“Present State and Future of Internet of Things Operating Systems” Seminar

— Beijing, China, November 2017

2014 was a milestone year for Internet of Things (IoT) Operating System; since this year a variety of IoT OSes has emerged. Now, after 3 years, what is the current status quo of the industry? How are the projects going? What’s next on the horizon? These are the some of the pending questions among practitioners. On Nov. 12nd 2017, “Present State and Future of Internet of Things Operating Systems” seminar was held in Beijing, with many industrial and academic experts among the invitees.

ARM’s Bet on On-Device Platform

In 2016, ARM was acquired by SoftBank in a $35 Billion deal. After a couple of years of merging, new ARN Mbed 5.5 has been released with strong ecosystem support. Combined with the impact of ARM Cortex-M, application evelopment in ARM Mbed is pretty easy.

According to Xiaobing Yin, Business Director of ARM Mbed, the application arena of IoT OS is very fragmented, with security issues arising occasionally. On-device platform is heading for a convergence, and ARM Mbed is ready to response in terms of security, cloud readiness and connectivity.

ARM Mbed ensures privacy of chip development with uVisor; ARM provides rich contents on its developer portal, including core development tools, IDE and distributed version controlling.

ARM also provide Mbed Cloud, a device-to-cloud solution. IoT applications lie on the cloud, not the devices; device-to-cloud solution will ensure security of the connection. The anticipated scenario now is a flexible binding of Mbed OS and cloud, i.e. Mbed can be connected to multiple cloud and establish its own cloud service. Leveraging capacities of Cortex-M, ARM is able to provide friendly UI to help users setting up cloud service. Baidu, Huawei and Advantech are all partners of ARM.
ARM invest a lot in IoT OS security, and introduced PSA security architecture. Based on current technology. PSA systematically categorize chip and software and provide I/O level recommendations.

Domestic Embedded OS Drives IoT Development

IoT chip and MCU manufacturers in China will continue to see growth. IoT companies like Espressif Systems will continue to develop on fast lane and lead innovation in the industry. IoT OS industry requires accumulation of experience on different aspects. In recent years, we already start to see the critical value of IoT OS.

Cheng Zou, COO of RT-Thread Shanghai introduced RT-Thread, a real-time OS kernel, in the seminar. The project started in 2006, led by Mr. Puxiang Xiong. It is completely opensource with a tiny footprint; many mainstream companies have adopted it in applications ever since with fruitful results. RT-Thread is an independent OS developed from scratch, independent to chip, IP stack and cloud. RT-Thread 3.0 further accelerate development of IoT products by shortening development cycle, improving on-device software quality, raising device-to-cloud connectivity and making service deployment easier.

RT-Thread is also equipped with Presimmon UI which supports multi-point touch (sliding, dragging, spinning and zooming), basic UI components (like button, frame, list, panel, card and wheel), transparent effect on windows, visual event projection, TTF font and fast image rendering optimized for MCU.

Cheng talked about cooperation between RT-Thread and chip manufacturers. He believes IoT and MCU companies in China are going to take on a great opportunity and potentially end up in leading position of IoT development and innovation; RT-Thread could become the backbone in it.

IoT OS Development and Communication Technology

 According to Youping Zhong, General Manager of Huawei LiteOS OSS Project, top telecom carriers are actively looking at entry points to IoT. Public infrastructure and Internet of Vehicles are among the best for them. Fragmentation of business model, lack of uniform OS and technology coverage are some of the common issues carriers are facing. Current available cellular technology like 3G, 4G and GSM may not be appropriate for IoT. Instead, new technology like NB-IoT and eMTC can offer better solution with low power and bandwidth requirements.

Next up after infrastructure is how to realize IoT applications. Huawei LiteOS is the central piece of Huawei IoT solution. As a lightweight IoT OS with emphasis on cloud and device-to-platform connectivity, LiteOS can bring down the entry bar of smart device development, and shorten development cycle.

LiteOS is an open source software with growing ecosystem. There is huge potential for it to push the development of IoT device industry.

IoT OS Should be Application-oriented

Assoc. Prof. Jianhua Shen of East China Normal University Computer Science & Software Engineering School first took us back in time of early MCU embedded system, where OS is absent and code is difficult to maintain. Later, C and real-time OS become prevalent but still there is no universal design standard of these OSes; they typically work on kernel task scheduling and basic application component management passively (without a framework). In other words, traditional embedded development has been very fragmented.

In recent years, the rise of IoT brings new opportunity to embedded system. Since smart devices all expect Internet connectivity, a standardized and convenient way of development (like on PC and smartphone) is what the industry need. With this trend, MXChip comes up with MiCO IoT OS that targets MCU. MiCO OS is not only a real-time OS, but also a collection of middleware for IoT; it is easy-to-use, stable, highly efficient and secure, and it works with almost all mainstream MCU of SoC..

While keeping a uniform interface, IoT OS should continue to evolve and improve like a product. In the short term, this field will continue to show more diversity. Improvement of IoT OS requires continuing investment, engagement and support from ecosystem, like chip manufacturer, IDH and developers.

The Internet Way of Thinking in IoT

Ye Zheng, CTO of Ruff mentioned the lack of embedded engineer and high entry bar of the field, as well as the problem of slow development of IoT application by hardware vendors. Ruff’s solution is to split application, platform and hardware. Specifically, use modern programming language like JavaScript; provide abstract programming interface; provide support for MCU to separate application and hardware configuration. Application should be able to be migrated between hardware with same interface. Development of application can happen without knowing hardware specifics, which allow flexibility in both application and hardware testing and delivery.

In the afternoon, Allan He, Secretary in Chief of ESBF delivered his summary speech of “Thoughts on IoT OS”. From real-time kernel in 1980s, real-time OS in 1990s, to Linux in 2000s and Android in 2010s (mobile and then embedded application), now we are in the era of IoT OS. Roughly every ten years we will see an evolution of embedded OS. Windriver summarized that there are 8 requirements of IoT devices (2016 Embedded World, Nurnberg): modular architecture, extensible device software, device safety and security, virtualization, performance/dependability, connectivity and rich UI and certification. With the more application and faster technology development, IoT OS is growing rapidly. However, both academia and industry still lack a clear definition and description of IoT OS.

In the market, there are more than a dozen of IoT OS, without particular wide adoption of any of them. Eclipse Foundation reported in 2016 that open source Linux and real-time OSes are still among the most popular choices. Enterprise, institutions and engineers should all get to know IoT OS and prepare for a change of a paradigm shift in development and technology.

In the discussion session, guests and audience hosted a heated discussion. Qingtao Li – Director of FarSight, Jinlong Li from Peking University, and Ping Liang – NXP MCU Marketing Director are among the speakers from the audience.

Agenda & Keynotes Download

Date and Time: 9am on Sunday, Nov. 12nd 2017
Location: Runxin Convention Center Auditorium, Beihang University, Beijing, China
Host: Allan He, Secretary in Chief of ESBF

TimeTopic Speaker / Comment
9:30-10:00amConvergence of IoT PlatformsXiaobing Yin, Business Director, ARM mbed
10:00-10:30amRT-Thread3.0: IoT OS Drives IoT DevelopmentCheng Zou, COO,  RT-Thread Shanghai
11:00-11:30amCommunication Technology in IoT and a Test Drive with LiteOSYouping Zhong, General Manager, Huawei LiteOS OSS Project
11:30am-12:00pmFrom RTOS to IoT OS – Technology, Product and CommercializationAssoc. Prof. Jianhua Shen,  Computer Science & Software Engineering School, East China Normal University
12:00-1:30pmGroup Photo & LunchGroup photo taken in front of Aviation & Aerospace museum; lunch in training center cafe
 1:30-2:00pmRuff: An Attempt to Break IoT R&D DilemmaYe Zheng, Ruff CTO
 2:00-2:30pmThoughts on IoT OSAllan He, Secretary in Chief of ESBF