As Adoption of Open Source RTOS Accelerates, the Linux Foundation Zephyr Project Continues to Grow


The Zephyr Project, an open-source project at the Linux Foundation that builds a safe, secure, and flexible Real-Time Operating Systems (RTOS) for resource-constrained devices, has been growing steadily since its founding in 2016. Today, it supports more than 450 boards running embedded microcontrollers from Arm and RISC-V to Tensilica, NIOS, ARC, and x86 as single and multicore systems.

Built with an emphasis on broad chipset support, security, dependability, long-term support releases, and a growing open-source ecosystem, the project boasts a growing set of software libraries that can be used across applications and industry sectors, including Industrial IoT, wearables, machine learning, and more. Zephyr is the global, open-source standards bearer for dozens of startups, tech giants like Google, communications service providers like T-Mobile, and disruptive product companies like Oticon, which has forever changed the hearing aid market with an on-board Deep Neural Network.

Originally envisioned to address challenges in the restrained device sector, Zephyr, which is led by Kate Stewart, Vice President of Dependable Embedded Systems at the Linux Foundation, has established an impressive community and recently announced that Blues Wireless, IRNAS, and Sternum have joined the project and will be among the best and brightest demonstrating embedded RTOS-based applications and solutions at Embedded World, March 14-16 in Nuremberg, Germany.

"Adoption of Zephyr has increased dramatically in the last few years," said Kate Stewart, Vice President of Dependable Embedded Systems. "In addition to Zephyr being used in a variety of industrial applications, we're finding it in all sorts of emerging markets like wearables, trackers, intelligent IoT devices, animal monitoring systems, and more. We hope being product ready will help these new members and the community with development, delivery, and maintenance across a wide variety of additional devices and solutions."

Products that are powered by Zephyr include:

  • Google Chromebooks: The embedded controller is an ultra-low-power microcontroller that is always on. It is critical to the all-day battery life as it handles all the things a Chromebook has to do when the application processor is off or sleeping. Google recently decided to move the EC application to Zephyr so vendors can write their drivers once and capture design wins in product areas beyond Chromebooks. Zephyr's device model is based on the industry standards of devicetree? and Kconfig?. These technologies simplify the customization steps needed for each Chromebook model, lessening the engineering effort for Chromebook manufacturers. Learn more here.
  • Oticon More Hearing Aids: The revolutionary Oticon More is the World's first hearing aid that allows users to hear all relevant sounds thanks to an on-board Deep Neural Network. It is powered by the Polaris chipset, integrating Zephyr RTOS for Bluetooth LE connectivity. This novel hearing instrument is an advanced medical product that will help millions of hearing-impaired people to a better quality of life. Learn more here.
  • T-Mobile's DevEdge: The DevEdge is a self-serve developer platform that offers access to the T-Mobile network to create connected wireless solutions. The IoT Developer Kit, which runs on Zephyr RTOS, gives developers immediate access to T-Mobile's network – no testing hardware or lengthy build time required. Learn more here.

IRNAS has been using Zephyr RTOS for the last four years as part of its strategy to work with the best technologies to build industrial solutions for global clients, particularly focusing on Zephyr RTOS running on Nordic Semiconductor's nRF52 and nRF91 series products.

Advanced applied solutions range from critical infrastructure monitoring devices such as RAM-1 developed for Izoelektro all the way to livestock management and tracking products engineered for Telespor. As part of the IRNAS's responsible environmental strategy, they also formed a partnership with Smart Parks to design Open Collar animal trackers for nature conservation. These are mounted on wildlife animal collars for monitoring and their safety.

"Zephyr has been at our core for a number of years, and now we are happy to take the next step and support the project that enabled us to build better-connected products and be part of the Zephyr community," said Luka Mustafa, CEO and Founder of IRNAS. "Zephyr RTOS has already achieved significant adoption in the industry, enabling us to design applications and value add logic to products running on multiple architectures, designing products that can continue evolving over the decades to come without massive rewrites in the process."

Blues Wireless and Sternum also joined the project as Silver members.

"At Blues, we are proud to support the Zephyr Project and officially join the community," said Brandon Satrom, Vice President of Developer Experience & Engineering at Blues. "Zephyr's open source, multi-architecture approach is perfect for our customers as they scale, and they are looking for a robust RTOS to pair with the device agnostic, secure, and simple cellular connectivity Blues provides. We look forward to introducing more of our customers to Zephyr and leveraging our expertise to help Zephyr developers add low-power cellular to their tool belt."

"Zephyr is already the platform of choice for some of our largest customers, allowing us a clear view of how it's being used to power medical devices, payment devices, gateways, and industrial infrastructure," says Natali Tshuva, CEO and Co-Founder of Sternum. "We see growing demand from device manufacturers for advanced security controls, post-market surveillance capabilities, and threat mitigation that go beyond perpetual security patching. Our built-in support for Zephyr RTOS and toolchains allows us to address these needs and offer an easy way to bring our patented technology to all Zephyr-based devices."

Zephyr Project Platinum members include Antmicro, Baumer, Google, Intel, Meta, Nordic Semiconductor, NXP, Oticon, Qualcomm Innovation Center, and T-Mobile. Silver members include AVSystem, BayLibre, Golioth, Infineon, Laird Connectivity, Linaro, Memfault, Parasoft, Percepio, SiFive, Silicon Labs, Synopsys, Texas Instruments, and Wind River.

Zephyr will be on-site at Embedded World on March 14-16 in Nuremberg, Germany. The booth, located in Hall 4 - Stand 170, will host live demonstrations from members such as Antmicro,  AVSystem, Blues Wireless, Golioth, IRNAS, Memfault, Nordic Semiconductor, NXP, Parasoft, and Sternum. Click here for a total list of demos and products featured at Embedded World.

Additionally, the Zephyr community will be at the Zephyr Developer Summit, which takes place on June 27-30 in Prague, Czech Republic, and virtually as part of the first-ever Embedded Open Source Summit (EOSS). The annual Zephyr Developer Summit launched in 2021 is for developers using or considering Zephyr RTOS in embedded products. This year will focus on topics of interest to users, developers contributing upstreams, and maintainers who want to learn more about technical details and products that leverage the RTOS and the ecosystem.

To submit a speaking proposal, click here by February 27. Learn more about sponsoring the event here or register to attend the event here
Arti Loftus is an experienced Information Technology specialist with a demonstrated history of working in the research, writing, and editing industry with many published articles under her belt.

Edited by Erik Linask
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