I just ran across an interesting article written by Doug Gaff titled “Is the embedded industry dead?“. The article points out the transformation that is happening in the “embedded” industry. For many systems, we are no longer constrained by minimal resources (http://bec-systems.com/web/content/view/67/9/). Embedded Systems are no longer isolated systems, but parts of larger systems.
A few of my own observations:
There is more to modern embedded systems than control and logic. We now have to worry about data. In the past the task might be to get a microcontroller to run a state machine, control motors, etc. Today, we need to present a calendar to the user through a web interface, collect information about the location of the Sun, upload statistics to a remote server, support a rich GUI application on a VGA color display. The control aspect is suddenly the small part of the problem, and managing data is often the primary concern.
Embedded system development now encompasses many disciplines including OS development, web services, advanced application development in high level languages, and the traditional hardware debugging and low level coding tasks. It is becoming less about writing code and more about integration of the right pieces. As Embedded Systems become more complex, access to specialized knowledge is becoming more important. There is just too much for one person (or even one company) to know. Companies developing competitive products in the future will be the ones who have access to experts.
Is your company taking advantage of this transformation?