Trends in Embedded Systems

What is an embedded system?

What is an embedded system? An embedded systems are pieces of programming installed on appliances, smartphones and vehicles to name a few. Embedded systems work on microprocessors and logic circuits. Functionality happens in real time such as in automotive GPS systems.

Handling More Computing Power

Increasing the rate of processing in a microprocessor comes as a continual problem engineers solve daily by working around Moore’s Law. Moore’s Law started with an observation by Gordon Moore in 1965 at Intel that the number of transistors in every  square inch on integrated circuits will double every year. Data density has on the average doubled about every 18 months so Moore was not too far off. It is expected this trend will continue two more decades.

Engineers regularly work on increasing computer system power through new materials and with trade-offs such as creating systems that prioritize high needs and adjust accordingly. Cisco has predicted by 2016 the level of information on the Internet will enter the zettabyte range. Storing unlimited amounts of data in embedded systems has become a given as well as quick retrieval of information.


Embedded systems have been compartmentalized often because of security reasons or because with incompatibility with other platforms. Networking technology is seen in automobiles with navigation systems displaying the street Google maps. This trend will continue and become accelerated as HTML 5 coding continues to create the seamless cross platform cross device matrix needed for any time any place access. The intelligence of embedded systems will increase with software that anticipates user needs by doing continual searches on the Internet for programs that fit a user’s lifestyle.


Electronic control systems known as cybertronics will appear with components of mechanical, pneumatic parts and hydraulics making the line between mechanical components and software systems blur. Sensors, actors, and information processing will link to the same flows of energy as the mechanized parts creating an entity that can only function as a unit. The shift from enabling technology (increased performance and capabilities) to core technology (implementation specifications) in embedded system products has begun.

High Complexity

Future embedded systems will have many coupled elements from varying disciplines such as electrical and IT. Software will become the driving force for the functionality of the system. Integrated engineering will become a field as the embedded systems integrate and people are needed to service and maintain these systems. The goal is for systems to anticipate needs from the information given and determine patterns of usage. Of course as always with any machine or software program its function is only as good as the information is input or processes are developed.

Smart Grids

The Internet and associated technologies have been developing layers in the communication network. Cloud technology implementation with its idea of shared resources fits well into the embedded technology idea, so energy flows become seamless. HTML 5 codes anticipated expansion of the content model from two categories to seven categories for mobile applications gives some thought how to engineer the architecture for the coming complexity of embedded systems as more and more devices connect in. No one as of yet has developed a system to organize the smart grids, or whether or not all of it should connect or for security reasons remain separate entities unto it self.

Embedded technology systems are in its teenage years and are about to become full adults with all the pros and cons that go along with that. As always alliances, cooperation and collaboration will develop the hierarchy and architecture necessary to make it all work.

Author Bio: Steve Wright writes about panel mounted PCs and other industrial computing topics for Steatite Embedded

[Image via Flickr/BotheredByBees]

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