Want to know how you can build robots and drones, or an engaging toy? Interested in how home appliances or the latest whizz bang gadgetry works? Then you need to learn about embedded systems!

An example of an embedded system, a circuit board with an LCD, some buttons and a battery to power it.
Example of a medical embedded system showing heartrate.

We are living at an amazing point in human history. Over the last couple of hundred years, humans have made huge leaps in understanding about the physical world around us. We have harnessed the silicon transistor, and progressed to a point where computers of astonishing power are in every area of activity around us. Desktops, laptops and mobile phone computers are extremely powerful, but another class of computer, one which is rarely through of by most people, partly because it is hidden from view and most of their uses don’t even know they are there. They are in calculators, TV remote controls, toasters, firdge freezers, and about almost everything that has a battery or plugs into the wall. This sort of computer and its inputs (typically a few buttons and some sensors along with it’s outputs – maybe a flashing LED, or a beeper, or maybe a simple LCD display – is called an embedded system. These little computers are generally called microcontrollers.

Some microcontrollers are very small, like this Atmel ‘TINY’ ‘8 bit’ microntroller.

Today, embedded systems are everywhere, for example throughout the home in microwave ovens, washing machines, burglar alarm, central heating controller, toys and games, remote controls, televisions, alarm clocks. In cars everything from the engine control unit to the locking system and the electric windows, the brakes, and in car entertainment have embedded systems at their heart. In hospitals the monitoring equipment and drug dispensers used in wards, ultra sound systems to look inside us as well as pace makers are all based on microcontrollers and embedded systems. Embedded systems are basically everywhere!

Through the articles on this site, we aim to cover a diverse range of topics, which include but not limited to:

  • Introduction and basic ideas of embedded systems
  • Inputs and outputs & interfacing
  • Peripherals
  • Architectures
  • Different platforms and chips – PIC, AVR, ARM, Raspberry Pi, Beaglebone, Nucleo Boards
  • Assembly language programming – ‘Assembler’
  • C programming
  • Unit testing
  • Projects using microcontrollers and embedded firmware
  • Tools
  • Standards
  • Real time embedded systems
  • RTOS
  • Interfaces
  • Debugging

Example projects are available to follow along in the design of embedded systems, along with links for project kits and source code.

Embedded systems knowledge requires both breadth and depth, it is where hardware and software combine – semiconductor technology, analog and digital electronics, computer architecture, sensors, actuators and more!