If the device needs to be very small or will be sold in very big numbers (“high-volume”), it makes sense to make a custom or specialized chip that does exactly what is needed. This is a system on a chip (SoC) which holds a complete system – processor, floating point unit, memory cache and interfaces on a single integrated circuit. SoCs can be made as a special-order application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) or by using a field-programmable gate array (FPGA) which is programmed by the people building the embedded system.

embedded system definition

The interface between Java and Matlab also makes it possible to implement functional algorithms such as signal processing and sensor fusion in Matlab, while leaving their execution control in Java. A three-tier distributed architecture is designed through Java registrar and RMI interfaces, so that the execution in Java and Matlab can be separately interrupted and debugged. An embedded system is a combination of computer hardware and software designed for a specific function.

On Testing Embedded Software

Various electric motors — brushless DC motors, induction motors and DC motors — use electronic motor controllers. Automobiles, electric vehicles, and hybrid vehicles increasingly use embedded systems to maximize efficiency and reduce pollution. Other automotive safety systems using embedded systems include anti-lock braking system (ABS), electronic stability control (ESC/ESP), traction control (TCS) and automatic four-wheel drive. One of the first recognizably modern embedded systems was the Apollo Guidance Computer,[citation needed] developed ca. At the project’s inception, the Apollo guidance computer was considered the riskiest item in the Apollo project as it employed the then newly developed monolithic integrated circuits to reduce the computer’s size and weight.

We need an approach somewhere in between that of Esterel and that of today’s real-time operating systems, with the safety and predictability of Esterel and the adaptability of a real-time operating system. Although the traditional definition of an embedded system focuses on its real-time aspects, not all embedded systems have real-time requirements. With the widespread adoption of microcontrollers in everyday items such as TV remote controls, wireless car keys, and toys, a new class of embedded systems has emerged. These systems do not have the same strict real-time requirements as the traditional embedded control systems, but are built using the same type of hardware. Many of these systems use RTOS similar to the real-time systems because this is the kind of software technology widely available for the class of hardware used.


Embedded systems are typically produced on broad scales and share functionalities across a variety of environments and applications. An embedded OS enables an embedded device to do its job within a larger system. It communicates with the hardware of the embedded system to perform a specific function.

  • The hardware that runs an embedded operating system is usually quite resource-constrained.
  • Sometimes it may be easier to use a circuit board that is already made.
  • This is much like your car which can automatically adjust its speed based on real-time traffic conditions.
  • This is because such methods often employ an abstract model of the system under test to generate failure-revealing test cases.
  • To put the existing works in perspective, we classify them in three distinct categories, based on the level of system abstraction used for testing.
  • They are built to perform strictly in the given time range, making them ideal for real-time application performance.

This is essentially making it possible to debug the performance of the software as if it were running on an actual physical chip. Very large-scale integration, or VLSI, is a term that describes the complexity of an integrated circuit (IC). ULSI, or ultra-large-scale integration, refers to placing millions of transistors on a chip. In this design, the software simply has a loop which monitors the input devices. The loop calls subroutines, each of which manages a part of the hardware or software.

Example of Embedded Systems

This system operates independently and shows data on the attached device without needing a host system like a computer. Both digital and analog inputs are accepted by them, and the output is produced to operate. This article embedded system definition will give you a thorough detail on what is embedded system is, starting from microcontrollers to their complex applications. Depending on what kind of embedded system is being made will affect how it can be debugged.

An embedded system contains a microprocessor or microcontroller that is typically designed to perform computation for real-time operations. Hence, other components (for example, memories, communication interfaces) need to be integrated and work with the microprocessor as a whole system. In contrast, a microcontroller is a self-contained system, which includes a CPU, memories (e.g., RAM, flash memory), and peripherals (e.g., serial communication ports). Given the increasing complexity of the software running on embedded systems, it is increasingly likely that the SOC has a significantly more capable protection mechanism known as a memory management unit (MMU). The MMU provides protection and a fine-grained address translation capability between the processor’s address space and the physical addresses used throughout the system. The processor address space is known as the linear address space on Intel processors and is often referred to as virtual address space by other architectures.

Medical Equipment

An early microprocessor, the Intel 4004 (released in 1971), was designed for calculators and other small systems but still required external memory and support chips. By the early 1980s, memory, input and output system components had been integrated into the same chip as the processor forming a microcontroller. Microcontrollers find applications where a general-purpose computer would be too costly. As the cost of microprocessors and microcontrollers fell, the prevalence of embedded systems increased. As its name suggests, an embedded system is a microprocessor- or microcontroller-based system, which is designed for a specific function and embedded into a larger mechanical or electrical system.

It is why we see the more innovative and lesser size, weight, power, and cost consuming systems every time in the embedded computer system market. A system is an arrangement in which all its unit assemble work together according to a set of rules. So we can say, in a system, all its subcomponents depend on each other. Learn how NOR flash memory works well as an embedded device in automotive, medical and consumer devices. An Embedded System is a system that has software embedded into computer-hardware, which makes a system dedicated for a variety of application or specific part of an application or product or part of a larger system. Or simply we can say something which is integrated or attached to another thing.

Learn more about embedded systems with Coursera

The embedded OS makes the device’s hardware — such as USB and HDMI ports — accessible to the application running on top of the OS. Often, the computer is relatively invisible to the user, without obvious applications, files, or operating systems. Examples of products with invisible embedded systems are the controller that runs a microwave oven or the engine control system of a modern automobile. While some embedded systems can be relatively simple, they are becoming more complex, and more and more of them are now able to either supplant human decision-making or offer capabilities beyond what a human could provide.

embedded system definition

A microkernel allocates memory and switches the CPU to different threads of execution. User-mode processes implement major functions such as file systems, network interfaces, etc. This architecture is used if event handlers need low latency, and the event handlers are short and simple.

Features of Embedded Systems

For instance, some aviation systems, including those used in drones, are able to integrate sensor data and act upon that information faster than a human could, permitting new kinds of operating features. In 1965, Autonetics, now a part of Boeing, developed the D-17B, the computer used in the Minuteman I missile guidance system. When the Minuteman II went into production in 1966, the D-17B was replaced with the NS-17 missile guidance system, known for its high-volume use of integrated circuits. In 1968, the first embedded system for a vehicle was released; the Volkswagen 1600 used a microprocessor to control its electronic fuel injection system. In this type of system, a low-level piece of code switches between tasks or threads based on a timer invoking an interrupt. This is the level at which the system is generally considered to have an operating system kernel.