Small is the new Big: Zephyr RTOS Brings a Small IoT Footprint to the Huge COVID-19 Challenge


By Shrey Fadia, Analyst and Consultant, Artin Arts

The Zephyr Project is a small, scalable real-time operating system for use on resource-constrained systems supporting multiple architectures, part of the Linux Foundation’s family of IoT open source communities. Today, the project announced their steady growth in products developed on their Real-Time Operating System (RTOS) that help monitor COVID-19.

“From distance trackers to contact tracing wearables and smart safety shoes, developers are creating products based on Zephyr RTOS because of its small footprint, integrated stacks and its dependability to speed time to market,” the company said. “In fact, many of these products were developed and available in less than three months.”

“Zephyr’s focus on product level quality and integrating key technologies have made it an ideal platform for rapid time to market for IoT based solutions,” said Kate Stewart, Senior Director of Strategic Programs at The Linux Foundation. “With the COVID-19 situation challenging us all, it’s very encouraging to see companies choose to use Zephyr as part of their solutions.”

Examples of projects shared include:

Laird Connectivity’s Sentrius BT710 wearable tracker/multi-sensor designed to be worn by personnel and which communicates with the Sentrius MG100 gateways in a user’s facility. When BT710 sensors come into range of the MG100, they can upload their logged events that the MG100 routes via cellular to a cloud application. This process establishes linkage and identifies people who have come into contact with an infected person.

Intellinium updated its Safety Pods technology to help protect construction workers during the pandemic. Their smart shoes have a new smart PPE feature that alerts a worker through a vibrating signal on the smart shoes when there is a risk of getting too close to someone. When the worker gets this signal, he can either put a mask on, or he can move away from the other workers.

The Phytec Distance Tracker Kit, which tracks distance measurement between two or more people in a workplace, is also based on the Zephyr RTOS, Nordic Semiconductor technology, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), and Ultra-wideband (UWB). It tracks distance measurement between two or more people. With this product, businesses will be able to help employees maintain and track the 6-feet distance between others.

The Zephyr Project also shared big news in the same announcement: Google and Facebook selected Zephyr RTOS for next generation products.

They will collaborate with other Platinum members of The Zephyr Project, an open-source project at the Linux Foundation that builds a safe, secure, and flexible RTOS for the Internet of Things (IoT) in space-constrained devices, including Intel, Nordic Semiconductor, NXP, and Oticon to ensure IoT security and critical safety challenges.

“Google believes in building secure products for all of our users, and we are excited to join forces with Zephyr to develop a secure real-time operating system,” said Puneet Kumar, Director of Engineering, Chrome OS. “The Zephyr Project has built a strong community of experts, and we look forward to working with all of the participating organizations to improve the state of the RTOS our products depend on.”

Facebook has a long history of open-source investment. It recently joined the Linux Foundation at the Platinum level and is actively involved in multiple open source communities in the semiconductor space.

“Facebook is pleased to support the Zephyr project, which shows great promise in accelerating the pace of RTOS innovation,” said Ric Wheeler, Engineering Manager.

Olof Johansson, Engineering Director, adds that, “The project’s focus on establishing neutral governance, encouraging a diverse development community, and the attention to security will help create a thriving and sustainable open-source ecosystem around Zephyr. We are excited to be part of that.”

The Zephyr community also announced its latest release, version 2.4, is now available. This release expands support for product makers by adding infrastructure to support the use of commercial toolchains, the more testable TCP2 stack now the default, and adding support for virtual memory management. In addition, the Bluetooth host support has been extended to include periodic advertisement and isochronous channels. There is now support for ARM Cortex-M1/M3 DesignStart FPGA and NXP i.MX RT685, i.MX8M Mini, and LPC11U6x, as well as a variety of other board and shield updates.

“Open source communities that practice transparency, encourage active participation, and recognize contributors will thrive, evolve, and deliver the strongest outcomes for the project,” said Joel Stapleton, Zephyr Project Governing Board Chair and Technical Product Manager at Nordic Semiconductor. “The level of support new members bring deeply benefits our community, and we look forward to seeing Google and Facebook’s contributions to the Zephyr ecosystem.”

In addition to Google and Facebook, the Zephyr Project welcomed the FIWARE Foundation and its project Micro-ROS to its community. They join Adafruit, Antmicro, Eclipse Foundation,, Intel, Linaro, Nordic Semiconductor, NXP®, Oticon, SiFive, Synopsys, Texas Instruments, and more to create an open hardware and software ecosystem using the Zephyr OS.

About the author:  Shrey Fadia is an engineer, analyst, consultant and writer covering the most disruptive fields in technology today including AI, IoT, Blockchain, Cybersecurity, Communications Platforms as a Service and more, with a special interest in innovations that improve lives. While working towards his Master of Science degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from State University of New York (SUNY) at Binghamton, NY, Fadia has published numerous articles on advances in software-based solutions in several industry publications. 

While working towards his undergraduate degree in engineering in India, Fadia and a team of other students developed a Smart Wheelchair leveraging sensors and affordable features including retrofitting existing equipment to make mobility possible using gesture mechanisms and obstacle avoidance. Their innovation was featured at an IoT Evolution World Expo in 2017. Fadia is currently a Graduate Teaching Assistant at State University of New York (SUNY) at Binghamton, NY while consulting for companies as a Senior Analyst for strategic tech communications firm Artin Arts, based in NYC.