About embedded systems – in simple terms (4)

End (4), beginning No. 1

Similarities and differences between ES and personal computers.

To put in simple terms, ES may be called specialized microcomputers, and this analogy is quite helpful when discussing ES. Common computers are universal and can be used for a variety of tasks using various algorithms and applications. Microcomputers, are in contrary very narrow specialized and intended for a specific task. The software used for microcomputers is a program code, which is simple, fixed, and therefore performs the tasks much faster than conventional computers, the operation is more stable, software errors are easy to find by code analysers in the early stage of ES design, and there are almost no need for any upgrades or service pack No… If something has to be upgraded, it is usually due to the changes in the hardware.
Absence of the components that determine the versatility of the computer (e.g. video card, hard disk containing all necessary and unnecessary applications “for all the cases”, etc.), simplified construction of the hardware (optimized for a specific task) and the software not only increase the speed of operation for several times but also allow reducing the dimensions as well as design and manufacture costs, which results in a rapid spread of ES in the market.

The designed production is expensive, however, due to small size, the costs for logistics are rather low. Energy and material resources required for the production process are minimal. The price of creating a workplace in a company that design and manufacture embedded systems is especially low as it only requires a personal computer, specialized software and resources of knowledge and intelligence. In some products, the major part of the ES added value gains are obtained from the value of the software installed. The cost of one software line might reach 1000$ depending on the code error intensity requirement . Experts estimated that currently, approximately 90 % of all the microprocessors are included in the embedded systems, and only 10 % in personal computers.

To sum up, the following are the main differences between personal computers and embedded systems:

1.    ES executes only specialized narrow-targeted tasks specified for that system. The size, and the costs of the components are significantly lower compared to personal computers. PC is a universal device that can be used for a variety of tasks (e.g. performing mathematical tasks or statistical analysis, listening to music, watching movies, editing texts and images, etc.).

2.    ES are constantly entered data which are then computed at real-time mode giving the results instantly. i.e. the time during which ES must respond to a certain situation – sensor readings – is very short. Most often, ES are real-time systems. Data are entered in advance, and then they are processed with a specific application from a set of the programs.

3.    Software of every ES in different products will be specialized for performing the tasks of one type. Personal computers are equipped with various standard applications.

4.    Architecture of different ES differs depending on what kind of data are processed in microprocessor, what kind of algorithms are used, and what kind of connection with the peripheral devices is used. The architecture of almost all PCs is usually standard and very similar.

 

The development strategy for embedded systems

The giants of global electronics Nokia, Philips, ST-Microlelectronics, Thales and Daimler-Chrysler, have developed ARTEMIS (Advanced Research & Technology for EMbedded Intelligence and Systems) – a platform of embedded systems for the development of dynamic sectors of ES. The purpose of this platform is to strengthen the position of the European Union in the areas of ES design, integration, and supply. In the older EU countries, the links between science and business have been developed according to the long-term coordinated strategies.

The leading global electronics companies Intel, Texas Instruments, Motorola, Altera, Analog Devices, etc. has been cooperating with the universities with the aim to develop studies and research in this area and to attract more students. Several times in a year, they hold world-class scientific-technical conferences, many companies and universities arrange various virtual workshops.

According to the experts in this area, the demand of ES industry for IT specialists has been increasing approximately by 20% annually, which significantly exceeds the capabilities of universities. The market of innovative products is very dynamic, therefore the marketing strategy for this kind of products is also a complicated task, – well-prepared professionals are required.

Perspectives in Lithuania

How we could compete (or at least to get closer to) with more technologically advanced countries (in addition to the area of high-tech)? Of course, we could cooperate with the foreign companies that are highly equipped technologically. But the majority of Lithuanian companies are already sufficiently capable from the technological point of view: they design hardware, and Lithuanian universities prepare highly-qualified IT specialists for them – engineers-programmers, code analyzers, mathematicians and simulation experts, and physicians. Lithuanian companies manufacture devices and equipment with functional electronic ES. Such products include metering and accounting devices for telecommunications and digital TV, energy, and electric energy as well as household appliances. Other companies work in the areas related to ES application and product logistics. Some of the Lithuanian companies has been successfully competing with their ES products in the global market. In 2006, top twelve Lithuanian electronics and IT companies established a technological platform of embedded systems. The purpose of this platform is to strive that design and application of embedded systems could develop in the direction of Lisbon strategy and strategic goals set for Lithuania.

One of the factors for commercial success in Lithuania could be cheaper preparation of qualified specialists, and participation of academic community in the areas of high information technologies.

 

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