant Upgrade to Last Year’s Model, which Used a Cortex-M3 Processor at 96MHz with just 32KB of RAM and 512KB of Flash Memory. It also Upgrades the Number of SPI and L2C Buses and Several of the Included Peripherals. Onboard Ethernet is also Supported, hence the “Ethernet Edition” Moniker. The Point of the Platform is to Enable Small Companies to Engage in Rapid Prototyping and Device Testing. The Cortex-M4 is the Fastest Embedded Processor Design ARM currently Ships (the Higher-End Cortex-M7 was Announced Last September but, Hasn’t Shipped Yet). Its DSP and FPU Support Give the Core Additional Flexibility that, the Older Cortex-M3 Lacks and it Should be Suited to a Number of Types of Dedicated IoT Concepts.
The Theoretical aAdvantage of the IBM Tie-In is the Big Data Back-End — Gather the Information Up Front, with the Dedicated ARM Processor and then Use IBM’s Sophisticated Management and Cloud Platform Service Tools to Make Sense of it, in Real-Time. One Major Goal of the ARM Embed Project is to Make Prototyping and Device Function as Easy as Possible. The Kits will Ship with ARM’s Embed OS and will Reportedly Guide Enthusiasts through the Process of Making a Basic Device and Connecting to IBM’s BlueMix Cloud Service. An Example of the Initial Interface is Shown below:
The Web Interface and Immediate Feedback on Device Function is Great but, Whether these Simple Handheld Tutorials will Translate into a Product that’s Easy to Program, is still an Open Question. Embedded Systems Aren’t Known for Being Easy to Program and the 1MB of Onboard Flash and 256KB of RAM, Don’t Exactly Leave a Lot of Room for Code Bloat. IBM will Offer a Real-Time Data Visualization Tool, currently Accessible from the Company’s Starter Kit Website. Some Basic Code Examples are also Provided. Thus Far, the Entire "Internet of Things" has Seemed More like a Solution in Search of a Problem than Something Users would Want to Adopt en Masse. But, Most of the Products we’ve Seen Have been Top-Down Developments from Huge Corporations and Revolved around the Basic Concept of “Smart” Appliances. Small Projects from Companies like Pebble and Nest Have been Far More Successful, which Suggests that, Greater Access and More Imagination might be just What the IoT Needs to Catch Fire.