Have you ever wondered why they’re called embedded systems? What exactly does an embedded system engineer do, and how does it drive business success? Let’s explore together in this blog post about embedded system engineering.
What Is an Embedded System?
Embedded systems are specialized computing systems designed for dedicated functions within larger systems. Unlike general-purpose computers, they are tailored for specific applications and seamlessly integrated into the devices they serve: such as microwaves, medical devices, washing machines, smartwatches, laptops and aircraft control systems.
The term “embedded” highlights the seamless integration of these systems into the devices they control. They are an integral part of a larger whole, discreetly woven into the functionality of the host device.
Embedded Software Engineering, or embedded software development, is the craft of designing and developing these embedded systems. It’s a fine blend of electrical engineering, computer science and software development.
Embedded Engineer’s Role
What is an embedded software engineer? Well, you can think of embedded engineers as specialists who design, develop and maintain software that runs on embedded systems. These systems can belong to diverse industries, from industrial machinery and medical science, to aviation, household appliances and IoT (the internet of Things).
Embedded systems engineers work closely with hardware designers, ensuring compatibility of software and hardware components.
Today, smart devices and interconnected systems dominate virtually every market. Embedded systems play a crucial role, driving automation, improving user experience and enhancing the functionality of our everyday devices.
The impact of embedded engineering extends beyond technology - it directly translates into tangible business benefits. Among other things, embedded devices accelerate time-to-market for products and contribute to the differentiation of products, and these are key factors for staying competitive in saturated markets.
Next, let’s check out what types of embedded products there are.
Types of Embedded Systems
Embedded systems come in various types, including standalone, networked, mobile, and real-time systems. Regardless of type, they share common traits such as being microprocessor/microcontroller based, often used for IoT devices, and characterized by time-sensitive execution.
Standalone Embedded Systems
These embedded systems operate independently, that is, they don’t need a host computer - they generate outputs on their own. An example of standalone systems would be digital cameras, washing machines and digital watches.
Networked Embedded Systems
Networked embedded systems communicate with web servers through wired or wireless networks, forming the backbone of interconnected environments. Home security systems, ATMs and point-of-sale (POS) systems are all examples of networked embedded systems.
Mobile Embedded Systems
Portable and versatile, mobile embedded systems encapsulate the essence of tech on the move. Cell phones, laptops, tablets, smartwatches - all embody the realm of mobile embedded systems. They possess standalone functionality, and their portability distinguishes them in a league of their own.
Real-Time Embedded Systems
Speed is essential with this type of embedded systems: they prioritize immediate results and are crucial in embedded applications where time-sensitive function execution is paramount.
Self-driving vehicles, aircraft control systems ensuring safe flights and medical devices monitoring patients’ vital signs are all examples of this type of embedded systems.
Primary Components of Embedded Systems
There are three primary components of embedded systems: hardware, application software and a real-time operating system (RTOS).
The hardware backbone of embedded systems are microprocessors and controllers. They include a central processing unit (CPU) which is connected to other basic computing hardware, such as power supplies, memory chips and LCD displays.
The software of embedded systems enables these systems to carry out their intended functions seamlessly. Their complexity varies, from the intuitive interface of a smartphone to the sophisticated algorithms of a self-driving car.
Real-Time Operating Systems (RTOS)
These systems are designed to respond quickly to external events, in situations where responsiveness and accuracy are crucial. Equally important for already mentioned self-driving cars, and, say, guiding a spacecraft through cosmos.
We mentioned different types of embedded systems, but there are also diverse types of embedded engineers. Let’s see what they are.
Types of Embedded Engineers
Embedded Systems Engineer: this is considered a junior position where individuals do fundamental software development tasks under supervision.
Senior Embedded Systems Engineer is the next step, where the individual’s autonomy expands. They analyze and resolve more complex technical problems, and additionally, now it’s their turn to provide mentorship to junior engineers.
Principal Embedded Systems Engineer: this is considered the peak of an embedded engineer - as principal embedded system engineers are deeply involved in the design of both embedded systems and software. These experts communicate directly with top leadership, and direct the course of projects autonomously.
Embedded Architect: the role of embedded architect is all-encompassing. They make high-level decisions about system structure, oversee its development process and coordinate technical requirements for the whole project team.
How Do You Become an Embedded Software Engineer?
Anyone aspiring to become an embedded systems engineer usually begins with a solid educational foundation. Approximately three-quarters of professionals in this field hold a bachelor’s degree, with around one-fifth pursuing advanced education at the master’s level. An associate degree and a doctorate are less common, comprising less than 5% of the workforce.
Generally speaking, the educational trajectory often revolves around computer science or engineering disciplines. Programming is a cornerstone of their college studies, which probably goes without saying.
Beyond formal education, embedded software engineers often enhance their credentials with certifications that demonstrate expertise in specific areas. It’s an everlasting combination of academic knowledge and practical experience that paves the way for success and makes the cake.
Essential Workplace Skills for Embedded Engineers
Before jumping to technical skills, often perceived as the sole important requirement for a proficient embedded engineer, let’s go over some soft skills that can make you stand out or, on the downside, truly be a dealbreaker if they’re lacking.
Written and verbal communication - embedded engineers will often work with people from different backgrounds, and it’s necessary that they’re capable of articulating complex technical concepts clearly.
Problem-solving - analytical thinking and being proactive while navigating challenges is a requirement on a daily basis of an embedded engineer’s workday.
Being a team player - the willingness (and sometimes patience) to cooperate with your colleagues harmoniously is sometimes the only thing that stands between the successful execution of tasks and complete chaos.
Creativity - Envisioning innovative solutions and pushing the boundaries of embedded systems design is a huge part of embedded system development.
Logical thinking - a structured approach ensures efficiency and coherence of all types of embedded software engineers.
Technical Skills for Embedded Engineers
Programming skills in C and C++ are foundational for embedded engineers, providing the proficiency to write efficient code for embedded systems.
Experience with RTOS - having worked with real-time operating systems showcases an understanding of multitasking environments and the necessity for preemptiveness: excellent and necessary skills for all types of embedded engineers.
Proficiency in device drivers - competence in device drivers, especially for platforms like Linux, is key for smooth integration with hardware components.
Debugging capability - both remotely and locally, debugging capabilities are vital for identifying and resolving issues in both hardware and software domains.
An Embedded Engineer’s Resumé: Not Just a Formality
As in any other kind of job, an embedded engineer’s resumé makes the first impression on potential employers. It’s essential to craft a concise snapshot of your skills, experience and capabilities. Taking extra care to make your resumé strong, sharp and precise can truly set you apart from the crowd, paving the way for interviews until you secure a desired position.
Creating a portfolio: Developing a good portfolio is almost like having a dear friend vouch for how impressive you and your work are, offering potential employers a profound insight into your capabilities. It represents a tangible expression of your work, skills, experience and accomplishments.
The Future of Embedded Software Development Services
What does the future hold for embedded software design? Well, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, it’s here to stay and then some.
Its broader category of ‘software developers, quality assurance analysts and testers’ (which encompasses embedded software development), is projected to grow by 25% by 2031. This growth rate is considerably higher than the average for all occupations, indicating a positive trajectory for the entire software development sector, including embedded system development.
Finding Top Talent for Embedded Engineering Services
As an employer, there are key factors to consider when seeking to hire an exceptional embedded software engineer. First, don’t solely focus on technical expertise. A proven track record in problem-solving, creativity, and, importantly, adaptability can spare you and your team significant challenges.
In terms of technical skills, look for candidates proficient in languages like C and C++, with experience in real-time operating systems (RTOS) and device drivers, coupled with strong debugging skills. Evaluating their past projects, especially contributions to open-source or personal projects, can likely provide you with the most insightful perspective.
If you prefer to optimize your time, though, consider entrusting your project to 2am.tech. With a decade of experience, we are a software development company offering comprehensive embedded software development services covering everything from systems integration to product strategy. Whether envisioning machine-to-machine communication systems or standalone devices, we specialize in constructing firmware, middleware and real-time operating systems (RTOS) that seamlessly harmonize bare metal and software.
While we provide a range of services, our pride lies in being problem-solvers. We are eager to learn about your projects and challenges, so feel free to reach out and let us know what’s going on and how we can assist! We look forward to helping your business thrive.
- What is the meaning of embedded engineering?
Embedded engineering is essentially the art and science of creating the brains inside devices you use every day, like your smart watch or car navigation system.
- How much do embedded engineers make?
The pay for embedded engineers varies, but on average, they earn $80,000-$120,000 annually in the US. This range mostly depends on factors like experience and location.
- Is embedded programming hard?
Depending on the programmer’s expertise, embedded programming can be challenging, requiring analytical and problem-solving skills, as well as precision in instructing devices with limited resources.
- Are embedded engineers in demand?
Yes, embedded engineers are in high demand, driven by the growing integration of electronic systems across diverse industries such as IoT, healthcare, and the rapidly expanding realm of consumer electronics.