New Real-time operating system Zephyr for IoT Application Development

2018-08-27 10:50

The era of the Internet of Things is constantly advancing, and although there has not yet been explosive growth, many people have firsthand experienced the convenience brought to life by connected devices. At present, IoT devices are becoming increasingly miniaturized, which poses new requirements for hardware manufacturers in terms of size and power consumption. At the same time, ultra small devices are limited by insufficient memory, and the original large operating systems are difficult to apply. Therefore, there is an urgent need for a small and flexible IoT operating system to help these IoT devices achieve fast operation. The Linux Foundation launched the Zephyr project to solve this problem and help developers build an ecosystem to speed up the development and commercialization of open source technologies. It is a small and scalable operating system that supports multiple architectures and is designed specifically for IoT gateways and cutting-edge applications. It is an ideal choice for Linux application development based on microcontrollers, with high open-source, high flexibility, and high security characteristics.

Supports low memory operation, down to 2KB in size

With the miniaturization of IoT devices, the battery size will decrease and the storage capacity will also decrease. Therefore, the power consumption needs to be reduced to extend the standby time of devices. The Zephyr core can separate the operation process from other processes of the bare metal operating system, also known as the micro core and the Microkernel#Nanokernel. The Microkernel#Nanokernel is responsible for all the basic operation tasks, including the task execution through the backlog based on the internal fiber. Microkernel is more powerful, allowing Computer multitasking and memory storage, but only when necessary. Zephyr successfully created a low-power operating system using this method, which is powerful but does not consume all energy. It only requires 10KB or less of storage space to operate, so it can effectively utilize energy and extend device standby time.

For small IoT devices, memory resources are limited, posing a serious challenge to the memory usage of operating systems that match them. As is well known, Linux is very adept at utilizing limited resources to run, while also supporting real-time data collection systems and other time sensitive instruments and machines in manufacturing factories. The Zephyr project kernel can run on systems with low memory of 8kB, and can even run on RAM as small as 2KB.

Modular design, fully meeting customized requirements

The future IoT devices pursue "small and beautiful" to meet a certain application, so the Real-time operating system suitable for future IoT device needs should not be large and comprehensive, but should be highly flexible, and can choose to open or close some applications freely. Zephyr has the characteristic of modular configuration, and designers can use it according to standard templates or disable some modules according to actual needs (using the kconfig tool). In the future, Zephyr project plans to provide all necessary resources to integrate third-party modules to meet the customized needs of designers and make the system more flexible.

Open source community support to ensure system security in all aspects

In the future, the number of IoT devices will explode. If it grows to 50 billion by 2020, it means that hackers have 50 billion entries to carry out network attacks, so security issues have become a high concern for users. How to enhance the security of IoT devices? This is also a highly concerned issue for Zephyr. Zephyr provides security features at both the device and communication protocol stack levels, providing the level of protection required to protect users from security threats in a one-time manner. In addition, the open source community also takes security issues seriously, arranging a dedicated security working group and assigning a security maintenance personnel. The partners of this project can also receive support from a passionate and dynamic open source community, relying on collective efforts to increase the likelihood of success.

Support multiple protocols to ensure smooth networking of devices

The key to IoT devices lies in interconnectivity, so it is necessary to support multiple protocols to ensure that devices can smoothly connect to each other. Zephyr supports Bluetooth, low-power Bluetooth, IEEE 802.15.4, 6Lowpan, CoAP, IPv4, IPv6, NFC, Arduino 101, Arduino Due, second-generation Intel Galileo development board, NXP FRDM-K64F Freedom development board, and other standards.

The early partners of the project include Intel Corporation, NXP Semiconductors (acquired by Qualcomm), Synopsys Technology and UbiquiOS Technology Limited. In September 2016, Linaro, a collaborative engineering organization developing Open-source software based on ARM architecture family, joined the Zephyr project as a platinum member. Linaro will use Zephyr as the basis for technology development and testing applicable to the Internet of Things and embedded market, and the Internet of Things is expected to achieve multi-layer connectivity of embedded technology.

Open source, mutual assistance, forming a virtuous cycle

As an open source project, Zephyr can provide scalable, customizable, and secure open source operating systems to meet the needs of IoT device development. At the same time, by contributing to IoT application modules, Zephyr can continuously improve its own system and better serve it, thus forming a virtuous cycle. Open source has become an important component in the evolution and expansion of enterprise networks and services, and Zephyr will become one of the highly secure and flexible IoT platforms worldwide.

About the Zephyr project

Zephyr project is a small and scalable Real-time operating system, especially suitable for resource constrained systems, which can support multiple architectures; The system is highly open source and open to the developer community. Developers can conduct secondary development of the system as needed to support new hardware, tools, and device drivers; This system is a highly modular platform that can easily integrate third-party libraries and embedded devices of any architecture.

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