It is difficult to argue against the fact that we are increasingly moving towards a future where our environments will exhibit ambient intelligence (AmI). The devices, appliances, and vehicles we interact with will be aware of and adaptive to our presence. This is not hard to imagine when we already have simple examples like lights that use sensors to turn lights on and off when someone enters or leaves a room.
Additionally, we have many devices and appliances that can decide their operation by gathering and processing external data. These ‘smart’ products exhibit the technological foundation from which AmI development will be realized. And the brains that enable the development of smart products are embedded systems.
Embedded systems, which are electronic circuit boards installed within larger systems, can range from simple to quite complex. However, they all incorporate at least one microprocessor or microcontroller, which allows for the mathematical and logical processing needed to make smart decisions. Optimizing embedded system design requires understanding the attributes, performance classifications, and functionality types and following guidelines intended to maximize performance, reliability, and efficiency.
As the list above indicates, embedded systems are composed of computers programmed to perform a specific task(s) that enables or enhances the capabilities of a larger system. The limit to how these boards may be used is far from defined and continually deployed in new applications. This versatility makes designing and implementing embedded systems attractive but does pose a challenge for classifying them, which is usually based on performance complexity or operational environment. Both of these are discussed below.
High reliability, stability, and real-time operation are important attributes that your embedded system should possess. Therefore, performance type is one of the popular ways of categorizing embedded systems. Examples of each of the three classes used are shown below.
|Embedded System Performance Classes|
|Small Scale||These embedded systems employ an 8 or 16-bit processor and are often used in small portable devices powered by batteries. Typical applications include cellular phones and digital cameras.|
|Medium Scale||16 or even 32-bit processors are used in these embedded systems, as they are larger and more complicated than small scale devices. Software is typically created in C, C++, or Java. Applications include routers and ATMs.|
|Sophisticated||These devices often contain multiple 32 or 64 bit processors. They have advanced programming and operations. Examples include medical imaging equipment and hybrid vehicles.|
|Function Type||Common Industry Applications|
|Standalone||Home Appliances, Commercial Products, Robotics|
|Networked||Financial, Government, Automotive, Computing, Industrial|
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