Arm empowers MCU software developers to realize IoT potential

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By Reinhard Keil, senior director of embedded tools, Development Solutions Group, Arm

Arm has announced two new initiatives to provide a step change in productivity for embedded, IoT, ML, and MCU software developers.

The Open-CMSIS-Pack project will deliver the infrastructure to integrate and manage software components and improve code reuse across projects.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is quickly transitioning to a period of rapid growth, driven by increased compute, connectivity and security capabilities, the rapid evolution of machine learning (ML) processing at the endpoint, 5G deployments and evolving IoT platforms from major cloud service providers.

This is a new, more complex world, where the journey to successful IoT implementations requires strong industry collaboration and a robust ecosystem of support and tools. Arm is focused on rapidly empowering the world’s largest embedded software ecosystem, and today we’re announcing two important steps towards this vision.

Simplifying IoT Workflows and Lifecycle Management: Open-CMSIS-Pack

MCU-based devices form the majority of the ‘things’ in IoT, as evidenced by the more than 70 billion chips based on the Arm Cortex-M processor family shipped by our partners since its introduction in 2003. However, software compatibility for component re-use has long been a challenge, with the IoT landscape being much more diverse at the hardware level compared to PCs or the data center.

To address this challenge, Arm offers the Common Microcontroller Software Interface Standard (CMSIS), which is a vendor-independent abstraction layer for microcontrollers, specifically for Arm Cortex-M processors, widely adopted in the industry today. This includes CMSIS-Pack, an effective packaging technology that currently supports close to 9,000 different microcontrollers, making project integration of drivers, middleware and other software components across multiple Arm-based devices much easier.

Today, we are incredibly excited to announce we are moving parts of CMSIS into an open project called Open-CMSIS-Pack, which will deliver the infrastructure to integrate and manage software components and improve code reuse across projects. In concert with Arm partners, the Open-CMSIS-Pack project will begin its life as an incubation initiative under the Linaro IoT and Embedded Group, focusing on a standard for software component packaging and related foundation tools for validation, distribution, integration, management, and maintenance.

The initial focus of the Open-CMSIS-Pack project will be command-line tools and CMake workflows that enable the broader ecosystem to integrate CMSIS-Pack-based development flows. This project is the starting point for evolving the CMSIS-Pack technology into a true open standard for MCU software component packaging, targeting key interfaces for major IoT platforms and producing a framework that can be embraced across the ecosystem.

Introducing Keil Studio Cloud: Simplified cloud-based IoT development tools

Another major priority of ours is delivering improved and more flexible tooling for software developers. Today we’re also announcing that Keil Studio Cloud, the first component of the next-generation Keil tool suite is moving into an open beta phase. This early access beta will allow developers to experience the Keil Studio workflow firsthand with a limited set of supported development boards and features. The tool will evolve over several software releases, delivering a desktop and cloud experience that will provide developers with:

An IDE that runs in the browser and connects directly to boards on your desktop. There is no complicated tool installation, and example projects along with the related resources are always up to date so developers can have code running on a device within minutes.
Direct Git integration enabling distributed teams, collaborative development, and modern CI workflows that leverage Arm modelling technology.

Flexible cloud-hosted development first introduced by the Mbed Online Compiler, with professional Keil capabilities such as CMSIS-Pack software components and run-control debug.

A portal for the broader software ecosystem to collaborate on, submit examples and share feedback will be available in a later release in 2021.

Combined with Keil MDK, Keil Studio will offer the best-in-class IoT, ML and embedded development environment even for the most demanding real-time and functional safety projects.

Sparking IoT’s potential by empowering software developers

A recent Forrester report commissioned by Arm illustrates that original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and independent software vendors (ISVs) developing or adopting IoT-enabled devices, or applications, are very keen to collaborate with third parties to leverage existing solutions and technologies to accelerate deployment, with 98% of those surveyed reporting challenges across all stages of development. We believe the next, and most exciting, phase of IoT is upon us – and these initiatives will broaden access to the software and tools that will spark the industry’s true potential.