Charlene Marini is an electrical engineer and the vice president of strategy for ARM’s Internet of Things services group.

5 Questions with ARM Vice President Charlene Marini

Feb 4, 2020

by Carlos M. González

Charlene Marini is an electrical engineer and the vice president of strategy for ARM’s Internet of Things services group. She is responsible for driving strategic growth opportunities in IoT for ARM, the processor company that provides its chip technology as the foundation for many of the well-known processors out in today’s market. The company is now developing its IoT service to provide a long product life and layered security for these devices that are becoming more connected to open networks. Marini holds an M.A. from Columbia University and a B.S.E.E. from Brown University.
 
Q1: Where do you currently see the state of IoT devices?
 
C.M: There are two extremes of IoT. The industrial side of IoT has focused on edge or premise computing. That paradigm is going to expand to enable more capabilities, and they are taking advantage of machine learning. IoT-connected sensors are starting to drive economies to scale and lowering the threshold for a positive return. The increasing sophistication of sensors and mobile handsets, especially in small robotics, is expanding the market size of automation.
 
On the other side, you have consumer IoT, which has a strong revenue model and experienced drivers that people are trying to reach. However, outside of some of the larger companies, the capability of IoT devices may not be there yet. These smaller companies rely more on abstraction and prebuilt software development kits. So, there is still progress to be made with security, connectivity, and abstracting the application development frameworks to create more seamless IoT products that meet the user’s expectations.
 
Q2: How is ARM evolving its technology to connect devices?
 
C.M: Developers have been trying to fit more and more software on to our very low-end processors to enable connectivity and manageability. IoT networks are turning inanimate chips and devices into connected products that can be out in the field for 20 or more years. As a user, you want to be able to have some upgrade capability for your devices. This could be a security patch or an update to the policies on device access.

Related Infographic: The State of IoT Devices 2019
 
To that end, our IoT service group launched an open operating software that offers a set of tools to design, access, and update those types of devices and with high-level security built-in. We are also now providing a cloud service that can manage those devices once they are out in the field.
 
Q3: How do you provide more security in your chips and their devices?
 
C.M: In an IoT network, devices are becoming more of a service industry, and trusting your device can only be achieved if you can secure that device. Security starts with the chip. In the first layer, the silicon has what’s called a secure root of trust. So, think of it as the kernel: It’s an identity that should be un-hackable and that can always be recovered by the owner of the device. There’s then also the software framework on top of it, how you access that secure feature, and how you will use that to enable other security features on the device. It is like a Russian nesting doll of security. You have the root of trust, and then you have a chain of trust that’s built up.
 
The ARM IoT service group offers an out-of-the-box piece of software that takes advantage of those features. Software developers can take it as is or they can modify it to create application-specific software—then connect with a cloud service within the secure device framework once deployed out in the field.
 
Q4: With the increases in device security, are consumer companies more likely to choose cloud computing or edge computing?
 
C.M: As I mentioned before, industrial companies have been running edge computing or premise computing for a while. The main driver is for latency reasons: They want fast data transfer rates. On the consumer side, relying on in-house connectivity is not always an option. Instead, cellular connectivity will be the more attractive option. The new 5G networks and embeddable subscriber identity modules (SIMs) will increase connections between devices.

Further Reading: The Critical Need for 5G Cellular Service
 
With embeddable SIMS, you not only lower the hardware bomb, but you can also update the SIM based on the use case and the geographical region. This helps extend the life of the device by enabling more capabilities at the software level.
 
Q5: What would be your advice toward an engineer on how to prepare for this change in IoT connected devices?
 
C.M: I think the most important thing is to know how your products will evolve of time, not just how they will work out-of-the-box. The intelligence that’s driving the mechanical system needs to be robust, whether it is how users are going to access the system, the tools to update the device, the interfaces, and the extensibility. This is all to deliver products that will have a longer lifecycle and need to be robust enough to be continually effective.
 
Carlos M. Gonzalez is special projects editor.

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