The Right OS for Your IoT Device 

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Choosing the right OS for your IoT device is one of the most important decisions that you’ll make. It might sound dramatic, but a device that doesn’t work well – won’t be used.    

In today’s connected world, end-users demand a seamless experience and the OS you choose will have a significant impact on the reliability and stability of your device, its scalability and portability, its connectivity and footprint, its energy consumption, and its security, too.   

AND even if you do find the absolute perfect OS for your product, there’s always the risk of needing to migrate in future… 

OS Migration

I understand why you might think selecting an OS is a one-and-done decision, but from time to time there is a need to migrate from one OS to another.    

This could be due to:   

  • Hardware issue    
  • Functionality that only an alternative OS can provide   
  • Support for your current OS is coming to an end   
  • and more 

No matter the reason, an OS migration is a serious undertaking and demands expertise in embedded systems and IoT architecture to ensure migration isn’t needed again. 

Sure, you can patch up problems with your current OS, but sometimes things just don’t work. 




Need help with your IoT Device OS?

So today we’re looking at how you can make the right OS choice and – where it demands – the right change for your OS migration with our: 

Top 6 OS Consideration Factors:   

Every IoT and connected device is different and so there can be no single Embedded OS that is appropriate for every project.    

Based on our experience with thousands of projects, we do, however, have some common elements that should be considered before choosing an OS for an IoT project or committing to an OS migration.

These include: 

  • OS reliability and Stability 
  • OS Security 
  • OS Portability 
  • OS Modularity 
  • OS Connectivity 
  • OS Footprint 

OS Reliability and Stability:

As we’ve said, today’s users have a level of expectation when it comes to their OS being reliable and never crashing without warning. 

An OS with support from a proprietary source (for example, Microsoft) or from a large open-source community (Linux) will help inspire confidence in an OS and help ensure its stability after release.  

Picking an OS that doesn’t have the backing of a wider community (or realistically big development budgets a corporation can offer) will always have its risks. 

Are you willing to bet your device’s success on it? 

OS Security:

Most IoT devices are permanently and continuously communicating with a network and, as a result, are threatened by bad actors with malicious intent. 

A secure OS is an essential arrow in a vendor’s overall security quiver, and many OSs have add-ons and plugins that can add additional security, beyond the standard, should the use case demand it.  

Depending on your use case it could take years to build credibility and usage in your industry and depending on the level, one vulnerability that could ruin it. 

It is well worth getting an expert OS security advisor to test and examine your device. 

OS Portability:

The hardware choices that an IoT vendor makes for the first generation of devices might not be the same choices for future iterations of the same device or a second generation of that device. 

We all know how much a product can change generation on generation as the marketplace becomes more competitive and technology advances. 

A portable OS – one that can be deployed successfully on different hardware – can be a distinct advantage for a vendor. Why? Imagine redeveloping your entire OS, in order to upgrade your device. It will take twice as long and cost twice as much.

OS Modularity:

Leaving aside the kernel, the different functions of an IoT device can be developed as add-ons to the core OS. Functionality can be stored in modules and loaded only when the system demands that functionality. 

The capacity to separate the core kernel from the middleware, protocols, drivers, and applications is an advantage for many vendors.  

OS Connectivity:

The connectivity demanded by the vendor for their IoT device dictates, to a certain extent, which OS might be selected for that device. 

Where a device is planned to have an Ethernet, BLE, 4G, or Wi-Fi connection, the OS must be capable of supporting this choice.  

Much like our first consideration point (reliability and stability) choosing a more established OS provider that already has proven connectivity platforms is a safe bet. 

OS Footprint:

Many IoT devices have limited resources, memory, and energy sources. So an OS that takes up too much space limits the amount your software engineer can add to your program code. 

Therefore, an OS with a smaller footprint might be an advantage for a vendor depending on their hardware choices.   

An OS isn’t your only footprint overhead, however. Depending on the device and your hardware needs, more space might be needed for additional chips and components.

Other considerations

If the above factors have whittled down your OS choice, make sure to also consider:  

  • Ecosystem and application development  
  • Hardware agnostic operation  
  • Protocol support  
  • and OS Scalability   

Before setting your final OS choice in motion. 

We’d love to hear what you think the most popular IoT OS is for connected devices, and why you champion it!

Let us know your thoughts via

Georgie Ryan Casling - Content Manager
27 September 2022