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Linux Foundation Zephyr Project Attracts IoT Developers and Tech Giants

The Linux Foundation has always been committed to welcoming companies and organizations of all sizes as part of its heritage and ongoing vision for opening technology for all to experiment with and to build things.

The Zephyr Project, an open source project to build a real-time operating system (RTOS) for the Internet of Things (IoT), announced last week they grew their community of contributors with support for more than 100 developer boards and the addition of six new members.

These industry and academic leaders include Antmicro, DeviceTone, SiFive, the Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, The Institute of Communication and Computer Systems (ICCS) and Northeastern University.

Its not easy to build an open operating system (OS), and it is not easy to compete for the attention of developers, particularly in the increasingly fragmented IoT and Industrial IoT domains, where there are nearly 500 different platforms, thousands of different companies, hundreds of different protocols, approaches and frameworks – but Zephyr clearly focused their mission on solving for specific challenges including standards and scale for systems.

The Linux Foundation has related projects (for example, EdgeX Foundry), but Zephyr, like the gentle west wind, is going after the lightest approaches through an OS that can itself contribute to more rational hardware and software combinations that require less compute.

Developers working for Zephyr’s larger, “platinum” members – Intel, Linaro, NXP, and Nordic Semiconductor – represent a large portion of the community.

Over the last 12 months, however Zephyr Project has seen a rise in the number of developers making commits from Silver members like Oticon and Synopsys and contributors from universities, small firms and non-member organizations.

Hosted by The Linux Foundation, the Zephyr Project aims to establish a neutral community where silicon vendors, Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), Original Design Manufacturer (ODMs) and Independent Software Vendor (ISVs) can contribute technology to reduce the cost and accelerate time to market for developing the billions of IoT devices.

In their announcement, the Zephyr Project said, “The dedication and talent of the growing Zephyr technical community has resulted in a significant expansion in board support as well as attracting more new developers each month. At launch in 2016, Zephyr was supported on only four boards including Arduino 101, Arduino Due, Intel® Galileo™ Gen 2 and the FRDM-K64F Freedom development board from NXP® Semiconductors. Zephyr now supports more than 100 boards comprising of different architectures: ARM, x86, ARC, NIOS II, XTENSA, and RISCV32 processor families. (For a complete list of boards and details, visit http://docs.zephyrproject.org/boards/boards.html).

In addition to new members, the Zephyr technical community recently welcomed Thea Aldrich, a longtime open source participant, as a Project Evangelist and Developer Advocate. She will be an active contributor to the technical roadmap, teaching Zephyr to new developers raising awareness of the project and coordinating communities.

She joins the already robust technical community that has more than 300 contributors on Github collaborating daily to create patches and help advance and manage new versions of Zephyr code that easily integrates with embedded devices regardless of architecture.

“A few years ago, I used Zephyr OS to solve many of the technical issues I was encountering with a wearables solution I created,” said Thea Aldrich, Zephyr Project Evangelist and Developer Advocate. “Zephyr’s ease of use and scalability helped me with my solution and I was welcomed into this highly passionate open source community. Needless to say, I stumbled upon something more than just an RTOS and I could not be happier to have the opportunity to contribute to this community.”

“Developers have many choices when it comes to platforms. Zephyr offers the smallest memory footprint and a secure and flexible RTOS that extends functionality of IoT devices,” said Anas Nashif, Chair of the Zephyr Project Technical Steering Committee and a Software Engineer at Intel’s Open Source Technology Centre. “We are excited to welcome these member companies into our IoT ecosystem and look forward to collaborating with them to create and support a customizable, embedded open source platform.”

New Member Quotes:

“Antmicro is joining the Zephyr Project to confirm its long-term commitment to this community-driven and security-oriented RTOS, which we see as a de-facto standard for the next generation IoT systems,” said Michael Gielda, VP Business Development at Antmicro. “Zephyr is an especially good choice for devices based on new open architectures such as RISC-V, and developed with new methodologies using tools such as Renode, Antmicro’s multi-node simulation framework for IoT security, quality and interoperability testing, which is already a recommended Zephyr tool in use by our Zephyr customers worldwide.”

“DeviceTone is pleased to join the growing Zephyr community,” said Philip DesAutels, Chief Product Officer of DeviceTone. “We plan to leverage Zephyr’s ease of use, flexibility and network to create secure embedded devices under our DeviceTone solutions. We look forward to collaborating with the IoT ecosystem and sharing our expertise with simplified connected product development.”

“The I-SENSE Group of ICCS research addresses the evolving connectivity needs of embedded devices including mobility communication services, intelligent transport systems, environmental monitoring, applications for next generation emergency services and infrastructure monitoring for foundation of future smart cities,” said Dr. Angelos Amditis, Research Director, I-SENSE Group of ICCS. “We believe the Zephyr Project is an accelerator of hyper-connectivity among embedded devices, network components and the cloud. As such, we’re excited to be part of the project and working with members who are interconnected across various smart domains of a greater IoT ecosystem.”

“At Northeastern University, we have a large group of researchers working on cybersecurity and privacy,” said Long Lu, Assistant Professor of Computer Science for Northeastern University. “IoT security is one of the focused research areas and we recognize Zephyr’s leading role in building secure IoT OS. Joining the project allows us to timely transfer our research outcome to practice and stay informed of real-world security problems facing IoT devices.”

“RISC-V is about creating open source platforms for the entire world to collaborate on, but hardware doesn’t exist without software,” said Jack Kang, VP of Product at SiFive. “Given SiFive’s leadership role in the RISC-V ecosystem, joining the Zephyr Project is a natural step, as the vision of a well-supported, robust open-source RTOS is important to the RISC-V revolution.”

Zephyr is governed by a separate Technical Steering Committee and Governing Board. This means technical decisions and decisions about how contributions are assessed and included in the project are made transparently and with input from representatives from the community. This allows the project to incorporate diverse perspectives, quickly respond to the needs of the community and better keep pace with the ever changing IoT and embedded ecosystem.

An open ecosystem is only as successful as the projects it endeavors to support, and we’ll continue to track those proof-of-concept and beta projects as the initiative grows to include more contributions and collaborations.

Edited by Ken Briodagh

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