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What is an Embedded System?

An embedded system is a combination of computer hardware and software designed for a specific function. Embedded systems can also run within larger systems. The system can be programmable or have fixed functionality. Industrial machinery, consumer electronics, agricultural and process industry equipment, automobiles, medical equipment, cameras, digital watches, home appliances, aircraft, vending machines and toys, and mobile devices are all possible locations for embedded systems.

Although embedded systems are computing systems, they can range from no user interface (UI) (for example, on devices designed to perform a single task) to complex graphical user interfaces (GUI) (for example, in mobile devices) . The user interface can include buttons, LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes), and touch screen sensing. Some systems also use a remote user interface.

Embedded systems are used in a wide variety of technologies across a variety of industries.

CAR Modern cars often consist of many computers (sometimes as many as 100) or embedded systems designed to perform different tasks inside the car. Some of these systems perform basic utility functions, while others provide entertainment or user-facing functions. Some of the embedded systems in consumer vehicles include cruise control, backup sensors, suspension controls, navigation systems, and air bag systems.

Cell Phone They consist of many embedded systems, including GUI software and hardware, operating system (OS), cameras, microphones, and USB (universal serial bus) I/O (input/output) modules.

Industrial Machines They can contain embedded systems, such as sensors, or be embedded systems themselves. Industrial machines often have embedded automation systems that perform specific monitoring and control functions.

Medical Equipment They can contain embedded systems, such as sensors, or be embedded systems themselves. Industrial machines often have embedded automation systems that perform specific monitoring and control functions.

Medical Equipment These may contain embedded systems such as sensors and control mechanisms. Medical equipment such as industrial machines must also be very humane so that human health is not jeopardized by preventable machine errors. This means they will often include a more complex operating system and GUI designed for a proper UI.

How do embedded systems work?

Embedded systems always operate as part of a complete device—that's what the term embedded means. They are small, low-cost, low-power computers embedded in other mechanical or electrical systems. Generally, they include processors, power supplies, memory, and communication ports. Embedded systems use communication ports to transfer data between the processor and peripheral devices (usually other embedded systems) via communication protocols. The processor interprets this data with minimal software stored in memory. Software is often highly specific to the function that the embedded system serves.

Typically, embedded systems are used in real-time operating environments and use a real-time operating system (RTOS) to communicate with the hardware. Near real-time approaches apply to higher levels of chip functionality, defined by designers who increasingly believe that systems are generally fast enough and tasks can tolerate slight changes in response. In these cases, a stripped-down version of the Linux operating system is typically deployed, although other operating systems have been pared down to run on embedded systems, including Java Embedded and Windows IoT (formerly known as Windows Embedded).

Features of Embedded Systems

The main characteristic of embedded systems is that they are task-specific.

In addition, embedded systems also have the following characteristics:

Usually consists of hardware, software and firmware;

Can be embedded into larger systems to perform specific functions, as they are built for specialized tasks within the system rather than various tasks;

Can be microprocessor-based or microcontroller-based - both are integrated circuits that provide computing power to the system;

Often used for sensing and real-time computing in Internet of Things ( IoT ) devices, which are Internet-connected devices that do not require user action;

may vary in complexity and functionality, which affects the type of software, firmware and hardware they use; and Often required to perform their functions under time constraints to keep the larger system running.

Structure of Embedded Systems

Embedded systems vary in complexity, but generally consist of three main elements:

Hardware The hardware of embedded systems is based on microprocessors and microcontrollers. A microprocessor is very similar to a microcontroller and generally refers to a CPU (central processing unit) integrated with other basic computing components such as memory chips and digital signal processors ( DSP ). Microcontrollers have these components built into a single chip.

Software and Firmware Embedded system software varies in complexity. However, industrial-grade microcontrollers and embedded IoT systems often run very simple software and require little memory.
real-time operating system. These are not always included in embedded systems, especially small ones. An RTOS defines how the system works by monitoring the software and setting rules during program execution.

Embedded System Trends

While some embedded systems may be relatively simple, they are becoming increasingly complex, and more and more embedded systems are now able to replace human decision-making or provide functionality beyond what humans can provide. For example, some aviation systems, including those used in drones, are able to integrate sensor data and act on that information faster than humans, enabling new types of operational capabilities.

Embedded systems are expected to continue growing rapidly, driven in large part by the Internet of Things. Expanding IoT applications such as wearables, drones, smart homes, smart buildings, video surveillance, 3D printers, and smart transportation are expected to drive the growth of embedded systems.

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