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Zephyr OS Helps Protect the Environment

By June 4, 2019 No Comments

Written by Ilan Ganor, hereO

Local, regional and national government municipalities are introducing stricter environmental laws in order to fight pollution and global warming.  Waste disposal in particular, has been a top priority for governments worldwide, with new regulations regarding tracking and proper disposal.

In general, garbage waste needs to be dumped in a designated disposal site.  The common procedure is that dump trucks arrive at a disposal site such a landfill and are charged per weight and/or type of waste being dumped.  This conventional way has been the norm for many years.

The above procedure presents a major loophole which is abused to break the law and ends up hurting the environment and increasing pollution.  In many cases, a dump-truck driver will dispose of some or all the waste meant for the landfill, in order to save the disposal fee, which they pocket to themselves.

Worldwide estimates range from 15%-50% (!) of all waste being dumped outside the intended landfill and ends up in a nature reserve or other illegal sites.  This causes extra pollution which increases environmental cleanup costs and worse, can even be deadly if the waste makes its way to a water reserve.

The high cost of enforcement and environmental clean-up have driven governments and industry to seek out advanced solutions using sensors, location and communication technologies to fight this trend.  This is a challenge the IoT industry is poised to address.

Two main challenges of the waste disposal tracking project:

  1. Power management – a standalone, battery powered device that does not need charging for at least 1 year.
  2. Disposal detection – the unit must report with close to 100% accuracy that garbage is being disposed in the proper location in order to not wrongly fine the truck driver.

How Zephyr RTOS makes this happen:

Processor power management:

The power management power state “SYS_PM_LOW_POWER_STATE” proved to be the right selection for this use case.  In this power state, the device stays on, keeping only the minimum set of needed components active (shutting down power hungry components such as cellular modem, GPS, BLE and all sensors) except for the gyroscope.

Driver power management

Zephyr’s driver power management structure enables a robust guideline for adding new drivers, it is relatively easy to add new drivers that follow the basic power management guidelines.  This is critical for IoT systems since efficient power management plays a key role in many project go/no-go decisions and the likelihood to get to market quickly and be commercially successful.

 Dual processor support

The mailbox IPC between cores which is a key Zephyr capability, proved to be the project go factor.  The small core was used as a DSP, processing the measurements from gyroscope and accelerometer, only when recognizing that garbage disposal is taking place and turning on the more processing-hungrycore which handled the cellular modem, MQTT based data publish, etc.

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FOTA support

Zephyr offers great “out-of-the-box” FOTA support.

On many embedded projects this task proves to be the most complicated part and is usually neglected until the end of development and proves to be difficult introducing additional delays to the project.

With Zephyr a stable FOTA solution enabled a dependent and secure update mechanism.

Summary

Choosing to work with the Zephyr solution allowed us to have a stable and flexible design and development process avoiding development issue associated with typical embedded development.  Zephyr’s many optional frameworks, work methods, etc., helped speed up time-to-prototype and time-to-market, especially with customers in the garbage-disposal industry, which have ever evolving needs.  For this industry, Zephyr is a great enabler.

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