What is Embedded Software?
Embedded software is the software written to control machines or electronic devices and is programmed specially for the device it runs on. Embedded software is called so because it is “built in” devices ranging from simple toasters and light bulbs to complex machines like cars, airplanes and missile systems. Embedded software controls the functions of the devices it is built in just like a computer operating system controls the functions of the software running in the computer.
Embedded software also doesn’t generally require human interface to be controlled and works through machine interfaces instead. Such interfaces can be part of the device itself or can be part of a remote device through external communication links.
Success of product engineering companies depend, to a large extent on their ability to develop embedded software – whether it is outsourced product engineering or in-house engineering.
History of Embedded Software
The earliest form of embedded software development was done primarily for military applications. From the late 30s to mid 60s the US government use embedded systems in space exploration, missile guidance and avionics. But since these systems were still in experimental stages of development, they had a high failure rate. It was only during the late 60s and thereafter that embedded technology became safe enough for use in common household equipment.
After about a decade the integrated microcontroller chip made embedded software take off. These single chips acted like tiny computers and could save process and output data. Thus it became possible to load a single program into a chip and use it in any equipment and make the chip execute the program written specifically for the equipment. By the end of 1980s almost all kind of electronic equipment had some sort of embedded software in it.
Nowadays, integrated microcontroller chips have become so cheap that they are in almost every electronic device, even children’s toys and toasters and electric fans.
Why Embedded Systems are Important?
Embedded systems are the bridging gap between software and the physical world. Today all sorts of electronic gadgets are controlled by embedded systems. So in a way, embedded systems control our day to day lives like nothing else does. Embedded systems are everywhere – from consumer electronics and household appliances like washing machines and ovens to medical equipment, automobiles, industrial applications, aerospace machines and communication devices like routers and network hubs.
With the advent of Internet of Things (IoT) and machine-to-machine communications, the way embedded systems are engineered is also changing. According to IDC embedded systems will account for 10% of data in the digital universe by 2020. As more and more devices are connected to the digital world, the way these devices are controlled by embedded systems will also have to evolve.
Shiv Kumar Pandey is an online marketing and content consultant and writes for various companies including Rhombus, an ODM company in India providing outsourced product engineering services.This author has published 3 articles so far.