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Tizen 4.0 unveiled with a Linux-like RTOS variant for IoT

May 18, 2017 — by Eric Brown — 1,365 views
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Samsung announced Tizen 4.0 with .NET and Xamarin hooks, coming soon to its new Z4 phone, and revealed a “Tizen RT” RTOS that runs on a new Artik 053 module.

At the Tizen Developer Conference (TDC) in San Francisco, Samsung Electronics announced version 4.0 of its Tizen Linux distribution, which for the first time includes functional variants of Tizen for different use cases. The first of these is a Tizen RT distribution designed for IoT devices, ranging from “high-end products such as TVs and mobile devices as well as low-end products such as thermostats, scales, bulbs, and more,” says Samsung.


Artik 053

Tizen RT offers Linux-like tools and middleware elements, but is at heart a Nuttx-based RTOS. It’s initially available in a Cortex-R4 based, WiFi-enabled Samsung Artik 053 computer-on-module. (Tizen RT is detailed below, and the Artik 053 is covered in our separate Artik story.)

Tizen 4.0 has added support for the Microsoft .NET and Xamarin UI frameworks, enabling C# based applications to be developed in Microsoft’s Visual Studio. Starting with version 4.0, Tizen will be made more accessible to third party device makers, which can “create their own IoT devices using the PDK (Platform Development Kit) based on Configurable Tizen,” said Hyogun Lee, EVP of Samsung Electronics and Chair of the Tizen Technical Steering Group, in a Samsung Q&A.

Tizen 4.0 device makers will be able to update their IoT devices using a new Tizen Update Service, as well as connect their devices to an “OCF-Ready IoT Cloud like Samsung Connect,” Lee added. (The Open Connectivity Foundation is behind the Linux Foundation’s IoTivity framework, which is supported by Tizen RT.)

Samsung revealed a partnership with Broadlink in China to add Tizen hooks in their processors, and said it was collaborating with smart home device manufacturer Commax in its home country of Korea. Samsung also revealed a Tizen-related collaboration with the location-based service provider Glympse in the U.S. Beyond that, there were few details on version 4.0 aside from the Tizen RT variant covered farther below.

 


Samsung Z4

Samsung Z4

Samsung announced its 4th gen Samsung Z4 smartphone, which is now shipping with Tizen 3.0, but will upgrade to 4.0 later in the year. Like earlier Tizen-based Samsung Zx phones, the Z4 is destined primarily for India, but will also follow its forebears to Russia, China, and a few other Asian countries. At TDC, Samsung Tizen Director, Hokyu Choi, announced an expansion into additional markets. Later this year, the Z4 and “other Tizen smartphones” will launch throughout Africa, as well as in Iran, Egypt, Pakistan, Bolivia, and Peru.

The Samsung Z4 is several years behind cutting edge Samsung Android phones like the omnipresent Samsung Galaxy S7 and the new Galaxy S8, which runs Android 7.0 on Qualcomm’s 10nm, octa-core Snapdragon 835. Clearly, Samsung is not yet ready to give up the Android gravy train for a major push of its Tizen phones. However, it appears to be maneuvering Tizen into position in case it needs to make the switch.,

The Samsung Z4 has a quad-core, Spreadtrum 1.5GHz SoC with 1GB RAM and a 4.5-inch screen with lowly 800 x 480 resolution. The phone offers front and rear 5-megapixel cameras and wireless features led by a 4G LTE Cat 4.

In other TDC news, Samsung announced some new Tizen 3.0 features that are available on the Z4. The company also announced that CalMAN with AutoCal autocalibration software is shipping on its 2017 QLED TVs, and revealed new voice recognition features and upcoming .NET integration in its Tizen 3.0-based Smart TVs.

 
Tizen RT

Samsung first announced Tizen RT (Tizen Real Time) back in November, and has recently added more extensive documentation. The platform is designed for “Cortex-M/R processors with MPU, less than 2MB RAM, and less than 16MB Flash,” says Tizen.org’s Tizen RT wiki. The new Artik 053 module sits near the high end of Tizen RT’s range.



Tizen RT architecture
(click image to enlarge)

Tizen RT competes directly with other new-age, wireless savvy RTOSes such as Intel’s Zephyr and ARM’s mBed. It’s built on a compact “TinyAra” RTOS, which in turn is derived from Nuttx, an open source RTOS commonly found on PixHawk-based drones.

TinyAra has evolved into Tizen RT by adding Linux-like features such as an IPv4/IPv6 network stack, a SmartFS file system, a virtual file system (VFS), and a device monitor. The RTOS “adopts Linux-style development environments including POSIX API, BSD Socket API, Shell, and Kconfig build configuration,” says the wiki.

Later this year, Tizen RT will add a JavaScript environment comprised of the lightweight JerryScript JavaScript engine for MCUs, as well as the JerryScript powered IoT.js framework. Other features include support for the IoTivity framework, including a lightweight database called AraStorage that can work with IoTivity to store sensor data.

In addition, Tizen RT is adding support for the Lightweight Machine-to-machine (LWM2M) protocol. Tizen RT currently requires Samsung’s proprietary software update mechanism, but later this year will move to LWM2M’s open source OMA lightweight M2M FOTA updates.

Tizen RT will soon add a microkernel architecture that keeps more peripheral kernel modules like file system, device drivers, and network stacks isolated from core kernel modules like scheduling, task, memory, and IPC. In addition, a service manager will offer self-healing recovery features.



Build configurable options in Tien RT (left) and JavaScript architecture
(click images to enlarge)

Finally, Tizen RT is said to be build configurable, making it easier to set up stacks with different components depending on device capabilities and usage, as shown in the first diagram above. The diagram on the right, which shows the JerryScript architecture, lists the base level as being (RTOS/Linux). This suggests the architecture may eventually be ported to Samsung’s Linux-based Tizen devices, such as its higher end Artik modules.

 
The most successful Linux embedded OS in the world?

At TDC, Samsung claimed that Tizen “has become the OS for nearly all of Samsung’s products” and has “proven itself as the most successful Linux-based embedded OS in the world.” Both statements are questionable, considering most Samsung’s smartphones — and smartphones in general — run the Linux-based Android. Tizen is much more like mainstream Linux, however, so if you exclude Android, the claims have more merit.


Samsung
Smart TV

It is true that Samsung has added Tizen-run embedded computers to many its consumer electronics products, including its Smart TVs, its Family Hub smart refrigerators, a few cameras, and some other appliances. In the “near future,” Tizen will appear in more home appliances “such as our Robot Cleaner, washing machines, air conditioners, and network speakers,” stated Samsung’s Hyogun Lee.

Tizen 3.0 is now available for download on Samsung’s octa-core Cortex-A53 Artik 710, dual-core -A7 Artik 520, and quad-core -A9 Artik 530 module. However, the default installation is still Fedora Linux, and Ubuntu Core is available, as well.

 
Tizen smartwatches beat out Android Wear

Tizen has perhaps found its greatest success in its Samsung Gear smartwatches. Tizen Experts recently revealed a Strategy Analytics report that estimated that Tizen smartwatches (i.e., Samsung Gear watches) took 19 percent of the smartwatch market in Q1 2017 for second place compared to 18 percent for all Android Wear watches combined. The Apple Watch led with 57 percent share.


Gear S3

Tizen phones, however, have yet to make a major impact on the smartphone market outside of India, and Tizen is almost never seen in non-Samsung products. The Linux Foundation hosts the Tizen project, and Intel is still experimenting with the OS, but so far it remains a Samsung-dominated platform. Samsung is still struggling to get app developers to write for the platform, and the app library is still limited. Porting apps will be essential for taking on Android and iOS directly in the high-end mobile market.

As noted, Samsung says it will make Tizen 4.0 more accessible to third party device developers. To do that, the company must convince them no only that Tizen has apps, but that it’s secure against malware attacks.

The Tizen community was shaken last month by a Kaspersky Lab Security Analyst Summit presentation by security researcher Amihai Neiderman that claimed that Tizen was full of security flaws, including 40 previously unknown zero-day vulnerabilities. “It may be the worst code I’ve ever seen,” Neiderman told Motherboard. “Everything you can do wrong there, they do it.”

Neiderman’s claims were published several weeks after WikiLeaks published CIA documents suggesting the agency can monitor people using their Tizen-based Smart TVs. This followed earlier reports that smart TV vendors like Samsung, LG (WebOS), and Vizio have been collecting information on their users’ viewing habits for marketing purposes.

At TDC, Samsung made no major announcements regarding Tizen’s security. However, the Artik platform has added security features, especially in the new Artik 053. In addition, Samsung’s Lee stated said his company is using static code analysis tools, tightening code review, and continuously monitoring the security vulnerabilities of Tizen and related open source software and patching them regularly.” Lee went on to add: “Some of these patches will be tightly coupled with the Tizen code review system, with our aim to prevent vulnerable code from being merged into the Tizen code base at the first step of development.”

 
Further information

More information on Samsung’s Tizen Developer Conference announcements may be found in the Samsung newsroom. More on Tizen RT may be found on Tizen.org’s Tizen RT wiki.
 

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