The collaboration will reduce a developer's time to market across both industrial and IoT edge applications.
NXP Semiconductors announced a partnership with Microsoft on Wednesday that brings Microsoft Azure real-time operating system (RTOS) to a wider range of its EdgeVerse processing solutions. The collaboration will allow NXP's developer community to use MCUXpresso tools and software access to Azure RTOS capabilities, according to a press release.
In April 2019, Microsoft acquired Express Logic, a leader in the RTOS space for IoT and edge devices powered by microcontroller units. With the acquisition, Express Logic's ThreadX RTOS was integrated with other aspects of the Azure IoT cloud services to form Azure RTOS, said Gowrishankar Chindalore, head of technology and business strategy-microcontrollers at NXP Semiconductors.
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The number of connected Internet of Things (IoT) devices is predicted to reach 41.6 billion by 2025, according to International Data Corporation (IDC), as more organizations across industries realize the value of the data generated by digital devices.
When most individuals think of IoT devices, connected sensors or cameras used in smart home technology often come to mind. These devices typically run on basic central processing units (CPUs) or other operating systems. However, not every IoT device has a true CPU, instead relying on microcontrollers.
Devices run by microcontrollers are typically older, such as smoke detectors, and don't have the functionality to connect directly to the cloud. This partnership helps securely connect these basic IoT devices to the cloud and pave the way for more advanced applications.
RTOS systems aren't a new idea, but are evolving. Other names in the space include Wind River VxWorks, Blackberry QNX, and the open source Amazon FreeRTOS. Before partnering with Microsoft Azure RTOS, NXP frequently used FreeRTOS, Chindalore said.
How the partnership benefits the enterprise
Azure RTOS support is currently accessible for many of NXP's 32-bit LPC and i.MX RT crossover microcontrollers (MCUs), but this announcement broadens the availability to cover the MCUXpresso software development kit (SDK), according to the release.
"In the past, if a customer wanted to use ThreadX RTOS-- the Express Logic version--they had to go in and buy a special license from the Express Logic company," Chindalore said. "The ThreadX RTOS was enabled on our NXP processors, but to use ThreadX on NXP processors you had to go and make a deal with Express Logic. And, it was not part of the MCUXpresso, which is our software development kit."
As Chindalore said, NXP previously used FreeRTOS for both the RTOS and the kernel, bringing in several different open source applications and partnerships for the middleware.
But with Azure RTOS, users a fully integrated middleware, tools for file management, graphical user interface, security, networking, and wired connectivity. Chindalore said, "The whole package comes as one bundle."
The Azure RTOS integration will help simplify the development cycle, helping teams choose the right processor, deploy secure intelligent edge devices, build on local area networks, and connect to the cloud--all while providing a faster time-to-market for industrial internet of things (IoT) products.
However, when users come to NXP's SDk, they will receive the option to either use FreeRTOS or Azure RTOS, so both versions will still be available, Chindalore noted.
Chindalore clarified that connectivity is not a prerequisite for using this technology.
"Connectivity helps to create that network to connect to the cloud, but there's lots of devices that are just smart. Having an MCU with RTOS running on it gives the capability for them to then connect to the cloud.
"What's changing with the internet of things is that these endpoints are becoming an application edge; they are either talking to a network within a smart home or a smart building or something, and then eventually connecting to the data in the cloud," Chindalore said.
"Microsoft is enabling them to make it easier to connect to their cloud while not precluding them from connecting to any other clouds if necessary," Chindalore said. "It's all about turnkey. It's all about how quickly the customer gets to the time to market--how quickly they can turn these things on."
Microsoft has played in the IoT game for a long time, particularly in regard to IoT security with its Azure Sphere platform. Microsoft previously collaborated with NXP to produce an Azure Sphere-certified processor. The chip was an extension of NXP's i.MX 8 high-performance applications processor series.
For more, check out Microsoft to deliver Azure Sphere, a Linux-based chip and cloud security service, in February 2020 on ZDNet.
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