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how to choose between linux and rtos for iot project

It’s time to decide, a new IoT project is beginning with the familiar question - should our new single board computer run Linux or Real-Time operating system (RTOS) ?

How can we compare two operating systems and what we need to know before taking the decision?

We will try to answer those dilemmas by asking a few, but important, questions that will help us define the best solution for our upcoming project.

Linux vs FreeRtos


Take note and write down your choices:


Will your edge device application need to have multitasking abilities(including background tasks)?

YES - Consider running Linux, a full OS is more adapted to run more than one task at a time.

NO - Less relevant for making the decision.


Will your edge device application need to run complex missions, such as HTTP server, GUI, managing multiple sensors, complicated calculating tasks, etc..

YES - Stick with Linux. The biggest development community with no software limitations.

NO - You will find RTOS very simple to use. Moreover, you will save a lot of configuration

time that required on a full OS, such as Linux.


Is your product powered by a battery and for more than a month without charging?

YES - RTOS should be the easy choice. Less power consumption and better hardware optimization for battery-based products.

NO - Less relevant for making the decision.


Does your application require more than 1-3 megabytes of memory to run smoothly?

YES - Stick with Linux, you will find more selection of ready-to-use hardware. RTOS is less suitable for more than 1 or 2 “long scripts” - take this into consideration.

NO - Less relevant for making the decision.


Does the physical size of the product have to be smaller than half of a credit card?

YES - You will find a more suitable hardware selection of RTOS based boards. At the Linux domain, you will need to integrate a board from scratch(a truly tough mission) or to go with a Raspberry Pi Zero module.

NO - Less relevant for making the decision.


Is it important that the hardware will cost less than 8$?

YES - RTOS is your best choice. There is a lot of ready-to-use hardware already integrated with RTOS that you will find appropriate to the price limit.

NO - Less relevant for making the decision. Keep in mind that if you don't have any special reliability requirements - Raspberry Pi can fit perfectly for your project, starting from 10$ per board.


Do you want to have an option to add functionalities in the future?

YES - Consider using Linux. Changes that we didn't plan ahead can be easier to manage in a full OS like Linux.

NO - Less relevant for making the decision.


Would you like to have the ability to control and manage your product in the field over-the-air?

YES - Linux is your best choice. With UpSwift's platform, you will always stay in control by easily deploying software updates over-the-air, providing online remote support and manage your devices in the field.

NO - Less relevant for making the decision.



Excellent! Take a look at your note, it should be very clear now what is the best operating system for your upcoming project. If you find more than one mix of choices that are not pointing to the same OS, we recommend you to focus the decision on the most critical question - Is it super-important that the hardware price will be under 8$?





You did it! Next up - we will explore some Linux-based hardware boards in purpose to find the right one for our project.

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