Embedded Software Development: What Every Developer Needs to Know
The demand for embedded software development is continually soaring to higher levels every year. This trend is due to reduced sizes, stellar functionalities, and low costs of devices with embedded systems. However, the challenges of developing and using these devices are increasing in equal measures. The good news is that if you play your cards well, the sky is just the limit.
What Is Embedded Software?
It involves specialized programming within a machine or device to control the specific operations of the device.
So how are embedded applications different from application software?
While you can install them later on various computer systems and modify to offer different functionality levels, embedded software needs specific hardware capabilities and requirements. You develop it exclusively for a given device that it operates on, with memory and processing restrictions tied directly to that product’s specifications.
Fundamental Elements of Embedded System
Developers bring hardware and software components together to form an embedded system. Embedded systems are behind the development of the increasingly popular Internet of Things (IoT) devices.
The hardware elements include:
After selecting all the above components, choose software elements to provide the designed functionality:
Depending on the system’s purpose of use, it comes programmed or non-programmed.
We can also categorize embedded systems based on functional requirements and the microcontrollers’ capacity.
In terms of functional requirements, we have:
When it comes to the microcontrollers’ capacity, embedded systems can be:
Why Developers Are Embracing Embedded Software
A glance around you will reveal real-life use cases of embedded systems and applications. Domestic electronic appliances like an air conditioner, washing machine, and oven consist of embedded systems for a specific purpose.
Embedded software also controls industrial automation systems, like data collection, assembly lines, and the feedback system. Other areas include entertainment systems, automobiles, medical, military, aerospace, and communication.
So, why has the applicability of these systems picked up the pace and soared high?
The constant decrease in the size of embedded software makes them more appealing than traditional tech systems. Your desktop computer system, for example, doesn’t take up the whole table. It’s highly portable and consumes less power than larger systems.
The small size means manufacturers use fewer elements, leading to lower material costs. Semiconductor materials for elements like RAM, ROM, Wi-Fi chips, processor, and motherboard means less power consumption. Management and maintenance also become cheaper because the materials used are long-lasting and cheap.
For tools or devices whose embedded software is written to handle one task, the performance is usually close to perfect. Remember how that traffic light responded on time to give the right signal?
For complex embedded systems like laptops, the performance depends on the power of its elements and the number of tasks. Since they have fewer elements than traditional devices, you’ll love the high-level loading and processing speed.
Embedded Systems have more challenges than meets the eye. Why?
• Security crisis
More machineries getting more sophisticated and connected means anything can see them over the internet. Therefore, apart from learning programming and connection of devices, developers need to learn how to secure them.
During the software development process, you need to learn partitioning, isolation, and the information that needs protection. How secure should your system be? A smart meter needs more real-time security features than an electric toothbrush.
• Over-the-air upgrades
It sounds great to upgrade a device’s firmware remotely. Traditionally, developers had to post a new update on a secure website and invite users to upgrade their stand-alone systems.
Now users expect IoT and embedded systems to update themselves at only a few clicks. Developers have to tirelessly work around the clock to generate an updated firmware, secure it, and validate that the update’s source is valid. Otherwise, they may have to reverse it.
• Pace of Change
Software development technologies with similar approaches were reigning in the world of embedded systems for decades. However, things changed when new and higher capacity processors slowly demanded their space. Artificial Intelligence and emerging technologies now put developers on their toes as they strive to get hold of them. If you’re not fast enough to adapt to changes, competitors may easily push you out of the game.
• Design issues
The market is increasingly demanding more compact yet powerful machineries that consume lower energy. Therefore, engineering and development teams need to pack longer battery life and more computing capacities into smaller electronics. The manufacturing industry is forever looking for solutions like processors, system buses, and memory caches that offer real-time functions ranging from low level to high-performance.
As more electronics get connected, debugging demands are growing at the same pace. Open-source integration is allowing systems to adopt many free-flow devices, leading to frequent and unexpected issues. Many embedded software projects would consume up to almost 40% of the developer’s time in debugging alone.
If a device demands frequent maintenance services, frustrations kick in. Embedded software that portrays unexpected issues also poses serious risks. For example, if an electrocardiogram (ECG) starts misbehaving, doctors will get the wrong electrical signals from the patient’s heart.
How to Break Through the Hurdles
Are you a newbie developer in the embedded software arena? Here are some tips you need to fast-track your progress:
As the Embedded Software continues to take the world by storm, more challenges are greeting developers in equal measures. However, you can easily sail through these hurdles by improving your teams’ communication, embracing industry-standard practices, and staying clear of human errors.
If you’re looking for embedded system development and design team, consider Laneways.Agency. Our developers are ready to apply the industry’s best practices to give you robust IoT and embedded solutions.
We build custom software with modern solutions in mind for any business and sizes!