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9 minutes

Firmware Development: Key Points You Should Know

Firmware refers to embedded software that enables the hardware device to operate effectively and stably. Firmware updates, in their turn, ensure device security maintenance and compatibility with industry standards. 

This article uncovers what embedded firmware is, its role in embedded system development and performance, the types of embedded firmware, what projects they fit, and how the firmware development process works for different embedded solutions in multiple industries. 

What is firmware development?

Firmware is software integrated into an embedded system's memory. Its primary purpose is to initiate the embedded system and run the device's business logic as expected. Let's examine the main purpose of embedded firmware development and the specific features it provides.

The role of firmware in embedded development

The core role of firmware in embedded systems is to instruct the hardware when it has to start operating, communicate with other devices, and execute specific tasks. Depending on the firmware types and integrated functionality, its features can be extended and updated after being implemented into an embedded system. Further, we’ll uncover the primary types of firmware for embedded systems, which will help you determine the best fit for your project.

Levels of firmware

There are different levels of firmware and when it comes to choosing the best fit for your specific case, it only depends on your system requirements, complexity, and required functionalities. 

Check out these levels below and learn how they differ from one another: 

  • Low-level firmware. It’s a primary level of embedded software that is integrated into the system to perform basic tasks based on ROM chips; once it is integrated within an embedded system, it cannot be reconfigured or updated.
  • High-level firmware. This firmware level performs more complex tasks within an embedded solution, such as managing device operation and connecting and communicating with hardware components; high-level firmware can be updated using the flash memory chips it is based on. 
  • Subsystem. An integrated part of the embedded system that is used for performing complex tasks. It performs tasks independently of other embedded system operations and can be updated similarly to the high-level firmware.

You can choose your best-fit firmware based on your initial embedded system requirements and project specifics. You will read more about the stages of firmware development for embedded systems and learn what decisions each engineering iteration will require in the following article blocks. 

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5 key steps to take for successful firmware development

Whether you need to develop firmware for your device from scratch or extend the functionality of an existing solution, first, you should opt for a trusted tech partner with comprehensive expertise in firmware development. 

The market is overwhelmed with various engineering companies that could potentially fit your project requirements. To choose your perfect vendor, learn who their clients are and what projects they have delivered. It is a quick and straightforward way to check the tech partners’ expertise and service offerings. 

Successful firmware development roadmap may differ from company to company, but it should include the following must-have steps.

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1. Collect your requirements

It all starts from the requirements elicitation to ensure the project plan and estimation align with your business goals, plans, and expectations. If you already have technical documentation and functional requirements for your system, sharing them with your tech partner is a must to let them learn about the project and make all necessary estimates.

There are two types of primary services that will help you structure your requirements and plan further firmware development steps — solution discovery if you need to develop and implement firmware from scratch and tech consulting if you want to audit and upgrade an existing solution, including the hardware part. 

2. Firmware architecture design

The firmware architecture design stage allows engineers to build a scheme for future solutions, including the required tech stack and other services integration, to gain insight into how the expected functionality will work. The architecture design shows all the connections within the system, the roles of each feature, used services, communication protocols, and other technical details. 

3. Firmware design implementation

Firmware design implementation is the actual firmware engineering stage. This step covers the implementation of all the functionalities outlined within the firmware architecture design. Firmware engineers will utilize programming languages and tools specific to the project requirements and the platform used. 

4. Testing and debugging

The testing and debugging step ensures your firmware meets all the initial project requirements and operates correctly and error-free. It is the perfect time to debug firmware and optimize system performance before integrating firmware into devices for mass production.

After testing the firmware, developers document their solutions, including firmware code, architecture design, testing cases, and other project-related information. Proper documentation simplifies future system maintenance, even if another engineering team will have to manage it. 

5. Post-launch maintenance

Once the firmware is integrated into your embedded system, you should plan its support and maintenance to keep the system operation stable, fix errors, provide regular updates, and extend the functionality as needed. Some system changes may also be offered through users' feedback, which helps you determine and fix your solution's weaknesses on time. 

Essential components of firmware architecture 

Firmware software is a complex set of components that allows embedded systems to operate. The more functions a device should perform, the more complicated the firmware architecture. 

Below, we outline typical software components of a firmware architecture and describe the role each plays in an embedded system.

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Operating system (OS)

An operating system is a code stored directly within firmware that supplies hardware and software with all required resources to let the system function. It schedules tasks, manages device interactions and processes, and provides memory and device driver management, ensuring the system's stable operation.


A kernel is a device control system responsible for system operation control. It ensures interaction and communication between embedded system hardware and software, correctly allocating and optimizing resources. It plays a crucial role in a system's performance, ensuring its reliability, security, and smooth operation. 

Device drivers

Device drivers are mediators between a device's operating system and hardware. They allow the operating system to understand the required operation, translate it, and interact with hardware components to complete the task. In simple terms, device drivers enable embedded systems to perform specific tasks by communicating between a device’s operating system and hardware.


A bootloader is a specific firmware executed immediately after the device launches. It is responsible for the device's proper startup and software execution. The bootloader is also used for firmware update functionality.

Application code

A firmware application code layer includes a set of applications that perform specific functions within an embedded system. Usually, device business logic is executed here.

Best practices and strategies in firmware development: our experience

There is a growing demand for firmware programming in various industries, including healthcare, automotive, consumer electronics, energy, and transportation.

Below, we outline firmware applications in multiple sectors, including the specific devices they are integrated into and their functions. 

  • Embedded software development in healthcare

Embedded software development is widely used in the healthcare industry, particularly for medical devices. Firmware ensures a device is operating as expected and is performing its functions. 

As an ISO 13485-certified company, Lemberg Solutions has extensive expertise in building embedded software for healthcare solutions. One example is firmware development for the TCC electronic nurse device. Our experts took on the device's industrial design and development. 

The primary function of this medical device is to monitor the patient's health vitals and store this information within a centralized base connected with the hospital, which will be alerted if certain patient conditions rapidly change. 

Follow this link to learn more about the functionality and development process of the electronic nurse device we delivered.

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  • Firmware development for the energy sector

Firmware development has found multiple applications in the energy sector for devices with different purposes, such as industrial battery management systems, power controllers, smart metering devices, chargers, and charging stations.

We want to share our experience developing embedded software for the energy-related device, the EDS-Development electric vehicle charging station. Our task was to develop HMI software to enable the client’s customers to charge their EVs and see the current state of charge.

Learn more about how we collected the requirements, created embedded software architecture, and implemented it within the EV charging station interface. 

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  • Firmware development for consumer electronics

Firmware development is the most demanded service within the consumer electronics industry. It is used practically in every device we use daily — wearable devices, smart ventilation systems, smart home and building solutions, and many others.

Lemberg Solutions has extensive experience delivering firmware for consumer electronics products, and we'd like to share one of them. It is firmware development and algorithm integration for Freudenberg Home and Cleaning Solutions.

Our engineers took on microcontroller firmware development before mass production. Follow the link to learn more details about how our collaboration was held.

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  • Firmware audit for transportation & logistics 

Firmware, just like any other type of software, requires regular audits and updates to maintain its stable performance and ensure security within an embedded system. Our embedded engineering team conducted multiple firmware assessments and implemented improvements, including an audit for KONVOI`s truck security solution firmware. 

Our embedded engineers performed a comprehensive firmware code audit to improve the code quality and security. We assessed each code module to detect any errors and fix them to ensure the system`s stable performance in the future.

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Challenges you may face in firmware development

You might find hundreds of challenges and issues in the firmware development process while surfing the web and looking for firmware software engineers with the technical skills required for your project. However, most of them can be avoided or predicted before the start of the development phase.

That is why you need experts in embedded software development who acknowledge potential risks and can educate you on them as well. Check out the most widespread challenges of firmware development below: 

Complex functionality

Firmware is a complex software system that enables solution hardware to perform the expected functions; thereby, the whole embedded system performance depends on the firmware's stable communication with various hardware components. Eventually, the more complex the functionality, the more time and resources the development will take. 

Regulatory compliance

Some industries, like healthcare and automotive, have regulatory compliance requirements for developing embedded applications, including firmware. Among them are HIPAA, functional safety, GDPR, IEC 62304:2006, and other industry-specific regulations. However, engineering experts proficient with industry standards will deliver your firmware according to all obligatory regulations. 

That's why you should pay attention to what compliance and certifications your tech partner passed and whether they keep their processes up to date with the requirements of these certifications, including ISO 27001, ISO 9001, ISO 13485, etc. 

Security considerations in firmware development

Poor security puts your hardware devices at risk of contracting hidden and unhidden malware. Attackers don't need to have direct physical access to devices to infect them with malicious software. 

That's why firmware security is the foundation of stable and secure system operation. To keep security at an acceptable level, you should regularly update your firmware, which requires implementing OTA update functionality. You must also keep track of the connected devices, ensuring they are registered and have built-in security measures.

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Summing up

Taking everything into account, no matter how scalable or complex your firmware project is, it can be delivered according to your needs, expectations, budget, and timeline. Your only responsibility is to hire a reliable tech partner to consult you on your project, provide a detailed estimate and development plan, and supply all required engineering resources to deliver the requested solution. 

If you are looking for tech consultancy or are ready to start your project but need the engineering capacity, feel free to contact our team so we can discuss your project in detail and offer a further action plan. 

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