Table of Contents
Technological advancement and the digitisation of the modern world have brought about an unprecedented demand for embedded electronics systems.
According to studies, the global embedded system market is projected to grow from US$84.23 billion in 2019 to US$116.2 billion by 2025 and more than US$130 billion by 2027.
What is driving strong global demand is the insatiable appetite for higher levels of accuracy, speed, reliability, and automation.
What Are Embedded Systems?
Embedded systems, sometimes known as integrated systems or embedded electronic devices, are essential parts of the modern, digitised world and play a critical role in various business sectors.
Large scale industries such as those dealing in telematics or electronics manufacturing have adopted the use of embedded systems to improve productivity and to manufacture more intelligent products.
Essentially, embedded systems are grouped according to performance, functional requirements, and micro-controller performance, but they can be further classified into four categories:
Real-time Embedded Systems - These are designed to perform specific tasks within a predefined time frame. Some examples of embedded systems are “mission critical” applications such as aircraft controls, anti-lock braking systems, and programmable logic controllers.
Standalone Embedded Systems - This system does not require a host computer to function because it is capable of producing outputs independently.
Some examples of standalone embedded systems include video game consoles, digital cameras, digital watches, and household appliances.
Networked Embedded Systems - Such systems are connected to a wired or wireless network to perform specific tasks and communicate with web servers for output to connected devices.
Automated teller machines (ATMs) and Point-of-sale (POS) systems are common examples of such embedded systems.
Mobile Embedded Systems - Smartphones and smartwatches are the most common gadgets that use mobile embedded systems, as such systems are small and easy to use.
Mobile embedded systems are similar to standalone embedded systems.
Although all mobile embedded systems are standalone, not all standalone embedded systems are mobile embedded systems.
What does the Embedded System Comprise of?
An embedded system is an electronics system with a computer processor, computer memory, and peripheral input/output devices to perform specific functions within a larger electronics system.
In short, they are small computers embedded in larger mechanical or electrical systems.
Made up of both hardware and software, embedded systems may have a fixed function or are programmable to accommodate more complex applications to complement the various types of control and automation systems.
Depending on the intricacy of the tasks, embedded systems can have a single micro-controller or a whole suite of processors and connections to external devices.
To further explain how fixed function and programmable embedded systems differ, let’s use home appliances like refrigerators and washing machines as an example.
These embedded electronic devices are set to perform a predetermined single job.
As such, they are self-contained devices that run with no more than a simple microprocessor with the assistance of an operating system.
On the other hand, machinery such as automobiles are a lot more complex.
A modern-day car will require embedded systems for cruise control, airbag deployment, telematics, emissions control, air-conditioning climate control, parking guidance, navigation, in-vehicle entertainment, and more.
Because there are so many moving parts and functions within a car, a single fixed-function embedded system is inadequate. In fact, it’s common to find as many as 100 electronics components embedded in a modern-day vehicle.
Due to limitation of space, instead of using full-sized computers, these embedded systems usually incorporate Single Board Computers (SBCs); functioning computers with a microprocessor, input/output functions, memory, and other necessary features built on a single circuit board.
The use of SBCs not only reduces the overall manufacturing cost, it also reduces the number of circuit boards required.
This would also mean that, by using SBCs, manufacturers are able to contain a wide array of car functions within a smaller system.
To truly understand what an embedded system is made up of, here is a list of the hardware and software components that are necessary to develop an effective system:
Assembler - Tool for translating computer instructions written in assembly language into a pattern of bits which is used by the computer processor for performing its basic operations.
Emulator - A software tool to execute the functions of the host system.
Also used to control all components, locate bugs, and for debugging code and transferring the code from the host system to a target system.
Compiler - A software used to convert programming languages into languages that the target machine can understand to execute the required functions.
Power supply – This is important for powering up the embedded system.
The system usually requires a 5V supply or a range from 1.8 to 3.3V.
The power source can be the use of batteries or via a wall adapter.
Processor – This is like the brain of the system and acts as a microcontroller and microprocessor.
The processor can range from 8-bit, 16-bit, or 32-bit.
Memory - There are basically two types of memory - RAM (Random Access Memory) and ROM (Read-Only Memory). RAM refers to volatile types of memory data that can be temporarily stored, while ROM is used for storing computer programs.
Timers and Counters - Some applications require them to cause necessary delays in the system. By using the crystal oscillator and system frequency, the delay time span can be determined as per user requirement.
Communication ports – There are multiple types of communication ports such as UART, USB, Ethernet, and RS-485 that embedded systems use for external communication.
Output and Input - Embedded systems need input and output ports to interact with the external systems.
The Output and Input subsystems include sensors and actuators, the conversion of signals between the analogue and digital realm, and delivery to and from the controlling function.
Circuits used in application – Depending on the purpose of the system, the appropriate circuits will be applied.
For example, weight sensors are required in weight-specific applications.
Highly Customisable Embedded Systems Will Drive Innovation
One key reason for the growing demand for embedded systems is the ease of customisation and the flexibility to create new applications to suit different industries.
Here at PCI, we have identified several updates to embedded system design that are necessary to sustain growth and boost innovation:
Use of multi-core processor platforms – Due to new processes and power conservation technologies, the use of multi-core processors is gaining traction.
These platforms also enhance processor design by increasing clock speed, lowering power consumption, and integrating graphic performance.
Address security problems – The rise in connectivity also brought along security issues. Embedded systems with components (processor, operating system, applications) that are imbued with security features are more likely to experience accelerated demand.
Meet the demand for video processing – As embedded electronic devices are now equipped with higher processing power; consumers are demanding better video processing and enhanced visuals.
Embedded systems with increased capabilities to enhance video data transfer and social sharing will capture an even larger market.
New 3D design software – Becoming increasingly complex, embedded electronic hardware has rendered some computer-aided design programs obsolete. New and more advanced 3D design software are needed to replace existing tedious embedded system design processes to drive growth in the field.
Deliver cost-effective solutions – Because embedded systems are relatively new and costly to implement, the costs may easily hinder innovation. To bridge the gap, developers and designers must present more economical embedded system designs that are affordable.
Leverage the emergence of 5G - The 5G market is expected to reach US$2.2 trillion by 2034.
Embedded electronic devices based on 5G architecture are bound to fuel the growth of the embedded systems market.
Match demand in the automotive industry - Embedded systems are playing an important role in the evolution of the automotive industry, this is especially so in the development of the Advanced Driver-Assistance System for hybrid and electric vehicles.
Specialised Manufacturing and Testing of Embedded Systems
Here at PCI, we have skilled industry specialists with the expertise and experience to help design fully customised embedded systems designs for your projects.
Our formal processes cover every aspect of electronics manufacturing, circuit board assembly, and testing of the products to ensure uniformity and repeatability in the products.
Our production team is also cross trained in various assembly methods, the use of multi-core processing platforms, and our manufacturing space is highly flexible.
These factors combine to enable quick adjustments to shifting production cycles, high volume production, and product mixes to meet the demands of our clients across all product lines, such as 3D software, video processing, and more.
PCI can help you Design your Embedded System
Developing a high-performance and advanced embedded system is key to driving efficiency and ensuring relevance in the embedded electronics product market.
The embedded system is the bridge between the hardware and software and is instrumental in optimising user experience.
For businesses looking for an efficient embedded system design, instead of starting the ideation process from scratch, working with an experienced partner like PCI will ensure a high level of success.
With our expertise and capabilities in customising SBC hardware, device drivers, and Operating Systems (OS) with system designs unmatched by any other, PCI is your choice SBC manufacturer.
This is especially so in areas such as aftermarket telematics, where PCI’s solutions are effective for fleet management and site tracking. Using SBC SoC from NXP’s i.MX8 series and MediaTek, which runs on Linux and Android (GMS certified) for designing embedded systems, PCI offers full-featured products that are characterised by longevity, customisability, and cost-savings.
To find out more about how PCI’s technologies can help you grow your business, get in touch with us today for a discussion.
PCI has a long history of supporting businesses in specialty electronics equipment, telematics, smart home devices and industrial automation.
With more than 10 years of experience in designing and manufacturing Single Board Computers (SBCs) and Computer-on-Modules (COMs), PCI is fully equipped with in-house facilities and software team to develop drivers for new peripherals using NXP’s I.MX series of application processors.
Our knowledge in hardware design and customisable SBCs that can be used in a wide range of applications such as human-machine interface, industrial control, digital signage, smart home, as well as IoT gateways, ensure a fast turnaround time to deliver the manufactured products to our customers.
This helps expedite software application testing and quickens the pace to launch the customers’ products into the market.