IBM and ARM kit aims to make it simpler to build your first IoT device

The mBed IoT Starter Kit launches today - providing a kit for building IoT prototypes that can be sending data to the cloud for analysis within minutes.
Written by Nick Heath, Contributor

IBM and ARM have teamed up to lower the barrier for developers building Internet of Things (IoT) products.

The mBed IoT Starter Kit is aimed at removing common roadblocks when creating an IoT prototype.

IoT devices are everyday items with added sensors, motors and other electronics, which are connected to online services to analyse and store data they collect. IoT technology could have applications in a wide range of fields, such as a washing machine or boiler that tells its manufacturer when it needs servicing, but has also been described as a serious threat to privacy.
The mbed IoT Starter Kit
Image: ARM/IBM

When building IoT prototypes developers usually face a number of challenges, such as making sure sensors can communicate with the IoT device and that the appliance spits out data in form that can be handled by a back-end service.

The starter kit aims to simplify those compatibility challenges. The kit provides developers with an ARM-based board along with compatible sensors, LEDs and other electronics. This board can be connected to the IBM Internet of Things Foundation, an online portal that securely authenticates the device and allows it to channel data to IBM Bluemix services. IBM Bluemix offers services that can analyse, store and visualise this data - if necessary in combination with data from other sources - as well as sending commands back to the device based on the information it receives. These services can be provisioned and connected via a console in the web browser or by directly calling RESTful APIs from inside an application.

IBM Bluemix is a paid for service but each service can be used for free until a certain volume of data is reached. Apps can be composed by linking up the different Bluemix services and can be written in a range languages including Java, JavaScript, Ruby, Go, Python and PHP. They can also be created using IBM's visual programming language NodeRED.

"It's as easy for somebody sitting in a garage with an innovative idea to use that service as it is for a company like IBM," said Rob Lamb, director of IBM's Hursley lab and VP for software development in Europe.

Developers can set up the board and be feeding data into Bluemix within three minutes, according to an ARM and IBM demonstration.

There were nearly five billion ARM-based IoT devices deployed last year, said Zach Shelby, VP of technical marketing for ARM's IoT business.

mbed IoT Starter Kit specifications

  • mbed Enabled Freescale K64F board
  • Freescale K64F Kinetis K64 MCU (MK64FN1M0VLL12)
  • High performance ARM® Cortex™-M4 Core with Floating point unit and DSP
  • 120MHz, 256KB RAM, 1MB FLASH
  • mbed Application shield
  • 128x32 Graphics LCD
  • 5 way joystick
  • 2 x Potentiometers
  • Speaker, PWM Connected
  • 3 Axis +/1 1.5g Accelerometer
  • RGB LED, PWM connected
  • Temperature sensor
  • Ethernet connectivity

"The challenge isn't how do we get all the devices out there, it's how do we get software that's secure, internet-connected with open standards and ready to be used in web services," he said, adding he sees the kit as letting smaller firms get involved in the development of IoT products and services.

"Traditionally IBM's business has been large enterprise clients, now we're opening that up to mid-size companies, to companies that have never made a device or cloud-service before.

"There's completely new companies coming into this space, people with start-ups and kickstarters are going to be trying to create solutions and if we don't lower the barriers to get them started we might see a stagnant IoT ecosystem."

IBM and ARM expect the first products developed using the kit to enter the market this year.

The jointly developed Starter Kit offers Ethernet connectivity and future versions may add cellular, wi-fi, Bluetooth Low Energy and Thread support. Later revisions of the starter kit will also run the new ARM mbed OS and use ARM mbed Device Server software to deliver a wider range of security, communication and device management features.

For more information on how to get started with a kit visit mbed.org.

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