The Ultimate Guide to Selecting the Right IoT Operating System

Select Right IoT Operating System

If you're an IoT maker, you'll want to make sure you pick the correct operating system for your devices. So keep an eye out for the finest advice on picking the correct IoT operating system right now.

An OS (operating system) is at the heart of IoT solutions. It's the core of all intelligent devices as it helps connect to the internet, send and receive data, and process it.

If you're an IoT manufacturer, you must make sure that you choose the right IoT operating system for your devices. There's no single IoT operating system that we can term 'the best' as not one-size-fits-all.

It would help if you considered various factors before making the decision. We'll move to that in a bit but let's first see what makes an IoT OS and why it's important.

What is an IoT Operating System?

An IoT OS (Internet of Things Operating System) is designed to operate within constraints specific to the IoT devices. These include limitations on memory, size, and processing power. IoT operating systems are embedded OS but are intended to transfer data over the internet.

IoT OS is essential for connectivity, security, network, storage, remote device administration, and other IoT system requirements. Some IoT OS systems have real-time processing capabilities. These are known as RTOS or real-time operational systems.

When Do You Need an IoT OS?

Having an IoT OS is surely advantageous, but it's not mandatory. A system that uses less than 16KB RAM or Flash/ROM can work without an OS. These systems are most commonly run on 16-bit or 8-bit MCUs. These systems allow us to use a single loop that processes and polls events as they happen. However, the system with more complexity will be constrained by high loop processing time.

Why Do You Need an OS for IoT Devices? 

Whether it's a laptop, smartphone, tablet, server, or any other connected device, an operating system acts as its brain and central nervous system. A computer without an operating system is similar to a car without its engine. It simply won't turn on. This applies to IoT devices as well.

An IoT OS allows devices and programs to connect with other systems and platforms such as cloud services and cloud platforms. The IoT OS also manages the processing speed and other resources necessary to collect, transmit, and store data.

Things to Consider When Choosing an IoT Operating System

Keeping your specific needs and IoT device constraints in the center, you need to consider various factors to find the best IoT operating systems for your IoT devices. We've broken down the top seven considerations for selecting the right IoT OS for you. 

1. Footprint:The OS will need to be small in memory, processor power, and other requirements due to the constraints of devices. The OS should have minimal overhead. In selecting OS and hardware, it is important to consider the size of RAM and ROM required for operation.

2. Security features:OS includes add-ons to increase security. Ideally, it should have the following features:

  • Multi-layer software defenses
  • Renewable security
  • SSL support
  • Encryption drivers
  • Dynamic compartmentalization

IoT OS security is vital because it can be ignored and cause system failures.

3. Connectivity:OS supports many connectivity protocols, including Ethernet, WiFi, BLE, IEEE 802.15.4, etc. It would be best to verify whether your OS supports the latest internet protocol or not.

4. Scalability:Any device must have an OS that can be scaled. This means integrators and developers need to know one OS for both gateways or nodes.

5. User interface:GUI requirements can make a huge difference in your decision about the RTOS you choose for IoT. You will need to decide if you only need basic graphics libraries or if you require more advanced capabilities such as 3D rendering and multi-layer interfaces.

6. Reliability:This is vital for mission-critical equipment. Sometimes devices are employed in remote locations and need to work for many years without interruption. OS should also be certified for certain applications. IoT OS certifications include ISO 62304 ISO 61508, SIL3/SIL4 IEC (DO-178B), DO-178B and IEC 61508, ISO 62304.

7. Development support:As many IoT operating systems are under development, the availability of community support and support documentation is crucial for the developers.

The Most Popular IoT Operating Systems

Linux continues to be the most popular operating system across a broad range of computing applications. Linux is expected to continue to lead, despite the popularity of Windows and FreeRTOS. Raspbian, Ubuntu, and Debian are the most used Linux-based IoT OS systems.

Numerous other companies have entered the IoT-operating systems market, and they are increasing their investment in developing IoT operational systems. For example, Amazon Web Services has launched its FreeRTOS variant, the Amazon FreeRTOS.

It is specifically designed to be immediately usable across various connected devices. Another example is Microsoft, which released the Linux-based AzureSphere operating platform in 2018.


It is essential to choose the right operating system for any project. Given the wide range of OSes available to the IoT market, it is crucial to understand the specific requirements of your IoT devices.

IoT has opened up a world of possibilities for sensory devices. Previously, they didn't have an OS. However, these devices are now using smaller OSes and expanding their capabilities. Many RTOSes are available for IoT, with many options that can be used to target specific hardware architectures.

It is important to prioritize which OS features are most relevant for IoT implementations.

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