Why a Real-Time Operating System is a Necessity for IoT

March 30th, 2017 by

A real-time operating system (RTOS) is critical for the management of hardware resources in computers and host applications as well as processing data on a real-time basis. Usually, this happens within a fraction of a second or even faster. What makes an RTOS better than a general purpose operating system? A real-time operating system provides a high degree of consistency and reliability in timing between the acceptance of a task and its completion, otherwise known as lower jitter.

Types of RTOS

There are two main types of real-time operating systems, hard RTOS and soft RTOS. Both must provide guaranteed maximum time for every critical application, known as interrupt handling. If there is a standard for absolute processing timing, the system is known as a hard RTOS. If it merely meets a deadline, it’s called a soft RTOS.

Components of RTOS

Some of the components of an RTOS include file management, real-time kernel, graphical user interface, protocol stacks, and advanced scheduling algorithm, as well as features like thread switching latency and minimal interrupt latency. For instance, a car’s airbag system needs to respond at the exact time when it’s necessary. A small error in timing during the design process can lead to an early or late response by the airbag. The advanced features and speed of an RTOS prevent those types of errors.

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What makes a real-time operating system different?

What differentiates a real-time operating system from general purpose or traditional operating systems is its ability to perform under real-time constraints, including time, power, and efficiency of memory use. An RTOS is ideal for multiple tasks that have worst-case execution scenarios as a specific architecture that produces accurate outputs in a timely manner.

Traditional operating systems like Windows, iOS, and Android work well with a fast processor that consumes a lot of power. However, they do not guarantee a real-time response within the environment where they are used. Therefore, these operating systems are not ultimate solutions for most IoT devices. Additionally, traditional operating systems take a large amount of memory from the devices and they do not support IoT chips. Thus, though they are ideal for performing multiple tasks, they limit synchronization. This limitation necessitates the development and use of an RTOS for IoT devices.

In summary, a real-time operating system is a perfect fit for devices that perform multiple tasks, especially in scenarios of worst-case execution. It differs from a traditional operating system because it ensures accurate output within the set deadline or in a timely manner.

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