Embedded Systems – Meaning, Components, Characteristics, Types And 10 Examples Of Embedded Systems


Understanding Embedded Systems 

Embedded systems are discreet components that operate within a larger system, often going unnoticed by users. They are present in various everyday technologies, ranging from basic household appliances to advanced automotive systems. However, the computer consists of various other components that work together to enable its functionality.

It is common for people to confuse examples of embedded systems with examples of embedded computers. This is the main point I wish to clarify.

Embedded systems are compact, energy-efficient computer systems integrated into mechanical or electrical systems. They are purpose-built to carry out specific functions and can operate independently or as part of larger systems. These systems have essential components such as a processor, power supply, memory, and communication ports.

An embedded system is a specialized system that utilizes microcontrollers or microprocessors to execute designated tasks.

An embedded system consists of several essential components:

  • Hardware: This refers to the physical components of the system, such as the processor, memory, and communication interfaces.
  • Application Software: The embedded system is equipped with tailor-made software to perform its intended function.
  • Real-Time Operating System (RTOS): The RTOS manages the application software. It ensures efficient scheduling and control to minimize delays and provides guidelines for executing the application program. It’s worth mentioning that not all embedded systems require an RTOS, especially in smaller-scale implementations.

Types Of Embedded Systems

1. Real-Time Embedded Systems

Embedded software of this kind must deliver prompt outputs within predetermined time constraints. Hence, it is widely employed in industries that require time-critical operations, such as transportation, manufacturing, and healthcare, where precise functionality is vital for seamless business processes.

Real-time embedded systems can be categorized as either soft or hard. Soft refers to systems where strict adherence to time constraints is not obligatory. On the other hand, in the context of hard real-time embedded systems, adhering strictly to the specified time frame is imperative. Failure to meet the deadline may render the outcome unacceptable.

2. Network Embedded Systems

This category of embedded systems depends on wired or wireless networks to produce outputs. Typically, these platforms are constructed using general-purpose processors and comprise various elements, including sensors, controllers, and similar components.

3. Standalone Embedded Systems

Standalone embedded systems have a specific function or purpose like any other embedded system. However, unlike other embedded systems, they do not need to be integrated into a host system.

As the name implies, these types of embedded software can operate independently without relying on a computer or processor as a host. They receive input data in digital or analogue form and generate a corresponding output, which can be displayed through a connected device. A camera is an example of a standalone embedded system.

4. Mobile Embedded Systems

Mobile embedded systems are characterized by their portability and ability to transport easily. They are commonly found in various types of mobile devices. However, due to their nature, they often have limitations regarding memory capacity.

 The framework of an embedded system 

The Framework of an Embedded System 

Functions Of the embedded system Framework

  1. The sensor is responsible for detecting and measuring a physical quantity and then converting it into an electrical signal that can be interpreted by an observer or an electronic device, such as an A2D converter. It can also store the measured quantity in memory for future reference.
  2. The A-D converter is a device that transforms the analogue signal received from the sensor into a digital signal.
  3. The Processors and ASICs are responsible for handling the data, analyzing it to determine the output, and storing it in the memory.
  4. The digital-to-analogue converter (DAC) is used to transform the digital information provided by the processor into analogue data.
  5. The actuator is responsible for comparing the output produced by the digital-to-analogue converter (DAC) to the desired output stored within it and saving the approved output.

Characteristics Of An Embedded System

  • Real-Time Operation

Embedded systems often need to respond promptly to modifications in their surroundings and perform computations in real-time without delay. This implies that the software instructs the hardware to function within specific time constraints.

  • Typically, an embedded system carries out a specific task and repeats it consistently.
  • Embedded systems possess advanced capabilities and features

Embedded systems are crafted with distinct characteristics, some sharing similar functionalities and others offering unique capabilities.

  • Tightly constrained

Every computing system has limitations on design metrics, but those on an embedded system can be particularly stringent. Design metrics evaluate an implementation’s attributes, such as cost, size, power consumption, and performance.

  • Microprocessors-based

The system must rely on a microprocessor or microcontroller as its foundation.

  • Affordable production expenses

An embedded system incurs lower manufacturing expenses than a general computing system due to its specific application focus.

  • Energy-efficient

Embedded systems are generally compact and can operate on minimal power.

  • Minimal User Interface

The system’s user interface is limited due to its compact size, resulting in a lack of comprehensive UI options.

  • Memory

An embedded system typically includes a memory component; its software is stored in read-only memory (ROM). However, it does not require additional secondary storage options within the computer.

Examples Of Embedded Systems

  1. Fire Alarms
  2. Digital Watches
  3. Transmission Control
  4. Television
  5. Printers
  6. Cell Phones
  7. Cameras
  8. Gps System
  9. Refrigerators
  10. Routers


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