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Aug 27 2018

Ready for Kick-Off: Intel® Safety Critical Project for Linux* OS

Whether it's industry robots, power grids, drones or autonomous vehicles – so-called 'critical' systems and infrastructures play an increasingly important role in economies and societies around the globe. Against this backdrop, it's only logical that numerous hard- and software vendors have stepped up their efforts to develop tamper-resistant building blocks in order to increase the safety of these systems and infrastructures. Among the latest endeavors in this area is the Intel® Safety Critical Project for Linux* OS, which was introduced last Sunday and will be presented to a wider audience at the Open Source Summit in Vancouver later this week.

Based in equal parts on the company's Clear Linux project, whose aim is to provide use case-optimized Linux versions, and the broader SIL2LinuxMP project, which focused on "the certification of base components of an embedded GNU/Linux RTOS" running on single- or multi-socket standard servers, this new effort is mainly geared towards manufacturers of autonomous and safety-critical systems. So far, these vendors (and their customers) often rely on purpose-built operating systems that must be developed from the ground up and are both complicated and costly to roll out, maintain and protect. The situation is further exacerbated by the fact that these OS's typically have to work on thousands of microcontrollers and electronic control units, as opposed to one central instance that takes advantage of the power, scalability, and safety of multicore-processor solutions.

As per the official announcement, Intel's new software project aims to close exactly these "key gaps" and include functions the company's developers regard as mandatory for future critical systems and infrastructures. Next to better adaptability to multicore systems, these include the reusability of code elements as well as the capability to run safe updates with the latest security fixes. According to Imad Sousou, Corporate VP and General Manager of Intel's Open Source Technology Center, the project will also "provide a maintained source baseline for key Linux operating system components," plus recommended tools and processes and a comprehensive safety documentation. This should help Intel technology partners and the user community to accelerate the development of their safety-critical systems and infrastructures.

While parts of the announcement read like marketing buzz, Sousou used an open letter to the industry published on the company's open source blog to give a more detailed description of what the upcoming safe Linux distribution will look like. According to this post, it's supposed to include:

  • A binary distribution model
  • Packages aggregated into "functional bundles," allowing for efficient scaling
  • A software update feature that's built into the core of the operating system and allows for faster delivery of critical fixes
  • Single number OS versioning that ensures reproducibility and traceability to the file level in order to ensure functional safety and certifiability
  • Highly automated workflows and release processes aimed at cutting development and management costs

The initial targets for Intel's safety critical Linux project are autonomous and automotive systems for which safe use is of paramount importance. These include systems found in industrial drones, factory robots or full- and semi-autonomous vehicles. Once the project is fully established, new OS releases will be published twice per day. For more information, please visit the project's web page, or write to


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