We live in a technological era. Our daily lives depend on smartphones, the Internet, computers, automobiles, and more; all industries also rely on machines and technology to function.
Embedded systems are computing designed to perform specific tasks, mainly integrated into larger systems to make all systems and devices more efficient, reliable, and user-friendly. The rapid development of technology has led to an increase in programs, and devices that rely on embedded systems, for example, the Internet of Things (IoT), industrial and medical equipment, autonomous vehicles, aerospace technology, and user electronics, like home appliances or personal gadgets, such as tablets.
Embedded systems play a crucial role in modern technology and society; as technology keeps evolving, it enables the development of more advanced and interconnected devices and systems. Consequently, their use will continue growing to preserve as an essential part of our daily lives in the future.
Let's talk more about what exactly is an embedded system, how it works, etc.
An embedded system consists of a combination of computer software and hardware with fixed or programmable capabilities. Compared to general-purpose computers, which are built to handle a wide range of applications, embedded systems are designed to perform a specific function or set of tasks and to integrate into larger systems. For example, an embedded system can be integrated into a medical device to monitor vital signs and provide real-time feedback, or it can work independently and with a single task, like a smoke detector.
With the development of the Internet of Things (IoT), embedded systems are becoming more connected and innovative, leading to the creation of advanced embedded applications for all industries and even the creation of smart cities and smart homes. For example:
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and X-ray machines use embedded computing to control the imaging process to provide precision and reliability. Or the infusion pumps that use them to deliver drugs, fluids, and nutrients to patients. Even implantable devices like pacemakers and defibrillators rely on embedded systems to supply therapy to a patient's body.
Embedded computing is widely used in industrial applications for process optimization and efficiency. Like Distributed Control Systems (DCS) that control and monitor large amounts of equipment and processes, or Predictive Maintenance that monitors machine health and potential failures to keep equipment running. Or Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) designed for real-time control of multiple processes and systems.
As reliability and safety are critical in these sectors, they are used in flight control systems to control the flight of an aircraft and monitor altitude, speed, and direction; or in surveillance and reconnaissance systems (such as radars, sonars, etc.) to provide real-time situational awareness and generate alarms and warnings.
Such as smart home security systems, which use embedded systems to monitor homes and alert homeowners of potential security breaches, or smart appliances (such as refrigerators, washing machines, ovens, etc.), which use them to monitor usage patterns and adjust energy efficiency. Or to provide enhanced functionality and connectivity to consumer electronics, such as smartphones, tablets, video game consoles, smart watches, etc.
Smart traffic management systems use embedded sensors to monitor traffic flow and optimize traffic signals in real time. Intelligent waste management systems use them to monitor the level of waste bins and to optimize collection routes, or embedded lighting systems use them to adjust lighting levels based on ambient light and pedestrian traffic.
As we have seen, embedded systems are used in nearly any technological device nowadays. Providing great benefits for industries, organizations, and end-consumers, like the following:
For industries and organizations:
Likewise, there are aspects to take into consideration; some of nowadays challenges are:
These challenges mainly concern technology companies, but technologies continue to evolve, so there is a positive attitude toward developing better solutions and more innovative technologies that improve the capabilities and quality of embedded systems.
To talk about the origins of embedded systems, we must go back to the early 1960s when the 'Apollo Guidance System' was developed. NASA was designing a method to provide reliable guidance for the Apollo spacecraft crew for the journey to the moon and back. At that same time, the microprocessor was invented, which is an integrated circuit chip developed by a company called Fairchild Semiconductor.
The Apollo Guidance System needed to be small enough to fit into the spacecraft and powerful enough to perform the complex calculations required for the mission and, at that time, computers were so large, complex, and expensive that NASA turned to this company to implement their microprocessor into the AGS because it is a computer in mini size. The microprocessor was faster, smaller, and more reliable than the vacuum tube-based computers used then.
The MIT Instrumentation Laboratory was also involved in the development of the AGS, led by Charles Stark Draper (called the father of inertial navigation). Under Eldon Hall's direction, the engineering team was responsible for designing the overall guidance system; they worked on developing the algorithms and software that allowed the AGC to navigate the spacecraft. In 1968, after collaborating with NASA, Fairchild Semiconductor introduced the first commercial microprocessor: the Fairchild 3708, which was not used in the Apollo guidance system, but the development of this technology paved the way for the use of microprocessors in future space missions. Then, in 1971 introduced its first commercially successful microprocessor: the Intel 4044, used in small applications, including calculators, digital watches, and early personal computers.
In the 1980s, the microcontroller was created by integrating the input and output system components on the same processor chip, enabling the development of embedded systems with real-time operating systems. This made it possible to design more sophisticated embedded systems, such as those used in automobiles, medical devices, and industrial equipment. Later, microcontrollers found applications where a general-purpose computer would be too expensive, and as microprocessors and microcontrollers became more affordable, the prevalence of embedded systems increased.
As for the 1990s, the Internet and the increase in personal computers helped create more complex and connected embedded systems. The Advances in microcontrollers, communication protocols, and networking technology allowed embedded systems to connect to the Internet, and other devices, leading to the development of applications for home automation and consumer electronics.
Then, starting in the 2000s, the rise of the Internet and the development of wireless communication technologies led to the development of the Internet of Things (IoT), which significantly impacted the evolution of embedded systems. The connection of embedded systems to the Internet opened up new opportunities for advanced technologies for innovative products and services, such as data collection and analysis, communication, medical monitoring systems, the development of smart devices, etc.
The growth of wireless technologies and the development of the Internet of Things (IoT) enabled the development of even more advanced and interconnected embedded systems. With the emergence of communication technologies such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and cellular networks, embedded systems have become more advanced in connectivity, enabling real-time monitoring and control of remote devices, leading to the rise of IoT; hence, embedded systems are interconnected with each other, as well as with storage-server services.
As we mentioned earlier, an embedded system is a computer system designed to perform specific tasks and to be integrated into a larger device or system. The infrastructure typically consists of three main components:
The embedded systems processor is based on microprocessors and microcontrollers (which we now know are like a "mini-computer on a chip"). It runs the software designed for the specific task. It is known as the brain of the system.
The hardware is the input/output (I/O) devices connected to the embedded system from the outside, interacting with the environment, like sensors, actuators, and communication interfaces.
The software regularly consists of two types of memory: ROM (Read-Only Memory), which stores the software executing the system, and RAM (Random Access Memory), which is the memory that stores the system's data.
When the embedded system gets powered on, the processor loads the software from ROM into RAM; then, the software starts running; the I/O devices interact with the environment to perform the designed task.
Other components in embedded systems are advanced technologies. They are used to enhance their capabilities to create more innovative embedded solutions, improve their performance and efficiency, and also reduce costs. Some of the most important advanced technologies used in embedded systems include:
These technologies allow embedded systems to learn from data and make decisions without human intervention. It can be used for embedded solutions like predictive maintenance, image recognition, or speech processing.
The IoT sensors enable the connection of devices to the Internet and other devices, enabling the embedded systems to communicate with each other and share data. This technology is used in several applications, such as industrial automation, smart homes, and smart cities.
The fifth generation of mobile network technology provides high-speed and low-latency connectivity to embedded systems for processing large amounts of data fast and efficiently.
This technology enables embedded systems to process data at the network's edge, reducing latency and improving performance. It is used for real-time monitoring and management.
Advanced security technologies for encryption, intrusion detection, and authentication, such as blockchain, are necessary to protect embedded systems from cyberattacks and other possible threats.
Some new trends expected soon include the increasing use of AI and ML to enable more advanced and autonomous embedded systems; the continued growth of IoT focused on improving security and privacy; the widespread adoption of 5G, and the enablement of new embedded applications for augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR); the growth of edge computing to improve real-time procedures; and an increasing priority on cybersecurity to address current and future threats.
As more and more devices become connected and "smart," embedded systems will continue to be essential to enabling these technologies and ensuring their reliability and performance. Internet of Everything Corporation designed Eden System to simplify developing and managing complex embedded systems and devices, including industrial automation, automotive, medical, and smart cities.
It is a decentralized, secure, autonomous, and virtual infrastructure that enables deploying multiple IoT-embedded applications to improve security, management, and overall efficiency. Its powerful processor, advanced technologies, and features allow it to handle complex embedded applications easily. Eden system's flexibility, scalability, and advanced characteristics make it suitable for a wide range of embedded solutions and processes.
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