The Internet Of Things Goes Open Source With Linux Foundation’s Zephyr Project

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I love Linux. After many years using Ubuntu as my default operating system (I switch to Windows, sometimes), I can hardly think of going back.

So I was very excited, recently, to learn that the first Ubuntu Linux tablet is coming to the market and that the Ubuntu smartphone showcased at the Mobile World Congress will be, according to some rumours, the best open source smartphone ever.

But Ubuntu is just one of the many facets of this wonderful operating system, which powers so many Internet server and comes in all flavours and distributions. And that could soon power, it turns out, what we call the ‘Internet of Things’ as well.

Image credits: Internet Society

The Linux Foundation has in fact announced on Wednesday, a project to “build real-time operating system for Internet of Things devices”, called Zephyr Project, which counts among its supporters the likes of Intel INTC -2.36%, NXP Semiconductors , Synopsys and Ubiqu iOS Technology.

The announcement did not receive too much attention, but it could actually be the first sign of something big. Why is it so important? Because, by providing a scalable, customizable, secure and open source OS, to be used across multiple architectures, the Zephyr Project could help solve many of the current constraints that held back, so far, IoT from becoming really mainstream.

Most of all, as TechRepublic also points out, the rolling out of a unifying, scalable and modular platform, available to any developer around the world, could mean that our IoT devices, confined, so far, to their own proprietary systems, will at last be able to talk to one another. No more digital fences between your thermostat and your wearable device, as they could communicate using the same protocols.

Then there’s the consumption aspect. Some IoT devices require a platform that addresses the very smallest memory footprint. Linux has already proven to be very good at running with constrained resources, while at the same time being able to power the real-time data acquisition systems of manufacturing plants and other time-sensitive instruments and machines. Zephyr is expected to take the best of both sides, low-consumption and speed.

Last but not least, there’s the key issue of security. Open source software is generally deemed more secure, as anyone can inspect and debug the code, and the Foundation’s project will prioritize this feature, setting up a dedicated security working group and a delegated security maintainer.