ARMing IoT with Linaro LITE

Linaro has announced a new project focused on IoT – LITE, or Linaro IoT and Embedded. This project will focus on developing core technology to be used in IoT devices and gateways.

Linaro is a consortium focused on the Linux ecosystem for ARM based systems — see www.linaro.org for details. Much of their work to date has been focused on Android phones and tablets. Active development efforts include server and networking as well as Digital Home. The Digital Home project focuses on set-top boxes and home gateways. Linaro’s goal is to avoid fragmentation of the ARM ecosystem by providing a common foundation that can be used to build a wide range of value-added applications.

LITE extends existing Linaro projects by addressing both Industrial IoT and Consumer IoT, and by addressing IoT Devices and IoT Gateways. IoT devices include tiny microcontrollers that may have as little as 10KB of memory and cost less than $10.00. IoT Gateways connect IoT Devices to IoT back-end systems, and range from simple home gateways providing basic connectivity to powerful industrial gateways for applications like factories and power stations.

As noted on the Linaro web site:

Initial technical work will be focused on delivering an end to end, cross-vendor solution for secure IoT devices using the ARM Cortex®-M architecture. This will include a bootloader, RTOS platform, security, communications, middleware and a choice of application programming tools. LITE will also work on Cortex-A based smart device and gateway solutions for IoT using Linux.

Red Hat is a founding member of Linaro LITE and has dedicated engineering resources to the project.

Red Hat has long advocated the need for open collaboration and innovation around IoT, driven by open source communities that have the agility to respond to the emerging needs of large-scale, industrial IoT,” said Karen Farmer, Global IoT initiative leader, Red Hat. “We believe that the path to scalability is through standardization and we are extending our efforts within Linaro from Enterprise Group to become a founding member of LITE, helping to drive standards for the development of Linux-based, commercial IoT platforms running on ARMv8-A processors. Additionally, Red Hat’s expertise in platform development, middleware and security features will help to extend the ARM-based IoT ecosystem and enable IoT developers to deliver their open source-based solutions more rapidly.”

Read the full press release by clicking here.

LITE Goals

The LITE project is using the familiar 3-tier model for IoT: IoT edge devices, IoT gateways, and back-end systems. Edge devices include sensors and actuators, mainly based on low cost Cortex-M processors. The Linaro focus for back-end systems is ARM-based servers. Gateways are based on the more powerful Cortex-A processors.

The reason for the LITE project is that today IoT hardware – and the software supporting this hardware – is fragmented. Every system is “special” (i.e. different) and there are silos everywhere. Linaro notes that differentiation costs, and suggests that you should only differentiate where it actually adds value. Linaro wants to apply the same standardization and discipline that they have been applying to ARM servers to low-end systems and devices — to standardize a common infrastructure and then build value-added capabilities on top of it.

To do this they offer the following guidelines:

    • Devices must work together and with the rest of the distributed system.
    • Devices must be secure.
    • Devices must be maintained over their active life — without requiring a return to factory for maintenance and updates.
    • Updates to devices are not optional — they are mandatory!

In addition, Linaro wants to follow what they called the “Apple model”:

    • Updates for 4+ years.
    • Security fixes.
    • New features added to software after initial deployment.
    • An excellent user experience.
    • Extend product life and allow innovation.
    • Re-deploy devices — don’t discard them. They noted that when most iPhone users upgrade, the old iPhone is sold to a new user rather than discarded. This extends the life of the product, provides a cost effective way to participate in the ecosystem, and provides an economic model that allows and encourages people to upgrade to the latest products.

In order to implement this, Linaro plans to develop a reference platform consisting of an end-to-end software stack including firmware, kernel, Linux distribution, middleware, and “Hello World” applications along with hardware reference platforms from 96 Boards. The main goals for the software are to make it easy for developers and to have good upstream support. The main goals for the total system are security, maintainability, and safety. And, of course, to perform the IoT function the system is designed for!

To read more about Red Hat’s participation in the Linaro Enterprise Group and its support of the ARM ecosystem, see Yan Fisher’s post: “Connecting the Dots at Linaro Connect

Questions on Linaro, LITE, or perhaps just the IoT?  I encourage you to reach out using the comments section below!

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