Chip makers STMicroelectronics and Texas Instruments have announced partnerships with Swedish vendor Thingsquare, which has developed a tiny operating system designed to make it easier to connect a broad variety of things, from street lights to thermostats.
Both vendors will run Thingsquare's operating system, Mist, on some of their microcontrollers and transceivers, which can then be used to connect devices for machine-to-machine communications.
The integration makes it easier to develop these devices, according to Thingsquare CEO Roger Bergdahl.
"If you are sitting there and have a product you want to connect to the Internet you can use their hardware and our software and it just works, allowing the development time to be cut by a year," Bergdahl said.
Thingsquare Mist is a standards-based, open-source operating system that was developed with ease of use in mind.
"Today you need a lot of competence in the embedded field. We want to lower the barrier for developers that come from the software side, so they can start to building solutions, as well," Bergdahl said.
Applications for Mist are developed using the C programming language, and there is a simulation environment where the code can be thoroughly tested before production and deployment.
The open-source operating system uses a frugal mesh architecture to keep battery consumption low. Only one of the nodes, which is called the router, has an Internet connection. Mist typically runs on hardware with between 64 and 256 kilobytes of flash and 16 to 32 kilobytes of RAM, according to Thingsquare.
Thingsquare is seeing a growing interest for using its operating system in both smart homes and cities. Mist is already used on a thermostat from German vendor Tado. Devices based on Mist can also be used to control lighting, for example. City applications include smart street lights that are turned on just before cars pass at night and parking sensors that know when a space is occupied. That information can then be fed to a smartphone app.
That both ST and TI are working with Thingsquare isn't a coincidence. At the end of last year the two companies announced they were taking a step back from making processors for smartphones and tablets to instead focus more on embedded systems. At the time, both vendors explained their dwindling fortunes and change of direction were related to smartphone makers developing their own processors.
The products compatible with Mist are ST's SPIRIT1 radio transceiver on the STM32L microcontroller platform and the CC1101 or CC1120 radio transceiver combined with an MSP430 microcontroller or the CC2538 system-on-chip from TI.