What is Embedded Platform

Embedded Systems and Their Development: What You Need to Know

Embedded systems are the basis for many electronic devices. As a combination of hardware and software designed for specific functions, embedded systems ensure the functionality of industrial machines, connected cars, household appliances, vending machines, toys or smartphones.

The range of applications is wide. From computer systems without a user interface to complex graphical user interfaces, for example for touchscreen recognition or the use of remote user interfaces, everything is included.

Above all, the Internet of Things with its armada of new, smart devices and machines with brains increases the importance of embedded systems even more.

IoT-Analytics, the leading market research institute for the Internet of Things, estimates that the number of active IoT devices will increase to 22 billion devices worldwide by 2025.

Whether wearables, drones, smart homes, smart buildings, smart logistics or the smart factory: the increasing number of IoT applications will of course also further promote the growth of embedded systems.

It can therefore be assumed that the development of embedded systems is to a large extent also driven by the Internet of Things.

After all, each of the future smart devices must have a reasonable data processing function, etc. in addition to being connected to the network.

This requires software and mechanical components that can be intelligently networked.

Devices with an embedded system.

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Embedded systems - hardware meets software

The hardware of Embedded Systems is based either on microprocessors or on microcontrollers. In both the one and the other solution, the integrated circuit is the linchpin of the product. Without this, the calculation of real-time operations is not possible.

Which option you choose may depend on the scope of the operations.

At the microprocessor a single central processing unit (CPU) is implemented. Depending on the situation, expansion through added components, e.g. additional memory chips, is required here. That might make more work. But it also leaves room for flexibility.

Microcontroller on the other hand, they are designed as self-contained systems. Not only is there a CPU here, but the system also has memory, peripherals or serial communication ports. The use of microcontrollers is the more sensible alternative, especially for complex operations such as those used in connected cars or smart medical devices.

In order to bring both systems to life and to get them to work, a connection is made with the embedded system software. Simple programming is often done using embedded operating systems or language platforms that are tailored to the respective application. Often, when storing programs and operating systems on embedded hardware, either flash or a rewritable flash memory is used.

Embedded systems with firmware

Another important term that occurs in the course of programming or software in embedded systems is firmware.

No smartphone or smart television runs without the right firmware, which is nothing other than the basic operating software of the device with connectivity. Because of its importance, it is often stored in flash memory. In those places where the user does not get to easily.

The advantage of firmware on embedded systems is that it can be updated more easily. Embedded firmware is used, for example, to control system functions, for example in the case of a smartphone, to tell it how it should communicate with other devices and perform certain functions.

The only difference between firmware and embedded software is that the software often refers to the only code that is executed on a piece of hardware. The firmware, on the other hand, can also refer to the chip on which, for example, the input / output system (BIOS) of the smartphone is located. This actually makes the smartphone functional in the first place. Well-known manufacturers of chips for embedded systems include big names such as Apple, IBM and Intel.

A Brief History of Embedded Systems

Embedded systems have actually been around for a very long time. Like so many technical achievements, they found their origin in aviation and space travel.

As early as 1961, the American engineer Charles Stark Draper developed the first integrated circuit, which was installed and used on the Apollo Guidance Computer of the Apollo Command Module and the Lunar Module. This enabled astronauts to collect flight data in real time.

In 1965, the Autonetics company, which is now part of Boeing, developed a computer for the Minuteman I missile control system. The successor Minuteman II, which went into production in 1966, was already known for its large-scale use of integrated circuits.

Then in 1968 it went from the air to the ground. The Volkswagen 1600 used a microprocessor to control its electronic fuel injection system. In doing so, he ensured that embedded systems were introduced into the vehicle.

In 1971, Intel introduced the first commercially available processor. 4004, the 4-bit microprocessor, was developed for pocket calculators and other small electronic devices.

In 1972 the 8-bit Intel 8008 followed with 16 KB memory and in 1974 the Intel 8080 with 64 KB memory. But of course Intel was not the only manufacturer. In 1987, Wind River sold the first embedded operating system, the real-time VxWorks.

In 1996, the now better-known manufacturer Microsoft followed. The first Linux embedded products hit the market in the 1990s and are still used in most devices today.

What to look out for when developing IoT embedded systems

The world of electronics has changed over the past few decades, but above all it is becoming more and more important. When developing embedded systems in IoT devices, there are therefore various components that require special attention:

  • Developing requires careful planning.
  • The hardware design must ensure that all necessary IoT functions are fulfilled.
  • The smooth integration of new services must be guaranteed.
  • Frequent changes to hardware and software facilities must be planned for.
  • All operations to be performed in the embedded system must be performed with the lowest possible power consumption.
  • IoT hardware products must perform robustly in the embedded real-time environment.
  • Note that the embedded components could work in a highly resource-constrained situation.
  • The networking of embedded systems can harbor security risks. Therefore, pay attention to security precautions, for example through cryptographic keys, through which devices can recognize each other.
  • Tests extensively, for example also for the consequences of connectivity fluctuations.

Thorough planning and thorough testing. Both form the framework for the development of embedded systems. And then the advancement that comes with embedded systems and IoT devices can continue to move forward.

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