With a digital environment ruling the world and Internet of Things (IoT) controlling people’s lives, software development to organize and run various applications have become very important. To understand more on embedded software development it is important to take an overall look at the different purposes for which software can be put to use.
The first is system software which is used to run various applications in the programming stage itself. It has to be developed separately. The next is custom software which is unique to the needs of specific businesses and clients. It is also developed for personal use, say when a scientist has it customised to automate repetitive or mundane tasks. Finally there is embedded software which is unique in its applications. It is used to run and control particular devices and software developers have to work in close conjunction with the makers itself. This type of software ensures that the operational aspects of the product work well for the purpose it is intended for by the manufacturer.
In a nutshell then, embedded software development is written to control devices that are not deemed to be computers and is specialised for particular equipment. Embedded software is often termed as firmware though the latter is also applied in general to ROM based code on a computer. Embedded software on the other hand is used exclusively for a specific device only. One of the characteristics of embedded software is that none or not all features need be controlled through a human interface but through machine based interfaces only.
An example will prove this point and help to make thing clearer. Take the case of a tattoo removal machine that is one the latest state of the art innovations in the field of beauty care today. It is very precise in its operations and is based on laser and IPL technologies. Beams of lasers vibrating at nanoseconds are targeted at the tattoo. These enter the surface of the skin and breaks up the ink into tiny particles which are absorbed by the body’s natural processes. After a few sessions of with IPL laser machines treatments the tattoo fades away. The device is controlled by embedded software that regulates the total operations of the machine and apart from adjusting the handset that transmits the lasers, human intervention is not required at all.
Embedded software development ranges from the simple ones to those that run complex systems. “Built-in” embedded software is used in electronics by manufacturers in telephones, appliances, toys, security systems and cars. Some of the applications for everyday use are TVs, digital watches and pacemakers. Even lighting controls that use an 8-bit microcontroller with a few kb memory use embedded software. On the other hand, advanced and sophisticated embedded software is used to operate airplanes, missiles and robots.
All this show that embedded software is less visible than application software but no less important. Hardware requirements for running this software are fixed and addition of third party software is highly controlled. Further, the software is included in the device during the manufacturing process and is created for particular chips only.
All that one has to do to see embedded software at work is to look at the various devices used in everyday life.