Embedded software engineering: all you need to know in a nutshell - PRR Computers, LLC

by Gina Owens
2 months ago
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Embedded software engineering is the process of controlling various devices and machines – but not computers. It sounds a little complicated, but you can simplify it by thinking of integrated software engineering with non-computer devices. This forms embedded systems. You’ll typically find these systems in the medical industry, consumer electronics, manufacturing businesses, aviation, and the automotive sector. 

Embedded software development requires knowledge of different programming tools, operating systems, and microprocessors. Software engineers in this field are specialized in these areas and will tailor the software to the needs of the hardware it has to be run on. 

What is embedded software development, and how is it different?

The term itself is the first layer of code that runs on a device. This requires a deeper understanding of the code and the actual hardware on which the code operates. Virtually everything and anything contains some form of software, from fridges and toasters to smart TVs and blood pressure monitors. 

Software engineers in this field need to consider different factors than traditional application development, e.g., temperature and other environmental factors that could affect the performance of the device and the software. The software and operating system requirements are also different. These systems may use C, C++, ADA, Windows CE, LINUX, TreadX, Nucleus RTOS, and others.

Embedded software development services work with software that is self-contained and runs a single program, which means that engineers often have to determine which is the smallest number of drivers that the hardware requires to run the software. 

The specialized software engineer creates the code and may work with regular software engineers and electrical engineers to ensure that the code can interact properly with the device.

These engineering services have become extremely important as devices become “smarter” – from wearables to healthcare to cars, the Internet of Things has meant that we require even greater knowledge of embedded technology. None of these devices would be able to function without this technology. 

What does an embedded software engineer do?

The development itself can be extremely complex. The engineer may write the code or work on the design and development itself. Some engineers are focused mostly on testing and maintenance of the system once it has been deployed. 

Once the software has been implemented, the role of the engineer shifts to software upgrades to ensure that the hardware and software interact successfully. Bear in mind that there are key differences between a systems engineer and a software engineer in this field. The software engineer focuses exclusively on – you guessed it – the software. The systems engineer has a more comprehensive position as they oversee the construction of the entire system, including software programming and development and hardware development. 

Like all software developers, the developer needs specific skills (both hard skills and soft skills) to succeed in their roles. Entry-level engineers will also have radically different skills from senior or principal engineers. Most will require solid programming experience with solutions like C++, C, and hold a bachelor’s degree in computer science. They need to understand troubleshooting, debugging, and embedded development, including real-time operating systems. 

Software engineers work together in a team, so they require good verbal and written communication skills along with a team-player mentality. Not surprisingly, there is a lot of demand for these software engineers with the right skills, which is why the BLS or United States Bureau of Labor Statistics say that engineering roles of this kind will grow 25% through 2031.  

Use Cases for Embedded Engineering

Engineering can play a big role in any organization. This may include enabling micro-level smart solutions that equip businesses to solve real-world problems, including diagnosing medical problems, improving cell phone communications, managing traffic, or streamlining manufacturing. This technology can not only benefit the community but save businesses time and money. 

These systems typically perform one task. They are inexpensive, durable, and low maintenance. They do not require additional memory or added storage space, which makes it easier to house them. They are also often capable of running seamlessly on older and more complex operating systems without requiring much updating.  By creating embedded, dedicated tasks, business operations can realize greater efficiencies and profits. For example, embedded sensors are used in farming to assess soil conditions and light levels. 

Examples of Embedded Software in Practice

As we’ve already said, embedded software applications refer to specialized programming within non-PC devices, either as part of a microchip or an application that sits on top of a chip to control the device. Unlike PC applications, embedded can’t be installed on different systems or modified. The software has fixed hardware requirements and capabilities. It’s created exclusively for the device it runs on, with processing and memory restrictions tied to the device specifications.

Almost every device with a circuit board and computer chip requires software. They are ubiquitous in everyday life and found in almost every industry. A few examples of software-based features include image processing systems for medical imaging equipment, motion detectors in security cameras, traffic control systems in traffic lights, and automation systems in smart home devices. 

These systems are found in the following: 

  • Consumer goods, including washers, wearables, and mobile phones
  • Low-power consumption or battery operation interfaces to shut off non-operating domains to preserve battery life
  • Networking devices that enable connectivity, communication, operations, and management
  • Industrial applications, such as floor management, motors, and windmills
  • Medical, automotive, and aerospace technology, e.g., autonomous driving systems in cars or medical equipment, typically using open source and real-time operating systems and middleware. 

Conclusion

Software and systems of this nature have become a part of our daily lives – whether we’ve realized it or not. Fortunately, new talents in the IT sector are entering the field every day to ensure that this industry keeps innovating and expanding in a productive way. 

If you are interested in launching any type of smart device, you will need an embedded software engineering team to back your work and bring your ideas to life. Make sure that you do your research to find the right engineers with the right experience for the task at hand. 

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