Embedded software is in use everywhere and is an important aspect of IoT. Embedded systems have become a staple of modern medicine, manufacturing, automobiles, and so much more.
As a result, embedded software development is a critical task often in high demand from organizations. However, embedded software engineering is different from typical software engineering and requires knowledge of machine code.
What Is Embedded Software?
Embedded software is all around us. Embedded software is a term used to describe any software built into a machine or device that is not a traditional computer.
Typically, embedded software is specialized for the particular device or hardware that is running it. The embedded software acts as the device’s brain; without it, the device is essentially useless.
What Is an Embedded System?
An embedded system is the embedded software plus hardware components.
An embedded system can be as simple as a calculator or a TV remote control or as complex as an automobile. As a result, embedded systems are used in various ways in consumer appliances, the automotive industry, and more.
An embedded system is typically built to perform a specific repeated task or range of tasks. Therefore, an embedded system should perform its task or tasks quickly within a prescribed amount of time.
Generally, embedded systems rely on microprocessors and microcontrollers.
Embedded systems often use a specialized operating system known as a real-time operating system. However, in some cases, embedded systems can function without an operating system.
An embedded system doesn’t have to have a User Interface, screen, or keyboard.
Common examples of embedded systems include:
- Smart appliances (fridge, coffee maker, microwave, etc.)
- Cars (almost all cars today have computer systems)
- Medical devices (pacemakers, etc.)
- Game consoles
- Manufacturing equipment
- Motion sensors
- Telecommunication equipment
The Different Types of Embedded Systems
There are several types of embedded systems. Each type of embedded system is defined by its functionality attributes. Understanding the types of embedded systems is vital to embedded software engineers so that they can build the proper solution.
The different types of embedded systems include:
Standalone embedded systems are built to perform one task or a handful of tasks independently from other systems. An example would be a digital alarm clock or an electronic thermometer.
The embedded software in these systems is more basic, and they likely won’t have operating systems.
Networked embedded systems utilize a network connection to share information with servers or other devices. As a result, networked systems are typically the driving force behind IoT devices.
Examples of this type of embedded system include smart home systems, self-service kiosks, and sensors.
Mobile embedded systems are lightweight and easy to carry. In addition, they can be networked or operate independently depending on their purpose.
Common examples of this type include smartphones and digital cameras.
Real-time embedded systems are required to perform tasks within specific time limits. Therefore, the failure of these embedded solutions can have drastic consequences.
For example, real-time systems are generally used in medical devices like pacemakers or military defense systems. If there are issues with such systems, lives can be lost.
The Challenges of Embedded Software Engineering
There are several challenges that an embedded software engineer must face when developing embedded software.
Not only must an embedded software engineer face the common challenges all developers must face when developing software, but they also have to handle challenges specific to embedded software engineering, including:
An embedded systems engineer must ensure that the device and software are safe. In addition, the software must be developed to ensure there are no issues with key functionality, especially in life-saving situations.
Embedded systems are used in many ways that could put safety at risk in the event of software failure. For example, automobiles, medical devices, and defense systems need to work as expected when expected, or else there could be serious consequences.
Stakes this high are not often seen in traditional software development projects by software engineers that build apps.
Embedded systems must operate as expected, especially when controlling potentially dangerous devices like cars. Unexpected behavior in medical devices, automobiles, or defense systems is unacceptable.
Embedded software must be stable. Therefore, developers should follow a standardized approach to ensure software stability when developing these solutions.
The consequences of embedded software hijacking can be devastating. As a result, digital security must be a priority for these projects, even more so than traditional development.
For example, if someone were to hijack a pacemaker or military defense system, the results could cause fatalities. Developers must ensure that there is no possibility of data hijacking before deploying embedded systems.
Embedded systems are all around us. These systems are crucial to our everyday lives, which makes their development vital.
If your organization is interested in developing this type of software, you must hire the right type of development team. The possibilities embedded systems provide are nearly limitless.
To learn more about embedded software and systems, reach out to an experienced development partner like Koombea.