Called Microsoft Azure Sphere, the solution is aimed at securing the billions of MCU-powered devices yet to become connected to the IoT, says the company. It comprises three components that work together to protect and power devices at the intelligent edge:
- Azure Sphere certified microcontrollers (MCUs): A new cross-over class of MCUs that combines both real-time and application processors with built-in Microsoft security technology and connectivity. Each chip includes custom silicon security technology from Microsoft.
- Azure Sphere operating system (OS): An OS purpose-built to offer “unequalled” security and agility. Unlike real-time OSs common to MCUs today, Microsoft says its “defense-in-depth” IoT OS offers multiple layers of security – combining security innovations pioneered in Windows, a security monitor, and a custom Linux kernel to create a highly-secured software environment and a trustworthy platform for new IoT experiences.
- Azure Sphere Security Service: A turnkey, cloud service that guards every Azure Sphere device; brokering trust for device-to-device and device-to-cloud communication through certificate-based authentication, detecting emerging security threats across the entire Azure Sphere ecosystem through online failure reporting, and renewing security through software updates.
These capabilities, says the company, come together to enable Azure Sphere to meet all seven properties of a highly secured device – making it a first-of-its-kind solution. Microsoft says it has been sharing its plans for Azure Sphere with device manufacturers across multiple vertical markets including white goods, agriculture, energy, and infrastructure, and has been working directly with leaders in the MCU space to build an ecosystem of silicon partners to deliver Azure Sphere-certified chips.
“With our silicon partners, we’ve created a revolutionary new generation of MCUs,” says Galen Hunt Partner Managing Director, Microsoft Azure Sphere. “These chips have network connectivity, unequalled security, and advanced processing power to enable new customer experiences. Each Azure Sphere chip will include our Microsoft Pluton security subsystem, run the Azure Sphere OS, and connect to the Azure Sphere Security Service for simple and secure updates, failure reporting, and authentication.”
The first Azure Sphere chip – the MediaTek MT3620 – is expected to come to market in volume this year. The company had previously announced last year that it was working with MediaTek on developing a secure microcontroller for Internet-connected devices.
Other Azure Sphere chips from other manufacturers are expected to be available over time. To ensure rapid expansion of the ecosystem, Microsoft says it is licensing its silicon security technologies to its partners royalty-free.
The company expects the first wave of Azure Sphere devices to be on shelves by the end of 2018. Dev kits will be universally available in mid-2018.
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