Embedded systems are computer systems that are within larger devices, whether it is an electrical or mechanical system. These systems have a dedicated function within that larger unit. The system will control one specific task in the larger unit. These sorts of systems are nearly everywhere today, and they help to control many devices. Some of the most common places to find these embedded computing systems are in microcontrollers, but they are still common as microprocessors in complex systems.
One of the benefits of these types of systems comes from a design and engineering standpoint. Since they only have a single job, it is possible for engineers to refine the embedded system, helping to make it smaller without reducing the power or quality. This helps to reduce the size of the larger device that contains the embedded system, and that can help to reduce costs. Some of the places where you can see embedded systems in use today include MP3 players, traffic lights, digital watches, MRI machines, and even in motor vehicles. They can be relatively simple, or they can be more complex, containing more than one unit – even networks within a larger enclosure or device.
Most of the devices you use each day, from your phone to your game consoles, digital cameras, microwave ovens, and washing machines make use of these embedded systems. It is not a stretch to say that the world would be a different and far less convenient place if it were not for embedded computing systems.
It is important to remember there is a wide range of different types of embedded systems out there today, and each of them is slightly different and has different functions. Some of the systems do not have any user interface since they are inside of a system and performing their duty without the need for human adjustment. Others are quite complex and have a deep interface. Some of the devices use buttons and LEDs, or even LCD screens as a means of control.
The systems and single board computers have much more to offer though, and they can become wonderful teaching tools. Even better, they are useful for many different sorts of projects, large and small