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1 April 2016

Samsung set to announce new open source RTOS, but who’s buying?


Samsung is reportedly developing an open source real-time operating system (RTOS) for the IoT, with rumors pointing to its launch at the Samsung Developer Conference next month.

Samsung’s Tizen OS, designed as a rival to Android, failed to take the smartphone world by storm, with just a handful of adoptions in India and Russia, and has only received mediocre IoT success thanks to Samsung’s own hardware clout in the smart home and IIoT (Industrial IoT) arenas. Now the South Korean electronics giant has decided to have another crack at climbing up the IoT software ladder.

Samsung has a significant advantage in the IoT thanks to its broad range of devices and appliances, not just smartphones, wearables, and TVs, but also spanning the smart home market with refrigerators, air conditioners, and washing machines, as well as the IIoT with equipment such as HVAC, healthcare systems, and barcode scanners.

However, the software world is one that Samsung doesn’t have the best of reputations in, and perhaps can only succeed in shifting this unfortunate label if it really concentrates on pushing this as an integrated part of its chip manufacturing offer.

RTOSs from the likes of Intel-owned Wind River with Rocket and Pulsar, Micrium, as well as the Linux Foundations recently announced open source Zephyr project, are certainly considerably ahead of Samsung in IoT software in terms of renown – leading us to make a assume that this could well be a complete waste of time for Samsung, if it actually does announce it.

RTOSs allow devices to carry out basic functions in real-time, which have useful applications in the IoT for smart homes actuators, for security or even HVAC systems. The IIoT is another key area where real-time performance is required, as the industrial machinery powered by an RTOS requires real-time monitoring and responses in order to function correctly and/or avoid catastrophic failures.

Samsung’s offering also includes an Artik development platform, unveiled last year, which includes three hardware modules (Artik 1, Artik 5, and Artik 10), powered by one of its own Exynos chip – which could use the new RTOS to connect to Samsung’s SAMI (Samsung Architecture Multimedia Interactions) cloud platform, although Samsung has been fairly quiet about that project as of late. The Artik venture was one of Samsung’s first real moves away from its fading mobile device business, and only time will tell if the latest software project will pay off, or if Samsung should stick to what it does best – hardware.

What is promising is that going open source is a good move from Samsung and it will be interesting to see which companies decide to support the project. Linux’s Zephyr RTOS project, announced last month, has the backing of Intel, NXP Semiconductors, Synopsys, and UbiquiOS Technology. Zephyr’s network support currently includes Bluetooth, BLE, and the IEEE 802.15.4 standard for LR-WPANs, and initially supports the Arduino 101, Arduino Due, Intel Galileo Gen 2, and NXP FRDM-K64F development platforms – the Linux Foundation also says the project is firmly focused on security with a dedicated working group.

While we will have to wait until next month for any further details and technical specifications for the yet unnamed RTOS, what we can be almost certain about is that it won’t be Tizen, but an entirely new system.

A Samsung spokesperson said, “our new, open-source IoT RTOS has a wide scope of features while maintaining a lightweight and efficient footprint.”

RIoT will cover Samsung’s RTOS in greater critical detail following the probable launch at next month’s conference but, either way, this is another step closer to Samsung meeting its goal of connecting every one of its products to the internet by 2020. Whether its RTOS gets any third-party users remains to be seen.