Introduction to the Embedded System

Translated from German by Abha Vardhan (2019)


As indicated by the name, embedded signifies something that is fixed with another thing. You can consider an embedded system as computer hardware with the attached software already integrated into it. It is worth noting that an embedded system can be an autonomous entity or a fragment of the larger system.

In general, an embedded system is created to execute certain tasks and is based on a microcontroller or microprocessor system. Embedded systems can be found both in the field of high technology such as the aerospace industry, medical technology, telecommunications, and automotive technology, as well as in the consumer and household appliances sector.

You can find an embedded system in a fire alarm, mobiles, toys, household appliances, medical tools, cameras, vending machines, industrial equipment, automobiles, and other similar devices.

Although embedded systems are a computing system, they can have graphical user interfaces (GUIs) or no user interface (UI). By user interface, we are referring to touchscreen, buttons, sensors, LEDs and so on. So, we can say that smartphones have several user interfaces such as buttons and touchscreen. There are many systems that have inbuilt remote user interfaces.

The Different Parts of an Embedded System

The embedded system is described as a dependable, software focused, Microcontroller or Microprocessor based real-time control system. There are three parts of an Embedded System:

  • Hardware
  • Application Software
  • Real Time Operating System or RTOS

The main component of the embedded system is the integrated circuit, which works to execute calculations for real-time operations. There is visually no difference between the microcontrollers and microprocessors. However, microprocessors make use of a Central Processing Unit (CPU) and therefore it needs other constituents like memory chips.

Microcontrollers, on the other hand, are created as self-contained systems as they contain CPU along with other elements such as RAM, ROM, flash memory and similar communication elements. Microcontrollers are usually used for performing complex tasks such as the execution of robots, vehicles, home appliances, and medical instruments. In more advanced microcontroller systems, the SoC chip is used but the rest of the elements such as clock speed and RAM remain the same.

The latest surveys have indicated that the embedded system became highly popular in 2013, which gave rise to the estimate that the market will boom more in 2020. Many world class manufacturers such as IBM, Apple, Texas Instruments and Intel make use of embedded systems.

What Should You Know About Embedded Hardware?

The important part of any embedded system is the electronic hardware, which is located on a printed circuit board. There are five main parts of an embedded system which are input devices, memory processors, output devices and the controllers.

Hardware is the basic resource of any embedded system. The manufacturers choose a specific constituent on the needs and specs of the system. You will find several variants of hardware for diverse application on the global market, which are:

  • Microcontroller or CPU: It is utilized for creating small applications with perfect calculations. In fact, they have a restricted amount of random access memory. It is a smart device that performs the tasks given by the user in a skilled way. A few of the popular manufacturing companies for these are Renesas, NXP, Atmel, and Altera.
  • System on Chip (SoC): It includes peripheral devices such as timers, a CPU and integrated circuits. Your application system is more dependable with SoC and supports more than one processor cores.
  • ASIC Processor: This refers to the Application Specific Integrated Circuit. The chip is created for a specific application and consumes less power. It is owned and manufactured by a single company and nobody has permission to copyright the product.
  • DSP Processor: These processors are largely used in video and audio applications. It works to eliminate the noise and enhance the signal quality for your games consoles, music and DVD player
  • Input Devices: These devices get input from the user. Some common examples of input devices are optocoupler, sensors, and switches. They take input from outside and execute the function accordingly.
  • Output Devices: These are the results obtained when the system performs the action on the input given by the outside world. Some common examples include displays, LCD, Motors, LED and buzzer.
  • Bus Controllers: These are the communication tools that transmit information between various constituents located inside the embedded system. Common examples are Universal Serial Buses and Serial Buses.
  • Memory:  Memory devices like SD card and flash works to store data and manage memory. The memory devices used in the embedded system are Random Access Memory (RAM), Dynamic Random Access Memory (DRAM), and volatile and non-volatile RAM.

Embedded Software

The important components that make embedded systems are their software constituents. Also referred to as firmware, this embedded software is created for Application software, Operating systems, error handling, device drivers and debugging software.

Device Drivers

These are the main software constituents that manage a peripheral device. They are usually UART LCD, Touchscreen, USB and so on. 

Real Time Operating System or RTOS

It works to control the application software and offer a mechanism in order to run the scheduled process. RTOS outlines the functioning of the system and creates guidelines when performing the application program. RTOS may not be present in a small scale embedded system.

The Working of an Embedded System

Every device with embedded systems includes certain input and output devices. The embedded system works in the following manner:

  • The user gives input in a digital or analog form. For example, with the help of a touch screen keypad, press button or sensor.
  • The system processes the provided input and performs the needed calculation or transfiguration. Take for example the working of Analog to Digital Converter that transforms an analog input to digital output.
  • After the conversion is executed, it is managed and produced by the output devices such as LCD Motor and Touchscreen.

Embedded System: Offering High-Quality Products to the Market

The embedded system is a real-time system created to perform several tasks. It is designed to accept input, execute the process and produce the output. The interesting thing is that it is portable, affordable and consumes very little power. In addition, it works independently without much involvement from humans. 


Source: IT-Grundschutz-Kataloge

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