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The Linux Foundation's Zephyr Project: A custom operating system for IoT devices

The new project is calling for developers interested in creating frameworks and a dedicated operating system for IoT devices.

The Linux Foundation has unveiled Zephyr, an open-source project aimed at the creation of a real-time operating system suitable for Internet of Things (IoT) and connected devices.

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Announced on Wednesday, the Zephyr Project hopes to bring vendors and developers together under a single operating system which could make the development of connected devices an easier, less expensive and more stable process.

Early supporters of the project include Intel, NXP Semiconductors, Synopsys and UbiquiOS Technology, but Zephyr's operators hope to lure more IoT players to the fold.

The Zephyr Project, overseen by the non-profit Linux Foundation, could become an important step in creating an established ecosystem in which vendors subscribe to the same basic communication protocols and security settings.

A problem with today's IoT market is that many vendors are launching their own systems, but connecting different devices together in a network can be difficult. However, if a single operating system can be agreed upon and adopted, this could widen consumer choice and extend the functionality of IoT devices as a whole.

The scheme is focusing on bringing open-source developers and communities together to work on a real-time operating system (RTOS) for IoT devices. The foundation hopes to create a "best in breed" RTOS for future connected devices, including support for a variety of system architectures.

To begin with, the technologies listed below will be supported:

  • Arduino 101 (Intel Curie Module containing x86 and Synopsys ARC EM cores);
  • Arduino Due (Atmel SAM3X8E ARM Cortex-M3 CPU);
  • Intel Galileo Gen 2;
  • NXP FRDM-K64F Freedom board (Kinetis K64F ARM Cortex-M4 MCU).

As much of the inspiration for the operating system will be taken from the open-source community, Zephyr will make sure the OS is modular in nature, and can be used as a stand-alone system or adapted and tailored for specific purposes.

Jim Zemlin, executive director of The Linux Foundation commented:

"Developers today have many choices when it comes to platforms. We invite developers to contribute to the Zephyr Project and to help advance a customizable embedded open source RTOS to advance IoT."

The project will also consider networking support and will initially support Bluetooth, Bluetooth Low Energy and IEEE 802.15.4, although there are plans to extend this over time to other protocols.

We are beginning to see just how behind in security many IoT devices are on the market, often due to lax settings, outdated firmware or poor security considerations by vendors. The IoT device search engine Shodan highlights just how open and free many of our Wi-Fi connected devices are to surveillance or attack, but the Linux Foundation hopes to remedy this lack by also establishing a dedicated IoT security group.

Mark Skarpness, vice president of the software and services group at Intel commented:

"By providing a scalable, customizable, secure and open source OS, the Zephyr Project will address the evolving needs of connected device development."

The Zephyr Project will be showcased at Embedded World 2016, held in Nuremberg, Germany.

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