An Open Source First for Embedded Real-Time Systems

The first commercially available embedded real-time system built from open source components has been developed, opening the door to new critical and non-critical systems applications for industrial control and video surveillance to robotics and aerospace.

March 26, 2005 -- The IST programme-funded project, which ends this month and which developed the system, has added new functionality to the Linux environment by providing the nucleus of an embedded real-time system that can incorporate different components to add features such as Quality of Service, fault tolerance and communications technologies.

"The system is highly flexible and scalable, and can easily be configured to meet the needs of programme developers by picking and choosing different components," says OCERA coordinator Alfons Crespo at the Technical University of Valencia in Spain. "The use of different components basically allows three different profiles of the system to be created."

The first profile, Crespo explains, would be for a critical system requiring a small and basic embedded application to provide real-time control. In this instance just the 'nucleus' of OCERA is used, providing stable stand-alone functionality but none of the additional features. The second profile is for a critical system where there are no constraints on the size of the application, allowing OCERA to be incorporated with Linux, and the third profile is for a non-critical system incorporating all of the above plus features such as Quality of Service and resource management.

"Whereas the first two are geared toward critical systems in say the aerospace, automobile or industrial control sectors, the latter is aimed more at non-critical systems, such as a multimedia platform," the coordinator notes.

All three profiles of the OCERA system were tested by the project, with the first employed in a small walking robot, the second for controlling industrial processes and the third for a video surveillance system developed by Visual Tools in Spain.

"It could be used in PDAs for security guards to allow them to view video images from cameras located around a building in real-time," Crespo says. "It could also be added to security systems in cars, or, as we demonstrated, for controlling robots C the possible application areas are extensive."

The OCERA components are also designed to be reusable, meaning that they can be employed in the context for which they were created or in other unrelated applications.

"I'd say interest in the project has been extensive, we've had probably around 700 or 800 downloads from our website and Sourceforge of the most popular components," Crespo notes.

The system has also been incorporated into industrial control systems developed by Czech company UniControls, which has replaced proprietary software with OCERA.

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