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The Technological Advancements in Embedded Systems

15/02/17 Laura Deal - CertRP Senior Consultant, R&D / Engineering

Embedded Systems have developed rapidly since their inception. Today toasters can tweet about their status and fridges can tell you when basic food items need replacing.

With technology advancements in electronics, wireless communication, cognitive computing and robotics it will not be long until every object around us will have a small processor and sensor embedded with itself. These advancements are leading the embedded software industry to predicted growth at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 9% over the period, according to The Global Embedded Software Market Report 2017-2021 by Technavio.  The report highlights the increased adoption of embedded software by the semiconductor and mobile phone industry as one of the key factors.

In the past, manufacturers often relied on hardware-centric models such as the digital signal processor (DSP) and field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) to increase processing efficiencies. But with the rising demand for cutting-edge technical systems, manufacturers are moving towards software-driven industrial embedded systems. This demand also corresponds to the advent of advanced human-machine interfaces, smart sensors, real-time data acquisition, IOT and cloud computing. The increased emphasis on software is a significant factor that will drive the growth prospects for real-time embedded software jobs market in forthcoming years.

Embedded systems are hardware/software systems built into devices that are not necessarily “recognised” as computerised devices, but these systems do control the functionality and perceived quality of these devices. Some examples of embedded systems include: controllers for the ABS of a car; the chip set and software within a set-top box (STB) for a digital TV; a pacemaker; burglar alarms and control systems embedded in process plants (including its sensors, actuators, control algorithms, filters, etc).

The embedded software is frequently designed to run without user intervention, often for years on end. It may also be designed to act like a replacement for electronic hardware, and just be a working component of a non-computer machine.

As a result, the embedded systems industry seems to be headed into a number of key areas:  intelligence, autonomy and ubiquitous computing.

Ubiquitous computing is a branch of computing that focuses on interconnected and communicating devices which are integrated into our daily lives. Smartphones and tablets are obvious targets for these types of applications and a simple implementation of ubiquitous computing is Apple iCloud which integrates seamlessly and maintains unified data among all devices.

Other areas are machine learning and the growing trend of “Robotics of Things.” A new category of computing architectures called neuromorphic processors, or brain-inspired computing, will become mainstream.

New languages and embedded development tools such as compilers will be required for efficient development. These systems will be complemented by highly tuned algorithms at the fog and edge nodes which will dramatically improve voice and image recognition, with low latency for real-time robotic applications.

Sensor technology and image processing will continue to advance. Machine vision and image processing, fed by inputs from biometric scanning, radar, and various sensors, combined with machine learning, will drive robotic advancement.

Robots will be ubiquitous—and autonomous transportation and drones will transform the industry and society with huge economic impact and ultimately creating new embedded software jobs.

Ultimately, the evolution of today’s systems into highly intelligent and autonomous systems will have a huge positive impact on the global economy, and more importantly to the health, safety, and quality of our lives.

Laura Deal, Engineering/R&D Consultant at Redline Group comments “The number of ‘intelligent’ devices continues to multiply rapidly, embedded systems are going to be everywhere – on every floor, wall, coffee mug, car, home, public transport and aeroplane. We’re looking at numerous applications and all of those devices are "embedded systems" (a device with a processor in it which is not considered a ‘traditional’ computer).  All those devices run on software code, therefore needing software engineers skilled in the technologies of embedded real-time systems to create that software code.  As the number of different intelligent devices in the world grows, so does the need for embedded software engineers. This simple analogy directly represents why Redline’s Engineering & Technology division continues to grow and the number of vacancies both in embedded C software development and embedded C++ jobs become more apparent with the war for talent requiring Redline to develop knowledge-led strategies to assist our clients’ growth in this key technology sector.