ARM Acquires Mistbase And NextG-Com To Offer Cellular Modems For Billions Of IoT Applications
Through a recent blog post, ARM made major announcements both in its efforts to enable new applications and to offer its first cellular modem. The first part of the announcement is that ARM acquired two companies, Mistbase (Sweden) and NextG-Com (UK), with expertise in cellular technology that are focused on developing NarrowBand-IoT (NB-IoT) solutions. NB-IoT is a cellular standard introduced in 3GPP Release 13 as a low-power wide-area connectivity standard for machine-to-machine (M2M) applications, like monitoring remote sensors.
The second part of the announcement is that ARM is offering its first fully integrated NB-IoT cellular modem, based on the acquired technology and one of ARM’s latest power efficient microcontrollers (MCU). ARM began investing in wireless technology several years ago and offered its first Bluetooth 5 and IEEE 802.15.4 intellectual property (IP) blocks in 2016. Like NB-IoT, Bluetooth 5 and 802.15.4 wireless standards are well suited for low-power IoT applications. The new NB-IoT modem, called Cardio-N, is a complete integrated solution from the antenna to Layer 3 software. While there are other NB-IoT modems available, the Cordio-N is different than any other modem.
The IoT market has resurrected the importance of digital signal processor (DSP) for developing flexible wireless modems. In many IoT applications, a DSP is combined with an MCU to provide both wireless connectivity and processing capabilities. With the Cardio-N, however, there is no longer a need for a dedicated DSP. With a low-power Cortex-M33 MCU at its core, the Cardio-N can provide both DSP and processor functionality in an efficient, integrated solution. The Cardio-M utilizes over eighty saturating arithmetic and single instruction multiple data (SIMD) operations to simulate DSP functionality required to run the low power modem. The Cortex-M33 has the processing capability to run both the DSP functionality and application software. The Cortex-M33 also offers additional security benefits. Based on the ARMv8-M architecture, the Cortex-M33 includes TrustZone security, including the ability to create secure and non-secure execution environments. As a result, applications can be run in the non-secure environment and then switched to the secure environment for the encoding and transmission of the data. The result is a very low-power, integrated, and secure modem that can be used separately in conjunction with a sensor or embedded into a larger SoC for additional processing performance, such as an IoT hub.
Cardio-N is the final piece of the embedded/IoT solution that ARM has been developing with other technologies such as the Cortex-M MCUs, TrustZone, and mbed platform and ecosystem. It expands ARM’s revenue potential while offering IP critical to billions of IoT applications under development that will be enabled by the new NB-IoT interface for reliable wireless connectivity. The acquisitions also represents a strategy that is likely to continue now that ARM is a division of SoftBank.