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Zephyr OS is ready for connected worker devices

By | Blog

This blog post is written by Giuliano Franchetto, CTO of Intellinium and was originally featured on the Intellinium website.

Today, everything gets more and more complicated. This is of course true for embedded electronics design, both on software and hardware side. More complex boards will be more likely to fail at some point, and a more complex firmware will be more prone to bugs and side effects.

We’ve all had a “I added a simple line of code at the start of my code, and it now fails at the most random place” moment (and let’s be honest, this is not the funniest part of being an embedded engineer). Even if it costs more at the first place, dividing software and hardware functionalities is one of the most effective ways to tackle this problem, and save money in the long run.

So, let’s talk how Zephyr OS can be very efficient on this subject, and use multiple Zephyrs to create a hurricane and to build the best connected worker smart PPE!

Zephyr 1.12 and onwards now supports Asymmetric MultiProcessing (AMP), helping designers to remotely call functions running on another core. In that way, the designer can now choose to divide its code, and host only some parts of the functionality in a single core and use AMP to call the other set of functionalities remotely. The code becomes lighter, faster, predictable and way easier to upgrade later. Another very interesting part is that we can now port software principles easily using multiple core + AMP.

Let’s take our use case at INTELLINIUM, where we have been developing a safety pod (plug-in) to transform traditional leather-based safety shoes into smart and connected safety shoes, a life-saving product that shall work at all time and in all conditions.

The multiple cores + AMP architecture enables the use of the “SOLID” software principle, very famous among Java developers. The SOLID principle is a “Single Responsibility Principle”, or more trivially “just do what you are meant to do and do it well”. In our case, we must manage critical messages, answer a user’s distress call, but also read various sensors or manage a LED. The priority of all functionalities is of course very different, and even if Zephyr manages thread priority, we are polluting life critical processes with “cosmetic” ones. Aware of this potential problem, we chose to add a small M0 MCU from ST, whose job is to manage all the sensors and actuators of our product. That way, our main MCU (a nRF52840 from Nordic Semiconductors) can focus on its “Single Responsibility”, taking care of its user.

Another very powerful possibility is to separate the communication processing power from the main core. That’s why we chose the new nRF9160 from Nordic Semiconductor as our LTE modem, as they were brilliant enough to embed an independent Cortex M33core inside their own component, hosting all our communication related code. No more AT commands parsing with huge static buffers in our main program, no more SIM management nor HTTP packets building. Everything is done is the M33 core, dedicated to communicating with the base modem. And of course, AMP is used between the nRF52840 and the nRF9160 to send or receive messages from example.

I hope that this small talk showed you how powerful can multi-processor be, and not only for pure computing power, but to make firmware development easier, more scalable, and safer. It may cost you a few bucks more when producing your own board, but trust me, you will save dozens if not more on the long run. I’m out of time right now, but I’d just to mention that adding multiple cores can also save energy, thus increasing your product life time. But that will be another talk. Happy coding!

You can join the conversation or ask questions about Zephyr on the Zephyr Slack channel or Mailing List.

Zephyr Project F2F Meeting of the Minds

By | Blog

Written by Amy Occhialino, the Zephyr Project Governing Board Chair and Director of Software Engineering at Intel

Zephyr Project Members at the F2F meetings in Portland

The Zephyr Project has active community members and contributors all around the world. As such, the various governing boards and sub-committees have met face-to-face once to twice a year in the past to work on strategy, execution tactics, and networking. This year, the Zephyr Project’s governing board, technical steering committee (TSC), and marketing sub-committee had their first face-to-face of 2019 in Portland, Oregon from April 23rd – 25th hosted by the Intel Corporation. 

Almost 40 people from the project joined the meetings to discuss plans for the rest of the year and celebrate wins, like the recent release of the LTS.

Members of the Zephyr Project Governing Board

The governing board’s face-to-face session focused on reviewing the Zephyr Project’s vision statement, the 2019 goals and year to date results, and the tactical and strategic initiatives for the remainder of 2019 and into 2020.  The TSC’s face-to-face sessions focused on the retrospective of our newly released LTS version, feature release plans for the remainder of 2019 and into 2020, and strategies around formalizing our processes and procedures.  The marketing sub-committee’s session focused on reviewing the 2019 goals year to date results and changes to our marketing and outreach collateral which will be released and formalized over the course of 2019.

And, as always, we spent some quality time networking with all community members, building stronger relationships and partnerships.  The Zephyr Project’s board hosted a wonderful dinner at Toro Bravo in downtown Portland and member Intel Corporation hosted an LTS release celebration at the beautiful Garden Vineyard in Hillsboro, Oregon. 

Celebration at the Garden Vineyard

We are excited about the collaboration and discussions we had at these F2F meetings and look forward to reaching more milestones this year and sharing more great use cases!

This is an exciting time to get involved with the Zephyr Project. If you’re new to Zephyr, take a look at our Getting Started Guide or our Contributor Guide. Or, you can join the conversation or ask questions on our Slack channel or Mailing List.

What Zephyr Project Members Had to Say about the new LTS release

By | Blog

The Zephyr Project introduced Zephyr 1.14.0 LTS (long term support) a few weeks ago. The release marked an important technical milestone for the community and all of the Zephyr Project members. Here’s what some of our members had to say…

“A long-term stable release of Zephyr is a strong signal that the operating system has reached a high level of maturity and can be depended upon in even the most challenging of applications”, said Michael Gielda, VP Business Development for Antmicro. “We had been helping customers build real products with Zephyr using our open source Renode simulation and testing framework since the RTOS’ early days and can now even more confidently recommend this vendor-neutral and community-driven operating system platform.”

“With this key milestone, the Zephyr community has a strong foundation to build innovative IoT and embedded products, said George Grey, CEO of  Foundries.io. “Foundries.io is committed to support the LTS through the Zephyr microPlatformTM (ZmP) and will continue to align the secure, OTA updatable ZmP with the next generation of Zephyr Project features. This offers the Zephyr community the benefit of the LTS release, coupled with choice on supporting new features as they become available. We look forward to supporting our customers using Zephyr for a wide range of full stack applications, including those requiring BLE, OpenThread and LTE-M/NB-IoT cellular communications.”

“With the release of Zephyr 1.14 LTS, developers can focus on differentiation with the confidence that the software they are developing on always has the important fixes and latest security updates,” said Kumar Gala, Linaro IoT and Embedded Group (LITE) Technical Lead and Zephyr Project 1.14 LTS Release Manager. “Linaro is pleased to have helped drive the release which provides developers with a stable set of API for real world applications on constrained devices.”

“We are very excited to see that the Zephyr Project has gotten to the major milestone this LTS release is” said Paal Kastnes, Technical Marketing Manager with Nordic Semiconductor. “Having the long term support option is something which is very often requested by our customers. This is especially the case for segments where development runs over longer times or for products with long lifecycles. Having the opportunity to introduce minor patches without rebasing the entire firmware framework is a major advantage for these users.”

“As a founding member of the Zephyr Project, we are excited to support this latest release that brings new feature enablement and support to our expanding portfolio of i.MX RT crossover processors,” said Maureen Helm, NXP Microcontroller Software Architect and Zephyr Technical Steering Committee member. “The Zephyr 1.14 LTS release provides developers a well-tested, stable foundation for immediate project start and is based on a rich, open source microcontroller ecosystem that supports exciting new applications.”

Please see below for the more information about the Zephyr LTS:

Read the news release:  https://www.zephyrproject.org/the-zephyr-project-announces-major-technical-milestone-with-new-long-term-support-code-release/

Download it: https://github.com/zephyrproject-rtos/zephyr/tree/zephyr-v1.14.0

Check out the release notes: https://github.com/zephyrproject-rtos/zephyr/releases/tag/zephyr-v1.14.0

Share the benefits with your network: https://www.zephyrproject.org/learn-more-about-zephyr-1-14-0-lts/


Start the discussion with the Zephyr community on our Slack channel now!