Embedded System





What is it ?


What is Embedded System ?

Before we talk about 'Embedded System', let's think of what the word 'embedded' mean. 'Embedded' mean 'Attached to something' or more accurately 'Attached deep inside to something'.


Now you may easily guess what is Embedded System. According to the meaning of the word 'Embedded', you can define 'Embedded System' as 'a system that is attached deep inside to something'.  


Now you may ask what kind of system are you talking about ? what is the 'something' ?

The system in this definition usually mean a kind of small computer. We usually call this small computer as 'Microcontroller'. The 'something' usually mean many different things like Washing machine, Copy Machine, ATM, Elevator, Drone even a car etc. Actually almost every thing that is driven by electricity has a small computer (Microcontroller) in it. So you can say almost every electronic appliances you see these days has one or more embedded system in it.


Just to give you an intuitive feeling about an Embedded System, let me give you a comparative image as shown below. The biggest difference would be

  • Usually a Microcontroller is used in Embedded System, whereas general purpose CPU is used in General Purpose PC
  • In most cases, a lot of sensors and actuators (e.g, Motors) are connected and controlled by the processor.
  • You would notice some other differences in the devices attached to the embedded system and general purpose CPU.



Followings are a couple of examples of electronic appliances (machines) that has embedded system(s) in it. I hope you can get some intuitive understanding from these examples.





Then you may ask 'Can we take a PC / Laptop as an embedded system ?'  We don't call a PC/Laptop as an embedded system, mainly because a PC/Laptop is a computer as a whole system. It is not something attached (embedded) to some other things. Also, the controller (CPU) in the PC/Laptop is too big/high performance to be called as Microcontroller.










Mobile phone used to be the most typical example of Embedded System, but as it evolves into Smartphone.. it would become more like general purpose PC. However, mobile phone is one of the biggest application of Embedded System.



Probably one of the biggest area of the Embedded System in near future will be Internet of Things (IoT) as illustrated below. Basic idea of IoT is to connect every objects (Things) to each other. It means all of these objects should have an embedded system with wired or wireless communication module.



Reference :


[1] Embedded System in Automobiles

[2] Embedded Systems Role in Automobiles with Applications