Are you wondering what a rich operating system is? Or perhaps you’re searching for more information about real-time operating systems (RTOS)? You will find the answers in this article. Here, we focus on rich operating systems vs. real-time operating systems: the key similarities and differences between these two. Thus, if either or both of these spark your interest, we invite you to read on!

Defining Rich Operating Systems vs. Real-Time Operating Systems

To begin our comparison, we need to define rich operating systems and real-time operating systems. Let’s start with the former.

Rich Operating System

A rich operating system (ROS) is the base for conventional computing environments. Its name derives from the rich number of features for general-purpose applications that it comes with. In rich operating systems, the priorities are usually put on multitasking, resource management, and user interface functionality. What are the examples of such systems? Among others:

  • Windows,
  • Linux,
  • macOs,
  • Android.

Real-Time Operating System

A real-time operating system is used for devices that require quick, predictable task execution – usually in time-sensitive operations. It is most commonly used in embedded systems for automobiles, though you can see it also in heavy industry automation or in medical equipment.

Real-time operating systems can be further divided into hard RTOS or soft RTOS.

  • Soft RTOS – In soft RTOS, missing the timing might bear minor consequences like a small degradation in quality. There is no set “maximum” or “minimum” time since the consequences won’t be as severe as in RTOS. Soft systems are usually used in DVD players or telephone switches.
  • Hard RTOS – In hard RTOS, timing is critical, meaning that a task processed and performed too early or too late is deemed erroneous. An example of that is visible in automobile production – if a robot welds its arm too early or too late, the car cannot be sold; thus, a hard RTOS is required. It’s also important to note that a hard RTOS comes with fixed time constraints, meaning that the system knows exactly when the task should be completed to be deemed correct.

What happens if an error occurs in one of these systems? For hard ones, the computation is simply rolled back to the start. A similar thing happens in soft systems, though they use a checkpoint – the last established correct point of reference.

The Similarities and Differences Between Rich Operating Systems and Real-Time Operating Systems

Getting to the main purpose of this article, we may now go through the differences and similarities between ROS and RTOS. For that, we’ve divided our comparison based on particular features – let’s take a look at them.

  • Kernel functionality – The first similarity between both rich operating systems and real-time operating systems is that they rely on a kernel to manage the most critical functions, including process scheduling, memory management, and device interaction.
  • User interface support – Both systems deploy some kind of a user interface that is supported within the system. However, they also differ in the types of UI. Rich operating systems usually come with graphical user interfaces (GUIs), whereas real-time operating systems are usually based on simple, command-line interfaces, as they operate in resource-constrained environments.
  • Device drivers – Yet another similarity between these two is that the devices within each system aren’t seamlessly integrated with the software – drivers are required for these two elements to interact.
  • Determinism – Real-time operating systems are determined by time constraints which they need to fulfill; therefore, executing tasks within given time frames is the main priority in such environments. Rich operating systems’ scope is mainly multi-tasking and resource management. This does not mean that the latter is not quick, but purely that time efficiency isn’t the first priority in it.
  • Complexity – Rich operating systems are created to be versatile. This means that they are complex and need to offer a wide variety of services and functions for the users. However, this means that they might be slower. Real-time operating systems, on the other hand, are much more simple and predictable. This minimizes unnecessary overhead and enables quick task execution within the given time frames.
  • Use cases – Rich operating systems are mainly used for general purposes, in mobile devices or personal computers, though they also found their niche in IoT devices software. Real-time operating systems, apart from being used when time is literally critical, are mostly employed when security or safety is of the utmost importance, as in the previously mentioned aircraft control systems or in ABS (Anti-lock braking systems).

Which Operating System Is Used in Embedded Systems?

You might now be wondering which of these two is better or more commonly used for embedded systems. Well, there’s no straightforward answer to that.

Many embedded systems run on ROSs like Linux or Android. The former is especially attractive for engineers and developers since it is open-source, so it generates lower costs and better support and flexibility. However, safety-related embedded systems, or the ones that are based on proper timing will likely rely on ROTS. So, to answer the question from the start of this section: it depends on the type of embedded system that you are developing.

The Takeaway

Now rich operating systems and real-time operating systems should no longer be a mystery to you. Knowing this much about them, you should be able to select the right one for your embedded system project. And if you need help, just contact us or check our operating systems services – we will help with your low-level product development, so that you can focus on what matters most.

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