The ARM Chip: The Rise of the Machines

Soon, when you sit down in your easy chair to watch TV, your TV could be watching you back.

The story’s found at dailymail.co.uk:

When people download a film from Netflix to a flatscreen, or turn on web radio, they could be alerting unwanted watchers to exactly what they are doing and where they are.

Spies will no longer have to plant bugs in your home – the rise of ‘connected’ gadgets controlled by apps will mean that people ‘bug’ their own homes, says CIA director David Petraeus.

The CIA claims it will be able to ‘read’ these devices via the internet – and perhaps even via radio waves from outside the home.

Everything from remote controls to clock radios can now be controlled via apps – and chip company ARM recently unveiled low-powered, cheaper chips which will be used in everything from fridges and ovens to doorbells.

The resultant chorus of ‘connected’ gadgets will be able to be read like a book – and even remote-controlled, according to CIA CIA Director David Petraeus, according to a recent report by Wired’s ‘Danger Room’ blog.

Petraeus says that web-connected gadgets will ‘transform’ the art of spying – allowing spies to monitor people automatically without planting bugs, breaking and entering or even donning a tuxedo to infiltrate a dinner party.

‘Transformational’ is an overused word, but I do believe it properly applies to these technologies,’ said Petraeus.

‘Particularly to their effect on clandestine tradecraft. Items of interest will be located, identified, monitored, and remotely controlled through technologies such as radio-frequency identification, sensor networks, tiny embedded servers, and energy harvesters – all connected to the next-generation internet using abundant, low-cost, and high-power computing.’

Petraeus was speaking to a venture capital firm about new technologies which aim to add processors and web connections to previously ‘dumb’ home appliances such as fridges, ovens and lighting systems.

This week, one of the world’s biggest chip companies, ARM, has unveiled a new processor built to work inside ‘connected’ white goods.

The ARM chips are smaller, lower-powered and far cheaper than previous processors – and designed to add the internet to almost every kind of electrical appliance.

It’s a concept described as the ‘internet of things’.

The original article, found on wired.com, adds the following:

…On Tuesday, the company unveiled its new ARM Cortex-M0+ processor, a low-power chip designed to connect non-PC electronics and smart sensors across the home and office.

Previous iterations of the Cortex family of chips had the same goal, but with the new chip, ARM claims much greater power savings. According to the company, the 32-bit chip consumes just nine microamps per megahertz, an impressively low amount even for an 8- or 16-bit chip. Gary Atkinson, ARM’s director of embedded applications, says the chip is 40 percent more efficient than its predecessor. This reduction, he says, will finally allow “fixed function” chips to integrate with everyday devices — and start telling them what to do.

“If you look at the edge of the internet today, [it's] your mobile phone, your tablet, your PC. That’s what you interact with, and that’s what sends and receives data,” Atkinson tells Wired. “What we’re talking about with the ‘Internet of Things’ is extending that connectivity out, connecting every day devices to the internet.”

This is hardly a new idea. Tech companies and pundits have trumpeted this sort of thing for years, envisioning a world where smart sensors do everything from regulating your home’s air temperature to flipping the lights on and off. But Atkinson believes we’re finally on the verge of such a world, and he takes the vision a step further, imagining a world filled with things like “smart umbrellas.” Rather than checking the weather each morning for rain, you could buy an umbrella that beeps at you when it’s needed.

Today’s chips are small enough for this sort of thing. But, according to Atkinson, they consume too much power. With the Cortex-M0+ processor, he says, ARM has changed that, offering a chip that consumes virtually no power when it’s turned on but not actually doing work — i.e., when it’s in sleep mode. Geoff Lees, vice president of Freescale’s microcontroller division, who has partnered with ARM on the chip, says this power efficiency is crucial for devices that generate a lot of data, such as blood glucose monitors or underground flowmeters. Now you essentially “don’t need an on or off switch,” he says.

This gives “Big Brother” The ability to turn out household appliances against us.

Remember the movie, Maximum Overdrive, starring Emilio Estevez, and based on a Stephen King Novel?

For 8 days in 1986, the earth passed through the tail of a mysterious Rea-M rogue comet. During that time, machines on earth suddenly come to life and terrorize their human creators. A small group of people in a truck stop, surrounded by “alive” semi-trailers, set out to stop the machines before the machines stop them.

The problem was, it wasn’t just those trucks, it was soda machines, Cuisinarts,  electric knifes, and other machines that came to life and attacked humans.

And now, you tell me that my HD TV is going to be used to spy on me?

Perhaps that movie wasn’t so far-fetched after all.

I knew that Mickey Mouse clock was staring at me.

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