Right now, there is a ongoing technology transformation, which brings rapid development of new solutions like IoT and Embeded systems. Thoes innovatiosn can can change business strategies and the improve way in which companies operate.
To improve your business and minimize unnecessary moves, consider digitizing some processes and benefit from the saved costs. Embedded systems could be great solutions as their usage helps improve efficiency and reliability, enhance security, and streamline processes for companies. To get a better understanding of what this technology is and how many businesses, such as fintech, healthcare and manufacturing can benefit from them, we have prepared for you this article.
What is an Embedded System?
An embedded system is a specialized computer system that seamlessly integrates hardware and software to perform a specific task or function. It utilizes a microcontroller to perform mathematical operations, such as those facilitated by an FPU, and communicate with the outside world through various interfaces, such as GPIO, ADC, CAN, and SPI. These systems are often run on real-time operating systems (RTOS) or Linux, and employ digital cryptography for security. They can also interact and exchange data with other operating systems and cloud services like Azure or AWS.
According to Global Market Insights the market share of embedded systems, estimated at more than $140 bilion in 2022, has grown this year and is projected to reach $ 250 billion by 2032. Therefore, to match the growing needs bussines go above and beyond to create better-embedded systems for a lower price. They implement bigger capacities, and more efficiency, making them more specialised and faster.
Basic Embedded System Structure
Understanding the critical components of Embedded systems is essential for choosing the right fit for your project. It also helps you to beter understand the development proces and to plan your software. They are a specialized combination of hardware and software, designed to perform a specific function.
- Microcontroller or Microprocessor:
It is the Hart of the embedded system responsible for executing instructions and controlling the system’s behaviour. The choice of microcontroller depends on the system’s processing power, memory, and peripheral interface requirements.
The part where the system stores data and instructions is typically divided into Read-Only Memory (ROM), Random Access Memory (RAM), and flash memory. Different types of memory offer different benefits, such as fast access time or non-volatility. So when choosing this component, it is crucial to consider the needs.
- Peripheral Devices:
Sensors, actuators, and displays are peripheral devices that interact with the environment and provide information to the user. These devices are connected to the microcontroller through various interfaces, such as analog-to-digital or digital-to-analog converters.
- Power Management:
An embedded system must have a reliable power source, typically provided by batteries or power supplies. Power management involves controlling the power consumption of the system and optimizing battery life.
- Communication Interfaces:
They allow the embedded system to exchange data with others, such as embedded systems, computers, or networks. Examples of communication interfaces include serial, parallel, and network interfaces, such as Ethernet or Wi-Fi.
- Operating System (OS):
It manages system resources and includes device drivers to facilitate communication between software and hardware components. There are general-purpose and real-time OS options.
- Device Drivers:
They are software components that allow the operating system to interact with hardware devices, such as sensors or displays. They act as intermediaries between the hardware and software, translating the hardware’s behavior into a form the software can use.
- Application Software:
The application software defines the specific functionality of an embedded system and provides the user with a means to interact with it. The software is usually written in a high-level programming language, C or Python, and is compiled for the target system.
A special type of software that is programmed into read-only memory (ROM) and is used to control the basic behavior of the hardware. The firmware provides a low-level interface between the hardware and the operating system.
- Libraries and Middleware:
They are collections of pre-written code that provide standard functionality, such as communication protocols, encryption, or data processing. These components help reduce the development time and complexity of embedded software.
What are the Types of Embedded Systems?
To fulfil diverse requirements in various applications embedded systems have different types. For instance, some require low power consumption, while others prioritize real-time processing capabilities. Hence, embedded systems come in various forms to cater to the unique demands of different fields, such as automotive, healthcare, and consumer electronics.
They can be classified into two main factors:
1. Performance and Functional Requirements
- Real-Time Embedded Systems
Embedded systems with a real-time focus are critical components in industries where timely responses are vital. Whether it’s defense, healthcare, or others, these systems are designed to deliver the output within a defined time frame, making them the go-to solution for time-sensitive tasks. They come in two varieties: Soft Real-Time, where deadlines are more flexible, and Hard Real-Time, where punctuality is key. When every second counts, these systems rise to the challenge, ensuring accuracy and efficiency in the most demanding situations.
- Stand Alone Embedded Systems :
Stand-Alone Embedded Systems are independent and operate without a host. They process input in digital or analog form and produce output accordingly. Ideal for applications requiring independence, these systems simplify processes, reduce dependence, and improve control and efficiency. They are a smart choice for standalone solutions in business or home environments and can usually be used for MP3 players, microwave ovens or calculators.
- Connected Embedded Systems:
These systems, equipped with either wired or wireless connections, output information to linked devices. Communication with an on-board web server enables data exchange via the network, providing enhanced versatility compared to standalone Embedded Systems. They are primarily used in home security systems, ATM machines and card swipe machines.
- Mobile Embedded Systems:
For solutions that require the least amount of resources the choice is usually to use mobile embedded systems. They are compact and user-friendly and the most popular choice among others due to their ease of use. Additionally, their portable design makes them ideal for on-the-go applications and situations where mobility is key.
3. Performance and Micro-controllers
- Small-Scale Embedded Systems:
Crafted with 8-bit or 16-bit micro-controllers, these systems deliver exceptional performance with minimal memory and processing speed requirements. Despite relying on battery power, they serve as crucial components in computer systems, dedicating their functions to specific tasks without acting as standalone entities.
- Medium-Scale Embedded Systems:
Fueled by 16-bit or 32-bit microcontrollers, these systems boast improved speed compared to their small-scale counterparts. Complex hardware and software integration make programming these systems challenging, utilizing languages like Java, C, and C++ to develop their functionality. Developers also employ various software tools, including compilers, debuggers, and simulators, to bring these systems to life.
- Sophisticated or Complex Embedded Systems:
Sophisticated or Complex Embedded Systems are designed using multiple 32-bit or 64-bit micro-controller. These systems are developed to perform large-scale complex functions. These systems have high hardware and software complexities. We use both hardware and software components to design final systems or hardware products.
Applications for embedded systems
As we mentioned before, embedded systems are used in many ways and can be a crucial part of applications for various fields. Here are just a few examples in fast growing economy sectors.
They play a crucial role in the medical field, contributing to improved patient care and outcomes. These systems can be found in:
- Insulin pumps
- Patient monitoring devices
Those systems can be also used to simplify transactions and enhance security in finance and technology. These systems are utilized in:
- ATM machines
- Payment terminals
- Mobile banking apps
The manufacturing industry, optimizing efficiency and quality control are also areas that embedded systems can help with These systems are involved in:
- Robotics and automation
- Process control
- Quality control
Embedded systems provide comfort, convenience, and security in smart homes. Some applications include:
- Smart thermostats
- Home security systems
- Smart lighting
Embedded systems play a role in managing resources and improving citizens’ quality of life in smart cities. Examples include:
- Traffic management
- Waste management
- Air and water quality monitoring
Benefits of Embedded Systems
Embedded systems can improve efficiency and reliability, enhance security, and streamline processes. Utilizing these systems can also increase flexibility and responsiveness, allowing you to adapt quickly to changing market demands. Additionally, embedded systems can reduce costs by automating repetitive tasks and improving supply chain management. Furthermore, they can provide valuable insights and data to inform decision-making and drive innovation. With the demand for embedded systems expected to grow in the coming years, incorporating this technology into your offerings can be a key factor in your company’s success. Whether you are looking to improve or develop new products, embedded systems can be a valuable tool that can drive growth and competitiveness.
Embedded system development process
To determine the success of a product in terms of performance, reliability, and user experience it is important to focus on the steps in the development process. The knowledge helps to ensure that the final product delivers on its intended purpose, meets industry standards, and stays ahead of the competition.
- Ideation and Purpose of Product:
The first step in the design process is to establish the idea and purpose of the product. This involves understanding the target market’s needs and defining the product’s goals and objectives.
- Determine Overall Requirements:
After establishing the purpose of the product, the next step is to determine the overall requirements. This includes identifying necessary functionalities, performance requirements, and other constraints.
- Document Detailed Technical Specifications:
With the overall requirements, the next step is to document detailed technical specifications. This involves defining the system architecture, choosing the operating system, selecting the processor and peripherals, and developing a detailed specification for the hardware and software components.
- User Display:
In this step, the design team will determine if the product needs a user display and if so, what type of display is best suited for the product.
- Develop a Prototype:
After defining the specifications, the next step is to develop a prototype. This can involve creating a physical or virtual model of the product, which can be used to test and refine the design.
- Design System Architecture:
This involves defining the high-level structure of the system, including the relationships between the different components and how they interact with each other.
- Operating System (OS) Selection:
In this step, the design team will choose the most appropriate operating system for the product. This decision will be based on the required functionalities, performance requirements, and the development platform being used.
- Processor and Peripherals:
The design team will then choose the processor and peripheral components best suited for the product. This decision will be based on factors such as performance, cost, and compatibility with the operating system.
- Development Platform:
The next step is to choose the development platform that will be used to develop the final prototype. This can be based on the operating system and the development tools and languages required.
- Final Prototype:
With the development platform in place, the final prototype of the product can be developed. This involves coding the applications, optimizing, debugging, and testing the product.
- Ongoing Maintenance and Updates:
The final step in the design process is ongoing maintenance and updates. This involves ensuring that the product remains up-to-date and performing optimally over time and making any necessary changes and updates to the product to remain relevant and effective.
Difference Between Firmware, Embedded Software and IoT
Many of other systems and devices may seem similar to embedded, but don’t let that fool you. Understanding the practical differences between firmware, embedded software, and IoT is crucial.
The IoT, or the Internet of Things, describes the interconnected network of physical devices and everyday objects that collect and exchange data, utilizing firmware and embedded software. On the other hand, firmware controls a device’s basic functions and resides permanently in its memory. Embedded software, integrated into a device’s hardware, carries out specific tasks. They both determine a device’s basic functionality and performance, while the IoT influences the device’s connectivity and integration into larger systems.
Understanding these differences can inform product development and implementation strategies, ensuring devices function as intended and meet customer needs. It can also impact supply chain management, as the use of firmware and embedded software can affect a device’s compatibility with other systems and the ability to receive updates.SolveQ experience in embedded systems
SolveQ’s experience in embedded systems development
SolveQ experience in embedded systems development as we collaborated with a great Norwegian company Telenor. According to their needs we have created a mobile app which allowed pet owners to track their animals on their phones. Our company developed a mobile application that was connected with a device that we programmed. Embedded systems were a part of a physical tracker that could be attached to the pet’s collar. They cooperated with the app and enableed more tests or faster error recognition. It also helped with saving time when implementing new solutions and upgrades.
Embedded systems are computer systems that integrate hardware and software for specialized tasks. They have a growing market share and are used in various industries such as agriculture, industry, and services.
Those solutions offer a valuable opportunity for businesses to digitize their processes and improve operations. With growing market demand, they can leverage their versatility and ability to be customized to meet specific needs. Understanding key components and types is essential for effective design, development, and utilization.
Applications that SolveQ creates also integrate embedded systems. Our biggest example of implementing these solutions could be our Telenor case study.
If you are considering developing software that integrates embedded systems contact us here.