When designing an embedded system, choosing the right software environment is as important as the choice of microcontroller, which is why we work very hard alongside industry leaders like RoweBots, a Canadian company famous for its Unison Real Time Operating System (RTOS). Unison brings Linux and POSIX APIs to our Cortex-M3, M4, and M7 MCUs, meaning our STM32F1, STM32L1, STM32F3, STM32F4, STM32L4, STM32L4+, STM32F7, and STM32H7, our most powerful microcontroller series that offer tremendous possibilities. However, it is often easy for engineering teams to overlook these types of solutions, either because they are not familiar with them, or they simply have misconceptions about performance and costs. It was thus essential for us to delve deeper into what makes UNISON unique and how it can bring a product to market faster by removing a lot of the complexity from the development phase.
The primary advantage of a system like Unison RTOS is that it provides 50% to 90% of the software that engineering teams need to develop their application. They no longer have to worry about a Bluetooth or 6LoWPAN stack, for instance, and can just concentrate on building their embedded program. Unison’s micro-kernel offers a single process multi-threaded POSIX Class 1 environment and all files, as well as I/Os, use POSIX standards, meaning that people don’t have to learn new APIs and technologies, making Unison RTOS particularly intuitive. It also implies that Unison components are interoperable, which facilitates the transition to STM32 MCUs of different series. Developers are thus free to choose what’s best for them, rather than what they have to use, which is why it is vital for us to work with RoweBots to ensure that they offer the best performance for our components.
All the Unison RTOS Optimizations
A collaboration with RoweBots means that Unison takes advantage of specific architectural implementations within the STM32 family. This can mean a reliance on a hardware floating point unit or optimizing data management within our memory ecosystem, for instance. Another example is the use of our encryption hardware accelerator by Unison RTOS to accelerate encryption and decryption schemes. In fact, RoweBots goes one step further by launching over-the-air updates within a side channel from the Flash to lock it down and prevent hackers from targeting it to run malicious code that would open a product to attacks. Engineers know that by using Unison RTOS, they have access to high performance and stronger security mechanisms that can remove a lot of the complexities they traditionally have to deal with themselves.
Unison RTOS also goes beyond hardware optimizations as we work together to help developers write code faster. This is why the company announced a year ago that Unison 5.5.0 RTOS was compatible with System Workbench, which means that engineers who used our free System Workbench for STM32 IDE could take advantage of the operating system’s features faster. And since the new STM32CubeIDE can open System Workbench for STM32 projects, we can confirm that Unison RTOS works great in our first free ST IDE that integrates STM32CubeMX.
The barrier to accelerate cryptographic operations, use sensor fusion algorithms, or rely on critical protocols becomes a lot lower. Developers can even add cloud functionalities using solutions that leverage our collaboration with Microsoft Azure, which will mean building IoT nodes in minutes and quickly or offering OTA firmware updates. Unison RTOS can thus optimize applications for our architectures. The company ensured that these optimizations were accessible and reliable, which is a testament to the extent of their work and our partnership.
The Secret Other Companies Don’t Want You to Find Out
RoweBots’s expertise with the STM32 family of MCUs comes from its years of working with partners to help them launch solutions using our microcontrollers and sensors. Very often a customer comes up with a prototype, although RoweBots does also provide assistance in hardware design in some cases, then the Canadian company ships a system implementing the features that will help developers write their applications. As a result, the range of companies that seek Unison RTOS is quite extensive, from health and fitness specialists to other wearable makers, which is the best proof of the operating system’s flexibility and probably one of its most underrated aspects.
Sometimes businesses find it counterintuitive to rely on an external operating system, especially startups bootstrapping every aspect of their project because they wrongly think that doing it themselves will be cheaper. A solution like UNISON RTOS can improve the total cost of ownership of a platform thanks to their approach to software development. For instance, when RoweBots was developing its SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol) module, its developers wrote some parts from scratch, but they also studied what was already out there and took the best codes available under Berkley and MIT licenses.
A New Approach to Designing Embedded Systems
More traditional software editors write everything themselves, but it often makes their system harder to use, and there are gravely diminishing returns when teams try to reinvent the wheel. By using smart strategies, RoweBots ends up being three to four times more cost-effective than the competition while still offering similar or better performances in most cases. Additionally, because of their strong relationships with ST, they can optimize Unison for our microcontrollers by exploiting our architectures to ensure that every application runs as fast and as efficiently as possible.