A large segment of technology-based products are electronic, and most are becoming "smart" devices. This simply means that the device contains some sort of brain that controls its behavior. This brain is like the one inside your computer - since it usually doesn't have all this stuff connected to it that you have on your computer at home, it is referred to as a microcontroller or microprocessor. And since it is usually inside the device, it is called embedded. Embedded systems are devices that contain microprocessors to do their jobs.
Many of today's electronic products are possible because electonics have gotten smaller and cheaper. The first television sets were huge, heavy, and tempramental. Now look at the size of an LCD display! Amazing!
Familiar Embedded Systems
Some embedded systems are famliar products - portable music
players and cell phones are great examples. The microprocessors in these
devices are not as fast and powerful as the ones in your computer, but they are
designed to have just the right requirements for the product. And since they
are so small, music players and cell phones have shrunk over time as well.
Insulated Glass Sealing System (Spadix Technologies)
Not so familiar embedded systems
But just because electronics are getting smaller doesn't
mean that large products can't be embedded. Consider an automated assembly line
for cars - all of those robotic systems are controlled by specialized
microprocessors that are designed to control motors and motion control, rather
than hard drives and wireless modems. The microprocessors in these products are
customized as well. Size really doesn't matter in the embedded world.
This embedded system is 8 feet wide and is used for a very specific purpose - to apply a glue sealent between two panes of glass to create an insulated glass window. It doesn't display images, it doesn't play music, it doesn't download from the internet. It just seals glass units.
For users to fully accept technology, the product. devices, or service must provide a solution to the customer's needs. Do the embedded systems above achieve this?
Many people have good and bad experiences with electronic personal organizers. With this one, it is easy to lose the stylus. Others cause repetitive stress injuries in the thumb. The display on some is hard to read. So what do users do? Complain, return the devices, and try something else. One might argue that different users have different needs, but what if we could design a device with all of the users needs in mind?
For more information on the history and definitions of embedded systems and considerations for designing them, click on the links below.
Even though embedded systems have been around for a while, there is no agreed-upon definition for what an actual embedded system is. Let's digress for a bit into more interesting information about embedded systems.
For more information on the history and definitions of embedded systems
and considerations for designing them, click on the links below.