What is Azure Sphere?

Microsoft released Azure Sphere in April 2018. This is a complete secure IoT Solution consisting of a Microcontroller (MCU), Secure OS and a Cloud component. Currently, there is one MCU available the Mediatek MT3620. This MCU is built into the Seeed Studio MT3620 development board, which is a great way to get started and to create your first Azure Sphere project.

Azure Sphere is quite a special device, so let's take a look why it is special and how it can be used.

What makes Azure Sphere special?

  1. Azure Sphere is built from the ground up with security in mind, which can be seen in the whole design. The whole chip is built around 7 properties of a secure device. A couple are listed below, but I suggest visiting the link for a complete overview:

    • Hardware-based root of trust this ensures that the device and the device's identity can not be changed or spoofed.
    • Renewable security ensures that the device is always up to date. This will ensure that the device is not vulnerable to know security issues.
    • Certificate-based authentication Azure makes a secure connection to the cloud with certificates, instead of passwords, which makes the authentication a lot more secure.
  2. Integration with the whole Azure IoT suite. Because Azure Sphere is so tightly integrated with Azure to develop Applications, you do not have to worry about all the plumbing needed. For example, using Device Twin, it is extremely easy to communicate with the IoT device.

  3. Application updates when devices are manufactured these are mostly untouched. Azure Sphere makes it very easy to update applications running on the chip, which allows manufacturers to add new features to devices after they are manufactured. For example, think of a coffee machine which can be updated with new coffee recipes.

  4. Quick time to market. Building on the previous points, a lot of ground work has already been done. Also, Sphere development is tightly integrated with Visual Studio, which gives developers all the power of this powerful development environment.

Practical use

More and more uses for IoT pop up every day, ranging from smart homes to factory optimization. However, IoT is very hard and complex. As a developer you have to worry about security, devices, connections, applications, etc.
Azure IoT can take a lot of these pain points away so you can focus on business value instead of plumbing. Looking specifically at Azure Sphere, this will help immensely to create a secure IoT device which is easily managed and integrates seamlessly with Azure.