Embedded software development

Embedded software development is becoming more and more common on a daily basis.

Everyday microprocessors are getting more powerful and cheaper, so it’s extremely common to find products that use them as their brain to fulfill specific tasks.

Embedded software, often called firmware, resides permanently on its dedicated hardware creating a single embedded system.

Our daily environment, whether at work or at home, is full of embedded solutions. All electronic devices are able to fulfill "smart" functions only thanks to their native embedded software.

The whole range of computer peripherals, such as monitors, printers, routers, digital cameras, memory sticks, headphones, etc., as well as home appliances, such as washing machines, microwave ovens, digital TVs, camrecorders, cell phones, etc., are built around embedded systems.

What makes embedded software development so widely used?

Embedded systems are found in virtually every industry, to name a few: Automotive, aerospace, telecommunications, consumer electronics, banking, home appliances, security, etc.

The most important characteristics of embedded systems are their higher reliability, accuracy and speed of performance enabling real-time computing. In addition, they have a smaller size and lower power consumption, which opens up a wider variety of applications.

Any device with some embedded digital interface that must perform computing tasks belongs to embedded systems. This system can be implemented in a stand-alone device or as part of a larger system with whom it communicates via the Internet, Bluetooth or other communication channels.

Embedded software development: Challenges

Embedded software is concerned about the physical world and therefore focuses on problems such as measuring time, being able to detect and respond to events in the environment, dealing with physical constraints, as well as providing real-time responses.

Customers of these systems desire features such as high reusability, maintainability and flexibility.

The possibility of combining all these attributes presents software engineering difficulties in the search for higher levels of abstraction in embedded software development.

There are 4 major challenges in its development

  • In the planning of the embedded software development process.

  • In the establishment of a methodology

  • In the quality assurance of the embedded software

  • In the design tools

Trends in embedded software development

As hardware continues to improve in power-to-price ratio, it is becoming possible to use more and more general-purpose hardware rather than hardware dedicated to a specific solution.

More and more embedded devices are using SoC (System-On-Chip) architectures instead of specialized integrated circuits.

The use of general-purpose hardware will greatly simplify the portability of embedded software across different devices.

The challenges to develop embedded software for software and hardware engineers have caused the communication between both domains to expand and furthermore the application of this type of systems involves interdisciplinary work between other branches of engineering such as electrical, electronics, mechanics, mechatronics, biology, among others.

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