What Is Zephyr?

Learn about Zephyr, its significance, and how it interfaces with Wind River solutions.


What Is Zephyr?

Zephyr is an open source, real-time operating system (RTOS) project hosted by the Linux Foundation within its IoT and embedded technology sector. Zephyr is a scalable and optimized-footprint RTOS for Ethernet and Bluetooth connectivity. It has long-term support and is certification ready.

Zephyr is lightweight, and its modular architecture makes it suitable for use on limited-resource devices and in devices deployed to resource-constrained environments. It offers broad hardware support across various architectures, including Arm®, x86, and RISC-V. This means developers have hardware choice and the flexibility to select to best match to Zephyr’s real-time capabilities for their application’s precise timing and responsiveness requirements.

Zephyr is an open source RTOS that offers modular architecture, hardware choice, and flexibility.

Is Zephyr Only an RTOS?

Zephyr is specifically designed as an RTOS to meet the stringent timing requirements often needed in embedded systems and Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

Zephyr can be used in applications that do not require real time, but that would be ill advised. Other operating systems exist that are not classified as real time but are still suitable for certain embedded applications. The selection of a real-time operating system such as Zephyr versus a general-purpose operating system depends on the nature of the embedded system’s requirements for timing and environmental resource constraints.

The Significance of the Zephyr Project

The Zephyr Project was created to harness the innovative power of open source to produce and support an RTOS with broad hardware support. It provides low power consumption, an optimized footprint, network and Bluetooth connectivity, and precise timing and response to support the vast and growing requirements placed upon embedded systems and intelligent edge devices being adopted in high-growth industries such as medical, telecommunications, automotive, and industrial automation.

The Zephyr Project’s commitment to open source collaboration, adaptability to new resource constraints and real-time capabilities, and broad hardware support collectively make Zephyr a significant and influential player in shaping the future of the RTOS for embedded systems and IoT devices.

Key Features of Zephyr

Zephyr has several important features that contribute to its real-time development appeal and its adoption in embedded systems and connected devices:

  • Open source: Zephyr is an open source project that promotes collaboration and allows developers to freely access, modify, and contribute code.
  • Modular architecture: Zephyr’s modular architecture gives developers the flexibility to select and include only what is necessary from existing Zephyr components or to develop and include new components to create an optimized footprint for built-for-purpose RTOS implementation.
  • Scalability: Zephyr is scalable across a wide range of devices with different hardware capabilities, from small sensor nodes to powerful IoT gateways.

A host of characteristics make Zephyr a strong choice for real-time development of embedded devices.

  • Cross-architecture support: Zephyr has broad hardware support that includes various architectures, such as Arm, x86, and RISC-V, making it compatible with a spectrum of hardware platforms. This simplifies development and promotes interoperability.
  • Real-time capabilities: Zephyr provides real-time capabilities to applications that require the precise timing and responsiveness often necessary in industrial automation, healthcare, and automotive use cases.
  • Libraries and protocols: The Zephyr Project includes a comprehensive set of libraries, protocols, and device drivers. These resources simplify development, enabling developers to build real-time and embedded applications without having to start from scratch.
  • Security focus: Zephyr provides features such as memory protection, access controls, and secure boot options. This focus on security is crucial for embedded applications that demand data integrity and user privacy.
  • Community support: Zephyr is supported by a growing and active community of developers and contributors with real-time and embedded systems expertise.
How Does Zephyr Support Embedded System Developers?

Zephyr offers developers the flexibility and choice needed to tailor applications to meet the resource constraint demands of embedded environments, precise timing requirements of real-time workloads, and seamless scalability across a broad range of supported hardware. Its development ecosystem includes supported integrated development environments (IDEs), debuggers, libraries and guides, documentation, and tutorials that simplify real-time and embedded development.

Use Cases for Zephyr

Zephyr’s scalability and modular architecture is useful for many traditional and emerging embedded and real-time use cases. Here are some notable examples:

  • Resource-constrained IoT devices such as sensors, actuators, and wearables
  • Real-time process controllers and monitors in manufacturing environments
  • Patient monitoring systems and medical sensors whose real-time capabilities produce timely and accurate data collection and processing
  • In-vehicle infotainment systems, advanced driver assist systems (ADAS), and other automotive safety controls that require predictable responses
  • IoT and edge-device Bluetooth- and Ethernet-enabled wireless communication for emerging medical, industrial automation, and telecommunications use cases that demand processing data closer to data sources to produce predictable responses for rapid decision-making

How Can Wind River Help?

Wind River Services and Support

Wind River® offers a variety of professional services, backed by real-time and embedded experts, to help businesses with their embedded system and real-time development and lifecycle journeys, including their work with Zephyr. With decades of experience in developing, deploying, and maintaining intelligent, real-time embedded systems, Wind River is a true go-to-market partner, helping businesses simultaneously meet SLA commitments and support customers with their own advancing IP. With a 97% customer service rating, Wind River consistently achieves some of the highest support scores in the industry.

Our support services include:


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Wind River is the global leader in the embedded software industry, with decades of expertise, more than 15 years as an active contributor and committed champion of open source, and a proven track record of helping customers build and deploy use case–optimized devices and systems. Wind River Linux is running on hundreds of millions of deployed devices worldwide, and the Wind River Linux suite of products and services offers a high degree of confidence and flexibility as you prototype, develop, and move to real deployment.

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