New Linux Based OS Brings Internet of Things Closer to Reality

The "Internet of Things," or IoT, has the potential to change the way we interact with the devices and objects in our homes and lives.

The IoT is the idea that all of the devices and gadgets that you interact with could be connected to the internet.

To make this work, the "things" would need sensors, actuators and a way to connect to the Internet. And software to run them, of course.

Using sensors and actuators to automatically or remotely control devices is not a new idea. Neither is using a local network to connect the devices together and control them.

There are lots of examples of this type of idea in practical use. Even central heating is a type of "network" with sensors and actuators connected together.

Intruder alarms are a more sophisticated example, and modern monitored alarms already use embedded microcomputers to connect to the monitoring station.

But connecting the devices to the internet opens up a number of new possibilities.

Now anyone with the right permissions will be able to access the data. This way the information from multiple devices could be collated and analyzed.

Also, you would be able to control your devices remotely using an internet connection.

But where it starts to get really interesting is when you consider how the things could start talking to each other...

One example goes like this. You buy an airline ticket for a vacation and mark the date in your web calendar. But you forget to set your alarm clock before going to bed the night before the flight!

Don't worry, the alarm clock has already checked your calendar and automatically set the alarm. In the morning, it checks traffic reports between your home and the airport and adjusts the alarm time slightly because of expected delays.

Before you wake up, the central heating switches itself on so you will be warm and comfortable. Your coffee maker switches itself on as you are about to wake.

When you get into your car, the GPS already has the route loaded.

While you are on vacation, your central heating knows that the apartment is empty, so it switches itself off to save energy.

It sounds like a utopia for forgetful people!

But there are some more compelling reasons to look forward to the IoT. For instance, patients with heart conditions could have their hearts monitored by their doctors wherever they are.

By using the internet to communicate data from a cardio-sensor, the patient and the doctor could be in any location with an Internet connection.

Lots of people have been focusing on these possibilities and hypothesizing how the IOT will change the world.

But if we're going to make the IOT a reality, we need simple tools which manufacturers can use to built these devices.

A simple, customizable open source operating system designed for these types of embedded systems would make it easier for a lot of manufacturers to bring viable products to the market. Just as Android made it easier for new manufacturers to enter the smartphone market.

To be suitable for this purpose, an operating system would need to be:

  1. Small, because these are mostly simple devices without much in the way of resources.
  2. Open source, so manufacturers can tinker with it to get it to work with their equipment.
  3. Capable of detecting and working with a wide variety of different sensors and actuators.
  4. TCP/IP ready.
Chinese firm Huawei has announced that it will be releasing an open-source Linux-based operating system named "LiteOS" that ticks all the above boxes. It is part of an IoT infrastructure that they hope will be adopted industry wide.

They claim that the OS will be the lightest to target the IoT space, weighing in at only 10KB.

If true, they will have a considerable advantage over Google's "Brillo", which is another new OS to target IoT devices. Brillo requires 32MB - still small by today's standards, but more than 3,000 times larger than LiteOS.

Of course, the size of the executable is not the only thing to consider - we will need to see how they measure up in terms of features, too.

It's still early days, but the release of these two operating systems brings the IoT one step closer to reality.

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