Qualcomm improves cellular connectivity offerings with Microsoft Azure Sphere for IoT environments

Qualcomm Technologies, a wholly owned subsidiary of Qualcomm Inc., announced Tuesday that it is developing its initial cellular chip optimized and certified for Microsoft’s Azure Sphere Internet of Things (IoT) operating system. Qualcomm Technologies’ new Azure Sphere-certified chipset for IoT will include hardware-level security, come preconfigured with the Azure Sphere, and will automatically connect to Azure Sphere security cloud services.

Azure Sphere is Microsoft’s end-to-end solution that includes an Azure Sphere certified chip, the Azure Sphere Operating System and the Azure Sphere Security Service. The solution adds to Qualcomm Technologies’ robust hardware-based security to make it easy for manufacturers to create secure solutions, and to keep devices up to date over time with over a decade of security and OS updates created and delivered directly to each device by Microsoft.

This builds on Qualcomm Technologies’ ongoing work with Microsoft, which previously brought AI to the Intelligent Edge with the Vision AI Developer Kit for Azure IoT solutions featuring the Qualcomm Vision Intelligence 300 Platform, which delivers edge computing for on-device AI and machine learning, with exceptional thermal efficiency, across a range of IoT applications. They also recently released Azure IoT SDK support for Qualcomm’s newest IoT chipset, the Qualcomm 9205 LTE modem. 

The Qualcomm 9205 LTE modem is a purpose-built LPWA chipset for the IoT, offering global multimode LTE category M1 (eMTC) and NB2 (NB-IoT) connectivity, as well as 2G/E-GPRS connectivity, application processing, geolocation, hardware-based security, support for cloud services and accompanying developer tools, and comes with a fully integrated RF front-end. It also features a comprehensive hardware security framework, including Qualcomm Trusted Execution Environment, and counts more than 27 licensees to date.

Avnet had in July given away 20,000 free Azure Sphere starter kits, and provided developers with access to a series of resources including webinars, lectures, road tests and design contests hosted by Avnet — as part of Avnet’s ongoing relationship with Microsoft’s Azure Sphere Ecosystem. Developed by Avnet and announced earlier this year, the Avnet Azure Sphere MT3620 Starter Kit is the fastest and easiest way to equip IoT endpoint devices to be highly secure. The starter kit leverages the Avnet-developed Azure Sphere module that is based on Microsoft’s secure Azure Sphere operating system (OS) and Azure Sphere Security Service hosted on a MediaTek MT3620 secure MCU. 

Similarly, NXP Semiconductors collaborated in June with Microsoft to deliver a new Microsoft Azure Sphere certified crossover applications processor, as an extension to their i.MX 8 high-performance applications processor series. The collaboration will deliver a secure, ultra-efficient, intelligent embedded processor for edge nodes that seamlessly runs Azure Sphere’s security platform while also providing multi-core heterogeneous computing, rich graphics experience, and low-power audio processing capabilities. 

Dedicated engineering teams from each company will work together to build this new solution, which includes single and dual core versions of power-efficient Arm Cortex-A35, independent real-time domain with Cortex-M33 core, and an independent audio/video processing domain powered by high-performance HiFi4 DSP core; all designed to address the needs of fast-growing industrial IoT edge applications.

The product will be built using Fully-Depleted Silicon-On-Insulator (FD-SOI) technology, and leverage heterogeneous processor architecture with independent power domains that has been perfected by successive designs of i.MX 8 applications processors covering automotive infotainment, streaming media, and general-purpose consumer and industrial markets.

This new applications processor combines NXPs position in secure connectivity solutions with Microsoft’s expertise in cloud, security, and software. The result is a solution that makes it easy for device manufacturers to build innately secured devices. The Azure Sphere solution comes with over a decade of OS and security updates to help ensure devices remain secured as the threat landscape evolves over time.   

“We are pleased to expand our broad portfolio of solutions for the Internet of Things and to add the powerful capabilities of Microsoft Azure Sphere to our upcoming chipset,” said Jeffery Torrance, vice president, business development, Qualcomm Technologies. “We hope to enable exciting new business transformations for customers in a variety of verticals, where powerful edge computing, low latency connectivity, and end-to-end security can make an important difference.”

“For IoT innovations to be reliable, they must be built on a foundation of security. Qualcomm Technologies will allow partners to innovate with the assurance that their products, customers, and brands are secured,” said Galen Hunt, distinguished engineer and managing director, Microsoft Azure Sphere. “The new IoT chipset will light up a broad set of new scenarios at the outer edge—even the most resource-constrained ones. Together with the silicon innovation and cellular and embedded security expertise Qualcomm Technologies brings, our partners will have the freedom to securely connect devices anytime, anywhere.”

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