This week, Arduino launched the Pro Portenta X8, the most massively powered Arduino board yet, with a quad-core Arm Cortex A53 processor along with a variety of MCUs and the ability to run Linux. This is a big step for Arduino, which bills itself as an open-source hardware and software company that makes systems on modules and has traditionally been popular in the maker and hobbyist space, as a way to bring small bits of computing power together to power lights, servos, and sensors.
In 2020, the group launched its Portenta H7 board with an eye toward enticing hardware developers to build production-ready devices using the Arduino hardware and software. With the launch, it was following a similar map laid out by the folks behind Raspberry Pi, which has gone from being a cheap computer for makers to a fully powered computer that can fit in many jobs, including medical devices and production hardware. Notably, the Pi moved downmarket last year with the Pi Pico, which put it in direct competition with Arduino’s systems that rely on MCUs.
With the Pro Portenta X8, Arduino is entering a crowded market with plenty of modules aimed at providing computing power, wireless connectivity, and a standardized layout for sensors and other attachments that make it easy to cobble together a working computer board for specialized hardware. But it has also signed a deal with Foundries.io to provide a comprehensive level of security, which is a fairly unusual move.
Foundries.io provides an OS that can sit on a device and run in the cloud and that ensures basic security features for embedded hardware. Because traditional embedded devices are super fragmented, with different architectures and operating systems, and are designed into machines that should last for decades instead of a few years, securing them is tough.
With the partnership between Arduino and Foundries.io the new Portenta board has the ability to support secured over-the-air updates, continuous integration testing in the cloud, and the ability to roll out and roll back software deployed to containers running on the device.
This level of security service will be provided to anyone using the Arduino Portenta X8. If they want to change or customize it, they can work out a deal with Foundries.io. There’s a lot to like with this announcement because by creating this partnership Arduino is putting a security model at the forefront of its industrial platform that will adapt to the needs of the device, which itself is connected from the get-go and designed for the long haul.
Today, most connected devices rely on a secure element and whatever strategies the product team has put in place for maintaining its security over time. That requires a dedicated security team for the device and assurances from the chip and module providers. Foundries.io not only takes on the role of securing the device for its lifetime, but it also goes beyond using a secure element, assuming the responsibility for dynamic security over the life of the device.
Arduino is paying for this level of security for users of its Portenta X8 board, but Foundries.io has found several customers eager to adapt to this type of dynamic security model. Foundries.io Chairman Ian Drew said the company has grown its sales by 30% quarter over quarter. So with this announcement, Arduino is ready to go pro and Foundries.io gets another customer to bet on its new type of IoT security model.
Updated at 11:30 am CT to correct Drew’s position with Founderies.io, where he is Chairman, not CEO.