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Zephyr Project

Thea Aldrich, Zephyr Project Evangelist and Developer Advocate, talks about the goals and growth of the project in this exclusive interview.

The Zephyr Project is a scalable real-time operating system (RTOS) supporting multiple hardware architectures; it’s optimized for resource-constrained devices and built specifically with security in mind. To learn more, we talked with Thea Aldrich, Zephyr Project Evangelist and Developer Advocate, about the goals and growth of the project.

The first question that comes to mind is what’s the need for Zephyr when the Linux kernel already exists? Aldrich explained that Zephyr is great in those cases where Linux is too big. “It’s a really small footprint, real-time operating system built with security and safety in mind for highly constrained environments,” she said.

Adoption of Zephyr

Zephyr is witnessing adoption in many industries, especially in industrial IoT, on devices that are extremely conservative in terms of power. It gives product developers the flexibility to pick and choose features and functionality based on the size of the footprint that they’re working with.

Companies are also using Zephyr in places that no one envisioned. One of the use cases Aldrich is excited about includes a smart glove by ProGlove. “It’s a glove with barcode scanner built-in. It cuts down time for factory workers as they could scan inventory quickly and more efficient. The scanner is embedded into their hands, so the inventory gets scanned during their natural movement.”

Zephyr is also being used in shoes that have sensors to send haptic feedback. These are useful in manufacturing and heavy industries where it could be challenging to hear supervisors or get information.

Challenges Ahead

Every opportunity brings its own set of challenges. One of the biggest challenges facing Zephyr is the number of boards that are coming out. “We are also overwhelmed with the number of contributions coming from the community, so the challenge is to ensure a balance between code quality and meeting the needs of the community and accept their contributions,” said Aldrich.

More boards mean more code-level support for these boards and each vendor contributes their own code to address their own use-case. The project is working hard to ensure the platform is flexible enough to accommodate new boards and use-cases without compromising quality.

The Zephyr Project is a fantastic entry point into open source for new contributors or users who are looking for a way to get involved in the creation of the technologies they use everyday. If you are new to open source or are interested in getting involved in the Zephyr Community, please reach out through any of our community channels, Freenode IRC #zephyrproject, on Slack at  https://tinyurl.com/y8eusuhs, or via email at devel@lists.zephyrproject.org

You can hear more about Zephyr in the complete interview below:

With more than 25 billion Internet connected things predicted to hit the market by 2020, the “Internet of Things” is evolving from a promise to an everyday reality. Whether it’s how we control our energy usage or secure our homes, smart devices are changing the world we live in and how we live.

IoT, like any disruptive technology shift, brings opportunities as well as challenges. Open source presents an opportunity for IoT to overcome interoperability barriers and innovate at an unprecedented rate. It provides a neutral forum for collaboration at scale and allows developers to contribute and advance software so that IoT products can get to market faster.

One key challenge is choice, and developers have a lot of it. For IoT to deliver on the promise of seamless connectivity, devices need a highly modular platform that can easily integrate with embedded devices. While Linux has proven itself time and again as the de facto operating system choice for embedded development, some IoT devices require a real-time operating system (RTOS) that addresses the very smallest of memory footprints.

To provide an open source solution that complements real-time Linux but keeps critical concerns like security and modularity top-of-mind, we created the Zephyr Project. Zephyr Project is a small, scalable, RTOS designed specifically for small-footprint IoT devices. It is also embedded with development tools and has a modular design so that developers can customize its capabilities and create IoT solutions that meet the needs of any device, regardless of architecture. This enables easier connectivity to the cloud as well as other IoT devices.

Recently the Zephyr Project announced Linaro as its newest member, joining the likes of Intel, NXP Semiconductors and Synopsys. As a global leader in open source development for the ARM ecosystem, Linaro will help drive Zephyr specifications and initiatives, and help the project realize its vision of becoming the premier multi-architecture open source RTOS for IoT.

The Zephyr Project comes at a critical time for the IoT small device development community. As an open source project, Zephyr unites the community to help make small, embedded devices “smarter,” while ensuring ubiquitous connectivity and security in small device infrastructure. It’s an exciting time for IoT, and we encourage anyone interested to join the effort.