An embedded system can be defined as a computing device that does a specific focused job. Appliances such as the air-conditioner, VCD player, DVD player, printer, fax machine, mobile phone etc. are examples of embedded systems. Each of these appliances will have a processor and special hardware to meet the specific requirement of the application along with the embedded software that is executed by the processor for meeting that specific requirement. The embedded software is also called “firm ware”. The desktop/laptop computer is a general purpose computer. You can use it for a variety of applications such as playing games, word processing, accounting, software development and so on.
In contrast, the software in the embedded systems is always fixed listed below: • Embedded systems do a very specific task, they cannot be programmed to do different things. Embedded systems have very limited resources, particularly the memory. Generally, they do not have secondary storage devices such as the CDROM or the floppy disk. Embedded systems have to work against some deadlines.
A specific job has to be completed within a specific time. In some embedded systems, called real-time systems, the deadlines are stringent. Missing a deadline may cause a catastrophe-loss of life or damage to property. Embedded systems are constrained for power. As many embedded systems operate through a battery, the power consumption has to be very low. • Some embedded systems have to operate in extreme environmental conditions such as very high temperatures and humidity.
Application Areas Nearly 99 per cent of the processors manufactured end up in embedded systems. The embedded system market is one of the highest growth areas as these systems are used in very market segment- consumer electronics, office automation, industrial automation, biomedical engineering, wireless communication, data communication, telecommunications, transportation, military and so on.
Consumer appliances: At home we use a number of embedded systems which include digital camera, digital diary, DVD player, electronic toys, microwave oven, remote controls for TV and air-conditioner, VCO player, video game consoles, video recorders etc. Today’s high-tech car has about 20 embedded systems for transmission control, engine spark control, air-conditioning, navigation etc. Even wristwatches are now becoming embedded systems. The palmtops are powerful embedded systems using which we can carry out many general-purpose tasks such as playing games and word processing.
Office automation: The office automation products using em embedded systems are copying machine, fax machine, key telephone, modem, printer, scanner etc.
Industrial automation: Today a lot of industries use embedded systems for process control. These include pharmaceutical, cement, sugar, oil exploration, nuclear energy, electricity generation and transmission. The embedded systems for industrial use are designed to carry out specific tasks such as monitoring the temperature, pressure, humidity, voltage, current etc., and then take appropriate action based on the monitored levels to control other devices or to send information to a centralized monitoring station. In hazardous industrial environment, where human presence has to be avoided, robots are used, which are programmed to do specific jobs. The robots are now becoming very powerful and carry out many interesting and complicated tasks such as hardware assembly.
. Telecommunications: In the field of telecommunications, the embedded systems can be categorized as subscriber terminals and network equipment. The subscriber terminals such as key telephones, ISDN phones, terminal adapters, web cameras are embedded systems. The network equipment includes multiplexers, multiple access systems, Packet Assemblers Dissemblers (PADs), sate11ite modems etc. IP phone, IP gateway, IP gatekeeper etc. are the latest embedded systems that provide very low-cost voice communication over the Internet.
Wireless technologies: Advances in mobile communications are paving way for many interesting applications using embedded systems. The mobile phone is one of the marvels of the last decade of the 20’h century. It is a very powerful embedded system that provides voice communication while we are on the move. The Personal Digital Assistants and the palmtops can now be used to access multimedia services over the Internet. Mobile communication infrastructure such as base station. controllers, mobile switching centers are also powerful embedded systems Security: Security of persons and information has always been a major issue. We need to protect our homes and offices; and also the information we transmit and store. Developing embedded systems for security applications is one of the most lucrative businesses nowadays. Security devices at homes, offices, airports etc. for authentication and verification are embedded systems. Encryption devices are nearly 99 per cent of the processors that are manufactured end up in~ embedded systems. Embedded systems find applications in . every industrial segment- consumer electronics, transportation, avionics, biomedical engineering, manufacturing, process control and industrial automation, data communication, telecommunication, defense, security etc. Used to encrypt the data/voice being transmitted on communication links such as telephone lines. Biometric systems using fingerprint and face recognition are now being extensively used for user authentication in banking applications as well as for access control in high security buildings.
Overview of Embedded System Architecture Every embedded system consists of custom-built hardware built around a Central Processing Unit (CPU). This hardware also contains memory chips onto which the software is loaded. The software residing on the memory chip is also called the ‘firmware’. The embedded system architecture can be represented as a layered architecture as shown in Fig. The operating system runs above the hardware, and the application software runs above the operating system. The same architecture is applicable to any computer including a desktop computer. However, there are significant differences. It is not compulsory to have an operating system in every embedded system.
For small appliances such as remote control units, air conditioners, toys etc., there is no need for an operating system and you can write only the software specific to that application. For applications involving complex processing, it is advisable to have an operating system. In such a case, you need to integrate the application software with the operating system and then transfer the entire software on to the memory chip. Once the software is transferred to the memory chip, the software will continue to run for a long time you don’t need to reload new software. Now, let us see the details of the various building blocks of the hardware of an embedded system. As shown in Fig. the building blocks are; • Central Processing Unit.