The internet of things is here to stay, and Amazon Web Services rolled out several extensions to its IoT product strategy this week at AWS re:Invent to help its customers connect all the things.
AWS CEO Andy Jassy made some bullish comments on the internet of things this week, telling attendees at its Global Partner Summit on Tuesday “you could argue that in terms of actual adoption and progress that IoT is making progress the fastest” among the many technology trends that AWS tracks. The company unveiled a flurry of new services during his keynote on Wednesday morning, including a version of a lightweight operating system called Amazon FreeRTOS that is designed to run on small connected devices with severe constraints on processing power.
“When you talk about IoT and billions of devices, a large part of those billions are actually really small device operating with microcontrollers,” said Marco Argenti, vice president for AWS Mobile, in an interview Thursday. You can connect these devices to a network, but you can’t ask them to do a lot of processing on their own because size or power constraints force them to rely on microcontrollers to get anything done.
FreeRTOS was developed by Richard Barry in 2003 as an open-source real-time embedded operating system for those types of devices, and the new version unveiled by AWS Wednesday is designed to extend its IoT and edge computing strategy down to very small devices. We’re talking about devices like connected thermostats, or sensors spread across a massive farm, Argenti said.
“FreeRTOS is the most popular OS for embedded devices,” said Stacey Higginbotham, internet of things expert (and former colleague). “It does seem like a big deal.”
Barry joined AWS last year, and helped create the new product (its kernel will still be open sourced, Argenti said). It allows those connected devices to talk directly to the AWS cloud or to an Amazon Greengrass IoT device on a local network, depending on the application requirements.
FreeRTOS is a good complement to a serverless IoT development strategy, Argenti said. He was a little more bullish about serverless for edge computing than Microsoft Azure CTO Mark Russinovich, who I interviewed a few weeks ago on the topic.
“Of all the IoT implementations that i’ve seen, the vast majority are using serverless,” he said. If you’re deployed connected devices running FreeRTOS you can use Greengrass to respond to events triggered by the sensor or microcontroller, making the whole system much more capable of handling complex interactions.
AWS also showed off a new IoT analytics service, a device management service, and previewed a new security service for IoT devices during re:Invent. While security concerns are top-of-mind for any vendor working in this area, expect AWS to spend even more time over the next couple of years making its IoT security services even better, Argenti said.