Embedded firmware or software represents a piece of software that runs in non-PC devices or hardware. The software can only work on specific hardware, and it has memory and processing constraints due to the hardware’s limited computing abilities. These programs get to work on specific hardware due to embedded software development. Some common examples of embedded firmware will include:
• Factory robots
• GPS devices
Embedded firmware can be very simple. A good example included controlling lights in homes. The hardware needed to achieve this only requires a few kilobytes of memory. You will only invest in this and it will be able to serve you for all the components that you have connected with it. However, it can also be complex to ensure that the firmware runs on all components like in a modern smart car. In such a scenario, the hardware must ensure that the automatic cruise control, climate control, control navigations, and collision sensing work as intended.
Complex embedded firmware applications are also present in modern-day aircraft. That’s through the aircraft avionics systems. The applications provide complex fly by wire systems that function in missile guidance systems and fighter planes. When using embedded firmware, the software only gets to work on a specific device. This means that it is the OS, but it always has restrictions depending on the device’s specifications. Therefore when you want such an application you have to get a compatible device to avoid extra expenses. Since the software works on a specific device, any additions and updates are strictly controlled.
Nowadays, you will find that almost all devices with computer chips and circuit boards run embedded firmware. All these components alight into a system that ensures that all the components work together. Therefore, most embedded firmware systems are present in everyday life. These systems are available or present in:
• Military technology
• Medial fields
• Consumer market
• Industrial space
Other common examples of embedded software-based applications include:
• Automation and timing systems
• Traffic control systems
• Motion detection systems
• Fly by wire control systems
• Image processing systems
The different types of embedded firmware/software include:
• Embedded networking software
• Embedded RTOS software
• Embedded Linux software
• Embedded bare-metal software
These are real-time systems that act depending on the event. The main characteristic of these systems is that they only react to events within a specified timeline. A good example is a computer keyboard. The device always reacts depending on what you type and displays it on your screen. If there is a delay, your typing experience is ruined. Therefore, the device has a constraint of a few milliseconds that aren’t perceivable to the human eye. Therefore you have to have learnt a few things about it to make sure everything goes well with the software that you have taken.
Embedded RTOS software has two types, soft and hard real-time systems. Soft real-time systems include something like a computer keyboard. They have a deadline, but it isn’t firm like the hard real-time systems. Therefore, even if the keyboard delays by a few seconds, you will still type because it will display the letters you click on. On the other hand, hard real-time systems have a hard deadline. These systems are crucial to the functioning of a device. A good example being the collision avoidance system.
Linux is a famous option for most embedded engineers. That’s due to its open-source nature, thus offering a customizable kernel. The Linux system enables engineers to make custom operating systems that will satiate their needs. Furthermore, it enables the engineers to keep the necessary parts and retain the small size of the software. With Linux, engineering services are easier, and they enable engineers to provide support as per the device’s functionality.
A few examples of embedded Linux devices include:
• Jetson devices
• Beagle Bone
• Raspberry Pi
Using embedded Linux software enables the engineers or developers to cut on time and costs. That’s because they won’t end up building an embedded operating system from scratch.