Why use Rust for embedded devices? | ninjasquad
The Internet of Things (IoT) is one of the fastest-growing sectors in technology. It has become a central part of our everyday lives. Embedded technology is a fundamental part of the IoT. Embedded devices contain a special-purpose computing system built into them. Recent advances in processor technology and the ever-increasing demand for low-power, smart and reliable IoT devices are driving the market for embedded system development.
Rust is a systems programming language developed by Mozilla Research. It is a multi-paradigm programming language that supports functional and imperative programming. It also supports other paradigms like object orientation and generic programming. The language is statically typed. Here we will discuss why you should use Rust for embedded systems.
1. Memory Safety and Concurrency:
Rust uses compile-time and runtime checks to ensure that programs are free of memory safety errors and data races. It features concurrency primitives like shared mutable data, lightweight processes, and channels. These features make it suitable for embedded systems, which may be deployed in a much harsher environment with less RAM, smaller flash, and unpredictable power supply. In the case of data races, Rust takes advantage of hardware memory protection mechanisms like page protection to make your program safe.
Programmers must ensure that their program has no memory safety violations or data races before shipping. To ensure this, they must keep rules like single owner and immutable variables in mind, using interior mutability only when necessary, and enforcing the borrowing rules. Rust helps you with these by allowing you to control memory layout and providing ways of enforcing rules.
Rust has a module system that automatically allows the language to grow and increase its feature set. The language is designed to add new features without breaking existing code. This makes it easier to add features without having to worry about making them backward compatible. It also lowers the barrier of entry for contributing to open-source projects.
A small business can hire rust developers to create a custom module and make it available on their site. Large companies can leverage these modules to develop custom components and share them with other companies or parts of their infrastructure. Rust is designed in a way that it can scale and grow without hurting the existing code. Your programmers can pick up a new module and start using it without worrying about breaking existing code.
3. Platform Independence
Rust is platform-independent. The same binary can be executed on any operating system supporting the Rust standard library. This is an essential factor for embedded systems as they are developed for a wide range of devices with different architectures and operating systems. The language also provides features like cross-compiling to build binaries with one architecture and run it on another machine with different architectures.
Developers can easily use existing C libraries, leverage platform-specific features, build and test the code with the help of cross-compilation. Rust also provides generic functions that simultaneously define operations on multiple types, which is challenging in C. It also supports many platforms, including Windows, Linux, Android, and macOS.
4. Memory Management
Rust includes automatic memory management. It frees the programmer from manual memory management, like allocating and freeing memory, tracking when objects get destroyed, etc. Instead, the compiler does this for you with its ownership system. The ownership system stores just one copy of an object in memory. The object owner is responsible for freeing it and ensuring it does not get freed prematurely.
There is no possibility of memory leaks or dangling pointers. Memory that is deallocated by a variable gets deallocated entirely rather than just being marked free. The ownership system also enforces the borrowing rules on safe code, preventing specific errors like data races and data corruption. These features in Rust make it suitable for embedded systems, which demand tighter control over memory and its usage.
5. Compilation Speed
Rust uses LLVM to generate machine code at compile time. This makes it much faster than most other languages. During the compilation of static languages, a lot of configuration and optimization is done, leading to slower compile times. In the case of dynamic languages, the code is compiled every time a file is loaded.
The code in Rust is compiled to machine code only when it detects that the optimization level is high enough to do so. It takes significantly less time to build packages and save resources. The speed of compilation helps developers iterate faster and develop more features for their products. With high performance comes to a low footprint, increasing battery life by leaps and bounds where every milliwatt counts.
Rust Use Cases
The uses for rust are endless. It is ideal for embedded systems, devices, and Internet of Things applications. The language is especially suitable for systems where security and reliability are essential. It is used in many critical applications like satellites, airplanes, embedded systems in cars, etc., where failure can be catastrophic for the user.
The gaming industry has started using Rust in microcontrollers for DIY gaming consoles. Its smart pointers will make programming easier, error checking easier and code size smaller by keeping the number of objects in storage small.
As IoT connectivity grows around us, it is expected that the number of critical applications will grow exponentially. As these products high reliability and security requirements increase, so does the need for embedded systems tested against specific conditions.
Rust vs C for Embedded Systems
Embedded systems such as laptops and automobiles have memory management issues and a lack of support for external libraries. Rust allows you to use existing C APIs to help write your code. It comes with a wrapper that enables you to mix C and Rust code without worrying about the details of the underlying systems and features they provide.
Users can create their wrapper around an existing library or use a pre-built one to utilize it efficiently by other developers. This helps the code to be more maintainable and scalable. Besides, Rust supports C ABI and can call C functions directly, while C cannot call rust functions directly.
Rust is a relatively new language, but it is already gaining popularity due to its unique blend of features. The Rust team is working hard to make the language more stable and scalable and improve the tooling. It has all the ingredients for success and continues to be an exciting and high-profile language. If you are looking for a practical, modern, and secure programming language, then Rust might be your next best bet.
Eisele Candace has 7 years of experience as a freelance technical writer, specializing in content related to IT technologies, programming and UI/UX design. Holder of a Master’s degree in Journalism and Public Relations. She has also completed design and programming courses in “UI / UX design”, iOS and Python in Mansfield, OH. She has been already learning Rust programming language for a year.