While the pandemic has changed many aspects of life, it has also accelerated the development of AIoT in different verticals. As more companies and developers dedicate themselves to deploying this new technology, it brings with new opportunities and emerged challenges. On October 30, Arm held the Arm DevTalks 2021 annual developer meetup. The discussions centered around "Development, Intelligence, and a New Future" and explored the diverse business opportunities in the rising AIoT era.
Arm is paving a barrier-free way for IoT developers to innovate for global impact
CK Tseng, President of Arm Taiwan, stated that this year marks the 31st anniversary of the company's founding. Arm is uniquely positioned to unite software and hardware developers; its technology is at the heart of the computing and data revolution. To address the future demands driven by AIoT, Arm is delivering full stack solutions to significantly accelerate IoT product development and improve product value. Arm believes these solutions will fuel a new IoT economy.
Taiwan's position in the tech sector has been well known for its hardware manufacturing capability and mature supply chain ecosystem. The outbreak of the pandemic created an unprecedented demand for digital technology and diverse applications. In addition, hot topics like the reshuffling of the global supply chain brought by the geo-trade dispute and the semiconductor supply shortage all highlighted the importance of Taiwan in the global technology supply chain.
Therefore, Tseng said with confidence, "The decade from 2020 to 2030 will be a golden age for Taiwan's technology industries."
Which verticals will we next see AIoT chips adopted in? According to Tseng, smart factories, smart healthcare, and self-driving vehicles are all very promising. AIoT has rapidly developed and been applied to automated inventory management, automated guided vehicles (AGV), and smart logistics for smart factories. For smart healthcare, wearables that monitor physiological information and telemedicine might be popular soon. The development of self-driving vehicles is likely to boost battery management, crewless fleets, and the Internet of Vehicles (IoV).
Grow talent with software & hardware capabilities through industry-academia collaboration
A group of domain experts took part in the Arm DevTalks 2021 to discuss several topics, such as AIoT market trends and technology, talent development, and the ecosystems for incubation. The speakers included Arm FAE Director, David Hsu; iThome Deputy Editor in Chief & Lead Researcher of the Editorial Dept., Ray Wang; MakerPRO Editor in Chief and Co-founder, Owen Ou; Vice President of Microcontroller Application Business Group of Nuvoton Technology Corporation, Jason Lin, and Associate Professor of the Department of Computer Science and Information Engineering at National Taiwan University, Yun-Nung Vivian Chen.
With increasing demands for chip features, Jason Lin stated that the development environment should integrate software and hardware capabilities. Besides computing performance, lower power consumption, and security, the development platform should also provide hardware virtualization. As chip design becomes system-oriented, it is clear that application software development is more critical than ever. And this is one of the core advantages of Nuvoton that focus on software and system development. In addition to the chip design, there are development teams providing software development environment, unique development tools for the software and hardware, and handling the Linux and RTOS support, as well as upper layer middle-ware support to ease the development of IoT device makers to focus only on application development.
From an academic perspective, Vivian Chen stated that even though enterprises hope to hire engineers with both software and hardware backgrounds, these two domains are managed differently in academia. For example, many computer science departments focus on developing software expertise rather than training students to meet specific job descriptions for existing job openings.
Chen recommends a two-fold solution. First, enterprises should hire software-oriented talent, then offer on-the-job training to improve their understanding of hardware. Second, universities can partner with industries for designing curricula to ensure students obtain the knowledge from these two areas through the course.
Tackling AIoT fragmentation through standardized platforms
Due to a wide range of AIoT use cases, developers are often faced with challenges such as fragmented development and inconsistent industry standards, causing difficulty integrating resources. This will further block innovation.
"The fragmentation of the AIoT world was inevitable. In terms of technical specifications, there will be more considerations and demands for the different use cases where AIoT can be applied." Tseng stressed that Arm believes standardization is critical for scale and is now actively establishing industry initiatives to unify development environments, significantly reducing resource waste due to compatibility issues, and shortening development time when switching platforms.
Take Arm's Project Cassini for example. It includes Arm SystemReady, a foundational compliance certification program to help software work across a diverse ecosystem of hardware, as well as the PSA Certified security certification program. By delivering a seamless cloud-native software experience to the edge for devices based on Arm Cortex-A, Project Cassini aims to accelerate IoT and infrastructure edge deployment. Jason Lin said that along with the progress of AIoT development, it had created higher demands for OS integration and middle ware, standardized API for the cross-platform development, network and device security, and related tools. Customers need not only chips but also an all-featured development platform. Nuvoton decided to participate in Project Cassini to shift its focus from the fundamental development environment provider to the higher level of eco-system engagement with standard defined API stack and jointly provide developers with a more comprehensive solution.
Moreover, Arm announced Arm Total Solutions for IoT in October to lay the foundation for a new IoT economy. This includes Arm Virtual Hardware which removes the need for application developers to build and test software on physical silicon, bringing modern agile software development methodologies to IoT and embedded platforms, without developers having to invest in complex hardware farms. Arm Total Solutions for IoT also includes Project Centauri, which will drive the standards and frameworks needed to grow serviceable markets and scale IoT software innovation across the extensive Arm Cortex-M ecosystem. The offering will simplify and modernize software development, resulting in accelerated time to market for developers, OEMs and service providers at all stages of the IoT value chain and a reduction in product design cycles by up to two years.
AIoT will undoubtedly play a key role in the golden age ahead. Lin stressed that Nuvoton would continue to work towards a more secure and more comprehensive environment for developers to meet the demands of the rapidly evolving AIoT application market. Tseng emphasized that Taiwan has a robust semiconductor industry and provides extensive chip manufacturing services, which gives Taiwan companies the opportunity to tap into the AI and IoT markets. Silicon design companies, hardware manufacturers, and system integrators can all take full advantage of the Arm ecosystem backed by an entire portfolio of Arm IP to spark developers' potential, leading to more innovation in an evolving and promising future of AIoT in Taiwan.
From right to left: CK Tseng, Arm Taiwan President, and Jason Lin, Vice President of Microcontroller Application Business Group, Nuvoton Technology Corporation