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IoT and IIoT Applications Made Easier with Zephyr RTOS

By Shrey Fadia
April 26, 2019

With the evolution of open source project that aims to build a real-time operating system for the Internet of Things (IoT), the Linux Foundation is moving closer to offering developers better open source tools that will “future proof” their innovations without having to worry about locked-in restrictions and standards.

The Zephyr Project, hosted by the Linux Foundation, aims to build a secure and flexible RTOS for the IoT, and announced earlier this month they have achieved a new milestone with an introduction of their first Long Term Support (LTS) capabilities.

Since the launch of Zephyr, the project has been evolving rapidly, as developers have been participating in shaping Zephyr into something that suits the products they wish to create on top of it.

The project believes that LTS offers several benefits to the developers including stabilizing the Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). Zephyr says that by using LTS, developers aren’t locked into an architecture, back-end platform or cloud provider and will have the freedom to choose from an ecosystem of hardware.

"With the release of Zephyr 1.14 LTS, developers can focus on differentiation with the confidence that the software they are developing on always has the important fixes and latest security updates ", said Kumar Gala, Linaro IoT and Embedded Group (LITE) Technical Lead and Zephyr Project 1.14 LTS Release Manager. “Linaro is pleased to have helped drive the release which provides developers with a stable set of API for real world applications on constrained devices. 

In the latest highlights, Mozilla relaunches open source IoT platform Project Things as WebThings. The latest release of WebThings gateway allows users to privately log data (such as temperature) from their smart home devices, and to visualize that info with interactive graphs.

Car companies are also making huge investments in open source technology. The BMW Group and Microsoft recently announced their collaboration in a new effort called the Open Manufacturing Platform (OMP). It is aimed at developing and encouraging more collaborative IoT development in the manufacturing sector, concentrating on smart factory solutions and building standards to develop them in areas such as machine connectivity and on-premises systems integration.

The OMP will be built on Microsoft’s industrial platform - Azure, as BMW also has around 3000 machines running on the Azure cloud.

It is believed that with its latest release of LTS, Zephyr will get a huge boost knowing the fact that developers have joined to build applications using this open source platform, including projects like those mentioned above.

 “The Zephyr LTS release allows product developers to focus on innovation rather than the common and standard operating system layers,” quoted Anas Nashif, the Zephyr Project Chair of the Technical Steering Committee (TSC). He further added, “Products based on the LTS release will benefit from a maintained code base throughout their development and deployment lifecycle. The LTS will serve as the baseline for the auditable version of Zephyr, which will benefit both the maintained LTS and development branches.”

The Zephyr team introduced several other features like a reimplemented timing system that simplifies drivers and reduces typical kernel build size by hundreds of bytes, enhanced support for flashing and debugging, and hardware stack protection in ARMv8-m.

“Community driven Zephyr development is creating an open source ecosystem that is fueling IoT innovation and seeing exciting new products emerging,” said Kate Stewart, Senior Director of Strategic Programs at the Linux Foundation. “We’re excited to see the flexibility and functionality of the Zephyr RTOS being used in award-winning products such as smart wearables from ProGlove and Intellinium, and new intelligent tagging systems like Adero.”  

The Core Infrastructure Initiative (CII) rewarded Zephyr Project with Gold Best Practice Badge as it is following best practices and conformance in driving secure software development in open source.

Since its launch, Zephyr has continuously extended its support to various board configurations, currently supporting more than 160 board configurations comprising of different architectures including ARC, ARM, NIOS II, RISCV32, x86, x86_64 and XTENSA processor families.




Edited by Ken Briodagh

Analyst & Consultant

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