Customer experience is rising in importance for businesses these days, and one of the primary factors that customers value is efficiency. As more and more devices become connected, creating the Internet of Things (IOT), companies and products are able to provide enhanced services that can significantly improve the customer experience. The benefits of connectivity are clear, as are the roadblocks. Until recently, security was one of the biggest obstacles to overcome. That’s all changing with Microsoft’s new end-to-end solution, the Azure Sphere.
It’s about Connecting those MCUs
Microcontrollers are all around us, in toasters, ovens, microwaves, cars, thermostats, remotes, etc. These consumer products use what are essentially dedicated mini-computers, CPUs designed with specific tasks to achieve. These MCUs can be connected to the internet to improve performance, adapt to our interactions, and enhance customer experience, but very few of these MCUs are currently connected. This is because connectivity creates vulnerability for the device. Security breaches by bad actors can have disastrous results, and many companies have been staying away from the risk. But Microsoft was determined to create an environment that would allow companies to securely reap the benefits of connectivity with peace of mind. The development of the Azure Sphere has the potential to revolutionize the IOT.
The Azure Sphere not really one single product, it is really made up of 3 components, a certified microcontroller, an operating system, and as security service. These three components work together to create a product capable of secure connectivity to provide the vast benefits to consumers. Any IT expert knows that more entry point means more vulnerabilities. That’s why the end-to-end part here really matters. The seamless integration of each piece to the next optimizes performance and security verification. Let’s break down the components.
- The Certified Microcontroller (MCU) – The physical part of the Azure Sphere is the MCU that is certified by Microsoft to guarantee it meets the requirements of the MS security recommendations. These MCUs will have the security IP issued by MS free of charge. These MCUs do not need to be exclusively purchased from Microsoft. Companies will be able to develop their own microcontrollers and have them certified by MS, thus increasing the ROI for many companies.
- The Azure Sphere OS – the operating system is based on Linux kernel as developed specifically for the IOT. As such, it is an open-source OS and is available for public preview. Contributors are encouraged to view and interact with the source code, ensuring the most stable and secure end code.
- The Azure Sphere Security Service – The security service manages the interactions between devices and provides authentication. The security service uses certificate-based authentication to monitor interactions between devices and between device and cloud. They are dedicated to ensuring security keeps up with the pace of progress and stays one step ahead of bad actors with consistent software updates. This service will not be charged monthly subscription fees but will instead be available with 10-year licensing agreements.
Microsoft has long been a leader in service and security among database and cloud environments. With the Azure Sphere, they are bringing that knowledge to a new segment, bolstering edge computing and the Internet of Things. With increasing connectivity comes increasing possibility.
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