Hello friends, I hope you all are happy, healthy and content! Today, we will be discussing the types of embedded systems. But, Before jumping to the types of embedded systems, let's first revise what is an Embedded System? I hope you have a clear idea about the embedded systems, if not, there is always a solution!
Definition of an embedded system
"An embedded system is a unique combination of computer hardware and a software designed for performing a specific function or set of functions from a certain input"
For a detailed overview of the embedded system and its components, you can refer to the complete article on our website about embedded systems.
Types of Embedded Systems
Presuming that you are well aware of the embedded systems and its components, we will be discussing types of embedded systems in detail in this section. Embedded systems can be classified on two bases;
Performance and functional requirements of the system.
Performance of the Microcontroller used in the embedded system.
Types of embedded systems based on performance
As the name suggests these type of embedded systems comprise of a specific type of embedded system, aptly named after their functionalities and performance;
Stand-Alone Embedded System.
Real-Time Embedded System.
Networked Embedded System.
Mobile Embedded System.
1. Stand-Alone Embedded System
You might have made a rough sketch of a stand-alone embedded system by now after seeing the heading, let me explain it first so you may decide later if it was a right guess or not!
A stand-alone embedded system is an isolated system that operates on its own.
It converts digital or analog signals based on its input method, into the output in form of a task or a response.
Example of Stand-alone Embedded System
I have a simple example for you to understand these stand-alone embedded systems, if you have a fully automatic washing machine or a dishwasher at your home, it makes use of such an embedded system.
In the case of a washing machine, you start the process by feeding in the digital command for the task by setting water level, wash time, rinse time, spin time, and type of wash cycle.
The digital input is then processed by the embedded system through its various components into the output, which you receive in the form of task performed that is the fully washed, rinsed and spun clothes which are ready to be ironed without any hassle!
Many appliances such as sound systems, convection ovens, dishwashers have stand-alone embedded systems inside them.
2. Real-time embedded systems
Real-time embedded systems are required to perform their assigned function or furnish the output under strict time constraints.
Exact timing is crucial to the working of a real-time embedded system as the name suggests!
They can be further classified as;
Hard real-time embedded systems.
Soft real-time embedded systems.
Hard real-time embedded system
Hard-real Time embedded systems imply strict time control, otherwise, there would be a critical system failure.
There is lesser interaction of physical hardware with the embedded software in hard real-time embedded systems.
Missing a deadline for output generation is considered as the complete system failure in the case of a hard real-time embedded system.
In case of a delay at the system's end, it could only be up to a few microseconds, any value greater than this would pose serious problems.
Heart pacemaker; pacemakers initiate normal heartbeat for people with heart pathologies, your heart can't skip a beat! It only happens in movies!
Missile launch, what's the purpose of launching a missile if it isn't able to hit the target at the desired time? Wouldn't it be a waste of time any resources?
Air traffic control, timing is crucial as there are many lives at stake in this case.
Soft real-time embedded systems
Soft real-time embedded systems can tolerate delays in task or output execution by providing low service quality.
Soft real-time embedded systems aim at prioritizing a task when a certain subset of commands is given to the system for generating output.
The efficiency of the system degrades as deadlines are missed, this happens due to burnout and overload of the system with already existing commands.
Live audio or video systems.
3. Networked Embedded Systems
In this modern era with the advancement of technology, networked embedded systems are being widely used. Before explaining network embedded systems, i want you to understand a networked system, Do you know what is a networked system? Let me explain; a networked system is a group of computers or devices connected through a network either through WAN, LAN or internet!
So, a Networked embedded system can be defined as;
"The embedded system which requires a network to approach the resources for performing a given task is called a networked embedded system."
The network can be wireless or a wired connection in form of WAN, LAN or internet.
Example of Networked System
In this highly advanced era of WIFI, we'll be discussing the example of a networked embedded system using a WIFI to operate!
You might have seen advertisements of air conditioners and refrigerators using WiFi in their operation.
It’s a simple process, you start by installing an app already present at the play store, connect that app with your appliance and operate your appliance with the help of this app! Refer to the diagram below for a better understanding;
You can manage everything related to your appliance, from temperature regulation to self-cleaning, from your phone with internet connectivity! Isn't it revolutionary? Yes, it is, all thanks to a networked embedded system using an internet connection to operate an appliance for performing the desired tasks!
4. Mobile embedded system
As technology advanced and revolutionized, mobile embedded systems never stopped amazing the consumers with their growth and advancement in every era.
Mobile embedded systems are used in portable electronic devices such as mobile phones, tablets, modern-day PRISM cameras, DSLR and whatnot, they are everywhere, every small handheld electronic device makes use of them!
So it was all about embedded systems based on performance and function. We will be moving on to our next section, discussing the type of embedded systems based on the type of Microcontroller. Let's first discuss, what is a microcontroller?
What is a microcontroller?
A microcontroller is a small chip having CPU, RAM, ROM, I/O ports and timers on it; it is simply a pizza with its toppings!
Features of a Microcontroller
Here are some of the features of a microcontroller:
You can have your cheese burst pizza but your microcontroller can only bear a limited amount of RAM, ROM and I/O ports, extra topping isn't even allowed in the form of additional memory!
There are certain alternatives to the microcontrollers, but the latter suits well with the embedded systems, so why not use the one which suits the best?
Microcontrollers are available in different bit sizes from 4 bit, 8bit, 16bit to 32 bit,64 bit you can use the one required for your task.
They are cost-effective, minimize power consumption, control-oriented and highly reliable.
Now you are well aware of the microcontroller and its feature, we will be discussing the types of embedded systems based on the performance of microcontrollers!
Types of Embedded System Based on the Performance of Microcontroller
Following are the three types of embedded systems based on the performance of the microcontroller;
Small Scale Embedded System.
Medium Scale Embedded System.
Sophisticated Embedded System.
1. Small Scale Embedded System
As the name suggests a small scale embedded system makes use of a small sized microcontroller, ranging from 8 bit to 16 bit.
They are less complex in terms of hardware and software and can be operated with batteries as well because of their smaller size.
Mostly the C programing language is used in such embedded systems.
Examples of Small Scale Embedded System
2. Medium Scale Embedded System
Medium-scale embedded systems are more complex in terms of their hardware and software than the small-scale embedded systems discussed above.
They make use of microcontrollers that are larger in bit size i.e numerous 16-bit size microcontrollers or a 32-bit microcontroller is used in making the embedded system.
Programming languages like Java, C, C++ are used to develop software for medium-scale embedded systems.
Example of Medium Scale Embedded System
ATM, which is widely used by us nowadays has a medium-scale embedded system in it. You can read a detailed account of its working in my previous tutorial about practical applications of embedded systems available on the website!
3. Sophisticated Embedded System
Sophisticated embedded systems, as the name suggests are highly advanced and developed in terms of hardware and software.
They make use of numerous 32 bit or 64-bit microcontrollers along with multiple programmable logic arrays PLA and configurable processors.
They are highly complex and are designed for performing complex tasks and functions.
Examples of Sophisticated Embedded System
Here are some of the examples using sophisticated embedded systems;
Modern-day air conditioners
Medical imaging systems
Sophisticated embedded systems mark an end to our discussion about the types of embedded systems, I presume, you are now fully aware of the topic we have discussed in depth today, I have tried my level best to cover all the aspects related to this topic in an easy way, without any doubt it is an easy one to grasp, for better understanding and developing a clearer perspective you can revise the concerned section, a second read never hurt anyone! Have a good day!
I am Syed Zain Nasir, the founder of The Engineering Projects (TEP). I am a
programmer since 2009 before that I just search things, make small projects and now I am sharing my
knowledge through this platform. I also work as a freelancer and did many projects related to
programming and electrical circuitry. My Google Profile+Follow