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SystemReady IR Certification Unlocks Promise of IoT Edge Development

SystemReady IR, part of the Arm SystemReady Certification Program, is designed to deliver a secure, intelligent and aware edge. NXP was first to market with a certified device, but that was just the beginning.
By Justin Mortimer, Global Marketing Director, Edge Processing, NXP

Just a few years ago, the enormous promise of Internet of things (IoT) applications ran headlong into the cold reality of a fragmented hardware and software landscape. Development cycles could be slow and painful, technology choices confusing, and innovators were forced into narrow vertical application segments to maintain internal design efficiencies. That’s all changed recently thanks to initiatives like SystemReady IR, the band of the Arm SystemReady Certification Program for devices in the IoT edge sector.

At NXP we’re thrilled to be at the fore of a development paradigm that we think will speed development schedules, give companies far more technology choice, as well as the flexibility to deploy resources more efficiently. That ultimately helps to expand their embedded application horizons.

In short, it’s a development paradigm built to deliver on the promise of virtually endless edge application possibilities. You may have read about it already: my colleague Joe Byrne wrote this blog about the SystemReady IR certification for our highly popular i.MX 8M Mini applications processor EVK. This was just the beginning.

The rise of the secure edge

NXP has been steadfast in the promise of a smarter, more efficient world. A future where secure, connected devices at the edge work together locally and with the cloud, to form safe, intelligent and aware systems that can anticipate, automate and protect. This vision of the future has been a driving force behind the continued advancements we deploy across our scalable portfolio of embedded processors.  And from our vantage, today’s developers now have this vision of the future within their grasp. We have accelerated past the point of intersection, the capability – and equally as important the accessibility – of our edge processors can now comfortably tackle complex tasks that were once forced into the cloud. 

But the scope required to develop and deploy a world of diverse edge applications has driven like-minded companies together, united across a common vision of the future. It’s what has brought Arm’s Project Cassini into focus for us at NXP, and it’s why we are proud to be at the vanguard of this development revolution. And it’s not just because we received the first SystemReady IR certification, but because we’ve been at the fore of the IoT development since its earliest days.

SystemReady IR Certification

SystemReady IR – this development accelerant – is a band of SystemReady compliance certifications for devices in the IoT edge sector that are built around SoCs based on the Arm A-profile architecture. Following the SystemReady standards ensures interoperability with embedded Linux, enables industry Linux distributions to boot with minimal integration effort, and ensures that software higher-up the stack ‘just works.’ To achieve that, SystemReady IR-certified platforms implement a minimum set of hardware and firmware features that an operating system can depend on to deploy the operating system image. 

It is part of the wider SystemReady program created to test and certify that systems meet the minimum standards–for confidence that specified operating systems and subsequent layers of software will just work–across a broad range of Arm-based devices. SystemReady IR is part of the Project Cassini initiative to enable cloud-based workloads to scale down to devices near the production or consumption of data by strengthening standards, improving security, and enriching the microprocessor ecosystem. With Project Cassini and SystemReady, the vast potential of cloud-native development at the edge can become a reality.

More intelligence where it’s needed

Today, more and more compute is being distributed closer to where the data is captured to improve processing efficiency, reduce latency for critical tasks, and bring much-needed security and privacy to the edge. Project Cassini helps speed that development with an open, collaborative, standards-based approach to development that will accelerate the adoption of more intelligence at the edge and endpoints.

In one sense, SystemReady IR brings the concept of grab-and-go to our partners that enable the global market with NXP-based system-on-modules and embedded boards. Our partners now have the freedom of processor flexibility to pair with software distributions that will bring new capabilities to their customers but also allow them to expand into new markets that might have required them to spend more money and effort just five years ago.

This flexibility is important because the promise of IoT has always been its inherent diversity: Applications jotted down on the back of cocktail napkins and countless more innovations we’ve not even thought of yet. That kind of innovation requires lots of boards, running varied software and firmware, powered by lots of different processors. Without a certification foundation like SystemReady, the velocity of innovation would be vastly slower than it will be now.

SystemReady and Project Cassini allow specialized compute to happen without fragmentation and lay the groundwork for a larger, more vibrant ecosystem of global innovators. It improves vendor choice and flexibility and lowers cost through standardization.

It also improves end-customer flexibility. For example, a company may deploy a smart camera with the intent to do CCTV security monitoring. But that asset in the field can now be used for multiple applications coupled with Cassini. You can download applications that do security, count or recognize people, monitor traffic for pollution alerts and the list goes on.

What’s next for SystemReady IR and NXP?

As part of that groundbreaking SystemReady IR certification, our i.MX 8M Mini EVK was tested for compliance with Fedora, OpenSUSE, and Debian Linux® distributions. Several additional community and commercial OSs will support SystemReady IR platforms soon, giving developers additional choices of OS that run out of the box on any compliant platform.

But while the i.MX 8M Mini EVK was the first, it won’t be the last. It was quickly followed by the Compulab IOT-GATE-IMX8 board based on the i.MX 8M Mini. Certification of other commercial platforms is underway. Progress made with the i.MX 8M Mini EVK lays the groundwork for approval of platforms based on other i.MX 8M family devices — the i.MX 8M Quad, i.MX 8M Nano, and i.MX 8M Plus applications processors. An upcoming release of the i.MX board support package (BSP) will include updates to help manufacturers certify their designs based on the i.MX 8M family.

Any true breakthrough industry hits escape velocity on the wings of standards. SystemReady IR, part of the visionary Project Cassini development framework, is just that. It’s helping to usher in the promise of a more secure, intelligent and aware edge.

We’re excited to be at the forefront of this transformation. It has helped NXP bring additional scale into the market, and more importantly, helped to position our partners and customers with a development platform that is even more accessible, so they can address new application areas, move more quickly to harness the power of the edge.

The IoT is a sea of possibilities, and while we have been on the journey since the coining of the phrase “Internet of Things,” we realize that we’re not the only ones. IoT is, in effect, a big team sport, and Cassini and SystemReady are the kinds of standards-based approaches that will help expand opportunities for everyone.

Arm SystemReady Certification Program

Arm SystemReady is a compliance certification program based on a set of hardware and firmware standards. These standards ensure Arm-based servers, infrastructure edge, and embedded IoT systems are designed to specific requirements, enabling generic off-the-shelf operating systems to ‘just work’.

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Brian Fuller and Jack Melling
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