Embedded system

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An embedded system on a plug-in card with processor, memory, power supply, and external interfaces DHCOM Computer On Module - AM35x.jpg
An embedded system on a plug-in card with processor, memory, power supply, and external interfaces

An embedded system is a controller with a dedicated function within a larger mechanical or electrical system, often with real-time computing constraints. [1] [2] It is embedded as part of a complete device often including hardware and mechanical parts. Embedded systems control many devices in common use today. [3] Ninety-eight percent of all microprocessors manufactured are used in embedded systems. [4]

In computing and especially in computer hardware, a controller is a chip, an expansion card, or a stand-alone device that interfaces with a more peripheral device. This may be a link between two parts of a computer or a controller on an external device that manages the operation of that device.

In computer science, real-time computing (RTC), or reactive computing describes hardware and software systems subject to a "real-time constraint", for example from event to system response. Real-time programs must guarantee response within specified time constraints, often referred to as "deadlines". The correctness of these types of systems depends on their temporal aspects as well as their functional aspects. Real-time responses are often understood to be in the order of milliseconds, and sometimes microseconds. A system not specified as operating in real time cannot usually guarantee a response within any timeframe, although typical or expected response times may be given.

Contents

Modern embedded systems are often based on microcontrollers (i.e. microprocessors with integrated memory and peripheral interfaces), but ordinary microprocessors (using external chips for memory and peripheral interface circuits) are also common, especially in more complex systems. In either case, the processor(s) used may be types ranging from general purpose to those specialized in certain class of computations, or even custom designed for the application at hand. A common standard class of dedicated processors is the digital signal processor (DSP).

Microcontroller small computer on a single integrated circuit

A microcontroller is a small computer on a single metal-oxide-semiconductor (MOS) integrated circuit chip. In modern terminology, it is similar to, but less sophisticated than, a system on a chip (SoC); an SoC may include a microcontroller as one of its components. A microcontroller contains one or more CPUs along with memory and programmable input/output peripherals. Program memory in the form of ferroelectric RAM, NOR flash or OTP ROM is also often included on chip, as well as a small amount of RAM. Microcontrollers are designed for embedded applications, in contrast to the microprocessors used in personal computers or other general purpose applications consisting of various discrete chips.

Digital signal processor specialized microprocessor optimized for digital signal processing

A digital signal processor (DSP) is a specialized microprocessor, with its architecture optimized for the operational needs of digital signal processing.

Since the embedded system is dedicated to specific tasks, design engineers can optimize it to reduce the size and cost of the product and increase the reliability and performance. Some embedded systems are mass-produced, benefiting from economies of scale.

Economies of scale Cost advantages obtained via scale of operation

In microeconomics, economies of scale are the cost advantages that enterprises obtain due to their scale of operation, with cost per unit of output decreasing with increasing scale. At the basis of economies of scale there may be technical, statistical, organizational or related factors to the degree of market control.

Embedded systems range from portable devices such as digital watches and MP3 players, to large stationary installations like traffic light controllers, programmable logic controllers, and large complex systems like hybrid vehicles, medical imaging, and avionics. Complexity varies from low, with a single microcontroller chip, to very high with multiple units, peripherals and networks mounted inside a large equipment rack.

MP3 player electronic device that can play digital audio files

An MP3 player or Digital Audio Player is an electronic device that can play digital audio files. It is a type of Portable Media Player. Most players play more than the MP3 file format, such as Windows Media Audio (WMA), Advanced Audio Coding (AAC), Vorbis, FLAC, Speex and Ogg.

Traffic light control and coordination

The normal function of traffic lights requires more than slight control and coordination to ensure that traffic and pedestrians move as smoothly, and safely as possible. A variety of different control systems are used to accomplish this, ranging from simple clockwork mechanisms to sophisticated computerized control and coordination systems that self-adjust to minimize delay to people using the junction.

Programmable logic controller digital computer used for automation of electromechanical processes

A programmable logic controller (PLC) or programmable controller is an industrial digital computer which has been ruggedized and adapted for the control of manufacturing processes, such as assembly lines, or robotic devices, or any activity that requires high reliability control and ease of programming and process fault diagnosis.

History

Background

The origins of the microprocessor and the microcontroller can be traced back to the invention of the MOSFET (metal-oxide-semiconductor field-effect transistor), also known as the MOS transistor. [5] It was invented by Mohamed M. Atalla and Dawon Kahng at Bell Labs in 1959, and first demonstrated in 1960. [6] The same year, Atalla proposed the concept of the MOS integrated circuit, which was an integrated circuit chip fabricated from MOSFETs. [7] By 1964, MOS chips had reached higher transistor density and lower manufacturing costs than bipolar chips. MOS chips further increased in complexity at a rate predicted by Moore's law, leading to large-scale integration (LSI) with hundreds of transistors on a single MOS chip by the late 1960s. The application of MOS LSI chips to computing was the basis for the first microprocessors, as engineers began recognizing that a complete computer processor could be contained on a single MOS LSI chip. [5]

Microprocessor Computer processor contained on an integrated-circuit chip

A microprocessor is a computer processor that incorporates the functions of a central processing unit on a single integrated circuit (IC), or at most a few integrated circuits. The microprocessor is a multipurpose, clock driven, register based, digital integrated circuit that accepts binary data as input, processes it according to instructions stored in its memory and provides results as output. Microprocessors contain both combinational logic and sequential digital logic. Microprocessors operate on numbers and symbols represented in the binary number system.

MOSFET Transistor used for amplifying or switching electronic signals.

The metal–oxide–semiconductor field-effect transistor (MOSFET, MOS-FET, or MOS FET), also known as the metal–oxide–silicon transistor (MOS transistor, or MOS), is a type of field-effect transistor that is fabricated by the controlled oxidation of a semiconductor, typically silicon. It has a covered gate, whose voltage determines the conductivity of the device. This ability to change conductivity with the amount of applied voltage can be used for amplifying or switching electronic signals. The MOSFET was invented by Egyptian engineer Mohamed M. Atalla and Korean engineer Dawon Kahng at Bell Labs in November 1959. It is the basic building block of modern electronics, and the most widely manufactured device in history, with an estimated total of 13 sextillion (1.3 × 1022) MOSFETs manufactured between 1960 and 2018.

Mohamed M. Atalla mechanical engineer

Mohamed Mohamed Atalla was an Egyptian-American engineer, physical chemist, cryptographer, inventor and entrepreneur. His pioneering work in semiconductor technology laid the foundations for modern electronics. Most importantly, his invention of the MOSFET in 1959, along with his earlier surface passivation and thermal oxidation processes, revolutionized the electronics industry. He is also known as the founder of the data security company Atalla Corporation, founded in 1972, which introduced the first hardware security module and was a pioneer in online security. He received the Stuart Ballantine Medal and was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame for his important contributions to semiconductor technology as well as data security.

The first multi-chip microprocessors, the Four-Phase Systems AL1 in 1969 and the Garrett AiResearch MP944 in 1970, were developed with multiple MOS LSI chips. The first single-chip microprocessor was the Intel 4004, released on a single MOS LSI chip in 1971. It was developed by Federico Faggin, using his silicon-gate MOS technology, along with Intel engineers Marcian Hoff and Stan Mazor, and Busicom engineer Masatoshi Shima. [8]

Garrett AiResearch was a manufacturer of turboprop engines and turbochargers, and a pioneer in numerous aerospace technologies. It was previously known as Aircraft Tool and Supply Company, Garrett Supply Company, AiResearch Manufacturing Company, or simply AiResearch. In 1964, Garrett AiResearch merged with Signal Oil & Gas to form a company renamed in 1968 to Signal Companies, which in 1985 merged with Allied Corp. into AlliedSignal. In 1999 AlliedSignal acquired Honeywell and adopted the Honeywell name.

Intel 4004 4-bit central processing unit

The Intel 4004 is a 4-bit central processing unit (CPU) released by Intel Corporation in 1971. It was the first commercially available microprocessor, and the first in a long line of Intel CPUs. The chip design, implemented with the MOS silicon gate technology, started in April 1970, and was created by Federico Faggin who led the project from beginning to completion in 1971. Marcian Hoff formulated and led the architectural proposal in 1969, and Masatoshi Shima contributed to the architecture and later to the logic design. The first commercial sale of the fully operational 4004 occurred in March 1971 to Busicom Corp. of Japan for its 141-PF electronic calculator, for which it was originally designed and built as a custom chip.

Federico Faggin Italian physicist and electrical engineer

Federico Faggin is an Italian-American physicist, engineer, inventor and entrepreneur. He is best known for designing the first commercial microprocessor, the Intel 4004. He led the 4004 (MCS-4) project and the design group during the first five years of Intel's microprocessor effort. Faggin also created, while working at Fairchild Semiconductor in 1968, the self-aligned MOS (metal-oxide-semiconductor) silicon-gate technology (SGT), which made possible MOS semiconductor memory chips, CCD image sensors, and the microprocessor. After the 4004, he led development of the Intel 8008 and 8080, using his SGT methodology for random logic chip design, which was essential to the creation of early Intel microprocessors. He was co-founder and CEO of Zilog, the first company solely dedicated to microprocessors, and led the development of the Zilog Z80 and Z8 processors. He was later the co-founder and CEO of Cygnet Technologies, and then Synaptics.

Development

One of the very first recognizably modern embedded systems was the Apollo Guidance Computer,[ citation needed ] developed ca. 1965 by Charles Stark Draper at the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory. At the project's inception, the Apollo guidance computer was considered the riskiest item in the Apollo project as it employed the then newly developed monolithic integrated circuits to reduce the size and weight. An early mass-produced embedded system was the Autonetics D-17 guidance computer for the Minuteman missile, released in 1961. When the Minuteman II went into production in 1966, the D-17 was replaced with a new computer that was the first high-volume use of integrated circuits.

Since these early applications in the 1960s, embedded systems have come down in price and there has been a dramatic rise in processing power and functionality. An early microprocessor for example, the Intel 4004 (released in 1971), was designed for calculators and other small systems but still required external memory and support chips. In 1978 National Engineering Manufacturers Association released a "standard" for programmable microcontrollers, including almost any computer-based controllers, such as single board computers, numerical, and event-based controllers.

As the cost of microprocessors and microcontrollers fell it became feasible to replace expensive knob-based analog components such as potentiometers and variable capacitors with up/down buttons or knobs read out by a microprocessor even in consumer products. By the early 1980s, memory, input and output system components had been integrated into the same chip as the processor forming a microcontroller. Microcontrollers find applications where a general-purpose computer would be too costly.

A comparatively low-cost microcontroller may be programmed to fulfill the same role as a large number of separate components. Although in this context an embedded system is usually more complex than a traditional solution, most of the complexity is contained within the microcontroller itself. Very few additional components may be needed and most of the design effort is in the software. Software prototype and test can be quicker compared with the design and construction of a new circuit not using an embedded processor.

Applications

Embedded Computer Sub-Assembly for Accupoll Electronic Voting Machine Accupoll-embedded-computer.jpg
Embedded Computer Sub-Assembly for Accupoll Electronic Voting Machine

Embedded systems are commonly found in consumer, industrial, automotive, medical, commercial and military applications.

Telecommunications systems employ numerous embedded systems from telephone switches for the network to cell phones at the end user. Computer networking uses dedicated routers and network bridges to route data.

Consumer electronics include MP3 players, mobile phones, video game consoles, digital cameras, GPS receivers, and printers. Household appliances, such as microwave ovens, washing machines and dishwashers, include embedded systems to provide flexibility, efficiency and features. Advanced HVAC systems use networked thermostats to more accurately and efficiently control temperature that can change by time of day and season. Home automation uses wired- and wireless-networking that can be used to control lights, climate, security, audio/visual, surveillance, etc., all of which use embedded devices for sensing and controlling.

Transportation systems from flight to automobiles increasingly use embedded systems. New airplanes contain advanced avionics such as inertial guidance systems and GPS receivers that also have considerable safety requirements. Various electric motors — brushless DC motors, induction motors and DC motors — use electric/electronic motor controllers. Automobiles, electric vehicles, and hybrid vehicles increasingly use embedded systems to maximize efficiency and reduce pollution. Other automotive safety systems include anti-lock braking system (ABS), Electronic Stability Control (ESC/ESP), traction control (TCS) and automatic four-wheel drive.

Medical equipment uses embedded systems for vital signs monitoring, electronic stethoscopes for amplifying sounds, and various medical imaging (PET, SPECT, CT, and MRI) for non-invasive internal inspections. Embedded systems within medical equipment are often powered by industrial computers. [10]

Embedded systems are used in transportation, fire safety, safety and security, medical applications and life critical systems, as these systems can be isolated from hacking and thus, be more reliable, unless connected to wired or wireless networks via on-chip 3G cellular or other methods for IoT monitoring and control purposes.[ citation needed ] For fire safety, the systems can be designed to have greater ability to handle higher temperatures and continue to operate. In dealing with security, the embedded systems can be self-sufficient and be able to deal with cut electrical and communication systems.

A new class of miniature wireless devices called motes are networked wireless sensors. Wireless sensor networking, WSN, makes use of miniaturization made possible by advanced IC design to couple full wireless subsystems to sophisticated sensors, enabling people and companies to measure a myriad of things in the physical world and act on this information through IT monitoring and control systems. These motes are completely self-contained, and will typically run off a battery source for years before the batteries need to be changed or charged.

Embedded Wi-Fi modules provide a simple means of wirelessly enabling any device that communicates via a serial port.

Characteristics

Embedded systems are designed to do some specific task, rather than be a general-purpose computer for multiple tasks. Some also have real-time performance constraints that must be met, for reasons such as safety and usability; others may have low or no performance requirements, allowing the system hardware to be simplified to reduce costs.

Embedded systems are not always standalone devices. Many embedded systems consist of small parts within a larger device that serves a more general purpose. For example, the Gibson Robot Guitar features an embedded system for tuning the strings, but the overall purpose of the Robot Guitar is, of course, to play music. [11] Similarly, an embedded system in an automobile provides a specific function as a subsystem of the car itself.

e-con Systems eSOM270 & eSOM300 Computer on Modules ESOM270 eSOM300 Computer on Modules.jpg
e-con Systems eSOM270 & eSOM300 Computer on Modules

The program instructions written for embedded systems are referred to as firmware, and are stored in read-only memory or flash memory chips. They run with limited computer hardware resources: little memory, small or non-existent keyboard or screen.

User interface

Embedded system text user interface using MicroVGA MicroVGA TUI demoapp.jpg
Embedded system text user interface using MicroVGA

Embedded systems range from no user interface at all, in systems dedicated only to one task, to complex graphical user interfaces that resemble modern computer desktop operating systems. Simple embedded devices use buttons, LEDs, graphic or character LCDs (HD44780 LCD for example) with a simple menu system.

More sophisticated devices that use a graphical screen with touch sensing or screen-edge buttons provide flexibility while minimizing space used: the meaning of the buttons can change with the screen, and selection involves the natural behavior of pointing at what is desired. Handheld systems often have a screen with a "joystick button" for a pointing device.

Some systems provide user interface remotely with the help of a serial (e.g. RS-232, USB, I²C, etc.) or network (e.g. Ethernet) connection. This approach gives several advantages: extends the capabilities of embedded system, avoids the cost of a display, simplifies BSP and allows one to build a rich user interface on the PC. A good example of this is the combination of an embedded web server running on an embedded device (such as an IP camera) or a network router. The user interface is displayed in a web browser on a PC connected to the device, therefore needing no software to be installed.

Processors in embedded systems

Examples of properties of typical embedded computers when compared with general-purpose counterparts are low power consumption, small size, rugged operating ranges, and low per-unit cost. This comes at the price of limited processing resources, which make them significantly more difficult to program and to interact with. However, by building intelligence mechanisms on top of the hardware, taking advantage of possible existing sensors and the existence of a network of embedded units, one can both optimally manage available resources at the unit and network levels as well as provide augmented functions, well beyond those available. [12] For example, intelligent techniques can be designed to manage power consumption of embedded systems. [13]

Embedded processors can be broken into two broad categories. Ordinary microprocessors (μP) use separate integrated circuits for memory and peripherals. Microcontrollers (μC) have on-chip peripherals, thus reducing power consumption, size and cost. In contrast to the personal computer market, many different basic CPU architectures are used since software is custom-developed for an application and is not a commodity product installed by the end user. Both Von Neumann as well as various degrees of Harvard architectures are used. RISC as well as non-RISC processors are found. Word lengths vary from 4-bit to 64-bits and beyond, although the most typical remain 8/16-bit. Most architectures come in a large number of different variants and shapes, many of which are also manufactured by several different companies.

Numerous microcontrollers have been developed for embedded systems use. General-purpose microprocessors are also used in embedded systems, but generally, require more support circuitry than microcontrollers.

Ready-made computer boards

PC/104 and PC/104+ are examples of standards for ready-made computer boards intended for small, low-volume embedded and ruggedized systems, mostly x86-based. These are often physically small compared to a standard PC, although still quite large compared to most simple (8/16-bit) embedded systems. They often use DOS, Linux, NetBSD, or an embedded real-time operating system such as MicroC/OS-II, QNX or VxWorks. Sometimes these boards use non-x86 processors.

In certain applications, where small size or power efficiency are not primary concerns, the components used may be compatible with those used in general purpose x86 personal computers. Boards such as the VIA EPIA range help to bridge the gap by being PC-compatible but highly integrated, physically smaller or have other attributes making them attractive to embedded engineers. The advantage of this approach is that low-cost commodity components may be used along with the same software development tools used for general software development. Systems built in this way are still regarded as embedded since they are integrated into larger devices and fulfill a single role. Examples of devices that may adopt this approach are ATMs and arcade machines, which contain code specific to the application.

However, most ready-made embedded systems boards are not PC-centered and do not use the ISA or PCI buses. When a system-on-a-chip processor is involved, there may be little benefit to having a standardized bus connecting discrete components, and the environment for both hardware and software tools may be very different.

One common design style uses a small system module, perhaps the size of a business card, holding high density BGA chips such as an ARM-based system-on-a-chip processor and peripherals, external flash memory for storage, and DRAM for runtime memory. The module vendor will usually provide boot software and make sure there is a selection of operating systems, usually including Linux and some real time choices. These modules can be manufactured in high volume, by organizations familiar with their specialized testing issues, and combined with much lower volume custom mainboards with application-specific external peripherals.

Implementation of embedded systems has advanced so that they can easily be implemented with already-made boards that are based on worldwide accepted platforms. These platforms include, but are not limited to, Arduino and Raspberry Pi.

ASIC and FPGA solutions

A common array for very-high-volume embedded systems is the system on a chip (SoC) that contains a complete system consisting of multiple processors, multipliers, caches and interfaces on a single chip. SoCs can be implemented as an application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) or using a field-programmable gate array (FPGA).

Peripherals

A close-up of the SMSC LAN91C110 (SMSC 91x) chip, an embedded Ethernet chip SMSC LAN91C110 ethernet chip.jpg
A close-up of the SMSC LAN91C110 (SMSC 91x) chip, an embedded Ethernet chip

Embedded systems talk with the outside world via peripherals, such as:

Tools

As with other software, embedded system designers use compilers, assemblers, and debuggers to develop embedded system software. However, they may also use some more specific tools:

Software tools can come from several sources:

As the complexity of embedded systems grows, higher level tools and operating systems are migrating into machinery where it makes sense. For example, cellphones, personal digital assistants and other consumer computers often need significant software that is purchased or provided by a person other than the manufacturer of the electronics. In these systems, an open programming environment such as Linux, NetBSD, OSGi or Embedded Java is required so that the third-party software provider can sell to a large market.

Embedded systems are commonly found in consumer, cooking, industrial, automotive, medical applications. Some examples of embedded systems are MP3 players, mobile phones, video game consoles, digital cameras, DVD players, and GPS. Household appliances, such as microwave ovens, washing machines and dishwashers, include embedded systems to provide flexibility and efficiency.

Debugging

Embedded debugging may be performed at different levels, depending on the facilities available. The different metrics that characterize the different forms of embedded debugging are: does it slow down the main application, how close is the debugged system or application to the actual system or application, how expressive are the triggers that can be set for debugging (e.g., inspecting the memory when a particular program counter value is reached), and what can be inspected in the debugging process (such as, only memory, or memory and registers, etc.).

From simplest to most sophisticated they can be roughly grouped into the following areas:

Unless restricted to external debugging, the programmer can typically load and run software through the tools, view the code running in the processor, and start or stop its operation. The view of the code may be as HLL source-code, assembly code or mixture of both.

Because an embedded system is often composed of a wide variety of elements, the debugging strategy may vary. For instance, debugging a software- (and microprocessor-) centric embedded system is different from debugging an embedded system where most of the processing is performed by peripherals (DSP, FPGA, and co-processor). An increasing number of embedded systems today use more than one single processor core. A common problem with multi-core development is the proper synchronization of software execution. In this case, the embedded system design may wish to check the data traffic on the buses between the processor cores, which requires very low-level debugging, at signal/bus level, with a logic analyzer, for instance.

Tracing

Real-time operating systems (RTOS) often supports tracing of operating system events. A graphical view is presented by a host PC tool, based on a recording of the system behavior. The trace recording can be performed in software, by the RTOS, or by special tracing hardware. RTOS tracing allows developers to understand timing and performance issues of the software system and gives a good understanding of the high-level system behaviors.

Reliability

Embedded systems often reside in machines that are expected to run continuously for years without errors, and in some cases recover by themselves if an error occurs. Therefore, the software is usually developed and tested more carefully than that for personal computers, and unreliable mechanical moving parts such as disk drives, switches or buttons are avoided.

Specific reliability issues may include:

A variety of techniques are used, sometimes in combination, to recover from errors—both software bugs such as memory leaks, and also soft errors in the hardware:

High vs. low volume

For high volume systems such as portable music players or mobile phones, minimizing cost is usually the primary design consideration. Engineers typically select hardware that is just “good enough” to implement the necessary functions.

For low-volume or prototype embedded systems, general purpose computers may be adapted by limiting the programs or by replacing the operating system with a real-time operating system.

Embedded software architectures

There are several different types of software architecture in common use.

Simple control loop

In this design, the software simply has a loop. The loop calls subroutines, each of which manages a part of the hardware or software. Hence it is called a simple control loop or control loop.

Interrupt-controlled system

Some embedded systems are predominantly controlled by interrupts. This means that tasks performed by the system are triggered by different kinds of events; an interrupt could be generated, for example, by a timer in a predefined frequency, or by a serial port controller receiving a byte.

These kinds of systems are used if event handlers need low latency, and the event handlers are short and simple. Usually, these kinds of systems run a simple task in a main loop also, but this task is not very sensitive to unexpected delays.

Sometimes the interrupt handler will add longer tasks to a queue structure. Later, after the interrupt handler has finished, these tasks are executed by the main loop. This method brings the system close to a multitasking kernel with discrete processes.

Cooperative multitasking

A nonpreemptive multitasking system is very similar to the simple control loop scheme, except that the loop is hidden in an API. [1] The programmer defines a series of tasks, and each task gets its own environment to “run” in. When a task is idle, it calls an idle routine, usually called “pause”, “wait”, “yield”, “nop” (stands for no operation), etc.

The advantages and disadvantages are similar to that of the control loop, except that adding new software is easier, by simply writing a new task, or adding to the queue.

Preemptive multitasking or multi-threading

In this type of system, a low-level piece of code switches between tasks or threads based on a timer (connected to an interrupt). This is the level at which the system is generally considered to have an "operating system" kernel. Depending on how much functionality is required, it introduces more or less of the complexities of managing multiple tasks running conceptually in parallel.

As any code can potentially damage the data of another task (except in larger systems using an MMU) programs must be carefully designed and tested, and access to shared data must be controlled by some synchronization strategy, such as message queues, semaphores or a non-blocking synchronization scheme.

Because of these complexities, it is common for organizations to use a real-time operating system (RTOS), allowing the application programmers to concentrate on device functionality rather than operating system services, at least for large systems; smaller systems often cannot afford the overhead associated with a generic real-time system, due to limitations regarding memory size, performance, or battery life. The choice that an RTOS is required brings in its own issues, however, as the selection must be done prior to starting to the application development process. This timing forces developers to choose the embedded operating system for their device based upon current requirements and so restricts future options to a large extent. [19] The restriction of future options becomes more of an issue as product life decreases. Additionally the level of complexity is continuously growing as devices are required to manage variables such as serial, USB, TCP/IP, Bluetooth, Wireless LAN, trunk radio, multiple channels, data and voice, enhanced graphics, multiple states, multiple threads, numerous wait states and so on. These trends are leading to the uptake of embedded middleware in addition to a real-time operating system.

Microkernels and exokernels

A microkernel is a logical step up from a real-time OS. The usual arrangement is that the operating system kernel allocates memory and switches the CPU to different threads of execution. User mode processes implement major functions such as file systems, network interfaces, etc.

In general, microkernels succeed when the task switching and intertask communication is fast and fail when they are slow.

Exokernels communicate efficiently by normal subroutine calls. The hardware and all the software in the system are available to and extensible by application programmers.

Monolithic kernels

In this case, a relatively large kernel with sophisticated capabilities is adapted to suit an embedded environment. This gives programmers an environment similar to a desktop operating system like Linux or Microsoft Windows, and is therefore very productive for development; on the downside, it requires considerably more hardware resources, is often more expensive, and, because of the complexity of these kernels, can be less predictable and reliable.

Common examples of embedded monolithic kernels are embedded Linux, VXWorks and Windows CE.

Despite the increased cost in hardware, this type of embedded system is increasing in popularity, especially on the more powerful embedded devices such as wireless routers and GPS navigation systems. Here are some of the reasons:

Additional software components

In addition to the core operating system, many embedded systems have additional upper-layer software components. These components consist of networking protocol stacks like CAN, TCP/IP, FTP, HTTP, and HTTPS, and also included storage capabilities like FAT and flash memory management systems. If the embedded device has audio and video capabilities, then the appropriate drivers and codecs will be present in the system. In the case of the monolithic kernels, many of these software layers are included. In the RTOS category, the availability of the additional software components depends upon the commercial offering.

Domain-specific architectures

In the automotive sector, AUTOSAR is a standard architecture for embedded software.

See also

Notes

  1. For more details of MicroVGA see this PDF.

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A sensor node, also known as a mote, is a node in a sensor network that is capable of performing some processing, gathering sensory information and communicating with other connected nodes in the network. A mote is a node but a node is not always a mote.

SEGGER Microcontroller is a private multinational company dealing in middleware for embedded devices as well as development and programming tools. The company was founded in 1992 and is headquartered in Monheim am Rhein, Germany with US offices in Gardner, Massachusetts and Milpitas, California.

Ember was an American company based in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, which is now owned by Silicon Labs. Ember had a radio development centre in Cambridge, England, and distributors worldwide. It developed ZigBee wireless networking technology that enabled companies involved in energy technologies to help make buildings and homes smarter, consume less energy, and operate more efficiently. The low-power wireless technology can be embedded into a wide variety of devices to be part of a self-organizing mesh network. All Ember products conform to IEEE 802.15.4-2003 standards.

Single-board microcontroller

A single-board microcontroller is a microcontroller built onto a single printed circuit board. This board provides all of the circuitry necessary for a useful control task: a microprocessor, I/O circuits, a clock generator, RAM, stored program memory and any necessary support ICs. The intention is that the board is immediately useful to an application developer, without requiring them to spend time and effort to develop controller hardware.

XMC is a family of microcontroller ICs by Infineon. The XMC microcontrollers use the 32-bit RISC ARM processor cores from ARM Holdings, such as Cortex-M4F and Cortex-M0. XMC stands for "cross-market microcontrollers", meaning that this family can cover due to compatibility and configuration options, a wide range in industrial applications. The family supports three essential trends in the industry: It increases the energy efficiency of the systems, supports a variety of communication standards and reduces software complexity in the development of the application's software environment with the parallel released eclipse-based software tool DAVE.

RL78 Family is a 16- and 8-bit CPU core for embedded microcontrollers of Renesas Electronics introduced in 2010. The basis of RL78 Family is an accumulator-based register-bank CISC architecture with 3-stage instruction pipelining. It has 20-bit 1M Byte address space.

References

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Further reading