NXP, Microsoft bring Azure Sphere security to the IoT edge

June 13, 2019 //By Christoph Hammerschmidt
NXP, Microsoft bring Azure Sphere security to the IoT edge
In a major collaboration effort, chipmaker NXP and Microsoft will deliver a secure hardware platform for Industrial IoT edge applications. This includes new versions of NXPs i.MX 8 processor, enhanced by security IP from Microsoft. The ecosystem to be developed will be tightly entangled with Microsoft’s cloud services. The move includes long-term security updates for installations in the field.

The collaboration, announced at the NXP Connects technology meeting in Santa Clara, aims at delivering a new Microsoft Azure Sphere certified crossover applications processor as an extension to NXP’s i.MX 8 processor series. The goal is delivering a secure, smart embedded processor for IoT edge applications that seamlessly runs Azure Sphere’s security platform.

This processor will be based on the Arm Cortex-A35 architecture with one or two cores. It will also feature a powerful GPU and an HiFi4 DSP core for audio processing capabilities, all at very low power consumption, announced NXP. The processor will be available in limited samples in Q4, 2020.

The chip will run Microsoft’s Azure Sphere OS, a strongly reduced and resource-efficient Linux version, a Microsoft spokesperson explained. “It runs in a much smaller environment that anybody would expect for Linux,” he said

The processor will include a security subsystem called Pluton and developed by Microsoft. Functions include, among others, generating and secure storing of cryptographic keys. These features enable the new processor to connect to Microsoft’s Azure Sphere Security Services that guard Azure Sphere devices by keeping the security features updated over the lifetime of the respective equipment. This service also identifies emerging security threats and acts as a broker between device and cloud.

The move aims at the fast-growing world of industrial IoT applications. Both partners said they are unfolding intensive activities to create and establish an application ecosystem with partners. To facilitate the entry into the ecosystem and the handling of software licensing, an OS license will come with each chip. This includes updates throughout the lifetime. For the time being, a service life of 13 years is planned.

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