Key Concept:

Real-Time Embedded Framework

A Real-Time Embedded Framework (RTEF) is an implementation of the Active Object design pattern specifically designed for real-time embedded systems. RTEF provides the event-driven infrastructure for executing Active Objects based on a real-time kernel (RTOS kernel) to ensure deterministic, real-time performance.
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Active Objects for Real-Time

Recommended video “Beyond the RTOS – Part 3”:
Active Objects can be combined with a wide variety of threading models, including real-time kernels (RTOS kernels). In the latter case, the combination, carefully designed for deterministic performance, is called the Real-Time Embedded Framework (RTEF).

The main difference between an RTOS and RTEF is that when you use a “naked” RTOS, you write the main body of each and every thread in the application and from there, you call the various RTOS services (e.g., a time-delay or a semaphore).

When you use an RTEF, you reuse the overall architecture (such as the event loop for all private threads of Active Objects) and you only write the code that the RTEF calls. This leads to inversion of control, which allows the RTEF to automatically enforce the best practices of concurrent programming. In contrast, a “naked” RTOS lets you do anything and offers no help or automation for the best practices.

Smaller than Traditional RTOS

In the resource-constrained embedded systems, the biggest concern has always been about the size and efficiency of such RTEFs, especially that the frameworks accompanying various UML tools have traditionally been built on top of a conventional RTOS, which can only add memory footprint and CPU overhead to the final solution.

However, it turns out that an RTEF can be actually smaller than a traditional RTOS. This is possible, because Active Objects don’t need to block internally, so most blocking mechanisms (e.g., semaphores) of a conventional RTOS are not needed.

Slide: Paradigm Shift from RTOS (blocking) to RTEF (non-blocking)

Preemptive, Non-Blocking Real-Time Kernels

While the Active Object model can work with traditional blocking RTOS kernels, it can also work with other types of real-time kernels. Specifically, the non-blocking, run-to-completion Active Objects can work with a much simpler, fully preemptive, but non-blocking, run-to-completion kernels (see also basic tasks in OSEK/VDX).

The QP RTEFs natively include a selection of such a super-simple and super-fast kernels (QK and QXK), which support fully preemptive multithreading using a single stack for all Active Object threads.

Higher Level of Abstraction at Lower Cost

A Real-Time Embedded Framework (RTEF) provides sufficiently high level of abstraction and the right abstractions to effectively apply modern finite state machines, model-based design and automatic code generation to embedded MCUs, such as ARM Cortex-M.

Not only you get the productivity boost by working at a higher level than “naked” RTOS threads, but you get it at a lower resource utilization and better power efficiency, because event-driven systems use the CPU only when processing events and otherwise can put the MCU in a low-power sleep mode.

Microchip on a finger