Twilio has made a name for itself with tools and software building blocks to simplify telecommunication, API management, SMS and video conferencing applications.
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“Twilio is best known for its communications and loyalty management products, but at its core Twilio is a developer company,” said Evan Cummack, managing director of Twilio IoT.
Bombastically presented as “the next chapter in computing”, the publisher wants to bring software and hardware together “elegantly”, and has done so since 2016 when it launched its first IoT offering: Programmable Wireless. In 2018, he announced Super SIM, an offer that entered public beta last March. This solution must make it possible to manage the cellular connection of the associated devices via software and an API in order to automatically switch operators on a global level.
The Twilio Microvisor, which is available in the private beta, is also aimed at embedded developers. According to the publisher, they generally have to deal with the complexity of security updates, data integration, management of energy consumption and compatibility with various IT systems, among other things. .
“We analyzed the embedded software market and observed two approaches. The first is for developers to build their solutions from scratch. The second is based on the use of an “out of the box” platform that is supposed to facilitate the design of embedded software, but has limitations, “says Evan Cummack.” This requires a thorough knowledge of the standards on the one hand and a possible proprietary binding on the other to anticipate.”
Twilio takes the position of offering an alternative, a “compromise between lightness and openness”. Microvisor is the result of the acquisition of Electric Imp, a startup that developed a solution of the same name from certified microcontrollers and a platform for device and security management before data was transferred to IoT platforms on the market (Watson IoT, ThingWorx, Microsoft Azure IoT or GE Digital).
Microvisor, a hypervisor for the security and connectivity of attached sensors
“With this buyout, we have everything we need to launch Microvisor,” says Evan Cummack happily. Microvisor takes up the concept of Electric Imp. The microvisor must make it possible to simplify the management of remote operations by encapsulating a hypervisor in a secure area of a microprocessor.
In particular, the editor relies on ARM Trustzone, which provides hardware isolation between the zone with the RTOS (FreeRTOS is currently the only one that is currently supported), the code, the data and the microvisor zone to secure the updates and manage. state-of-the-art equipment and connectivity. In a sense, the two parties communicate from the application layer to the microvisor layer via API calls. In the other direction, the notifications are carried out via a time stamp circular buffer, which triggers a hardware interrupt (IRQ).
This helps manage OTA updates, remote debugging, security stack, network, network connectors, power supply and microvisor specific kernel management. The embedded developer can currently develop in C, C ++ and Rust. Once the private beta is over, other programming languages will be supported.
The solution must ensure security at start-up so as not to endanger the devices before they are deployed, recovering from a failed update (a recurring problem in IoT), or even setting up a secure tunnel to communicate with data to the cloud. Microvisor would not affect the performance of a microcontroller. The software product was tested with a microcontroller from the STM32 family, which is based on the ARM Cortex M33. However, the publisher promises support for other devices with a Cortex-M processor.
Twilio provides official support for PlatformIO, a dedicated embedded IDE, and adds a Twilio CLI tool and GDB server for debugging. The publisher-provided cloud-hosted console must be able to scan devices, initiate deployments, and monitor. A fleet management tool makes it easy to group and manage the deployed devices, while the diagnostics feature enables log recovery from crashed microcontrollers.
The publisher has not disclosed the price of its solution, but does promise “a 10 year service contribution” per device, confirming that the kernel at the heart of the microvisor will be retained and that the remote vulnerability fixes will be applied to this device. Duration.
Twilio strengthens its portfolio
If Microvisor relies heavily on open source technologies, Twilio wants to strengthen its ecosystem above all by offering the building block for connectivity, development and consulting to property manufacturers and companies developing their IoT projects. In this regard, its strategy is similar to that of AWS with its IoT offerings.
Using the same approach, the publisher Twilio Video presented WebRTC Go, an SDK for creating video conferencing applications for two-person conversations (mesh architecture). This is a pre-built ReactJS app for a web, Android or iOS browser. Twilio offers 25 GB of data transfer per month (100,000 minutes of video conferencing per month) on a TURN server and 48 hours of log retention and the tools to troubleshoot possible errors. The solution “remains free as long as developers run their applications on Twilio services.”
Finally, the publisher is launching Event Streams in the private beta, an API for consolidating data from the various communication channels that are managed via Twilio products. It is currently possible to insert data and metadata from messaging, voice, Super Sim and TaskRouter (process management in contact centers) into Amazon Kinesis and then analyze them in real time.
Twilio’s SMS messaging services were installed in Paris at the end of 2019 and are used by Galeries Lafayette, the urban mobility platform Heetch and the travel agencies Evaneos.