Top Five Open Source Operating Systems For The IoT

The Internet of Things connects devices and sensors on a scale that’s hard to imagine. The explosive and turbulent rate of innovations for applications in this market makes it almost impossible to keep all of the different protocols and languages aligned and open. The growth of connectedness is why open source operating systems for the IoT are relevant and worthy of investment.

The devices that we now include in the IoT have been around for years. It is the fact that they connect to the Internet and share data in real time that has changed the narrative. So, now that the Internet of Things is a “thing”, IoT developers need programming tools that have the broadest influence on the practical implementation of the technology.

The Competing Philosophies Of Open Source And Proprietary Solutions

The IoT solves a wide variety of problems also, and so the systems that do the work are ever more diverse. The diversity of hardware, connection protocols, and operating systems makes it difficult to assign relative values and rank the top players.

Open source software drives hardware and provides the edges at which innovators can add creative solutions that evolve rapidly. This approach to programming is a set of design principles that has always stood at odds with companies that create in-house proprietary solutions.

There are some excellent proprietary operating systems for the IoT. Unsurprisingly, these are the ones offered by the big brands such as Microsoft. Windows 10 for IoT isn’t open source.

Microsoft is a leader in IoT operating systems because of the success of Visual Studio and Azure. Proprietary development environments such as Windows 10 restrict development to tightly controlled communities, limiting innovation somewhat.

The Leading Open Source Operating Systems For The IoT

Not many organizations that develop applications have the resources of Microsoft. As an alternative, the open source methodology gives developers the chance to respond in fast-paced environments.

Where progress in application design comes in iterative steps, the output of one development team becomes the input for other teams to advance it to the next level.

Android Things

The Android framework is open source software, based on the Linux kernel. Google’s IoT operating system extends Android into the IoT. Other developers for Android devices have followed suit, also drawing from Linux.

Android Things is an iteration for Google that builds on past lesson from Brillo, the company’s previous offering. The new system is designed to exploit the IoT and conversational technologies for industrial and consumer applications.

VxWorks OS

Commercial IoT operators in industries that demand real-time operating systems for complex high-security applications and VxWorks is a popular choice for enterprise applications.


The hardware leader for the IoT offers the Mbed OS open source IoT operating system. The product has the backing of a highly successful industry leader and supplier of the chips that make IoT devices work. 


The IoT OS from the Linux Foundation is, ironically, not based on Linux but rather a much more lightweight system called Rocket OS.

Riot OS

Open source since 2008, Riot is worthy of mention because it is light in memory and energy requirements, extremely flexible, and easy to use.

Will One Open Source Solution Ultimately Prevail?

Open source solutions regularly fork into new iterations as developers invent better solutions to complex IoT operating problems. The trend toward continuous fragmentation cannot continue forever.

At some point, general solutions that provide value on the global scale will begin to push back. Then, we may see a consolidation of open source operating systems for the IoT, but we have not hit that point just yet.

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IT Storyteller and Copywriter
Andrew's current undertaking is big data analytics and AI as well as digital design and branding. He is a contributor to various publications with the focus on emerging technology and digital marketing.