Inspiring innovation

If innovation is the difference between leading and following, collaboration is what makes it happen. Here's why Arm technology is leading the way according to Graham Budd, president and COO

by John Stern
Last Updated: 23 Jan 2020

Arm technology is at the heart of pretty much every digital electronics application, from smartphones to medical sensors to cars and high-performance data centres. Innovation is also at the heart of everything we do and collaboration is critical to that.

That means not only collaboration inside our own company but also across the broader technology ecosystem with the partners that we’ve developed relationships with over the 29 years Arm has been in existence.

Over time, our company ethos has been distilled down to three core beliefs: Passion for Progress, Be Your Brilliant Self, and We Not I.

The last of those speaks again about that vital need for collaboration both internally and externally. We’ve seen many times over the years how the long-term trusting relationships we build with partners actually accelerate innovation.

Healthy progress

Back in the early days of Arm, in the mid-1990s, we were working on the first mobile phone handsets. We worked closely with Texas Instruments, who produced some of the first chips for mobile phones from the likes of Nokia. Our engineers worked really closely with not just the engineers at Texas Instruments but also, crucially, engineers and others at all levels of Nokia. This allowed them to understand fully the challenge of creating those first cellular handsets. The result of that listening, understanding and relationship-forming was an innovation breakthrough by an Arm engineer that solved the biggest problem at the time, which was the cost of memory in the handset. The first wave of mobile handsets was produced using a very low-power efficient microprocessor core from Arm.

The pace of change in technology means you can’t stand still or you risk being overtaken, hence our Passion for Progress value. We’re fortunate that our position in the industry and the range of usage of Arm applications mean we’re able to attract some of the world’s greatest minds and best engineers. It’s important to have a workplace environment that stimulates collaboration and creativity, allowing ideas and innovation to spark.

It is an intense environment – which is definitely part of the appeal for many – because of the pace of change that is so rapid. So we have a benefits package that we believe helps to maintain a motivated and creative environment.

After every four years of employment, employees receive a four-week paid sabbatical, which in this fast-paced industry, is highly valued. We also recently introduced a benefit called FlexPot that rewards everyone in the company with a fixed monetary sum that can be used for activities to aid self-development and well-being. We have found it to be a powerful tool to encourage people to try out new things and foster a culture where self-improvement is seen as a really healthy thing.

In a fast-moving industry and fast-growing company, our people need to deal with a lot of ambiguity, so we encourage people to take ownership of their own development. We have multi-talented people at Arm and we really encourage them to be curious, hungry and have a growth mindset that ultimately is going to lead to better outcomes for the company and, of course, for them personally.

This is one strand of the Be Your Brilliant Self belief. Another is diversity, in every sense: of people, culture and skills. But diversity on its own is not sufficient to fully realise the benefits of innovation. You need an inclusive environment, one where people feel comfortable to speak up, point out errors, ask questions or suggest ideas.

Future opportunities

We have been actively focusing on improving gender diversity because the ratio of male to female engineers across the industry as a whole is not what it should be. We’ve been encouraging the recruitment of the best female engineers particularly at graduate level, working closely with universities and everyone in the STEM pipeline to promote an understanding of us as a company and careers in engineering more broadly. Internships are a powerful way to harness people’s interest to follow a career in technology and we often find that our interns return to work with us.

As we look to the future, we see a world where data – and data-driven computing – will be increasingly important. The Internet of Things will enable vast numbers of physical devices to be connected – we are forecasting that by 2035 there will be a trillion connected devices in the world. The Internet of Things, artificial intelligence or machine learning and instant-response 5G connectivity is an incredibly powerful combination of technologies, which will create so many opportunities for industry and new applications for consumers. We’re very excited about the foundational role that our technology is going to be able to play in this next wave of computing.

Breathe easy with Arm

Machine learning, powered by Arm technology, has transformed the life of nine-year-old asthma sufferer Sam Devries.

Asthma affects one in 12 people and he has struggled with the condition since he was two. "It was painful to breathe and I was scared that it would never go away," says Sam.

He is a talented gymnast but can only participate if he can breathe comfortably. "It was painful to see that he could not do the normal things a boy of his age could do," adds mum Michelle.

Faced with a dizzying daily combination of required medication, Sam sometimes forgets. But a piece of machine-learning technology, Respiro, has come to the rescue.

A sensor attaches to most commercial inhalers and works by measuring vibrations in a patient’s breath to automatically track when, and how well, patients use their medications. From here, it provides daily inhalation profiles with in-depth statistical data to both doctor and patient. "This isn’t only about Sam, this is about the future of asthma treatment for children everywhere," says Michelle.

The same Arm-powered machine learning algorithms can also be applied to big ideas across many disciplines, offering endless application possibilities.

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