Networking

Linux Foundation announces Zephyr Project, an open source IoT operating system

A new player has arrived on the Internet of Things field. Jack Wallen explains why the Zephyr Project could be a win-win for developers and consumers.

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Image: Jack Wallen

The Internet of Things (IoT) just became very interesting. The Linux Foundation announced on February 17, 2016 the Zephyr Project, a small, scalable, real-time operating system targeted at resource-constrained systems. Zephyr Project supports multiple architectures and is made available through the Apache 2.0 open source license.

This is big. Why? For so many reasons. Let's consider some of the possibilities.

SEE: Why 10 million developers are lining up for the Internet of Things

Innovation

First and foremost, being open source, the Zephyr Project will drive innovation for IoT devices through the roof. Startups will no longer have to consider licensing an operating system or developing one on their own as a hurdle for their product. You want to innovate for IoT? Grab the Zephyr Project source and begin.

Working with an open source platform also ensures your innovation isn't capped. By its very nature, you will be able to do what you need with the Zephyr Project. This will be the ideal IoT platform, as it will not work "against" the developers. No matter the function or feature, you can roll it in.

Developers around the globe will contribute to the project, so you can bet it will grow fast.

Modular

The Zephyr Project is modular. The Zephyr Project kernel (and associated modules) can run on systems as small as 8kB of memory. You can use the project as is, or disable as many modules as you need (using the included kconfig tool). The Zephyr Project plans on providing everything necessary to integrate third-party modules.

Security

Security is key to all IoT devices. The last thing users need is for their connected devices to be hacked. The Linux Foundation fully understands this and is planning on a group dedicated specifically to the task of maintaining and improving the Zephyr Project security. Being open source, it will have the eyes of the world's open source developers vetting the code.

SEE: Internet of things security years away from being fully baked, says Forrester (ZDNet)

Support

Initially, Zephyr Project will support the following:

  • Bluetooth
  • Bluetooth Low Energy
  • IEEE 802.15.4
  • 6Lowpan
  • CoAP
  • IPv4
  • IPv6
  • NFC
  • Arduino 101
  • Arduino Due
  • Intel Galileo' Gen 2
  • NXP FRDM-K64F Freedom board

Early support of Zephyr Project includes:

  • Intel
  • NXP Semiconductors N.V.
  • Synopsys Inc.
  • UbiquiOS

What does this mean?

Some might shrug off Zephyr Project's lofty goals of helping IoT make major advancements, but this could have a profound and lasting impact on the market. Consider how well Linux and open source does with embedded devices. Thanks to the likes of eCos and MontaVista Linux, it has already been proven that open source, real-time, embedded platforms work.

But to now have a scalable, open platform dedicated to IoT devices means universality for interconnected devices. Think about that. Currently, we have a number of IoT devices that make our lives more convenient, yet a good number of those devices cannot speak to one another. For instance:

  • Your thermostat might not be able to communicate to your security camera;
  • Your security camera might not be able to communicate to your hub;
  • Your hub might not be able to communicate to your smartphone/tablet; and
  • Your wearable might not be able to communicate with every IoT device you own.

You know that particular drill. Unless you purchase all of your IoT devices from the same company, there's no guarantee the devices will communicate with one another — and even then, it's a crap shoot. By going with the Zephyr Project that hurdle is easily overcome.

This is a major win-win for developers and consumers. Couple that with the fact that open source is already a major component for the evolution and expansion of enterprise networks and services, and you can see how an open source IoT platform would be massively beneficial.

Get involved

If you're interested in getting involved in the Zephyr Project, start by reading the documentation and downloading the kernel source. You will find a growing community, which consists of JIRA mailing lists, IRC (connect to irc://irc.freenode.net/zephyrproject), and GERRIT.

What do you think?

Can the Zephyr Project make major strides in the realm of IoT? If so, what exactly will it mean for developers and consumers? Let us know in the discussion.

Also see

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

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