Embedded devices and systems have permeated where we live, where we work, how we travel, and the way we communicate. There are billions of devices shipping on an annual basis, spanning various applications that can include high availability, safety-critical, and security requirements. Historically, many of these types of devices would have limited resources with respect to processor performance, memory, and connectivity - creating islands of technology and disconnected data. The availability of more complex system/hardware architectures, more advanced software, and connectivity has created new scenarios for intelligent connected systems, opening up new experiences for business and consumers.
Because of these changes, OS vendors must be vigilant and maintain flexibility in meeting evolutionary changes within device development platforms. That is, vendors must be sure to meet customers’ requirements around security, continued support for new hardware architectures, embedded virtualization, cloud computing, and other emerging trends within the market.
So as I thought about end-user demands, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at how requirements – in this case specific to operating system selection – have changed over the years as a result of all of these M2M related capabilities. The exhibit here shows how the importance of several key OS selection criteria have changed over a period of ten years, from 2002 to 2012.
One key takeaway here is that many features and capabilities of embedded operating systems today
are becoming ubiquitous, at least at a high level. As processor technology has improved, vendors have been able to continue adding more functionality to their platforms - and more complementary products to their portfolios - allowing competing OSs to catch up with each other in terms of the uniqueness of their respective feature sets. As a result, criteria such as real-time capabilities and availability of development tools have halved in importance over the years. The importance of technical support has also waned – as a differentiating selection criteria, anyway – with so many vendors offering similar support services.
Instead, reliability and stability have become increasingly critical. With so many high-quality, highly-capable OSs out there, the ability for a platform to reliably carry out all of its many tasks has become paramount. Software driven functionality has grown to comprise a much greater portion of embedded system differentiation in recent years, which has also helped to raise the stakes in terms of reliable OS performance.
Of course, overall cost remains the trump card, with constant budgetary pressures and cost-reduction requirements forcing engineers to select a platform that is a fit not only from a technical standpoint, but also from an economical one.