3 Major Misconceptions about RTOS (and 2 Things You Should Expect)

January 25th, 2017 by

Real-time operating systems, or RTOS, are programmed to meet the needs of an event, production or operation process. However, the system can only do what it’s told; it is unrealistic to expect results for which the RTOS was not programmed. While the systems drastically improve processes, they do not solve all your problems. They can only perform tasks that they are designed or programmed to do.

To better understand what a real-time operating system can do, it’s helpful to review what it’s not. Here are three major misconceptions to keep in mind when procuring or installing an RTOS.

  • An RTOS will be always be fast. Although RTOS technology is designed to reduce execution time for various tasks, it is not necessarily fast. There are some actions and processes that do not require fast action and thus speed is not a concern. Some commands or actions are based on completion of certain tasks. As such, the speed with which an RTOS responds depends on the task to be executed.
  • All RTOS are created equal. When you visit other plants and admire their procedures, it often tempts you to procure a similar system. Resist the temptation. The right thing to do is have a developer evaluate your processes to determine your needs, and design your system based off your specific requirements. It must take into account interfaces needed, entry points, data collection, command centers, and more. It is impossible to have two plants or production processes whose infrastructure is exactly the same.
  • RTOS takes a huge chunk of CPU overhead. An operating system’s design and components determine how much overhead is used. In most cases, the overhead space taken by a real-time operating system is between 1-4%. This is negligible compared to the transformational effect it will have on your processes and procedures.

If these are misconceptions about RTOS, what should you expect from a real-time operating system? While not all systems have similar features or will deliver the same results, here are two reasonable expectations from an RTOS:

  • Task preemption and multi-tasking. Preemption means the ability to terminate a task and take up another because it is a priority. Multi-tasking is the ability to conduct two related tasks simultaneously. Your RTOS should be able to execute both processes seamlessly.
  • Human interruption. While RTOS are supposed to be automatic, there must be a provision for intervention. This is where an operator can direct the next course of action if necessary based on unforeseen circumstances or demand. This should be a feature of every real-time operating system.

When evaluating real-time operating systems, it’s important to know what to expect. Leave these three misconceptions behind to make sure you understand how an RTOS works and whether it’s right for you.


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