What You Need to Know: Microsoft Launches Azure Sphere, Its First Linux-based OS for IoT.

Within 10 years, it’s possible that almost every gadget and household appliance you use will connect to the Internet. The companies producing these smart devices can transform their businesses by offering new experiences for customers and new business models.

Each appliance or gadget on the IoT has a micro-controller chip, or “MCU,” smaller than a fingernail. This chip hosts data storage, an operating system and memory. Incredibly, sources say that all of today’s manufacturers already produce 9 billion MCUs annually, all with the potential of connecting to the IoT someday.

Unfortunately, the IoT presents a host of new opportunities for hackers as well. We already got a warning about the havoc now possible through creating an IoT botnet when The Hacker News reported that 100,000 compromised devices disrupted the Internet all along the Eastern Coast of America in the 2016 Mirai botnet attack. It’s more critical now than ever to improve reliable security measures for devices linked to the IoT.

To address this major security issue, Microsoft’s research teams worked hard to discover the key facts about how to tackle this problem. They published their findings in a paper called “The Seven Properties of Highly Secure Devices.” By targeting all of the hardware, software and cloud-server needs for a complete security solution, Microsoft created a movement that led to the creation of Microsoft Azure Sphere.

How Does Azure Sphere Secure Billions of MCU devices?

At the 2018 RSA tech-security conference, Microsoft previewed its new version of Microsoft Azure Sphere that protects MCU devices from hackers. It features:

  • New Azure-Sphere certified MCU chips: These chips have real-time processors with added Microsoft security technology.
  • New Azure-Sphere OS: It has the latest security innovations from Windows, security monitors and Linux kernels.
  • New Azure-Sphere Cloud-Based Security: This system checks both device-to-device and server-to-device communication through certificate authentication. It renews itself through regular software updates.

What Are the Core Benefits of Azure Sphere?

Device manufacturers who’ve previewed Azure Sphere across various industries were most excited about these three main benefits:

1. Extra Security

Azure Sphere’s security begins within the hardware and continues up into the cloud servers. It’s a complete, turnkey solution that requires no new staff members to operate.

2. Increased Productivity

Azure Sphere’s software helps businesses lower their overhead costs and improve their team efficiency through visual-studio development tools. Device-manufacturing partners can therefore bring their products to market faster and spend more time developing the unique value of their offerings.

3. More Opportunities to Create Improved Customer Experiences

The built-in connectivity options included in Azure Sphere’s carefully certified MCUs allow for many more changes that the developers haven’t even imagined yet. Now device-manufacturing partners have started to rethink their business models and brainstorm about more-innovative product experiences. Customer service will evolve rapidly, and so will the ways in which companies predict customer needs.

Azure Sphere Is Building a New Silicon Ecosystem

Silicon manufacturers working with Azure Sphere have the opportunity to combine these new silicon-security technologies with their own company’s strengths to produce Azure-Sphere-certified chips. With chips that have safer network-connectivity options, built-in security and greater processing power, the future of this technology is highly promising. Every Azure Sphere chip contains both the Microsoft Pluton security system and the Azure Sphere OS. Plus, they connect to Azure Sphere’s Security Service for updates and improved authentication.

The MediaTek MT3620 will be the first Azure Sphere chip launched this year. Other partners are joining to enjoy the perks of royalty-free licensing for these silicon-security technologies, which helps businesses save money.

What Will You Build with Azure Sphere?

Azure Sphere remains in the private-preview stage as of the time of this writing. Experts expect Azure Sphere devices to go on sale before 2018 ends.

At PointClick, we offer managed Azure services. We can help you stay current with all of the latest developments around this innovative technology. Contact us to learn more.

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