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What You Should Know About Embedded Software Development

The market of embedded system development keeps evolving in all industries, introducing advanced technological capabilities for devices with different purposes, such as consumer electronics solutions, industrial automation systems, IoT systems, and automotive systems.

According to recent statistics, the growth of the embedded systems market is expected to reach $161.86 billion by 2030, bringing more innovations in different business domains.

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In this article, we will take a closer look at what is embedded software, its specifics and role in embedded system development, major structure components, use cases, and upcoming engineering trends in embedded software development services

What is embedded software?

Embedded software is a special program designed and integrated within an embedded system to execute specific tasks. It is integrated into a device's hardware and makes it operational, providing the required functionality for this device. 

Embedded software can be accountable for executing real-time data processing and collection, managing communication, power optimization, and controlling the embedded system's performance. It has become an irreplaceable integral part of devices of any type, complexity, and scale.

Embedded software allows you to set up a device functionality you expect, extend it per your request, and regularly update it to ensure solution security, connectivity, and stable operation.

What is an embedded system?

An embedded system consists of embedded software that performs specific tasks, and hardware, such as a microcontroller or microprocessor, that operates thanks to integrated software. Some tasks embedded systems execute within various devices are performance monitoring and control, data collection and processing, including encryption, power management, and stable communication.

Embedded systems are used to develop devices in almost all industries, including medical devices, wearables, automotive solutions, smart home systems, and industrial equipment. These systems allow businesses to manage their internal processes remotely and more efficiently, save costs, and reach business goals with expected operational performance. 

Embedded system structure

Basically, an embedded system of any type and complexity consists of two core integrated elements — hardware and software. Learn more profoundly about the components of each embedded system layer and the communication that allows an embedded solution to operate. 

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Embedded hardware: core components

Hardware is an embedded system enclosure or a physical device that doesn't perform any functions or tasks without integrated software. It usually consists of a set of core components, which are the following: 

  • Microcontroller/microprocessor — the brain of an embedded system, an integrated circuit responsible for the system's computing capabilities and operation; microprocessors can be of different types and performance speeds depending on the purpose of a particular embedded system.
  • Power supply — it provides the embedded system with the electrical power required to start the system operation; the power supply can consist of voltage regulators, batteries, or external power sources.
  • Memory — memory chips are selected based on the microprocessor requirements and include ROM for firmware (code) memory storage and RAM for temporary data storage during system operation; ROM memory can work stably without a power supply, which is impossible for RAM. 
  • Peripherals — core embedded system components that are integrated and connected with the system microprocessor, providing the solution with the required functionality; for instance, peripherals are buttons, displays, touchscreens, sensors, actuators, and communication units.
  • Communication interface — embedded systems use various integrated communication protocols to ensure smooth connection of the microprocessor with peripherals and other system core components; 
  • Printed circuit board (PCB) — an electronic unit that uses copper conductors to establish electrical connections between embedded system electronic components and provide mechanical support to them. 

Embedded software

Embedded software makes the device alive, ensuring the device functionality works as expected. It consists of the following components:

  • Editor —  software that is used to actually write code for embedded systems. 
  • Emulator — used for testing the embedded software operation in a working environment  before its transmission to a device; it allows embedded software engineers to simulate the embedded system performance and make code fixes on time;
  • Compiler — translate embedded software code for the editor text file into low-level programming language that a device can recognize and comprehend to execute expected system actions
  • Debugger — an integrated piece of software that is accountable for code testing and debugging that helps engineers define and fix code errors shortly without preventing the embedded system from stable operation. 
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5 key software components for embedded systems

Embedded software type selection entirely depends on the purpose and functionality this solution needs to serve. Further, we covered the most widespread software solutions used for embedded software development. 

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1. Firmware 

Firmware is a specific type of software used for executing tasks and controlling the functionality of the embedded system. Its primary function is to ensure communication between hardware and other software components and start all computing operations with an embedded system at once. Any type of firmware should be regularly updated, like any other software type, to ensure the embedded system's security and stable performance. 

2. Device drivers

Device drivers are core embedded software components responsible for connection and communication between hardware devices and integrated operating systems. They enable sensor operation, which allows the collection and storage of data from the device environment.

3. Real-time operating systems (RTOS)

A real-time operating system (RTOS) is a kernel of an embedded system with an integrated scheduling algorithm accountable for completing predetermined tasks that allow the embedded system to operate. RTOS provides the ability to prioritize tasks and correctly allocate resources required for timely task execution, ensuring uninterrupted embedded software performance. 

4. Middleware

Middleware is the embedded system component that connects the operating system and applications integrated into this system. This type of software allows the embedded system to execute requests and send results of the completed tasks, creating smooth communication and data management flow. 

5. Embedded Linux

Embedded Linux is a widely used operating system for embedded solution development. It provides an extensive range of tools and components that allow engineers to fully tailor the embedded system to specific requirements. It consists of a Linux kernel, open-source software development tools, and GNU utilities.

Embedded Linux speeds up embedded software development by providing a lot of prepared code to be used in a new embedded system.

Considering the embedded software components we covered, the final solution or your embedded project depends on the specific requirements and business goals you want to achieve.

How to choose the right technologies for an embedded software project

Selecting a suitable set of development tools for your embedded system depends on the project requirements, scope, and specifics. However, you don't have to decide independently, and you can delegate embedded technologies selection to your embedded software development partner. 

Let's examine features that may become decisive in selecting a tech stack for your embedded software project. 

Specific project requirements

To select the tech stack and development tools suitable for your embedded software project, it is crucial to determine the hardware and software specifications that must be met. Based on this information, embedded engineers will be able to outline the project scope, required technologies, and specialists to complete the project from A to Z, including time and cost estimates. 

Assess and compare development tools    

As the project scope is defined, you can decide on the tech expertise you need, considering the project budget and expected deadlines. We recommend you follow the suggestions and project plan that your tech partner prepared for you, as you might lack the embedded programming expertise they have. 

Make a decision and kick-start the development

When the selected tech stack completely fits your requirements, it is time to start the actual embedded system architecture design and development phase. Your embedded software development partner will assign a team of required experts to set up a system architecture, align it with engineering capabilities, and implement it into a functional solution. 

Use cases of embedded software development in different industries

Due to Lemberg Solutions's extensive experience in embedded software development, we prepared a compilation of success stories. We hope it helps you gain insights into embedded software's specifics and use cases in various industries. 

  • Automotive

Embedded development services have many applications in the automotive industry, enabling smart vehicle control, driving safety, vehicle management, and battery management. As an ISO 26262-complaint company, we prioritize functional safety in automotive embedded software development, as it ensures driver safety and vehicle operability. 

To name a few more examples of embedded software system development in the automotive industry, we would like to share our latest case study, in which we took on HMI software development for an electric vehicle charging station by EDS-Development

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  • Healthcare

To get an allowance for your medical software or device to be used for healthcare purposes, it must comply with industry requirements, particularly ISO 13845. Undoubtedly, the necessity of developing complaint healthcare embedded software depends on its type. For instance, if you plan to build a medical device prescribed to patients, it must follow certain regulations, including ISO 13485, HIPAA, GDPR, and DiGa. 

As an ISO 13485-certified company, we will take on the embedded medical software development of different specifics, so feel free to contact experts and share your ideas. By following this link, you can get acquainted with our embedded expertise in healthcare, particularly enclosure and firmware development for the TCC electronic nurse device. This medical solution aims to help physicians track patients' health vitals remotely.

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  • Internet of Things (IoT)

The interconnection of embedded devices with IoT has been a real breakthrough in numerous business industries. The Internet of Things lets you connect all your physical devices into a single ecosystem with remote real-time monitoring, analysis, and management. 

Learn more about the application of IoT in embedded software development from our cooperation with Carepath. Our embedded engineering team assisted the company with developing an IoT telemedicine platform for cough sound recognition, allowing remote patient health monitoring. 

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  • Consumer Electronics

Consumer electronics is rapidly evolving, enabling consumers to make their household appliances smart, automated, visible, and centralized. Integrating your devices with smart sensors, and other tools allows you to monitor their performance remotely, manage their operation, and collect real-time data for further analysis. 

We also invite you to learn more details about how we delivered firmware for ID cards solution by Chrome Roads that applies to multiple industries. 

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  • Energy

Embedded software development plays a significant role in the energy sector, enabling its scale and digital transformation. The demand for smart energy storage and management systems is rising among governmental facilities and private businesses. 

As an example of embedded system usage for energy-based companies, we would like to discuss our collaboration with Voltfang. This German company produces stationary energy storage systems using second-life batteries. They requested IoT device development to collect data for BMS (battery management system) integrated into their energy storage system. Follow the link to learn more insights about the embedded development meaning for the energy sector.

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Trends and innovations in embedded software development

For the past years, the approach to embedded system development has undergone some changes, introducing more innovative technologies and ways of their implementation in embedded solutions of different types and purposes. 

We researched the top trending tech implementations we can implement in embedded systems and how they boost the overall performance and efficiency of systems operations. 

AI implementation

AI found multiple applications in embedded software development to enhance their operation, making them more secure and reliable solutions for businesses. For instance, AI algorithms can be integrated into embedded systems to collect data from device sensors in cameras, thermostats, microphones, etc. Sensors collect real-time environment data from the locations where the devices are placed to extract the required data types for further analysis.

Embedded AI systems can also react and adjust to changes in environmental conditions to learn new data types and store them as expected. AI implementation into embedded systems also helps encrypt collected data and detect any anomalies in the early stage to ensure an embedded solution is secure and protected from data leakage. 

Internet of Things

IoT enables devices with embedded software to create a single ecosystem where each device communicates and exchanges information with one another. Embedded systems have implemented communication protocols that allow remote device management and reliable data collection via IoT interoperability capabilities. 

Despite the diversity among devices and the data types they collect, IoT transforms multiple embedded systems into whole networks with standard communication protocols, data formats, and interoperability rules.

Smart home automation

Embedded software is widely used for multiple purposes, particularly for smart home solutions. These applications are embedded software for smart lighting systems, thermostats, security cameras, door locks, voice assistants, etc.

Embedded software integrates with sensors to ensure full remote control of smart home appliances. For instance, you can control the temperature in your house while you are away, adjust the lighting to your needs, check if the doors are locked, and manage access to your house. Thus, you can completely manage your smart home solutions remotely and ensure your home is safe and sound wherever you are.

Wearable technology

Embedded software is implemented in many wearable devices we use daily, such as fitness trackers, smartwatches, medical monitoring devices, etc. One of the primary purposes of smart wearables is to monitor your health indicators, whether you track them for yourself or share your health vitals with your doctor and hospital. 

To say a few more words about wearable devices in healthcare, they have officially become one of the ways of remote patient health monitoring and sometimes treatment. Medical wearables track blood pressure, body temperature, activity, ECG, blood glucose, and oxygen saturation. In case of any rapid health changes, wearables will alert your doctor immediately, which helps prevent disease deterioration in the early stage.

Summing up

Suppose you have an idea of developing an embedded system software or want to enhance an existing solution with advanced tech capabilities. You should opt for a trusted tech partner like Lemberg Solutions, which is entirely proficient in what embedded software development is and will select a personalized engineering approach and cooperation model. 

Our embedded engineering team of over 120 experts has a strong track record in embedded software development, as proven by our clients. We will take on any of your embedded system ideas and help you outline the core requirements in line with your business goals. Our specialists will also provide project scope, time, cost estimates, and a step-by-step development plan we will implement. 

So feel free to share your embedded software requests with us so we can quickly develop an actionable plan. 

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