At Embedded World 2023, we visited the Zephyr OS booth to explore real-life use cases for Zephyr OS and Nordic products, such as the Nordic cellular IoT SIP. We spoke with Jonas and Oliver about their deployment of this technology in Deutsche Bahn's Intercity Express (ICE) trains. Jonas, a firmware engineer for hardware vendor Phytec, explained the importance of using a vendor-neutral operating system that can be used for several different system-on-chips (SOCs). They chose the Nordic nRF9160 because it offers a full solution for cellular IoT and connecting sensors in one small package. Additionally, it has driver support and all the layers in the network layer up to MQTT and certain application layers.
When it comes to the Intercity Express trains, they needed a real-time operating system that could handle specific power usage and resource controls. Zephyr OS provides this level of control over resources, giving them the freedom and flexibility to run certain things in different threads. Oliver added that they are using a Nordic microcontroller, which is an ARM RISC processor integrated with LTE and radio, which works with very low power. This allows it to work for months with a single battery charge.
The hardware has a multitude of sensors, including a pressure sensor, an accelerometer, and an NRF reader, all integrated on one PCB. Since the system only needs to be on for a brief period and then goes into sleep mode, it conserves power. The hardware is fitted onto the train when the wastewater tanks are emptied, which is a manual process that can go wrong. Deutsche Bahn wants to monitor this process to ensure everything is running smoothly and passengers can use the bathrooms. The hardware is connected to the railway when the tank is emptied and the pump is connected to the other side.
This is a fascinating use case that demonstrates the practical applications of Zephyr OS and Nordic products. It's not just theory but a solution to a real-world problem. Zephyr OS provides the level of control necessary for these types of applications, and Nordic's low-power microcontroller allows for months of use on a single battery charge. It will be interesting to see how this technology develops and expands into other industries and use cases.
For more information about the Zephyr project, visit zephyrproject.org
BeST Berliner Sensortechnik GmbH: https://www.bestsensor.de/?lang=en
Phytec Messtechnik GmbH: https://www.phytec.eu/en/startseite/
Phytec Low Power Solutions for IoT: https://www.phytec.eu/en/leistungen/low-power-solutions/