The operating system (OS) used by an Internet of Things (IoT) sensor is a vital element. It must juggle two priorities. On one hand, these OSes must provide increasingly important security functions and, of course, do the job that the sensor or other device is tasked with providing.
On the other hand, it must be extraordinarily efficient. These OSes must use very small amounts of energy, since battery change-outs are difficult or impossible. The same resource scarcity means that they must skimp on memory and other computing functions.
In December, Google released the developer preview for the Android Things OS. RCR Wireless says that it is a rebranding of Project Brillo. Android Things can already be used with Intel Edison, NXP Pico, Rasperry Pi3 and Qualcomm. Android Things supports Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. It can also support Android Studio, a software developers kit (SDK), Google cloud and direct security updates.
In the blog post announcing the developer preview, Google Developer Advocate for IoT Wayne Piekarski also announced the updating of the Weave platform. Weave connects light bulbs, smart plugs, switches and thermostats. The updates involve connecting a wider array of device types and merging Google Weave with Nest Weave.
Google is not the only provider of an IoT OS, of course. Minoca is another new entrant. ComputerWeekly says that it is a general-purpose OS written to use minimal power. Minoca CEO Evan Green claims that the OS uses “a fraction of the memory footprint” of fuller OSes. The story goes on to describe the technical attributes that Green claims allow it to be so frugal.
OS issues are by definition complex. An announcement on Dec. 14 is a good example. IBM announced that it will bring Watson, its distributed, natural language processing artificial intelligence (AI) platform, to Siemens’ MindSphere, a cloud-based IoT OS, according to Engineering.com. The goal is highly specialized:
By integrating Watson Analytics into MindSphere, Siemens will be able to provide business customers with analytics visualization and dashboards to help them make sense of their data. Additionally, app developers and data analysts will have access to analytics tools via application program interfaces (APIs).
The world of operating systems and the IoT is one that has contradictory priorities. On one hand, these OSes have to do yeoman work in enabling the endpoint they are powering to do its job. They also must provide strong security. On the other hand, they must consume a minimum of power and memory resources.
Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.