Shipping the Zephyr RTOS in Consumer Electronics Products

Baylibre collaborates with manufacturers of consumer electronics, providing custom firmware solutions and specializing in Linux-based IoT devices. We’ve worked on several embedded consumer products using the Zephyr Project, including the Sensor Hub in the Blocks modular smartwatch and Ellcie Healthy glasses, and the Embedded Controller for the Gnarbox.

When choosing our Real Time Operating System (RTOS) for these projects, we had quite a few options because the RTOS market is increasingly fragmented. Top of our priority list was a project using a permissive license, and providing a free solution. This eliminated FreeRTOS from consideration since it was still under a GPL or proprietary license at the time. Mbed OS was another contender, but we felt it was too dependant on the Mbed ecosystem. We considered using NuttX or building a bespoke OS, but ultimately decided that Zephyr best met our needs.

Zephyr is an RTOS hosted by the Linux Foundation. It is scalable, supports multiple hardware architectures, is optimized for resource-constrained devices (everything is statically allocated), and built with security in mind. Collaboration is also actively encouraged, from individual coders to major companies contributing. We liked that it is similar in many ways to Linux (in its coding style and build process), has a strong community focus, and fantastic documentation. The permissive Apache 2.0 license was also an advantage.

Zephyr’s release cycle is three to four months, with (approximately) an 11-week merge window and 3-week stabilization period. Each release is a combination of planned new features and community contributions.

Those community contributions meant that Zephyr gave us a lot of what we wanted out of the box, and made it easy for us to upstream the elements we added for our customers’ products: support for the STMicroelectronics STM32L4 and STM32F0 MCUs. STM32F1 was already supported, so we were able to copy that example, simplifying our development work. That also made porting very fast. We completed a basic port in a day and a half, and a fully-tested port in less than one week.

Overall, we found Zephyr to be well-structured and simple to use. Most of the port time was spent on I2C/SPI testing. Once porting was complete, the Zephyr upstreaming process was straightforward. We

  • Read the contribution guidelines
  • Cleaned up our patch to follow Zephyr’s coding standards (with help from uncrustify)
  • Verified that the patch met the coding standards using checkpatch
  • Committed our changes to github
  • Awaited reviews

Fortunately, the Zephyr project provides a community of reviewers and we were able to contact the maintainers on the Zephyr IRC channel to assist with getting patches merged.

Despite challenges during the review process, overall we found Zephyr easy to get started with thanks to its similarities to Linux, thorough documentation, and an active community. This RTOS’s design is good for low memory usage, and as the software and development processes evolve with growing community input and support, flaws are quickly fixed.

If you’d like to hear more about our experience with Zephyr to power consumer electronics products, check out our presentation from Embedded Linux Conference 2017:

 

 

Zephyr 1.11.0 released, BayLibre contributions

A full changelog of this release are available on the project releases page.

For these last 3 Zephyr releases, BayLibre engineer Neil Armstrong worked to add a better support for the STM32F0 SoC family by adding SPI, I2C, and internal Flash support, following his work on the previous Zephyr release on the overall STM32 Microcontrollers.
A hard time was spent adding SPI Slave and I2C Slave support on Zephyr for the whole STM32 Microcontroller family, to align with other RTOS and Linux for the I2C Slave part.

Since Zephyr 1.8, supported in Zephyr :

Along the following STM32 Microcontrollers features :

And ongoing features still in discussions :

The last Pull Request is done in cooperation with Daniel Wagenknecht, and triggered a lot of technical discussions ! Thanks Daniel !

 

Zephyr 1.8.0 released, BayLibre contributions

The new Zephyr 1.8.0 version released!

The 1.8 OS Zephyr Project version was launched on June 15th 2017.

To read more click here

— Zephyr Project (@ZephyrIoT) 16 juin 2017

A full changelog of this release are available on the project release notes page.

Thanks to major enhancements, it is now easier for contributors to submit pull requests by simplifying and streamlining the review and acceptance process.

Now supported in Zephyr 1.8 version :

Along the following STM32 Microcontrollers features :

  • Flash support for the STM32L4 family, merged in a common driver with the STM32F4 family driver
  • Support for the STM32F469XI SoC
  • Support for the STM32F407 SoC
  •  for the STM32L496 SoC
  • and for the STM32L432XC SoC

 

 

Zephyr 1.7.0 released, BayLibre contributions

The 1.7.0 Release of the Zephyr Project was made on March 11th.

A full changelog of this release is available on the project release notes page.

BayLibre contributed support for the STM32L476 microcontroller series with the Nucleo-L476RG board.

In addition to the platform support, patches for the following devices were merged :

  • I2C for the whole STM32Lx family
  • UART support
  • Clocks control
  • GPIO/Pinmux control
  • EXTI Support