What Is An Embedded System?

In 1978 National Electrical Manufacturers Association released a standard for programmable microcontrollers, including almost any computer-based controllers, such as single board computers, numerical, and event-based controllers. For high volume systems such as portable music players or mobile phones, minimizing cost is usually the primary design consideration. Engineers typically select hardware that is just “good enough” to implement the necessary functions. Unless restricted to external debugging, the programmer can typically load and run software through the tools, view the code running in the processor, and start or stop its operation. The view of the code may be as HLL source-code, assembly code or mixture of both. For the examples in this book, we use the C99 style for variable types that require specific widths.

embedded system meaning

These systems were originated with coins and tokens but have been replaced with magnetic stripe cards or smart cards. An AFC is a basic station device comprising a ticket vending machine, automatic gate machine, and ticket checking machine. These components are embedded systems that ensure faster transactions, seamless operations, and more efficient payment collection. Some key examples of an active safety system include adaptive speed control, car breakdown warning, pedestrian recognition, merging assistance, airbags, and more. These are a few features anticipated to mitigate the risk of accidents and foster the demand for embedded systems across the globe.

Embedded System Trends

These may contain embedded systems like sensors and control mechanisms. Medical equipment, such as industrial machines, also must be very user-friendly so that human health isn’t jeopardized by preventable machine mistakes. This means they’ll often include a more complex OS and GUI designed for an appropriate UI.

embedded system meaning

In choosing an example platform, our first criterion was that the platform had to have a mix of peripherals to support numerous examples in the book. In addition, we sought a platform that would allow readers to carry on their study of embedded software Software testing development by expanding on our examples with more advanced projects. An embedded software developer must closely manage resources, from memory to processing power, so that the system operates up to specification and so failures don’t occur.

The Apollo Guidance Computer was designed to collect data automatically and provide mission-critical calculations for the Apollo Command Module and Lunar Module. We feel that this focus definition embedded system on C with a brief introduction to assembly most accurately reflects the way embedded software is actually developed today and the way it will continue to be developed in the near term.

Our embedded systems group comprises of a large talent pool of engineers and equipped with competencies in a range of programming tools, microprocessors and real-time operating systems. An embedded system is a complex system also known as an integrated system; It has software embedded into hardware to perform specific tasks or a single task. It typically contains one or more microprocessors for executing a set of programs defined at design time and stored in memory.

Architecture Of The Embedded System

The intelligent highway, rail transportation, industrial controls, medical, scientific, space exploration, aviation, and many other applications meet the description of critical embedded systems. Trade-offs are frequently made in favor of supporting the critical aspects of the application, but at the same time, designers have to be conscious of system costs in order to maintain a workable balance. Commercial Off-the-Shelf solutions are readily available, helping to keep costs under control; however, these COTS products are not shipped in high volumes nor do these use the same components used in personal computers.

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We will also introduce the subject of embedded programming and discuss what makes it a unique form of software programming. We’ll explain why we have selected C as the language for this book and describe the hardware used in the examples. The hardware system and the application are intimately related and immersed in the hardware and are not as easily discernible as in a typical desktop PC work environment. The embedded system software has a fixed functionality to execute which is application specific.


Embedded systems are microprocessor-equipped systems and devices that interact with the physical world. Examples include traffic lights, a ship’s rudder controllers, and washing machine controllers. The GPS is a navigation system that uses satellites and receivers to synchronize data related to location, time, and velocity. The receiver or device that receives the data has an integrated embedded system to facilitate the application of a global positioning system. The embedded GPS devices allow people to find their current locations and destinations easily. Thus, they are gaining rapid momentum and becoming the most widely used navigation tools for automobiles. Portability is a measure of the ease of using the same embedded software in various environments.

embedded system meaning

These systems can be developed to function in remote and outdoor environments and deliver information and services even in extreme weather conditions. They can also eliminate downtime for real-time applications and have expandable I/O options designed for workload consolidation. Factory robots are designed to perform high-precision tasks under dangerous work conditions. They have an integrated embedded system to connect different subsystems. In a typical mechanical job, robots employ actuators, sensors, and software to perceive the environment and derive intended output safely. For example, they are highly customizable and low cost, which makes it easy and affordable to tailor them to exact functional and performance requirements.

For these reasons, the unit costs are higher than consumer-grade products. Embedded computing systems have to be efficient and they have to be reliable. Some systems, such as those used in braking systems, are also time sensitive, in that they have to complete their task in a set amount of time. Because embedded systems generally can’t be accessed and programmed by users, they have to work efficiently and reliably for extended periods of time without any kind of intervention.

Embedded Systems in a CarIn 1968, Volkswagen used a microprocessor to control the fuel injection, making it the first embedded system in a car. In fact, it is common for hobbyists to re-flash consumer hardware, but it’s an undesirable liability for systems that are part of critical infrastructure. Many devices allow updates via web interfaces or other remote access, creating a serious security threat if abused. The IA-32 architecture has been one of the most consistent and pervasive architectures to date. The earliest products in the architecture provided memory protection by way of segmentation. Given that Intel architecture has always been backward compatible, the segmentation features remain. However, most operating systems use the MMU capabilities for protection .

embedded system meaning

Stylistic issues, such as how variables are named or where the curly brace should reside, can be very personal to some developers. Even if you don’t have an updated compiler, the inclusion of these names in the C99 standard suggests that it’s time to update your coding standards and practices.

Telecommunications systems employ numerous embedded systems from telephone switches for the network to cell phones at the end user. Computer networking uses dedicated routers and network bridges to route data. The first multi-chip microprocessors, the Four-Phase Systems AL1 in 1969 and the Garrett AiResearch MP944 in 1970, were developed with multiple MOS LSI chips. The first single-chip microprocessor was the Intel 4004, released in 1971. It was developed by Federico Faggin, using his silicon-gate MOS technology, along with Intel engineers Marcian Hoff and Stan Mazor, and Busicom engineer Masatoshi Shima. The first modern, real-time embedded computing system was the Apollo Guidance Computer, developed in the 1960s by Dr. Charles Stark Draper at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for the Apollo Program.

Usually, developers working with desktop computer environments have systems that can run both the code being developed and separate debugger applications that can monitor the embedded system programmers generally cannot, however. Sophisticated-scale embedded systems often use several algorithms that result in software and hardware complexities and may require more complex software, a configurable processor and/or a programmable logic array.

  • The hardware used in embedded systems is typically similar to or the same as that used for smart objects.
  • This is a fixed, one-time cost, so on some projects, money is no object (usually for high-volume products), whereas on other projects, this is the only accurate measure of system cost .
  • Less complex hardware is cheaper to buy and has higher profit margins.
  • Cooperative multitasking is essentially a simple control loop located in an application programming interface .
  • He also adds that the single biggest change that could be made is to eliminate the tolerance for bad software.

These components consist of networking protocol stacks like CAN, TCP/IP, FTP, HTTP, and HTTPS, and also included storage capabilities like FAT and flash memory management systems. If the embedded device has audio and video capabilities, then the appropriate drivers and codecs will be present in the system. In the case of the monolithic kernels, many of these software layers are included. In the RTOS category, the availability of the additional software components depends upon the commercial offering. Today, a comparatively low-cost microcontroller may be programmed to fulfill the same role as a large number of separate components. With microcontrollers, it became feasible to replace, even in consumer products, expensive knob-based analog components such as potentiometers and variable capacitors with up/down buttons or knobs read out by a microprocessor.

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