Why Study Embedded Systems?
Embedded systems are combinations of hardware and software. The purpose of embedded systems is to control a device, a process or a larger system. Specific examples of embedded systems include those controlling the structural units of a car, the automatic pilot and avionics of aircrafts, telematics systems for traffic control, the chip set and software within a set-top box for digital TV, a pacemaker, chips within telecom switching equipment; ambient devices, and control systems embedded in nuclear reactors.
The scope and role of embedded systems are continually expanding. For example, in 2003, there was an average of 8 billion embedded programmable components worldwide. Conservative estimates foresee a doubling of this figure by 2010, or three embedded devices for every person on earth.
Exponentially increasing computing power, ubiquitous connectivity and the convergence of technology have resulted in hardware/software systems being embedded within everyday products and places. As a consequence, new functionalities have become viable, and new mass markets for embedded systems have emerged. Yet such successes have created new challenges that need to be addressed through innovative technology and education. As systems become ever more intelligent and distributed, they also become more complex and interdependent. Security, software and hardware reliability, dependability and interoperability requirements continue to grow. Timely and cost-effective system design, development and inter-working have all become major research challenges.
This combination of factors makes the design of embedded systems, in general, a very complex task. The failure of an embedded system can have serious consequences including the loss of life, thus, precision and reliability are vital. Most companies face the challenge of changing over to embedded and distributed systems so as to remain current and up-to-date.Specific characteristics of embedded systems are:
- Complex interactions with the environment. One can only design and reason about embedded systems if one takes the behaviour of their environment into account. Frequently, this environment is highly non-deterministic and intrinsically continuous.
- High dependability requirements. Besides functional constraints, many other aspects play a role in the design of embedded systems: timeliness, fault tolerance, availability, security, safety, etc.
- Effort gain independence of the hardware platform.
- Formation of distributed structures of self-contained component units.
The goal of the Informatics – Embedded Systems programme is to prepare students with a comprehensive understanding of the hardware and software technologies used in embedded systems. The programme strives to seek a balance between the software and hardware aspects of embedded systems and focuses on dependable systems for embedded control application.