INTechHouse BLOG 30.03.2023 16 min.
What is Embedded Software Engineering?
INTechHouse BLOG 30.03.2023 16 min.

What is Embedded Software Engineering?

Adam Szychulec

Embedded systems are an integral part of our daily lives, yet many people and business owners are unaware of their existence. These systems are the brains behind most of our electronics, from smartphones and laptops to cars and home appliances. An embedded system is a combination of hardware and software designed to perform a specific function within a larger system. The software is typically written in low-level programming languages and is optimized for the specific hardware it is running on.

Embedded systems are everywhere, from the smallest microcontrollers that power simple toys to the sophisticated control systems used in aircraft and spacecraft. These systems have become increasingly important in recent years, as they are essential to the development of the Internet of Things (IoT) and smart cities.

In our article, we will explore what embedded systems are, how they work, and why they are important. We will also describe the ideal portrait of an embedded software engineer, discuss some of the challenges of designing and programming embedded systems, as well some of the exciting applications of embedded technology in various industries.

What is an Embedded System? 

An embedded system is a computer system that is designed to perform specific tasks within a larger system. It is usually a microcontroller or microprocessor-based system that is embedded in a device or product to control and monitor its operation. The system is designed to operate in a closed environment where it controls and manages the device’s hardware components. It is also programmed to respond to external events or stimuli, such as user input or sensor data.

Examples of Embedded Systems:

Embedded systems are used in many everyday devices, such as cars, televisions, washing machines, and refrigerators. Some examples of embedded systems are:

  • Automotive: Modern cars have several embedded systems such as the engine control unit, anti-lock braking system, airbag control unit, and infotainment system. These systems work together to ensure the car’s optimal performance, safety, and comfort.

  • Consumer electronics: Smartphones, smartwatches, and fitness trackers are examples of embedded systems that are commonly used by people every day. These devices use a combination of sensors and software to provide users with useful features such as GPS navigation, voice recognition, and fitness tracking.

  • Healthcare: Medical devices such as heart monitors, pacemakers, insulin pumps, and blood glucose monitors are examples of embedded systems. These devices are designed to monitor and manage a patient’s health, provide accurate and timely data, and deliver the necessary treatment.

What is the History of Embedded Systems? 

The history of embedded systems dates back several decades, starting with the development of microprocessors and microcontrollers in the 1970s. Here’s a brief overview of the history of embedded systems:

Source: INTechHouse Own Research

Today, embedded systems are ubiquitous, powering everything from smartphones and laptops to traffic lights and industrial robots. As technology continues to advance, embedded systems will likely continue to play an increasingly important role in our daily lives.

The embedded computing system market is powerful now. The embedded market is expected to register a CAGR of 6.6% during the forecast period till 2028. With the rise of IoT, advanced technologies for embedded security are likely to emerge as a crucial generator for identifying devices in an IoT network, and as microcontroller security solutions that isolate security operations from generic operations.

Source: MordorIntelligence, GMinSights, ResearchGate

Who is an Embedded Software Engineer?

Embedded software engineers are computer programmers who specialize in designing and programming software for embedded systems. These engineers typically have a background in computer science or electrical engineering and have specialized knowledge of programming languages and software development tools. Embedded software engineers work closely with hardware engineers to ensure that the software they develop is optimized for the specific hardware platform it will run on.

An ideal embedded software engineer should possess a combination of technical and personal skills to succeed in their role. Here are some criteria that make an ideal embedded software engineer:

Strong Technical Skills:

An embedded software engineer should have a deep understanding of computer science, engineering and software development, electronics, and programming languages. They should have expertise in programming languages like C, C++, and assembly language, as well as experience with embedded operating systems and development tools. They should also be familiar with hardware components like microcontrollers, sensors, communication interfaces, and specific hardware platforms.

Problem-Solving Skills:

Embedded systems often present complex technical challenges that require innovative solutions. An ideal embedded software engineer should be able to analyze embedded engineering problems, think creatively, and develop effective solutions.

Attention to Detail:

Embedded systems require precision, as even minor errors in code can cause catastrophic failures. Most embedded software engineers should have strong attention to detail and be meticulous in their work.

Soft Skills:

Embedded systems development often involves collaboration with other engineers, designers, and stakeholders. An ideal embedded software engineer should be able to communicate effectively, work well in a team, and be open to constructive criticism.

Adaptability:

Embedded systems development often requires flexibility and adaptability, as requirements may change throughout the development process. An ideal embedded software engineer should be able to adapt to changing requirements and be able to work under pressure to meet project deadlines. They should have an analytical mind.

Passion for Technology:

An ideal embedded software engineer should have a strong passion for technology and a desire to stay up-to-date with the latest developments in their field. They should be curious, always seeking to learn and improve their skills.

How to Become an Embedded Software Engineer

Embedded software engineers need a at least bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field, along with experience in software development, particularly in embedded software systems. In addition, knowing specific programming languages such as C, C++, and Assembly Language is also essential for this role.

To gain experience and further knowledge, one can consider taking up internships, attending training and certification programs, and working on open-source projects. Building a portfolio of projects showcasing one’s skills is also beneficial when applying for embedded software engineer jobs.

According to Payscale, the average salaries of embedded software engineers in different countries are as follows:

  • United Kingdom: £40,000 – £60,000 per year

  • United States: $70,000 – $120,000 per year

  • China: CNY 100,000 – CNY 300,000 per year

  • Europe: €35,000 – €70,000 per year

It’s worth noting that embedded software developer salaries can vary depending on a range of factors such as experience, location, industry, and company size.

What are the Most Famous Embedded Technologies 

Raspberry Pi: The Raspberry Pi is a popular single-board computer that is widely used in embedded systems. It is low-cost and versatile, making it an excellent choice for hobbyists and professional engineers alike.

Arduino: Arduino is another popular single-board computer that is widely used in embedded systems. It is designed for ease of use and is an excellent choice for beginners.

Microcontrollers: Microcontrollers are small computers that are specifically designed for use in embedded systems. They are typically low-cost and low-power and are used in a wide range of applications.

Real-Time Operating Systems (RTOS): RTOSs are specialized operating systems designed for use in embedded systems. They are optimized for real-time performance and are used in applications such as medical devices and automotive systems.

Do you know that by having an experienced embedded systems engineer, the company can save 50% of embedded software development time when an experienced team finds replaceable components for any software parts?

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What are Embedded Devices and Their Usage? 

Embedded devices are specialized computer systems that are designed to perform specific tasks within a larger system. These devices are typically designed to operate with minimal human intervention, and they often require specialized software to function. Embedded devices can be found in a wide range of applications, from consumer electronics to industrial control systems. Here are some examples of embedded devices and their uses:

Smartphones: Smartphones are perhaps the most common example of embedded devices. They are designed to perform a wide range of tasks, from making phone calls to browsing the internet and taking photos.

Wearable Devices: Wearable devices, such as fitness trackers and smartwatches, are another common example of embedded devices. They are designed to monitor various aspects of the wearer’s health and fitness, such as heart rate and steps taken.

Home Automation Systems: Home automation systems, such as smart thermostats and smart lighting, are designed to make life easier by automating various tasks within the home.

Industrial Control Systems: Industrial control systems, such as programmable logic controllers (PLCs), are used to control and monitor manufacturing processes in industries such as automotive, chemical, and pharmaceutical.

Medical Devices: Medical devices, such as heart monitors, insulin pumps, and pacemakers, all use embedded devices to perform their tasks. These devices are designed to operate safely and reliably in a medical environment.

Automotive Systems: Modern automobiles are filled with embedded devices, from the engine control unit (ECU) to the infotainment system. These devices are designed to improve safety, efficiency, and comfort.

What are the Main Features of Embedded Devices? 

Embedded devices are specialized computer systems that are designed to perform specific tasks within a larger system. They have several key features that distinguish them from general-purpose computers:

Real-time operation: Embedded devices often operate in real-time, meaning they must respond to events as they occur without delay. For example, an automotive system must respond to changes in the vehicle’s environment, such as the speed and position of other vehicles on the road, in real-time.

Limited computing resources: Embedded devices are designed to operate with limited computing resources, including memory, processing power, and storage. This is because they are often deployed in environments where space, power, and cost are critical considerations.

Specialized hardware: Embedded devices often use specialized hardware, such as microcontrollers and application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs), to perform their tasks efficiently and effectively.

Custom software: Embedded devices often require custom software to perform their specific tasks. This software is designed to be optimized for the limited computing resources and specialized hardware used in the device.

Low power consumption: Embedded devices are often designed to operate on low power and have to minimize their energy consumption. This feature is essential for battery-powered devices such as wearable technology.

Embedded systems must be reliable and secure as they are often responsible for safety-critical operations.

In summary, embedded devices have several key features that distinguish them from general-purpose computers, including real-time operation, limited computing resources, specialized hardware, custom software, low power consumption, and reliability and security. These features are essential for enabling embedded devices to perform their specific tasks efficiently, effectively, and safely.

What Industries Should Use Embedded Systems 

Embedded systems are used in a wide range of applications across different industries. Here are some examples of where embedded systems are commonly used in the healthcare industry, consumer electronics, automotive industry, robotics and aerospace industry, etc.

  • Consumer Electronics: Embedded systems are used in many consumer electronics products such as smartphones, digital cameras, and televisions. These devices use embedded systems to perform their specific functions, such as processing and storing data, connecting to the internet, and displaying images and videos.

  • Automotive Industry: Modern automobiles are filled with embedded systems, from the engine control unit (ECU) to the infotainment system. These systems are responsible for controlling the vehicle’s performance, safety features, and entertainment systems.

  • Healthcare Industry: Medical devices such as pacemakers, insulin pumps, and patient monitoring systems use embedded systems to perform their specific tasks. These devices must be reliable and accurate to ensure the safety of patients.

  • Industrial Automation: Industrial control systems such as programmable logic controllers (PLCs) are used to control and monitor manufacturing processes in industries such as automotive, chemical, and pharmaceutical.

  • Aerospace Industry: Embedded systems are used in aerospace applications such as spacecraft, satellites, and aircraft. These systems are used for navigation, control, and communication.

  • Home Automation: Home automation systems such as smart thermostats, security systems, and lighting controls use embedded systems to automate tasks and improve energy efficiency.

  • Robotics: Robotics applications such as industrial robots, drones, and autonomous vehicles use embedded systems for navigation, control, and communication.

 What is the Difference between Embedded Software and Software? 

The main difference between embedded software and software is that embedded software is specifically designed to run on embedded systems, while the software is designed to run on general-purpose computers.

Embedded software is tailored to the specific hardware and real-time requirements of the embedded system it runs on. It is often written in low-level programming languages such as C or Assembly to maximize performance and minimize memory usage. Embedded software is responsible for controlling the hardware and performing the specific tasks the embedded system is designed for, such as monitoring sensors or controlling actuators.

Software, on the other hand, is designed to run on general-purpose computers and is not tied to any specific hardware or real-time requirements. It is often written in high-level programming languages such as Java or Python and can perform a wide range of tasks such as word processing, web browsing, and gaming.

Another difference between embedded software and software is their level of complexity. Embedded software is often highly specialized and optimized for the specific tasks it needs to perform, while software can be much more complex and perform a wide range of tasks.

In summary, the main differences between embedded software and software are the specific hardware and real-time requirements of embedded systems, the programming languages used, and the level of complexity of the software. Embedded software is optimized for the specific tasks of the embedded system, while the software is designed for general-purpose computing tasks.

What is Embedded System Programming? 

Embedded system programming is the process of writing software to control and manage an embedded system. This programming requires a deep understanding of the hardware and real-time requirements of the embedded system.

Embedded system programming is often done using low-level programming languages such as C or Assembly. These languages allow the programmer to directly access the hardware and memory of the embedded system, providing precise control over its behaviour.

The programming of an embedded system involves several stages, including:

  • System design: The first stage of embedded system programming involves designing the system’s architecture, including the hardware components and software requirements.

  • Algorithm design: The next stage involves designing the algorithms that will be used to control the hardware and perform the system’s specific tasks.

  • Code development: Once the system and algorithm design is complete, the programmer will develop the code using the chosen programming language.

  • Testing: The final stage involves testing the code to ensure it functions correctly and meets the system requirements.

Embedded system programming requires specific skills and knowledge, including an understanding of low-level programming languages, real-time operating systems, and hardware architecture. Programmers must also be familiar with various development tools, such as compilers, debuggers, and simulators, which are used to develop and test embedded systems.

In summary, embedded system programming is the process of writing software to control and manage an embedded system. It requires a deep understanding of the system’s hardware and real-time requirements and is often done using low-level programming languages such as C or Assembly. Embedded system programming involves several stages, including system design, algorithm design, code development, and testing.

INTech House Embedded Experience

INTechHouse is a leading software development company with extensive experience in building embedded software solutions for a variety of industries. One such industry is finance, where our team has successfully delivered a range of projects, from trading platforms to financial analytics tools.

Another industry where INTechHouse has demonstrated its expertise is the property technology (PropTech) space. Our team has built innovative embedded software solutions that have enabled real estate companies to optimize their operations and increase their bottom line.

One example of our successful work in this area is our Expense Analyser project. This embedded software solution was designed to help real estate companies manage their expenses and streamline their financial processes. The software uses advanced algorithms to automatically categorize and track expenses, reducing the time and effort required for manual data entry and reconciliation.

With our Expense Analyser, real estate companies can easily monitor their financial health, identify areas for cost savings, and make data-driven decisions to improve their bottom line. We’re proud to have delivered this innovative solution to our client and look forward to continuing to push the boundaries of embedded software development in the future.

Conclusion

Embedded software engineering is an increasingly important part of our lives, powering everything from our cars to our smartphones. As technology continues to advance, the demand for skilled embedded software engineers is only going to increase. By gaining the necessary education and experience, individuals can take advantage of this growing field and build a rewarding career in embedded systems. At the same time, companies can benefit from the expertise of software development companies like INTechHouse, who have the experience and knowledge to deliver innovative embedded software solutions that drive business success.

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