A priority inherit semaphore mechanism of interrupt service routine using hardware interrupt level

Shigeki Nankaku, Hiroyuki Kawakami, Hisao Koizumi, Akira Fukuda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


For embedded systems, concurrency is required to respond to various changes in real world. Real-time processing is required also, because the response typically has a time limit. The concurrency is implemented by processing Tasks or Interrupt Service Routines (ISRs) concurrently. And the necessity of mutual exclusion arises in concurrent processing, to maintain integrity of shared data. Task execution is scheduled by Real-time OS (RTOS), and mutual exclusion is serviced by semaphore. However approximately 30% of embedded systems do not use RTOS. These systems have no notion of Tasks, and are purely driven by ISRs. As the sole mutual exclusion method between ISRs, a pair of interrupt disable/enable instructions provided by CPU is used in these systems. This method enables a lower priority ISR to protect its critical section from higher priority ISRs, but it also defers execution of unrelated ISRs as it disables all external interrupts. We have resolved this timing issue with an ISR-callable semaphore, but that design was not priority inversion safe. Namely a middle priority ISR may indirectly block a higher priority ISR if this higher priority ISR waits for a semaphore from a lower priority ISR, because the lower priority ISR can be preempted by the middle priority ISR. Priority inheritance is an effective protection method against this priority inversion problem, and it is expected to improve real-time performance of OS-less embedded systems. This paper proposes an ISR-callable priority inheritance semaphore which protects ISRs from priority inversion using hardware interrupt mechanism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2053-2061+7
JournalIEEJ Transactions on Electronics, Information and Systems
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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