How does an embedded system work?

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How does an embedded system work?

What is an Embedded System?

Embedded systems combine microprocessor-based hardware and software to perform a specific task independently or as part of a more extensive system. The central brain of an embedded system is an integrated circuit for doing the computation in real-time.

From a single microcontroller to a group of linked processors with networks and peripherals, complexity can range from having no user interface to having intricate graphical user interfaces. Embedded systems vary significantly in complexity according to the job they perform. Applications for embedded systems include hybrid cars, avionics, digital watches, microwaves, and more. Embedded systems take up to 98 percent of all produced microprocessors. First, let’s see how an embedded system work.

Basic Structure of an Embedded System

The following elements comprise an embedded system’s fundamental structure:


The sensor turns physical measurements into electrical signals that any electronic device or an embedded systems developer can interpret. A sensor stores the measured quality in its memory.

An analog-to-digital converter (A-D converter):

transforms the analog signal that the sensor sends into a digital signal.

ASICs and processors:

ASICs and processors evaluate data to calculate the output and store it in memory.

A digital-to-analog converter (D-A converter):

converts the digital data that the processor feeds into analog data.


An actuator saves the permitted output after comparing the D-A Converter’s production to the saved result.

Characteristics of Embedded System

  • Real-time performance is necessary
  • Require high availability and dependability.
  • Made with a real-time operating system in mind
  • ROM boots often feature simple and diskless functionality.
  • It must be coupled with peripherals to connect input and output devices because it was Designed for a single purpose.
  • Provides excellent stability and dependability
  • Requires a simple user interface.
  • Low cost, little power usage, little memory
  • Computer RAM is not required.

How do Embedded Systems work?

Every embedded computing device includes specific inputs and matching outputs, whether your PC or a mobile device.

The user provides analog and digital input. Push-button switches, keypads, sensors, and touch screens are a few examples.

The provided input is then processed. Processing could include conversion or computation. But an ADC (Analog to Digital Converter), for instance, may transform a sensor’s analog input into a digital output.

A digital output device must first convert an analog value into a digital output. Motor, LCD, and touch screen are a few examples.

We can think of embedded systems as having three main components the hardware, the software, and the real-time operating system.

Embedded System Hardware


Microprocessors or microcontrollers are the central components of embedded systems. Microcontrollers have programmable input/output peripherals, integrated memory, and one or more processors (CPUs). Most automatically controlled goods and gadgets use microcontrollers, such as office equipment, power tools, and car engine management systems.

Power Supply 

Due to their compact design and relatively low computing power, embedded systems have much lower power consumption than typical computers. But Engineers working on embedded systems should select a power source to provide a consistent and smooth power flow to the microcontroller and enough output current to drive the load and reliable operation in various conditions.


If a microcontroller powers an embedded system, the system’s memory is already on the chip. When employing a microprocessor, the system has to have a memory chip. Embedded systems use random access memory (RAM) to store the system’s received or utilized data temporarily. In contrast, read-only memory (ROM) holds the software program required to run the microcontroller.

Communication Ports 

Embedded systems transfer data between the microcontroller, peripheral devices, and other embedded systems through wired connections. To enable this data interchange, engineers must choose a communication protocol, guaranteeing that all components in the system are “speaking the same language” when they converse or send data. Embedded systems use I2C, SPI, and USB protocols for communication purposes, but engineers can also select from various alternative wired and wireless protocols.

Embedded RTOS

An RTOS is software made specifically to manage a central processing unit’s time effectively (CPU). When time is of the essence, embedded systems are particularly pertinent. The reaction time to external events is the primary distinction between an operating system like Windows and an RTOS, frequently seen in embedded devices. While attempting to remain responsive, a typical OS responds to events in a non-deterministic manner but without guaranteeing when they will handle them. As a result, handling underlying tasks comes second to the user’s perception of the OS’s responsiveness. The objective of an RTOS, however, is a quick and more predictable response. 

The properties of an embedded RTOS will be recognizable to developers used to operating systems like Windows or Linux. They are made to work in systems with little memory and to last for a very long time without needing to be reset.

Software Embedded System

These systems’ procedures are their primary responsibility, which they successfully handle. The deadlines received under it are not prioritized; no system operations are started, even if they are missed. For example, one of these systems is the audio system built inside the computer. So even though the deadlines in these systems aren’t that crucial, they shouldn’t always miss them because doing so might cause the system to degrade.

Embedded Software Development Cycle

Appropriate embedded software must be built to satisfy client needs and launch high-caliber items onto the market. Here are the seven stages to creating an embedded product, which will help you do that task quickly.

Step 1: Recognize the demands

You must first be familiar with and comprehend the end-user requirements.

Step 2: Inspect

Examine the parts (hardware and software) needed to build the product.

Step 3: Design

The most crucial stage of the development cycle is this one. The developer must create the embedded software and hardware separately and combine them.

Step 4: Develop

The programmer creates the prototype using readily accessible hardware and software resources and the customer’s requirements.

Step 5 Test

The developer runs software test cases on the application to assess the prototype’s potential.

Step 6: Launch

To prove the Proof Of Concept, the developer evaluates the product’s performance after testing.

Step 7: Upgrade and Support

Support and upgrades must be offered based on the user’s need to introduce new features continuously.


Engineers working on embedded systems have a massive opportunity to expand their skill sets and introduce new solutions due to the increasing need for “smart” devices across different sectors. Industries, including automotive, home/consumer electronics, communications, and healthcare, employ embedded systems to improve safety, lower costs, and provide convenience and cost benefits to customers; thus, the demand for embedded systems-related skillset is ever-increasing. Choosing a career as an embedded systems engineer will not be a bad one.

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