Towards a real-time IoT: Approaches for incoming packet processing in cyber–physical systems

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Embedded real-time devices for monitoring, controlling, and collaboration purposes in cyber–physical systems are now commonly equipped with IP networking capabilities. However, the reception and processing of IP packets generates workloads in unpredictable frequencies as networks are outside of a developer's control and difficult to anticipate, especially when networks are connected to the internet. As of now, embedded network controllers and IP stacks are not designed for real-time capabilities, even when used in real-time environments and operating systems. Our work focuses on real-time aware packet reception from open network connections, without a real-time networking infrastructure. This article presents two experimentally evaluated modifications to the IP processing subsystem and embedded network interface controllers of constrained IoT devices. The first, our software approach, introduces early packet classification and priority-aware processing in the network driver. In our experiments this allowed the network subsystem to remain active at a seven-fold increase in network traffic load before disabling the receive interrupts as a last resort. The second, our hardware approach, makes changes to the network interface controller, applying interrupt moderation based on real-time priorities to minimize the number of network-generated interrupts. Furthermore, this article provides an outlook on how the software and hardware approaches can be combined in a co-designed packet receive architecture.




Behnke, I., Blumschein, C., Danicki, R., Wiesner, P., Thamsen, L., & Kao, O. (2023). Towards a real-time IoT: Approaches for incoming packet processing in cyber–physical systems. Journal of Systems Architecture, 140.

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