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Smarts For Systems Around Us

Embedded System: Smarts For Devices and Systems

What is an embedded system?

Embedded systems are stand alone computing devices or centers usually dedicated to performing limited computing functions reliably, securely and with minimum upkeep costs.   


Where can I find embedded systems?

You find embedded systems or embedded computer systems all around us.  Some are low cost and mass produced such as DVD player and learning remote controls. 


Some are high cost used in highly specialized equipment or instrument: medical instrument-ultrasound machine, aerospace-communication satellite, factory automation-industrial boilers. 


Yet others are used in everyday devices which we want to work reliably such as traffic lights, fare collection system, airport security scanner, retail register, black box for airplanes and other transportation.


Additionally, mission critical systems like the air traffic control radars, safety systems for trains, mine hazardous gas monitoring, and vital medical monitoring equipment.


What are top 7 reasons one would choose an embedded system over a PC?

  1. Energy Efficiency (draw minimum power for the purpose)
  2. Custom voltage/power requirements (VDC: 12, 14, 24, 72..)
  3. Security (hacker proof)
  4. Reliability (work without failure for years)
  5. Environment (broad temperature range, sealed from chemicals, radiation)
  6. Efficient Interaction with user (fewer buttons, touch)
  7. Integrate with design


What are some common customization offerings for embedded systems?

·         Hermetically sealed for biological or clean room applications

·         Tough and rough: can be dropped from 5 feet, can withstand pressure

·         Withstand -40 C to 85 C

·         Efficient power supply capable of running on AC, or 12, 14, 24, 72, 120 VDC

·         Custom user interface: touch screen,


What are some features expected in future embedded systems?

  • Energy harvesting or energy scavenging as replacement for power system.
  • Smaller footprint to allow coupling to the device itself. 
  • Fault detection/self correcting algorithms along with backup processors are expected to become common in future.


Do all embedded systems use custom hardware?

No.  Many sue standard processors: Intel or AMD processors.  They support standard DDR or solid state memory.  They typically use standard Ethernet or wireless controllers