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Internet Of Things Security Play: ARM Acquires Offspark

Offspark specializes in security for connected device communications, a key segment in the Internet of Things evolution.

ARM Holdings pushed into the connected devices market Monday with its acquisition of Internet of Things security software company Offspark.

While many chip makers are charging into the Internet of Things space, one system builder says ARM's acquisition paves the way into an important segment of connected device-related products: security.

"Security software is an important play for ARM," said Todd Swank, senior director of product marketing at Equus Computer Systems, a Minneapolis-based custom-system builder. "Security is obviously such a key element to technology, and it will definitely be essential to the Internet of Things. As companies connect more devices and make them smart, they'd better make sure that those devices can't be hacked."

[Related: Intel Intensifies Internet Of Things Drive With Lantiq Acquisition]

Offspark, a Dutch company, specializes in security for connected device communications. But the prize possession for ARM is Offspark's PolarSSL, an embedded transport layer security solution for the Internet of Things. ARM said it will merge PolarSSL into its own communication security and software cryptography strategy, rebranded as ARM mbed TLS, and will make it available to developers for commercial use.

ARM mbed TLS will be available for stand-alone use and will target both embedded devices and the non-embedded space as well.

"We have always said that security must be the foundation of any Internet of Things system and the acquisition of Offspark is evidence of us making that happen," said Krisztian Flautner, general manager of ARM's Internet of Things business, in a statement. "PolarSSL technology is already deployed by the leading IoT players. The fact that those same companies also utilize … software technologies means we are now able to provide a complete bedrock solution for the industry to innovate from."

While chip makers like AMD, Qualcomm and Intel are making similar headway into the Internet of Things security space, ARM is taking a strategically different approach as a chip licensor, said Charles King, analyst with market research firm Pund-IT.

"We see other makers assembling their technology embedded in the chip level to enable security services, but ARM has a slightly different play here, since they design and license chips," he said. "ARM wants to create a value-add for its own devices by acquiring and developing embedded security technology that companies can leverage in their own devices. It's a smart move on their part."

Cambridge, England-based ARM's acquisition of Offspark comes just a week after Intel signed an agreement to acquire Lantiq, a smart home broadband chip maker.

Equus Computer System's Swank pointed to this push toward Internet of Things-related products as widespread in the chip industry, which traditionally has been focused on the desktop, smartphone and server space.

"These industry business models have been the same for decades, but now they're being revolutionized by upstarts that are pushing for the Internet of Things," he said. "It is going to be everywhere and anywhere, and companies like ARM and Intel are doing their best to prepare."

Terms of the deal between ARM and Offspark, including the purchase price, were not disclosed.

PUBLISHED FEB. 9, 2015

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