Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Microsoft collaborates with IoT chip firms

Steve Rogerson
April 8, 2020

Microsoft is collaborating with a range of companies making 32bit microcontrollers (MCUs) that are embedded into billions of IoT devices from sensors, streetlights, and shipping containers to smart home appliances, medical devices, and more.
ST Microelectronics, Renesas, NXP, Microchip and Qualcomm will all offer embedded development kits featuring Azure RTOS Thread X, one of the components of the Azure RTOS embedded application development suite. This allows embedded developers to access reliable, real-time performance for resource-constrained devices, and seamless integration with the power of Azure IoT to connect, monitor and control a global fleet of IoT assets.
Microsoft acquired Thread X following its takeover of Express Logic last year.
The company will also be releasing the full source code for all Azure RTOS components on GitHub, allowing developers to explore, develop, test and adapt Azure RTOS to suit their needs. When developers are ready to take their code into production, the production licence will be included automatically if they deploy to any of the supported MCU devices from ST Microelectronics, Renesas, NXP, Microchip and Qualcomm.
“As we work with our semiconductor partners to implement best practices for connected devices, Azure RTOS will include easy-to-use reference projects and templates for connectivity to Azure IoT Hub, Azure IoT Central, Azure IoT Edge Gateways as well as first-class integration with Azure Security Center,” said Sam George, corporate vice president at Microsoft. “Azure RTOS will soon ship with an Azure Security Center module for monitoring threats and vulnerabilities on IoT devices.”
When combined with Azure Sphere, Azure RTOS enables embedded developers to build real-time, secured IoT devices for even demanding environments. These are robust devices that offer real-time performance and protection from evolving cyber-security threats. For MCUs and systems on chip (SoCs) that are smaller than what Azure Sphere supports, Azure RTOS and Azure IoT Hub Device Management enable secure communications for embedded developers and device operators who have the ability to implement best practices to protect devices from cyber-security attacks.
For those wishing to deliver reliable, real-time performance on highly-secured connected devices that stay secured against evolving cyber-security threats over time, Microsoft recommends Azure RTOS and Azure Sphere together for the most demanding environments.
Japanese electronics company Renesas has deepened its collaboration with Microsoft to offer seamless device-to-cloud experience for IoT developers.
The two companies are collaborating to deliver a complete chip-to-cloud IoT system based on Renesas’ MCUs and microprocessors (MPUs) and Microsoft Azure IoT building blocks, including Azure RTOS, Azure IoT device SDK for C, IoT Plug & Play, IoT Central and IoT Hub.
“Our Synergy and RX cloud kits combined with Azure RTOS and other Azure IoT building blocks offer MCU customers a quick and secure end-to-end solution for cloud connectivity,” said Sailesh Chittipeddi, executive vice president at Renesas. “We are excited to expand our collaboration with Microsoft and look forward to bringing Microsoft Azure to our MCU and MPU customers, including solutions that will support Azure IoT Edge Runtime for Linux on our RZ MPUs.”
The Renesas Synergy AE-Cloud2 Kit with Microsoft Azure support will be available online through Renesas and Microsoft this quarter and the Renesas RX65N wifi cloud kit will be available later this year.
“Integrating our industry-leading Azure IoT services with Renesas’ Synergy and RX microcontroller cloud kits makes it easier for customers to build and bring new enterprise-grade IoT solutions to market quickly,” said George. “As a result of our collaboration with Renesas, customers will soon be able to seamlessly connect their devices to Microsoft Azure, and we look forward to delivering additional intelligent capabilities in the future.”
Swiss firm ST Microelectronics specialises in Arm Cortex-M MCUs with its STM32 family, providing its OEM and mass-market customers with a portfolio of simple-to-use MCUs, coming with a complete development environment and ecosystem.
“We are delighted to be collaborating with Microsoft to address even better our customers’ needs,” said Ricardo de Sa Earp, group vice-president at ST Microelectronics. “Leveraging our installed base of more than five billion STM32 MCUs shipped to date to the global embedded market, we see Azure RTOS Thread X and middleware as a perfect match to both our mass-market and OEM IoT strategies, complementing our development environment with industry-proven, reliable, high-quality source code.”
Dutch company NXP Semiconductors has secure connectivity for embedded applications, serving its customers in the automotive, industrial, IoT, mobile and communication infrastructure sectors. Microsoft has been collaborating with NXP to extend intelligent cloud computing to the intelligent edge, from adding voice control directly to devices to offering machine learning for edge devices, to device security with Azure Sphere. It plans to integrate Azure RTOS into its evaluation kits and some of its most popular IoT processor families.
“Edge computing reduces the latency, bandwidth and privacy concerns of a cloud-only internet of things," said Jerome Schang, head of cloud partnership programmes at NXP. “Enabling Azure RTOS on NXP’s MCUs is yet another step to provide edge computing that unlocks the benefits of edge to Azure IoT cloud interaction.”
Arizona-based Microchip Technology is a provider of smart, connected and secure embedded controllers. Its products serve customers across the industrial, automotive, consumer, aerospace, defence, communications and computing markets. It plans to incorporate support for Azure RTOS and Azure IoT Edge across its product families.
“Microchip is building on its already comprehensive portfolio of tools to enable quick, easy development of secure IoT applications across the full spectrum of embedded control devices and architectures,” said Greg Robinson, associate vice president at Microchip. “Our partnership with Microsoft Azure extends our dedication to developing innovations.”
Qualcomm is a pioneer of wireless technology and powers the cellular connection of smartphones and tablets. It will be offering a cellular-enabled Azure Sphere certified chip and will be bringing Azure RTOS to cellular-connected devices found inside asset trackers, health monitors, security systems, smart city sensors and smart meters, as well as a range of wearables.
”Qualcomm is a leader in wireless compute and connectivity technologies, not just in mobile, but in emerging markets like the internet of things as well,” said Jeff Torrance, vice president at Qualcomm. “We’re proud to continue to work closely with Microsoft on the likes of Azure RTOS and Azure Sphere to jointly advance the IoT industry around the world.”