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ARM TechCon 2014 roundup and trends

ARM TechCon took place last week in Silicon Valley. The event allows software and hardware developers to see the latest ARM related tech, as well as attend over 50 different technical sessions on subjects like ARM and the Internet of Things, big.LITTLE Unleashed, and Do Androids Have Nightmares of Botched System Integrations?
By
October 7, 2014
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ARM TechCon, a technical conference about all things ARM, took place last week in Silicon Valley. The show, which is now in its tenth year, allows software and hardware developers to see the latest ARM related tech, as well as attend over 50 different technical sessions on subjects like ARM and the Internet of Things, big.LITTLE Unleashed, and Do Androids Have Nightmares of Botched System Integrations?

The Internet of Things was very prevalent at the show with big companies like Freescale demonstrating not only actual IoT devices, but also the various bits needed to integrate those devices into a larger system.
This was the first time that I was able to attend ARM TechCon and I was impressed by the diverse mix of developers, technical sessions, and exhibitors who set up shop in the expo hall.  The biggest news which came out of the event was the release of mbed OS, a free operating system which runs on Cortex-M processors for use on IoT devices, and the unveiling of 64-bit ARM servers using the new X-Gene processor from AppliedMicro.

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The expo hall was full of different vendors from small companies, selling various development tools, to large outfits like Freescale and ARM. A look around the expo hall revealed three main themes. Development tools, IoT and ARM servers.

The development side covered everything from JTAG debuggers to Single Board Computers (SBC) and included different IDEs, debuggers, chip layout software, and of course a range of commercial RTOS solutions. Of particular note for anyone wanting to get into ARM development using a SBC was the MBED organization as well as other SBC makers like ODROID and InForce, the latter of which provides SBC using Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processors.

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The Internet of Things was very prevalent at the show with big companies like Freescale demonstrating not only actual IoT devices, but also the various bits needed to integrate those devices into a larger system. The catch phrase of the show was really “from device to the cloud” meaning that solutions are now emerging (including from ARM itself) that allow IoT systems to be designed from the connected device itself, up-through aggregation and onto the cloud for processing and analysis. It is also worth noting that IoT covers more than consumer level connected devices but also includes commercial, business and industrial applications. During his keynote, Simon Segars – the CEO of ARM, talked of smart cities that are full of IoT devices from street lighting to trash containers.

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The other big thing at the conference was the new X-Gene processor from AppliedMicro. The new chip is a 64-bit ARMv8 SoC which runs at speeds of upto 2.4GHz and includes an enterprise-class memory subsystem.  AppliedMicro acquired the first architectural license for the ARMv8 architecture in 2010 and the company helped to complete the ARMv8 64-bit spec. Since it has an architectural license then AppliedMicro is allowed to design its own core to implement the ARMv8 instructions. On show were various server offerings from Dell and HP.

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The break into the server market is great news for ARM. According to Antonio Neri, a senior VP from HP, “ARM technology will change the dynamics of how enterprises build IT solutions to quickly address customer challenges.”

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This means that the days are upon us when ARM processors will be found in everything from your fitness band right up to the server which processes your email. This is also good news for Android users,  all and any developments in the ARM ecosystem, benefit the whole ecosystem. The compatibility and connectivity of the various ARM processors from the Cortex-M0 right up to the X-Gene means that developers, designers and device makers are able to use the same tools and the same processor architecture throughout their systems. Ultimately this means that the consumer benefits in terms of innovation and pricing.