Embedded Linux: Out of sight, out of mind


The Germans have embedded Linux in their traffic lights, which is a good thing given their harsh attitude to jay walkers. Having made it safely over the lights into the high street (or shopping mall for US readers) we find over 40 point of sales (POS) manufacturers (what used to be cash tills) using embedded Linux including of course IBMJavaPOS (another embedded Linux-Java hybrid). IBMPoS terminals seem to be everywhere.

POS terminals would be no good unless they could communicate with the banks and authorise the removal of money from your account. Lynksys and increasingly Netgear routers amongst many others, use embedded Linux.

Linux out and about (infotainment)

If you drove through town in your shiny BMW or one of many other top end makes you will soon be getting up close and personal with the GENIVI alliance:

...GENIVI is a non-profit industry alliance committed to driving the broad adoption of an In-Vehicle Infotainment (IVI) reference platform...

Montavista Linux embedded systems are in there, so is Wind River Linux, so is Intel and most of the car manufacturers. So with a new generation of in-car infotainment at least you will have something to do in those traffic jams and it'll be Linux powered.

Mobile Linux (phones and books)

Or why not read a book or make a call while you wait?

All the e-readers use embedded Linux: Amazon's Kindle, Sony E-reader (Monta Vista again) , IREX Iliad to name but the only three that count!

Linux is really quite popular on mobile phones. Nokia, Motorola (nearly the whole range ) and the latest i-phone beater, the Palm Pre to name but three. Of course there is the whole Google Android range to get to grips with as well.

Linux at Home (computers, TVs and games)

..then again you could have stayed at home and played with the computer or watched TV.

You may watch digital TV on your analogue set provided you have set top box converter.

(Linux Set top boxes: Panasonic, Envivio, TUXIA) which (most probably) has Linux lurking in there somewherere.

Linux on your PC

If you have a netbook PC most are offered with an embedded Linux OS or indeed if it's anything from Asus it is more than probable it has Linux embedded in it. The desktop motherboards they supply have a super-fast booting (as low as 3 seconds) Linux called Splashtop which will get you on the net or e-mailing in double quick time.

This is a feature that is independent of any hard drive operating system you may want to install.

Asus even have a dedicated Asus Skype video phone which runs on embedded Linux!

Linux at Play

Linux will run on your XBox, Playstation 3 and Wii but they are not embedded PlayStation 3 does however go out of its way to make the platform Linux friendly (Yellow Dog Linux was the first to really take advantage of this platform) so maybe it's only a matter of time before it is embedded.


Linux is everywhere, quietly powering anonymous devices as well as successful brands that are being built around us.

RedHawk, River Wind, Monta Vista; just three of the commericalised embedded Linux distros you haven't heard of. Dozens more just tell you what kernel is in use and what libraries are required.

Of course the list of devices in the article is not exhaustive, countless devices for hard-core engineering rely on Linux. I simply choose a few, really useful/important or simply cool products, that you may have come across but not realised used a Linux OS.

Out of sight out of mind..that's embedded Linux, coming to a device near you.

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