Microsoft looks to secure the IoT with Azure Sphere

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At this year's IoT Solutions Word Congress, Microsoft announced that its Azure Sphere microcontroller (MCU) and cloud security service will be generally available in February 2020.

Over the last few years, the software giant has been working to help secure low-cost IoT devices. Microsoft Research's “Project Sopris”, which was dedicated to creating a highly secure microcontroller, became Azure Sphere which the company first announced in April of 2018.

The MediaTek MT3620 is the first Azure Sphere chip and it includes an onboard security subsystem that Microsoft called “Pluton”. According to the company, its customers across a variety of industries have already adopted the MT3620 and are using the chip to produce consumer appliances as well as retail and manufacturing equipment. Additionally these Azure Sphere chips are also being used to power a series of guardian modules which help securely connect and protect mission-critical equipment.

Guardian modules themselves are designed to help customers quickly bring their existing investments online without taking on risk or jeopardizing their equipment. The modules plug into existing physical interfaces on equipment and they can be deployed easily without the need to redesign devices. Avnet and AI-Link have created the first guardian modules and devices from both companies are now available, though Microsoft says that we'll hear more about guardian modules from other manufacturers soon.

Azure Sphere chips

Although MediaTek produced the first Azure Sphere chip, Microsoft has partnered with other chipmakers to produce their own versions of its secure chip.

Back in June, the company announced that it would collaborate with NXP to deliver a new Azure Sphere certified chip. This new chip will be an extension of the chipmaker's popular I.MX 8 high-performance applications processor series and will be optimized for performance and power. When complete, NXP's Azure Sphere chip will bring improved compute capabilities to support advanced workloads such as AI, graphics and richer UI experiences.

Earlier this month, Microsoft also announced its collaboration with Qualcomm to deliver the first cellular-enabled Azure Sphere chip. Qualcomm's chip will feature ultra-low-power capabilities that will give customers the freedom to securely connect anytime, anywhere.

In a press release announcing the general availability of Azure Sphere, distinguished engineer and managing director of Azure Sphere, Galen Hunt explained how the new product shows how Microsoft can innovate in an entirely new space, saying:

“We want to empower every organization on the planet to connect and create secure and trustworthy IoT devices. While Azure Sphere leverages deep and extensive Microsoft heritage that spans hardware, software, cloud, and security, IoT is our opportunity to prove we can deliver in a new space.”

Anthony Spadafora

After working with the TechRadar Pro team for the last several years, Anthony is now the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches and ransomware gangs to the best way to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. When not writing, you can find him tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.