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Huawei LiteOS: A heavyweight in IoT connectivity

Feb 01, 2018 By Shi Jinfan

In the PC era, Microsoft Windows was the king of the PC OS. In the age of the smartphone, Google's Android and Apple's iOS took the reins and became the dominant duo in the mobile OS market. Now, in the IoT era, Huawei plans to join forces with industry partners and harness the open-source power of Huawei LiteOS to make it synonymous with IoT.


With people-to-things and things-to-things connections starting to overtake people-to-people connections, the IoT market holds almost unimaginable potential. In the future, IoT networks will connect hundreds of billions of devices that will need to run applications, perform simple calculations, and communicate with other devices, edge gateways, and clouds. They will typically run on low-performance microcontroller unit (MCU) chips and be battery-powered. A great variety of IoT devices in different industry applications will use different types of hardware and connection protocols. Meeting the diverse demands of massive numbers of devices will be a new challenge and opportunity for operating systems in the IoT era.

As a core part of Huawei's 1+2+1 IoT strategy, Huawei LiteOS is a software development platform that’s designed to help rapidly develop the IoT device industry and the smartification of IoT hardware.

Since its release in 2015, Huawei LiteOS has assisted many exceptional products go to market, including high-end Huawei smartphones, wearables, and IoT chips. To date, 50 million Huawei LiteOS-powered devices have been produced.

Huawei is now working with third-party chipset and device manufacturers to drive the development of the IoT industry and help realize the era of 100 billion IoT connections, which is predicted for 2025. Huawei LiteOS provides a unified, open API that can be applied in domains as diverse as smart homes, wearables, Internet of Vehicles, and manufacturing. Huawei LiteOS provides an open-source, one-stop service for developers that lowers barriers to development and shortens the development cycle by virtue of a range of high-end features: It’s lightweight, low-power, quick start, interoperable, secure, and stable.

Unique competitive strengths

IoT has distinct requirements on operating systems compared with PC or mobile devices. IoT operating systems must be modular; have upgradable architecture and scalable kernels; use little power, support a variety of connection protocols and different types of hardware and chip solutions; and offer device-side security capabilities.

Huawei LiteOS provides a one-stop, complete software development platform for IoT device manufacturers to tackle the challenges of IoT OS design. Huawei LiteOS includes a modular middleware framework that lowers barriers to development and shortens the development cycle.

Lightweight

Huawei LiteOS is a lightweight IoT operating system. It offers strong interoperability and supports lightweight device-end security.

Scalable lightweight kernel: The smallest kernel (6 KB) on the market offers fast-start and low power consumption features.

Large numbers of connection protocols: The interconnectivity framework includes a comprehensive device and cloud interconnection application protocol stack that supports default connections with the Huawei OceanConnect IoT platform, as well as access to third-party platforms. Multiple network access protocols, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Zigbee, Ethernet, and NB-IoT, are supported to meet the needs of different types of devices.

Huawei LiteOS provides basic security capabilities such as two-way authentication, DTLS encrypted transmission, and remote upgrades for weak terminals in LPWA scenarios. Weak terminals include water meters, gas meters, and vehicle detectors, which have limited capabilities and resources in terms of memory, storage, and CPU, but have strict requirements on cost and power consumption.

In scenarios with extremely low power consumption requirements, Huawei LiteOS also offers lightweight and optimized DTLS+ secure transmission protocols.

Huawei LiteOS is embedded in the Huawei Boudica chip. The open API lets device vendors quickly develop device-end applications that can seamlessly interoperate with the NB-IoT network and Huawei OceanConnect IoT platform. This reduces the difficulty of NB-IoT device development and speeds up product commercialization.

Mature commercial adoption

Huawei has shipped more than 50 million units that use Huawei LiteOS. Since 4Q 2016, it has shipped 100,000 units, including smart door viewers, smart doorbells, security cameras, and other smart home devices.

With the large-scale commercial rollout of NB-IoT in 2017, shipments of various NB-IoT smart devices that use Huawei LiteOS, such as smart water and gas meters, vehicle detectors, street lamps, mailboxes, and smart bike locks, are set to exceed 3 million units.

Open

Huawei LiteOS already supports six of the top ten MCU manufacturers (NXP, ST, Microchip, TI, SiliconLab, and ADI); two of the top three Chinese MCU manufacturers (GigaDevice and MindMotion); more than 40 industry-standard MCU hardware development boards; and three NB-IoT development boards.

Huawei LiteOS's open-source community provides developers with a full suite of services, including knowledge, experience, downloads, learning, exchanges, and support. LiteOS is easy to learn and development is straightforward. The open-source community includes over 30,000 developers, and three versions of the operating system have been released since 4Q 2016.

Commercial use cases

Smart fisheries

Dangerous and hard, fish farming requires its farmers to inspect the rearing conditions of fish and crabs regularly, regardless of weather or time of day. To make things easier, Yiqi Software, a Huawei LiteOS partner, released the Fisherman's Friend solution. It enables uninterrupted monitoring 24/7 and provides decision-making support for fish farmers through data analysis.

As part of the solution, various devices are installed in fish ponds to collect different types of data on air and water conditions. The data is collected by the control box, uploaded to a smart aquaculture cloud via 2G/3G/4G or NB-IoT networks, and then processed centrally. The smart center analyzes service models, and monitors and manages the data throughout the process. The data is easily monitored via mobile app, and sensors can be remotely controlled anytime, anywhere using a mobile phone, making life much easier for fish farmers.

The mobile outdoor sensors in the Fisherman's Friend smart fishery solution come integrated with Huawei LiteOS, the open capabilities of which allow outdoor devices to quickly connect. Although the sensors have a high transmission frequency, Huawei LiteOS's low power consumption allow a battery with just one-third the capacity of a mobile phone battery to run for a year.

Huawei LiteOS is also integrated into the control box. With the pre-integrated interconnect protocol stack and byte-stream transmission capabilities, development costs and network usage costs are reduced.

Huawei LiteOS is fully compatible and works in conjunction with NB-IoT chipsets. Profiles and codec plug-ins can be flexibly customized on the OceanConnect platform, enhancing the scalability, elasticity, and security of the Fisherman's Friend application.

When developing Fisherman's Friend devices, Yiqi Software was able to run Huawei LiteOS directly on MCUs without further migration thanks to Huawei LiteOS's complete ecosystem. Because Huawei LiteOS provides an NB-IoT interface encapsulation API and OceanConnect access code samples, device development and interface work was shortened from a month to a week. The reduced time was due to the fact that during device development, the partner didn't need to spend time learning the AT commands or platform southbound interface manuals. Monitoring device development was faster and the quality of development much improved.

With the Fisherman's Friend solution, fish farmers can fully understand the aquatic environment without having to set foot outside, and no longer have to lose sleep over changing water conditions. They can even consult experts online when they encounter problems in their fish farms. Fisheries departments can use big data analysis on back-end management systems to provide policy guidance for fish farms and help the sales of aquatic products.

Smart mailboxes

Mailboxes are a familiar part of a country's infrastructure and tend to number into the millions, forming one the most common types of 'dumb devices' in logistics.

Because post carriers don’t know how many letters any given mailbox contains, they need to open and check every mailbox on their route. An empty mailbox equals a wasted run, and therefore a waste of labor.

Huawei’s partner ThunderSoft built a smart mailbox solution using Huawei LiteOS. The solution collects data on the number of letters in a mailbox in real time. This data is transmitted to the application platform via a low-power NB-IoT network. Mail carriers can automatically plan their routes based on the quantity of letters, avoiding the unproductive use of labor.

The solution requires two sensors to be installed in mailboxes – one monitors deliveries through the mail slot and the other monitors operations when the mailbox door is opened and letters are collected. Data from the two sensors is collected and then filtered and processed by the monitoring devices. Data such as the volume of letters, signal quality, GPS location, and battery level are transmitted to the application platform by the NB-IoT network. The IoT platform carries out unified management on the monitoring devices and transmits mail data to the application platform, providing route planning, device status notifications, and other such functions.

Thanks to the advantages of the technology and the solution that Huawei LiteOS provides, the partner quickly completed integration and development of the smart mailbox solution. Huawei LiteOS integrates deeply with MCUs, lowering MCU operating power consumption with low-power processing mechanisms. Combined with the NB-IoT network, this provides a significantly extended device battery life, estimated to be sufficient for three years of continual operation at a frequency of one letter posted per hour. In addition, Huawei LiteOS's device/cloud suite makes developing monitoring hardware and connecting it to the cloud platform quick and simple. API interface encapsulation means the bottom-layer protocol connection process and communication mechanism are now irrelevant, making developers' jobs a lot easier.

Ecosystem and cooperation strategy

Huawei LiteOS primarily focuses on lightweight, low-power consumption scenarios. Harnessing LiteOS's open-source model, Huawei hopes to foster an ecosystem of chip makers, solution providers, device manufacturers and telecom operators that can work together to carry out joint innovation to drive the IoT era.

Huawei LiteOS has established a complete open-source system and support channel. Developers and business partners can access LiteOS support documents, technical information, and related solutions on Huawei's Developer Zone and on the Huawei LiteOS official website. They can also connect with experts on technical forums to receive rapid technical support, and the source code for Huawei LiteOS can be downloaded from GitHub. Huawei has also established a collaboration platform for Huawei LiteOS in the Huawei Solution Partner Program.

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