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Microsoft introduces Azure Sphere to secure IoT devices

Microsoft introduces Azure Sphere to secure IoT devices
Microsoft recently introduced Azure Sphere, a microcontroller unit (MCU) chip that will be inserted in smart devices, aiming to provide holistic security and guard against large-scale hacks.

The chip will serve as the brain of smart devices, “hosting the compute, storage, memory and an operating system right on the device,” Microsoft said. The MCU combines real-time and application processors and with built-in security technology and connectivity.

While protection mechanisms are built in everyday gadgets like computers, laptops and smartphones, this is not the case for products in the emerging IoT industry. In the future, many more devices – like lightbulbs, thermostats and refrigerators – will be connected to the Internet. However, there hasn’t been much of a solution to secure the IoT devices.

“The tech sector’s innovations need to accelerate to outpace security threats,” Microsoft President Brad Smith, said. Azure Sphere will “bring important security advances not just to the cloud, but to the billions of new devices that are working on the edge of the world’s computer networks,” Smith added.

Azure Sphere is expected to power and secure an entirely new category of devices, by means of offering an OS custom built for IoT security and a turnkey security service on the cloud.

The OS offers multiple layers of security. It combines a security monitor and a custom Linux kernel to create a secure software environment. The cloud service protects online communication through certificate-based authentication, detecting threats through online failure reporting.

MediaTek to manufacturer the first batch
Microsoft will be working with chipmaker MediaTek to get the microcontrollers to market the first batch “in volume” this year. Over time more companies will introduce their own Azure Sphere chips, Microsoft said.

Arm is partnering with Microsoft on Azure Sphere and will make our latest SoC solution IP, the Arm SDK-700 System Design Kit, available to silicon partners to simplify the development, integration and verification of Azure Sphere SoCs by providing a configurable foundation for secure devices, said Paul Williamson, Vice President and General Manager of the IoT Device Line of Business at Arm.

“Azure Sphere, together with Silicon Labs’ Bluetooth low energy and mesh hardware and software technologies at the end node, enables seamless, secure, wireless IoT connectivity to the cloud,” Said Daniel Cooley, Senior Vice President and General Manager of IoT Products at Silicon Labs.

Microsoft’s Azure Sphere technology “builds security at the core of the design,” said Christian Moeller, CTO of Kongsberg Digital. The company is excited to see how the Azure Sphere solution can potentially play an important role in future products, Moeller added.

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