- What is embedded software?
- Basic components of an embedded system
- Types of embedded software development tools
- Embedded software development challenges
The first embedded system was developed more than 50 years ago. Today embedded systems surround us at every turn, and are also an important part of the development of Internet of Things (IoT) devices. The process of developing embedded software has its own subtleties and complexities though. That is why we decided to tell you more about the concept and the process of creating these systems.
What is embedded software?
Let's start by defining an embedded system, which is pretty intuitive. Embedded software is a system that is created and built-in to any device other than a traditional computer. It is the brain of a certain device, without which it is just a piece of useless equipment. It's easier to explain what embedded software is with examples, so we’ve provided some below
Embedded software examples
The simplest of the embedded software examples is a traditional calculator that was used before this feature was built into smartphones. Another simple example is a TV remote control or a digital camera. They all are powered by embedded systems.
You might ask “is an embedded system about software development?” The answer is not always. Sometimes the term firmware is also used for simpler devices such as the ones we listed above.
However, embedded technologies can be much more complex than your coffee machine. Here are some more innovative examples:
- Software for connected cars. Connected cars are new technologies that require adherence to certain quality and safety standards. Thousands of lines of code are written for these vehicles.
- Internal systems of digital smart cameras. Sensor-powered cameras with face identification and recognition features also work, thanks to the embedded programming inside. In cameras, the system is integrated with artificial intelligence and machine learning.
- Built-in smart parking software. Smart parking apps work according to a similar principle, and the built-in electronic system is the heart of the app.
Basic components of an embedded system
An embedded system needs hardware and software to work. It also needs an operating system to control the software, so an embedded system consists of three layers.
1. Hardware, which consists of:
- The user interface is a set of features, buttons, and actions that are available to the user.
- There can be RAM or ROM memory.
- The display is the place for interaction with a user.
- The power supply is the way the system charges, for example, with the help of a power outlet or a battery.
- Some embedded systems are capable of measuring time with timers. For example, a smart home system may turn off the light after waiting five minutes and making sure that there is no movement in the room.
- Communication ports are the way the system communicates with other systems or computers. The USB port is a classic example. However, there are several more ways of communication between an embedded system and other devices including:
- Controller Area Network (CAN)
- Inter-Integrated Circuit (I2C)
- SAE J1587/J1708
- Serial Peripheral Interface (SPI)
- Universal Serial Bus (USB)
- Universal Asynchronous Receiver/Transmitter (UART)
2. Software. The embedded software development means creating a machine code using specific programming languages such as C and C++.
3. Embedded operating system. In the case of embedded software development, a Real-Time Operating System is needed.
Types of embedded software development tools
Embedded systems engineering is not easy. That is why embedded software engineers use different tools to program and design these solutions. Here are the main ones:
- An editor is used to create a code in C or C++.
- A compiler is a tool to transform a high-level programming language code into a low-level machine one.
- The assembler will be necessary if the programming code is written in assembly language. It does the same task as a compiler.
- A debugger is needed to get rid of bugs and mistakes.
- A linker is used to combine code pieces and modules together and get an executable program.
- An emulator is a tool that allows an embedded systems engineer to check the work of the program in a simulated real-life environment and improve the future user experience at this stage.
Embedded software development challenges
Embedded software is at the core of popular and rapidly evolving IoT devices. However, there are some challenges that are specific to embedded software development and the Internet of Things as well.
- Stability. When it comes to devices that may be potentially dangerous to the user and other people’s lives, unexpected behavior is unacceptable. That is why it is necessary to follow a standardized approach when creating such systems.
- Safety. The devices with embedded systems should be safe, and the system should be developed in such a way that there are no issues with lifesaving functionality in critical environments.
- Security. Embedded software is directly connected with a particular device, and the device may be controlled by a mobile application. This is a bottleneck in embedded solutions, so it is necessary to make sure that there is no possibility of data hijacking.
Embedded software development is a path which manufacturers will be on if they aren’t already. However, taking the challenges above into account, you may need a reliable development partner to support you on the way.
Archer Software’s technical team knows how to develop top-notch solutions for the automotive industry, the healthcare sector, and other niche areas where embedded software is widely used.
Get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more about our embedded software projects and discuss that idea of yours!