Avnet and Microsoft Azure Sphere: IoT Security in Hardware, Software and at the Edge

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Editor’s Note: The following article is brought to you by Avnet in partnership with the Supply Chain Network. 

The Internet of Things (IoT) has transformed various industries by automating them at large, but the security concerns associated with IoT are just as large as the market opportunity this technology presents. The vulnerability of the software and hardware in IoT solutions has already resulted in cyberattacks. The number of connected devices is increasing every day, and so are security concerns.

All the IoT devices that we now use in everyday life have a tiny chip, known as a microcontroller (MCU). In fact, more than 9 billion of such MCU-powered devices are built and deployed every year. The MCU works like the brain of the device and holds computing, storage and memory functions along with an operating system in the device. For IoT networks to be secure, MCUs need to be secure.

To protect microcontroller units from vulnerabilities, you must unite the hardware, the software and the cloud in one secure solution. Microsoft identified this need several years ago and developed an end-to-end solution, Azure Sphere, based on their research into the seven critical properties that need to be secured:

  • Hardware root of trust
  • Defense in depth
  • Small trusted computing base
  • Dynamic compartments
  • Certificate-based authentication
  • Failure reporting
  • Renewable security

In a suite of three components, Microsoft products can secure the hardware, software and cloud in your IoT solution:

  1. Azure Sphere MCU
  2. Azure Sphere OS
  3. Azure Sphere Security

Because securing the IoT requires comprehensive security, Azure Sphere—and the partners who support it—must be comprehensive as well. That’s why the software giant trusted Avnet’s hardware expertise, choosing us as the first technology provider to distribute Azure Sphere, due to our experience with not only hardware-based security, but also MCUs and our own overall IoT capabilities.

Azure Sphere and Edge Analytics

IoT connected devices are growing and according to Statista, they are expected to grow to 31 billion units worldwide by the year 2020. This enormous increase in the number of connected devices is expected to generate data of more than 500 zettabytes, out of which companies could derive useful insights through data analytics.

Today, most of this data is processed in the cloud. But since certain applications require real-time analysis, companies are now focusing on processing and analyzing the data at the device or at the edge level. Edge computing and analytics match the capabilities of the public cloud by bringing intelligence closer to the devices with a short and fast moving track.

Companies are integrating edge analytics capabilities along with their IoT platform, including Avnet with its SmartEdge Agile offering that leverages Microsoft Azure.

Edge computing is important because it supports:

  • Low operating costs
  • Quick response times
  • Real-time data analysis
  • Less network traffic
  • Continuous operations with intermittent connectivity
  • Remote asset management

The Impact of Azure Sphere on IoT Deployments

Because security is built into the silicon chips and improved by the cloud services, the Azure Sphere suite will improve how IoT networks recognize dangers and, as a result, build trust IoT overall. With the assurance of this new level of end-to-end security, companies will truly be able to go from minor IoT deployments to large-scale business deployments—especially in areas like manufacturing. Because Azure Sphere’s ecosystem makes the deployment, management and security of predictive maintenance systems easier, it helps manufacturers enhance and enlarge their field services.

Security and scaling challenges have been the prime concern of IoT deployments in the past. Azure Sphere is an opportunity to reshape your business from its foundation and truly achieve new value and insight. With security threats addressed, you can focus more energy and attention to bigger IoT goals that have truly additive benefits to your business, including incorporating artificial intelligence and machine learning into your networks.

See how we’re putting Azure and Azure Sphere to use in our IoT digital solutions.

Companies in this article