An embedded system is the link between software and the physical world. It can be considered as an electronic system comprising computer hardware with application software embedded to perform specific tasks. Embedded systems are commonly used in consumer electronics, household appliances, telecommunications, transportation systems, automotive safety systems, military/defense equipment, electric motors, and medical equipment.
Going hand in hand, 98 percent of all microprocessors are manufactured as components of embedded systems. These systems are used in a wide range of applications, making it imperative to develop error-free codes to ensure that the final product works as planned.
Here are five methods system developers can adopt to eliminate complexities in embedded system development.
1. Employ Model-Driven Engineering (MDD)
Model-driven engineering is gaining momentum in the field of software and embedded system development. Traditional programming languages like C and C++ are slower and offer general validation (syntax checking and static code analyzers), which are not effective in avoiding errors. Using model-driven approach improves the verification and testing of embedded systems, thus reducing the time, cost, and effort involved in developing them. Moreover, MDD improves the reliability of the embedded system and reduces the system flaws to ensure better-quality products.
MDD enables senior developers and programmers to focus on creative and intellectual issues as they do not have to perform repetitive tasks like scripting or manual test execution. For instance, these domain experts can focus on the integration of the various parts of the application such as Application Program Interface requests and database integration.
2. Adopt An Agile Approach
The agile development model aims at improving customer satisfaction, creating efficient software and increasing the adaptability of the system. Traditional methods like the waterfall model use a sequential work flow, causing delays and problems in each phase that ripple until the end of the project. Consequently, the waterfall model cannot be applied to complex projects.
For instance, if a project constitutes of phases such as requirement, design, implementation, and testing, the waterfall model allows a linear workflow to manage these phases. In this model, each software development phase is planned so that the phase is completed before moving to the subsequent one. Once an application has passed the testing phase, it is tough to go back and make a change in case of an error or a modification.
In agile methods like Scrum, Extreme Programming (XP), and Kanban, software is developed using the incremental model. The entire project is divided into multiple incremental cycles which are released and tested. Each release is built on the previous stages, leading to regular adaptation to the changing circumstances.
The agile method helps in eliminating complexities in embedded system development by keeping the concerned teams updated of the required developments and modifications. This ensures parallel development across teams and improves the efficiency of the concerned developers, testers, and customers. The agile model also helps in collaborating with customers at every stage, ensuring that the end product is as per their expectations.
3. Install an Integrated Development Environment (IDE)
In the past, developing a program involved typing the code in one window, running it in another and probably keeping a track of the entire process in a third window. An integrated development environment flawlessly combines each of these functions into a well-organized application. An integrated development environment can significantly improve productivity and reduce errors in an embedded system. IDE is a program where you can write the code, debug it, and convert it into the final product such as the web application. Therefore, it scores over text editors like Vim or Emacs, where your code would have to be written in one program and then debugged using an external compiler or linter.
Thus, IDEs tend to offer a richer coding experience with features like wizards, debug mode, and color coding. Though numerous IDEs are available in the market, the IDE Index recommends Eclipse, Visual Studio, and Netbeans as they are extremely popular amongst software developers and programmers.
4. Choose the Right Tools
When developing embedded systems, the right tools can make a huge difference to the quality and performance of the end product. Unified Modeling Language (UML) is a developmental tool that offers a standard way to visualize the design of an embedded system. This tool allows the software application to be modeled before the code is written to meet the expectations of the end users. Visual Paradigm and Enterprise Architect are design and visual modeling tools that support the planning and development of embedded systems.
5. Employ Continuous Quality Control
Maintaining the quality and reliability of embedded systems is becoming increasingly tougher as their complexities increase. These systems are used in advanced domains like satellites, airplanes, fire alarms, and medical technology. Consequently, even a small error can cause huge losses.
Through quality control, one can ensure that the embedded system complies with the reliability, efficiency, and performance standards before the system is deployed. The quality control process points out the shortcomings of the system and enables the design and development team to fix the bug in time. Therefore, successful quality control assures the developer that the device will work as planned.
Breaking the embedded code into smaller units makes it easier to write error-free codes by filtering out bugs in the system at an early stage. This shortens the time to manually check for errors and reduces the probability of having to face bigger issues in the future. In recent times, tools like Tessy and Classification Tree Editor (CTE) are being used to determine code coverage and to perform automated module/unit and integration testing of embedded software in various programming languages like C and C++.
The applications of embedded systems are increasing significantly. Most electronic devices have embedded systems and even the smallest error can have devastating effects on the reputation of the company involved. Moreover, testing and debugging errors is extremely complex, time-consuming, and expensive. Companies must use the above-mentioned methods to eliminate complexities in embedded system development to create functional, efficient, and reliable devices that perform tasks as intended.
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About the author
Rose Martin is an editor at Rantle East Electronic Trading Co. Limited - Electronic components distributor & IC supplier. She has a master degree in electrical engineering. She likes to share her views and perspectives on electronics manufacturing industries, production, technologies and entrepreneurship. You can reach out to her at [email protected].