Leveraging Qt Commercial to Create Interactive Graphical User Interfaces for Real-Time Operating Systems

As you may have noticed, we have been actively bringing improved support for leading Real-Time Operating Systems into Qt Commercial. One might ask,  “why is it important?” Why is the leading cross-platform application and UI framework needed in RTOS applications? Aren't these the ones so deeply buried into our infrastructure, that you almost never notice when you come across one? Well, yes and no. It is true that most of the RTOS applications are done without any UI, let alone a fancy and interactive graphical user interface. But the number of those RTOS applications that require or significantly benefit from an advanced GUI framework that can help them meet the needs of 21st century is growing fast. The other embedded operating systems, such as embedded Linux or Windows Embedded, can’t always meet the needs when it comes to real-time capability, reliability, security or certified operations for certain industries 


Invasion of Screens Continues

All around us, there are already a huge number of embedded systems, and the number is growing fast. These embedded systems are more and more adding graphical user interfaces, many via interactive touch screen interfaces. Typically the graphical interface is needed to cope with increased functionality, but sometimes the users who have used touch screen interfaces in other devices request it. While the need for advanced interfaces is partially fueled by the development in phones and tablets, the majority of the growth is justified by the improved functionality for the users. Additional benefits in many use cases are gained in lower maintenance costs and better configurability gained via touch screens compared to physical buttons.


Creating an interactive graphical user interface, the requirements for the UI framework are much higher than for traditional embedded interfaces. Qt Commercial is designed for creating interactive touch screen interfaces, whereas traditionally used embedded UI frameworks do not always fit well for this purpose. The technology base of Qt Commercial is solid, as Qt has been used for cross-platform development on embedded and desktop for two decades, and continuously evolving. Leveraging the advanced API of the Qt Commercial framework, as well as the integrated development tools, creation of modern, flexible and powerful applications is now easy and efficient also for RTOS. The cross-platform capability of Qt Commercial also helps in being able to run the same application in other operating systems, which benefits a lot for example during development. Naturally, one can’t just add a big screen to an existing HW design, throw in Qt Commercial and get a superior user experience. But, when the device being built has enough processing power and suitable HW architecture, it is very easy to create the user interface with all the possible bells and whistles with Qt Commercial – and due to it being a native framework the processing power is used optimally compared to non-native UI frameworks such as Flash, Android or HTML5. 


The Need for Qt Commercial on RTOS

Most of the embedded solutions so far built with Qt have been done with embedded Linux and Windows Embedded. There have been earlier Qt-based RTOS systems built for highly customized use cases, using purpose-built Qt ports. Digia is now adding standard support for leading RTOS platforms to Qt Commercial together with the RTOS vendors. This means smoothly co-operating Qt ports for the RTOS platforms, good documentation and development tools, commercial licensing which makes it feasible to statically link Qt into your application, typically needed by the RTOS, and to freely modify the Qt libraries as needed without providing them to the users of the device. Commercial license also includes technical support in the development license – a valuable asset proven to save a lot of engineering time.


Leveraging Qt Commercial with these RTOS platforms enables an easy way of adding state-of-the-art graphical user interfaces to security and safety critical systems. It is easier to certify the product to comply with the requirements of e.g. medical or transportation industry when the solution is built on top of an RTOS that is already certified for that industry domain. We see many industries, for example medical, transportation, automotive, industry automation, finance, aerospace and defense, directly benefiting from now being able to leverage Qt Commercial on these RTOS platforms. In addition to embedded devices, it is possible to run Qt Commercial on RTOS in a desktop or server HW. Qt Commercial on RTOS allows harnessing the power of multi-core and multi-processor HW platforms for the mission critical application having high requirements for processing power.


There are many different types of embedded systems with very different requirements. Some benefit very much from using a RTOS, while others are more fit for Embedded Linux and Windows Embedded that are designed with different principles than the RTOSs. All these have an important role in creating the growing number of embedded systems with advanced GUI functionality, and Qt Commercial supports all these. With Qt Commercial 4.8.1 just around the corner we offer standard support for INTEGRITY and QNX Real-Time Operating Systems, embedded Linux and Windows Embedded, and later also for VxWorks. We are actively working together with the RTOS vendors to include support to new features, as well as to continuously validate and improve functionality in the upcoming Qt Commercial versions.


RTOS Benefits for Mission Critical Applications

The in-built capabilities of the RTOS platforms allow running the Qt framework and especially the GUI part, which is by nature a non-real-time component, in such a way that it does not interfere with the real-time parts of the system. This capability is not available in non-real-time operating systems in which the delays are non-deterministic, and a programming error can cause the whole system to crash. Such behavior can sometimes be accepted in consumer electronics, where the worst case scenario may be the user needing to re-start the system, but this can’t be tolerated in mission-critical systems. Leveraging Qt Commercial on top an RTOS it is possible to create a system where UI can be a non-real time component in a system that guarantees the real-time processes to operate reliable even in such cases where user input or similar non-real time process is needed. With the RTOS capabilities of tolerating non-deterministic delays and even crashes in the UI part of the system it is possible to create mission critical systems with interactive user interfaces, and guaranteed real-time capabilities.


In addition to the obvious real-time capabilities, RTOS are good in scaling to low-spec HW. With the operating system being small and highly optimized it is possible to save in the HW resources. Real-Time Operating Systems are also modular by structure and it is easy to add just those features that are needed in the product. Digia is very excited in the possibilities of harnessing the power of RTOS to operate seamlessly together with Qt Commercial, as well as improving Qt Commercial to better meet the needs of embedded and RTOS-based products, for example making it easier to configure Qt according to the needs of the product. There are already many systems directly benefiting from this alliance, and much more are on the works for the years to come.


Try Qt Commercial

If you have not yet considered levering Qt Commercial for your next embedded project, I hope I was able to raise enough interest for you to try it out. Our account managers and Qt engineers are available to guide you through the evaluation process. Get more info on Qt Commercial evaluation for RTOSs here. If you have any questions, we are very happy to discuss more on how Qt Commercial meets the needs of your next product – you can contact us here.


Meet Digia at Embedded World 2012

Digia, Qt Commercial will be at the Embedded World 2012 in Germany this week. You can find me, and many others from the Digia staff at the Digia, Qt Commercial booth in Hall 4, stand #4-405. We are demonstrating Qt Commercial running on all leading RTOS and embedded platforms, innovative customer products built with Qt Commercial, as well as the Qt Commercial development tools for embedded. See you there!

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