By Eric Auchard
FRANKFURT (Reuters) - ARM Holdings Plc said on Wednesday it was introducing software to make the proliferating number of Internet-connected devices many consumers surround themselves with more manageable and secure.
The Cambridge-based chip designer said it was looking to expand dramatically the lifespan and manageability of the many network-connected products running its embedded microprocessors -- from home appliances to car features to wearable devices.
The company is extending its existing "mbed" software -- used by more than 70,000 technical developers to build products using its chips -- into a full-scale management platform ready to control up to millions of devices via cloud-based computers.
Security issues have threatened to put the brakes on the fast-emerging market for the so-called "Internet of Things", a mantra that describes the movement to embed small, network sensors in many products used at home, work and on the road.
Critics have spun nightmare scenarios of computer hackers seizing control of such simple, networked devices because they often lack basic security features, and causing anything from electricity blackouts to driving accidents.
The software platform relies on ARM's existing mbed software for building products based on the company's energy efficient Cortex-M processors, then combines it with server-side software for businesses to manage security of these devices centrally.
ARM shipped more than 2 billion Cortex-M devices in 2013.
This lets consumer use smartphones to control everything from parking meter payments to home security and energy management, while also enabling service providers to remotely manage security and maintenance of whole networks of devices.
ARM said it has signed up a wide range of semiconductor, product makers, systems integrators and cloud-based computer service partners.
Among these are Atmel, CSR, Ericsson, Farnell, Freescale, IBM, KDDI, Marvell, NXP, Renesas, STMicro, Telefonica and Zebra.
The mbed system software is free to developers, who then pay royalties once the commercial roll-out of any server-connected products begins, ARM said. It is set to be released to early developers in the fourth quarter, with the first products in production by the first quarter.
An ARM spokesman said the mbed system was expected to significantly widen the variety of entrepreneurs seeking to build innovative appliances and Internet of Things devices.
ARM created mbed originally as a software for home hobbyists to experiment with creating electronic appliances of their own. Cortex-M chips go in a range of low-power devices using Wi-Fi, ZigBee and Bluetooth and other radio technologies.
(Editing by David Clarke)