Future Challenges in Embedded Systems
Embedded system is a special-purpose system in which the computer is completely encapsulated by the device it controls. embedded system unlike a general-purpose computer, such as a personal computer, an embedded system performs one or a few pre-defined tasks, usually with very specific requirements. Since the embedded system is dedicated to specific tasks, design engineers can optimize it, reducing the size and cost of the product. Embedded systems are often mass-produced, so the cost savings may be multiplied.
Embedded systems have been around for a while. Why the sudden change in interest? What circumstances were missing in the past that exist now?
There is a huge interest in embedded systems now, and they’ve been around for a while. However, we don’t think they’ve been quite as widespread in the past. The change in interest is just the fact that they’re everywhere—the Internet is certainly part of it. You can now have smart devices interconnected and networked together, which makes it much more useful to put a microprocessor in various kinds of appliances and other such devices. You wouldn’t have thought about doing that before.
Embedded systems evolved with general-purpose computer systems.
They were at the forefront of the use and justification of computer products,
the closest to the field. This is where the theories are making or breaking. In
the past, most of the embedded research and development was identified with real-time systems and industrial settings, but things have been changing since. With wider deployment of computers, the need for embedded systems has increased. We can recognize this in almost any facet of our lives: embedded systems are inmost house appliances, cars, electrical devices, and industrial devices and tools .This seems to be a long-lasting trend in front of us, of the same or larger imp act and disruption than the appearance of the Web. Being widespread poses some hard requirements on embedded systems. They must be as reliable and robust as other house appliances; as easy to use and as available; connected with other devices, requiring adherence to standards of some kind; and low cost—consequently their development will be defined on a strictly economical basis. Some of the earlier requirements might not be as relevant in the embedded space. The requirements might have to adjust, making trade-offs, such as size versus flexibility, robustness versus richness of functionality, and power consumption versus performance. The producers of the particular systems will define the exact trade-offs, resulting in a fractured market. Every producer has system software of some kind, typically home-brewed or adapted from one of the many embedded operating systems. The impact of the many embedded systems produced reflects on the minimization of the software cost. If there are a million embedded systems produced, each one of them worth a few tens of dollars, it is unacceptable that the cost of software is of any significance. The cost in this space is largely dominated by hardware and the savings for hardware are also extremely strict. Because there are potentially numerous versions and variations of embedded systems, the composability of hardware and software is of extreme importance. Connecting embedded devices will extend the scalability limits of todays systems even beyond the Internet’s global scale. One user can have hundreds and thousands of embedded devices, disrupting traditional networking and, in particular, addressing techniques. Furthermore, it would not be possible or economically viable to connect all these devices by traditional wired technologies; therefore, wireless will become an attractive alternative, opening up new research and development areas. s embedded systems become more powerful, the kinds of things you can accomplishing an embedded environment will be much more complex than they were 10 years ago. Being able to provide an environment that is secure and highly available while still delivering deterministic real-time characteristics is very important.
What will be the dominant applications for embedded systems in the future?
I think the market is so fragmented that you can’t have one dominant killer
application. They’re not general-purpose platforms that embedded designers
are developing. In a lot of cases, they’re very single-purpose, and We don’t
think that we can have a killer app that will cross the entire embedded market.
Certainly, there are some things that stand out—the use of TCP/IP, embedded browsing, and Java will all be important— but no, We don’t think there will be one killer application in particular . But yes there is a promising application for embedded systems which is:-
NETWORKING, Networking, and networking. Whether it be an embedded microprocessor in some kind of server I/O device, network infrastructure equipment, or consumer devices, networking protocols and applications will dominate embedded applications.
Standards in networking are of great importance. Without them, we wouldn’t be where we are today. There have been attempts to make standard application programming interfaces, (APIs) for operating system services and in some areas that will be important, but standards will truly be critical at the communications interfaces. In an open third-party environment, you’re going to need some API standard so that people can write their applications for this open platform, but the majority of embedded systems are not open. However, those devices do need to communicate over a wire or some kind of median to another computer somewhere, and it’s on those interfaces where standards are critical.
General-purpose processors will be used more in embedded systems. Building a general-purpose platform provides freedom in a fast-changing marketplace. A printer today might be a file server tomorrow. Designing too much noncustomizable hardware into your embedded system will mean that the system isn’t flexible to the changing marketplace.
How will networking impact embedded systems?
Embedded systems have already been impacted by networking in a huge way. Part of the value proposition for having a 32-bit processor in your device is that you can then include a network stack along with various network protocols and have that device be connected to the outside world. This has completely changed the versatility of an embedded device. If you can connect a widget to a network, you can remotely
manage that widget including things like automatic upgrades of your application. This is a powerful feature and one of the reasons why the embedded market is exploding the way it is.
What are the biggest challenges for ubiquitous embedded systems in the future?
The obvious ones are security, real-time, scalability, and high availability, but I think other key challenges exist, such as what I call performance-based interoperability. Although these complex, ubiquitous systems are glued together with layers of protocols, they still have time constraints and other performance demands that impact how the system will perform, and thereby how it will be accepted by the public. For example, if I have a deadline for sending videos across multiple links, is it really going to get to the people wanting to watch the video in a manner that they can view the video properly? Solving this issue requires meeting time constraints and going through layers of protocols, software mappings, and switches from one kind of network to another, and through layers of software. If the result is a poor quality video, people won’t accept the product. Also, for embedded systems to be universal they must be easier to use, and we’re starting to see that. For example, with e-mail-enabled phones, you might want to go through the Internet and download your e-mail; but you still have to punch in a URL using the keypad on the phone and then the result is three tiny lines of text on the screen, which is not too exciting. Yet some people like it, and they’re using it. Better interfaces will make this application more prevalent. Another challenge for smart environments is safety. For example, in a smart university, you won’t want to see doors opening and closing at the wrong times, or windows slamming on somebody’s hand. Smart environments must be safe environments. In the end, people won’t want them if they’re not safe, available, and reliable. In fact, smart environments must be as reliable as, say, the power grid. We come in every day, we turn on the lights, and the electricity is there. We need the same kind of performance from these smart spaces.
What do you think are the most likely applications? Is there any need
for a killer application or will this happen anyway?
We don’t think there’s a need for killer applications, because We think there are a lot of them—We are kind of an optimist on this issue. Systems like a smart house will push this field forward .We think smart forms of entertainment are going to be key driving applications. It is easy to imagine systems like smart classrooms, universities, hospitals, and airports, and I think that they will come along piecemeal, improving over time.
What do you think will be the most promising applications in embedded
That’s difficult to say. There will be applications in the home and entertainment areas, but we’ll also see more in the automobile sector. There are some predictions that by 2005 about 70% of a car’s cost will be due to its electronics, and most of this will be due to embedded systems technology. Today, only 30% of a car’s cost is due to electronics. So we will see a big shift in embedded systems technology in two sectors: applications for the automotive industry and the much more visible embedded systems in personal digital assistants, games, and so forth.
Do you think that this opens up many social aspects with humans
suddenly surrounded by all kinds of wearable embedded devices?
We’ve already started to do demographic studies in our lab. We’ve gone into people’s homes and looked at the way they interact with technology. The model of how consumers work with technology is changing, and technology is becoming embedded into nearly everything we interact with. Consumers are not aware of that, just that devices are smarter in some way. Exposing that smartness is something we have to work at. As we move toward multimodal input models, the user interaction model for consumers becomes much more complicated. The idea of talking to something to make it work is still strange for consumers, and acceptance will take time.
Do the innovations will remain within the computer or that it may get diffused outside in consumer products?
Innovation is definitely going to happen in many places. There’s a collision underway between two industries. Because the entire system fits on a chip, computer companies can’t really design systems anymore without becoming system-on a- chip experts. The semiconductor companies can’t design a chip without becoming system designers, because the chip contains the whole system. This is causing quite a lot of confusion in these industries. The two communities that are most focused on the embedded space are the smart product companies, who already have the ability to design embedded systems, and the semiconductor companies that are trying to step up to system-on- A-chip design. These companies are taking the finally, fault tolerance and security are traditional challenges for any distributed system, and they will ultimately determine the acceptance of embedded technologies by society.
Because of this field’s (Embedded System’s) size, the dominant players are going to be lots of different groups, and I believe the telecommunications companies that provide the infrastructure are crucial.
This isn’t just WorldCom or Lucent, but the companies that are building handheld devices and even the hardware companies that are building DSP chips. Software companies such as Microsoft, IBM, HP, and other major corporations all have major products in smart spaces, so I believe the large companies and manufacturers will play a driving role.
On the other hand, because the market potential is so great, startups will also play a role. They will generate Internet appliances, handheld devices, and different kinds of smart robots that we can’t even imagine today. Universities will play the role they normally do—coming up with new ideas.