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Amazon aims an AWS-savvy version of FreeRTOS at IoT gizmos

Dec 8, 2017 — by Eric Brown 1,920 views

Amazon has launched an open source “Amazon FreeRTOS” real-time OS with AWS Greengrass support and a configuration console, for use in MCU-based IoT devices.

Amazon is known for its semi-proprietary versions of Android and Linux that have appeared on a variety of mobile and consumer electronics devices from the Amazon Fire TV Stick to the Amazon Echo. Yet, for its foray into the generally MCU-based RTOS world, Amazon has gone completely open source.

Open source OSes like Linux and FreeRTOS continue to grow as proprietary platforms decline, according to AspenCore’s 2017 survey of embedded developers. The survey found “Embedded Linux” and FreeRTOS to be in first and second place, at 22 and 20 percent for “current use,” but with their order projected to reverse over the next 12 months to 27 and 28 percent, potentially moving FreeRTOS to the top of the heap.


Amazon FreeRTOS

The open source Amazon FreeRTOS for MCUs is available now for free download. The distribution expands upon FreeRTOS with libraries that add AWS and AWS Greengrass support for secure cloud-based or local processing connectivity.

Amazon FreeRTOS functionality
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Amazon FreeRTOS builds upon the popular, open source FreeRTOS platform for MCUs, and extends the base OS with software libraries that streamline secure connections between low-power IoT endpoints such as smart doorlocks or sensor gizmos and AWS cloud services like AWS IoT Core.

Amazon FreeRTOS development process
(click image to enlarge)

MCU-powered node devices that run the distribution can also report directly to Linux-driven AWS Greengrass edge gateways without requiring a cloud connection.

Amazon FreeRTOS architecture
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Amazon FreeRTOS includes support for Transport Layer Security (TLS v1.2). Future versions will add over-the-air updates and a code signing feature “to ensure your device code is not compromised during deployment and updates.”

Amazon FreeRTOS Console screenshot
(click image to enlarge)

The distribution ships with an Amazon FreeRTOS Console that lets users select a predefined software configuration. There’s also an interface for adding or removing libraries. Amazon FreeRTOS is freely downloadable, and you can apply for an optional qualification program to ensure your MCU-based hardware is fully compliant.

Pre-validated MCUs include chips from Microchip, NXP, STMicroelectronics, and TI, and developemnt boards shown as currently compatible include Microchip’s Curiosity PIC32MZ EF Development Board, NXP’s LPC54018 IoT Module, STM’s STM32L4 Discovery Kit IoT Node, and TI’s SimpleLink Wi-Fi CC3220SF LaunchPad.

Amazon FreeRTOS explained

Further information

Amazon FreeRTOS is now available for free download. More information may be found in the announcement and product page.

…with additional reporting by Rick Lehrbaum

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