DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION – CHALLENGES IN EMBEDDED SYSTEMS
Digital transformation is impacting not just software solutions but also embedded systems. Next-generation connected hardware products are transforming customer experiences, operational efficiencies and business models, by merging software, edge devices, and online connectivity to create intelligent systems.
If your business designs, manufactures, sells and supports hardware products, then you should consider the convergence of device, cloud, mobile and other technologies in your product roadmap for greater competitive advantage. This is regardless of your target customer or the user environment – factories, enterprises, homes or individual consumers.
Designing smart, connected, modern embedded systems as part of your digital transformation strategy can pose multiple challenges:
You need to decide various aspects including chip selection, incorporating an operating system or working with bare metal, firmware footprint and memory size, connectivity options, built-in device security and power consumption.
You must consider not just the application functionality, but also other aspects such as edge intelligence, communication protocols, connectivity options, data security and encryption, operating environment, firmware updation and battery life.
Testing large numbers of devices that are continuously generating data, poses significant challenges in terms of scale, velocity and variety. Your internal test teams and infrastructure may not be geared for this.
The typical lifespan of a product is shrinking and companies are introducing several products every day. Technology is also rapidly changing, As a result, the cost of implementing a new device as well the timeframe are critical.
Designing next-generation products require a combination of modern embedded systems, cloud, mobile and other skills. Building an internal team can be challenging.
DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION – TRENDS IN EMBEDDED SYSTEMS
Digital transformation is driving changes in embedded systems. Some of the trends in embedded systems include:
Standalone embedded systems are giving way to connected products. Millions of new embedded devices are being connected to the Internet, interacting with each other, sensors, local devices and the cloud. Cloud connectivity tools are simplifying the process of connecting embedded systems to the cloud. Bluetooth mesh networks are being used for connectivity of nearby low-power devices.
Traditional, fixed interfaces and device-specific remote controls are giving way to smart front panels with remote provisioning, installation and de-installation of apps, portable methods of device user interfaces via apps on ubiquitous smartphones and tablets, and Natural User Interface (NUI) based on human gestures.
Modern embedded devices are being built with edge intelligence, capable of executing at the edge for faster and low-latency decision making. Further, embedded Artificial Intelligence (AI) enables these devices to perform deep learning and be able to achieve self-diagnosis, adaptive behavior and preventive maintenance.
Security of embedded devices is being given great importance. Some of the trends include: secure booting with device key generators, cryptographically signed code, secure code updates, encrypted data storage and communication, embedded firewalls, device tamper detection, integration with security management systems.
Microcontroller-based systems are now offering heterogeneous computing capability with multiple cores dedicated for different types of processing. Open source frameworks such as OpenAMP coordinate communications between cores running dissimilar operating environments (bare metal, real-time OS), and allow asymmetric multiprocessing applications to leverage parallelism offered by multiple cores.
New Scalable Chipsets
New scalable chip architectures are today offering multiprocessing capabilities in chipsets. Server performance can scale from low, using a few processors, to very high, using several processors. This makes it easier to build and scale server systems in a cost effective manner instead of building systems with different chipsets for different applications.
Open-Source Real-Time OS
Many Microprocessor vendors now include real-time OS in their software development kits. FreeRTOS™ is a popular open source real-time OS included by several vendors, including STMicroelectronics®, NXP®, and Atmel®. Renesas™ includes the ThreadX® RTOS. In addition, one has embedded Linux® and Android™ OS as well.
Real-time visualization tools are now available that provide developers the ability to monitor, review and visualize embedded software execution in real-time. They can track key performance metrics such as raw/processed data and event-based decisions.
Reducing power consumption in embedded systems has gained importance due to the advent of connected devices and the consideration of long battery life in customer purchase decisions. Microcontroller manufacturers now provide energy monitoring tools for developers to measure power consumption. Wi-Fi®, Bluetooth® connectivity providers are producing hardware with low power consumption. 3D SiP (System in Package) hardware technology offers improved power efficiency by using a stack hardware architecture.
PRODUCT ENGINEERING SERVICES FOR EMBEDDED SYSTEMS
At Celstream, with nearly two decades of experience in delivering product engineering services for diverse and complex products and apps, we understand what it takes to implement hardware and software for modern embedded systems to enable the digital transformation of your products and services.
Our product engineering services teams have extensive experience in working with multiple chipsets and real-time OSs, enabling modern user-interfaces, integrating the devices with cloud and mobile applications, incorporating device security and testing the devices.
Celstream’s expertise includes turnkey solution implementation involving embedded hardware, embedded firmware, embedded applications, cloud software and mobile apps:
- Microprocessor & microcontroller based embedded hardware design, development and testing for a variety of applications
- Embedded hardware selection & component benchmarking, system design, proof of concept solution, prototype development, board bring up, embedded firmware integration and testing, pilot production, manufacturing support
- Chipsets from various vendors including Microchip®, STMicroelectronics, NXP, Nordic®, Espressif™, Texas Instruments™, Marvell®, Intel®
- Operating Systems such as Unix®, Linux flavors, Android
- Real-time operating systems such as FreeRTOS, VxWorks®, etc.
- Bare metal
- Embedded firmware design, development and testing
- Embedded IDE tools like MPLAB® X, Atollic TrueSTUDIO®, Keil®, CodeWarrior™, SEGGER Embedded Studio®, Wind River Tornado®, Wind River® Workbench, etc.
- Embedded boot code
- Device drivers for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Zigbee®, Cellular and GNSS
- Serial device drivers for bus connectivity like USB, I2C, SPI, PCI and UART
- Porting and Integration of OEM supplied Linux based drivers like Wi-Fi, LCD and Touch
- Custom driver development
- Power management
- Embedded firmware upgrade solutions
- System testing and debugging
- Various tools like STM32 CubeMX, MPLAB Code Configurator, etc.
- Embedded applications design, development and testing for different verticals
- Embedded applications connectivity to mobile and cloud platforms
- Embedded device to mobile workflow solutions design, development and testing
- Embedded device to cloud workflow solutions design, development and testing
- Android front panels, touch screens design, development and testing
- Enhancement and integration of middleware software
- Network enabling standalone devices
- Connectivity and protocol stacks implementation
- Porting proprietary and open source based applications across different operating systems and its flavors
- Embedded security solutions design, development and testing
- Device hardware simulators design and development