Embedded Microcontroller Interfacing: Designing Integrated Projects

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Advanced HVAC systems use networked thermostats to more accurately and efficiently control temperature that can change by time of day and season.

What is Embedded Systems?

Transportation systems from flight to automobiles increasingly use embedded systems. New airplanes contain advanced avionics such as inertial guidance systems and GPS receivers that also have considerable safety requirements. Automobiles , electric vehicles , and hybrid vehicles increasingly use embedded systems to maximize efficiency and reduce pollution. Embedded systems within medical equipment are often powered by industrial computers.

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Embedded systems are used in transportation, fire safety, safety and security, medical applications and life critical systems, as these systems can be isolated from hacking and thus, be more reliable, unless connected to wired or wireless networks via on-chip 3G cellular or other methods for IoT monitoring and control purposes. In dealing with security, the embedded systems can be self-sufficient and be able to deal with cut electrical and communication systems. A new class of miniature wireless devices called motes are networked wireless sensors.

Wireless sensor networking, WSN , makes use of miniaturization made possible by advanced IC design to couple full wireless subsystems to sophisticated sensors, enabling people and companies to measure a myriad of things in the physical world and act on this information through IT monitoring and control systems. These motes are completely self-contained, and will typically run off a battery source for years before the batteries need to be changed or charged.

Embedded Wi-Fi modules provide a simple means of wirelessly enabling any device that communicates via a serial port. Embedded systems are designed to do some specific task, rather than be a general-purpose computer for multiple tasks. Some also have real-time performance constraints that must be met, for reasons such as safety and usability; others may have low or no performance requirements, allowing the system hardware to be simplified to reduce costs.

Embedded systems are not always standalone devices. Many embedded systems consist of small parts within a larger device that serves a more general purpose.

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  8. For example, the Gibson Robot Guitar features an embedded system for tuning the strings, but the overall purpose of the Robot Guitar is, of course, to play music. The program instructions written for embedded systems are referred to as firmware , and are stored in read-only memory or flash memory chips.

    They run with limited computer hardware resources: little memory, small or non-existent keyboard or screen. Embedded systems range from no user interface at all, in systems dedicated only to one task, to complex graphical user interfaces that resemble modern computer desktop operating systems. More sophisticated devices that use a graphical screen with touch sensing or screen-edge buttons provide flexibility while minimizing space used: the meaning of the buttons can change with the screen, and selection involves the natural behavior of pointing at what is desired.

    ECE 4534 - Embedded System Design Project Video

    Handheld systems often have a screen with a "joystick button" for a pointing device. Some systems provide user interface remotely with the help of a serial e. Ethernet connection. This approach gives several advantages: extends the capabilities of embedded system, avoids the cost of a display, simplifies BSP and allows one to build a rich user interface on the PC. A good example of this is the combination of an embedded web server running on an embedded device such as an IP camera or a network router.

    Embedded Microcontroller Interfacing

    The user interface is displayed in a web browser on a PC connected to the device, therefore needing no software to be installed. Examples of properties of typical embedded computers when compared with general-purpose counterparts are low power consumption, small size, rugged operating ranges, and low per-unit cost. This comes at the price of limited processing resources, which make them significantly more difficult to program and to interact with. However, by building intelligence mechanisms on top of the hardware, taking advantage of possible existing sensors and the existence of a network of embedded units, one can both optimally manage available resources at the unit and network levels as well as provide augmented functions, well beyond those available.

    Embedded processors can be broken into two broad categories. In contrast to the personal computer market, many different basic CPU architectures are used since software is custom-developed for an application and is not a commodity product installed by the end user. Both Von Neumann as well as various degrees of Harvard architectures are used. Most architectures come in a large number of different variants and shapes, many of which are also manufactured by several different companies. Numerous microcontrollers have been developed for embedded systems use.

    General-purpose microprocessors are also used in embedded systems, but generally, require more support circuitry than microcontrollers. Sometimes these boards use non-x86 processors.

    Peripheral Interface Controller, Best for DIY Projects

    In certain applications, where small size or power efficiency are not primary concerns, the components used may be compatible with those used in general purpose x86 personal computers. Boards such as the VIA EPIA range help to bridge the gap by being PC-compatible but highly integrated, physically smaller or have other attributes making them attractive to embedded engineers.

    The advantage of this approach is that low-cost commodity components may be used along with the same software development tools used for general software development. Systems built in this way are still regarded as embedded since they are integrated into larger devices and fulfill a single role. Examples of devices that may adopt this approach are ATMs and arcade machines , which contain code specific to the application. When a system-on-a-chip processor is involved, there may be little benefit to having a standardized bus connecting discrete components, and the environment for both hardware and software tools may be very different.

    One common design style uses a small system module, perhaps the size of a business card, holding high density BGA chips such as an ARM -based system-on-a-chip processor and peripherals, external flash memory for storage, and DRAM for runtime memory. The module vendor will usually provide boot software and make sure there is a selection of operating systems, usually including Linux and some real time choices. These modules can be manufactured in high volume, by organizations familiar with their specialized testing issues, and combined with much lower volume custom mainboards with application-specific external peripherals.

    Implementation of embedded systems has advanced so that they can easily be implemented with already-made boards that are based on worldwide accepted platforms. These platforms include, but are not limited to, Arduino and Raspberry Pi. A common array for very-high-volume embedded systems is the system on a chip SoC that contains a complete system consisting of multiple processors, multipliers, caches and interfaces on a single chip. Embedded systems talk with the outside world via peripherals , such as:.

    As with other software, embedded system designers use compilers , assemblers , and debuggers to develop embedded system software.

    Embedded system - Wikipedia

    However, they may also use some more specific tools:. As the complexity of embedded systems grows, higher level tools and operating systems are migrating into machinery where it makes sense. For example, cellphones , personal digital assistants and other consumer computers often need significant software that is purchased or provided by a person other than the manufacturer of the electronics.

    Embedded systems are commonly found in consumer, cooking, industrial, automotive, medical applications. Household appliances, such as microwave ovens, washing machines and dishwashers, include embedded systems to provide flexibility and efficiency. Embedded debugging may be performed at different levels, depending on the facilities available.

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    7. The different metrics that characterize the different forms of embedded debugging are: does it slow down the main application, how close is the debugged system or application to the actual system or application, how expressive are the triggers that can be set for debugging e.

      Unless restricted to external debugging, the programmer can typically load and run software through the tools, view the code running in the processor, and start or stop its operation. The view of the code may be as HLL source-code , assembly code or mixture of both. Because an embedded system is often composed of a wide variety of elements, the debugging strategy may vary.

      For instance, debugging a software- and microprocessor- centric embedded system is different from debugging an embedded system where most of the processing is performed by peripherals DSP, FPGA, and co-processor. An increasing number of embedded systems today use more than one single processor core. A common problem with multi-core development is the proper synchronization of software execution. Real-time operating systems RTOS often supports tracing of operating system events.

      A graphical view is presented by a host PC tool, based on a recording of the system behavior. The trace recording can be performed in software, by the RTOS, or by special tracing hardware. RTOS tracing allows developers to understand timing and performance issues of the software system and gives a good understanding of the high-level system behaviors. Embedded systems often reside in machines that are expected to run continuously for years without errors, and in some cases recover by themselves if an error occurs. Therefore, the software is usually developed and tested more carefully than that for personal computers, and unreliable mechanical moving parts such as disk drives, switches or buttons are avoided.

      A variety of techniques are used, sometimes in combination, to recover from errors—both software bugs such as memory leaks , and also soft errors in the hardware:. For high volume systems such as portable music players or mobile phones , minimizing cost is usually the primary design consideration. For low-volume or prototype embedded systems, general purpose computers may be adapted by limiting the programs or by replacing the operating system with a real-time operating system. In this design, the software simply has a loop.

      The loop calls subroutines , each of which manages a part of the hardware or software. Hence it is called a simple control loop or control loop. Some embedded systems are predominantly controlled by interrupts. This means that tasks performed by the system are triggered by different kinds of events; an interrupt could be generated, for example, by a timer in a predefined frequency, or by a serial port controller receiving a byte. These kinds of systems are used if event handlers need low latency, and the event handlers are short and simple.

      Usually, these kinds of systems run a simple task in a main loop also, but this task is not very sensitive to unexpected delays.

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      Sometimes the interrupt handler will add longer tasks to a queue structure. Later, after the interrupt handler has finished, these tasks are executed by the main loop.

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      This method brings the system close to a multitasking kernel with discrete processes. A nonpreemptive multitasking system is very similar to the simple control loop scheme, except that the loop is hidden in an API. The advantages and disadvantages are similar to that of the control loop, except that adding new software is easier, by simply writing a new task, or adding to the queue.

      In this type of system, a low-level piece of code switches between tasks or threads based on a timer connected to an interrupt. This is the level at which the system is generally considered to have an "operating system" kernel. Depending on how much functionality is required, it introduces more or less of the complexities of managing multiple tasks running conceptually in parallel. As any code can potentially damage the data of another task except in larger systems using an MMU programs must be carefully designed and tested, and access to shared data must be controlled by some synchronization strategy, such as message queues , semaphores or a non-blocking synchronization scheme.

      Because of these complexities, it is common for organizations to use a real-time operating system RTOS , allowing the application programmers to concentrate on device functionality rather than operating system services, at least for large systems; smaller systems often cannot afford the overhead associated with a generic real-time system, due to limitations regarding memory size, performance, or battery life.

      The choice that an RTOS is required brings in its own issues, however, as the selection must be done prior to starting to the application development process. This timing forces developers to choose the embedded operating system for their device based upon current requirements and so restricts future options to a large extent.

      These trends are leading to the uptake of embedded middleware in addition to a real-time operating system. A microkernel is a logical step up from a real-time OS. Let us see a brief explanation about the above mentioned projects. This project monitors the water level of the tank and automatically switches on the pump motor when ever tank is empty.

      The motor is switched off automatically when container or overhead tank is full.