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Internet of Things gets an OS all its own, thanks to ARM

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In an attempt to speed up adoption of the "Internet of Things," ARM is debuting an operating platform specifically for connecting everyday objects.

The Internet of Things is essentially the idea of connecting everyday objects to the Internet, such as refrigerators and thermostats, with the goal of making people's lives easier.

The new platform by chipmaker ARM, which is based on mbed hardware and software, includes both a free operating system and a server-side software product that brings everything together.

Currently, IoT devices run a variety of different operating systems. However, if ARM's new system takes off, they will all run on the same operating system, helping companies better use the data collected by such devices.

Mbed OS will be available starting next year and will be free as long as companies use ARM-based chips with it.

"This is a further commoditization of traditional OSes. Increasingly, the future viability of OS vendors rests on their ability to develop a suite of runtime software and tools, as companies such as Express Logic and Wind River have been doing," said Christopher Rommel, an analyst for VDC Research Group.

To date, ARM has been best-known for its Cortex-A processor designs, which are used in smartphones, tablets and wearable devices. However, unlike IoT devices, these products already have operating systems such as Android, Android Wear, or iOS.

While this is the first time that ARM has attempted to develop a widely used operating system, it is not totally out of the blue for the company. As ARM's chips are becoming more widely used, it makes sense that it wants to play a bigger role in software development.

Development of mbed itself started back in 2006 for students and artists to be able to program devices that they were creating. The server-side software used with mbed OS was developed by Sensinode, which is a company that ARM bought last year.

According to the company, most mbed OS software will be open source, however not all of it will be. While the software is free for those who use ARM-based chips, it is implied that if companies such as chipmaker Intel want to use it they will have to pay a fee.

While the software will be extensively used in the home, that's not the only thing that it can be used for. ARM sees wider applications and would like the operating system to be used citywide to track movement of people and perhaps help avoid congestion or improve traffic flow. For example, the company says that it could be used in streetlights to detect the number of people that pass through a certain area at any given time of the day. "On its own, that data doesn't mean much, but if collected on a large scale, it could provide valuable data on crowd congestion, street occupancy and how flow in a city works," ARM says.

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