Arm’s new ‘Virtual Hardware’ tool lets IoT device developers work in the cloud


The modern world is rapidly becoming more interconnected than ever, largely thanks to the rising popularity of Internet of Things (IoT) devices; ranging from smart home appliances to connected security cameras and medical equipment. Now, chipmaking giant Arm wants to speed this growth up even more by offering new tools to companies looking to streamline their product development process.

Arm’s tools come in the form of “Total Solutions for IoT,” which the company calls a “full stack” solution aimed at significantly boosting development time. With Total Solutions, Arm hopes IoT device makers will see increased ROI and efficiency across the board.

So, what are these tools, and how will they help developers? One of the key focuses for Arm with its new IoT push is what it calls “Virtual Hardware.” Virtual Hardware lets IoT software designers create code for a product’s chip without waiting for said chip to be fabricated and installed at a physical hardware farm. As Arm notes, the average product design lifecycle is typically around five years, with a sizable chunk of that time dedicated to chip fabrication.

Courtesy of Virtual Hardware, Arm hopes to slice that figure almost in half, reducing development time to just three years. Virtual Hardware can simulate “memory, peripherals, and more,” so software teams won’t be left wanting. It can handle both general compute and machine learning workloads running on the Arm Cortex-M55 processor and Arm Ethos-U55 microNPU. You can see some Virtual Hardware configurations above.

In other words, silicon availability might no longer be the bottleneck in IoT development — at least, in theory. We’ll just have to wait and see how revolutionary (or not) Virtual Hardware will be in practice, but the idea is sound.

Arm Virtual Hardware is available for developers to test now in the form of a public beta on the AWS marketplace, but the cost will vary by AWS tier and company-specific needs. If you’re a decision-maker at an IoT device company, AWS is currently offering 100 hours of EC2 CPU credits for the first 1,000 “qualified users.”