Embedded Software Programming – Why is it a Niche Field

Embedded programming shares many characteristics with application programming. Even then, a non-embedded software programmer could immediately get confused by embedded programming (one of the reasons being its multiple levels). Many characteristics are also specific to the platforms being coded. The thing is, all embedded systems are based on such architecture.

External devices communicate using signals (the hardware sends a signal to the processor that it needs the processor’s attention; the processor suspends whatever it is doing (saves it) and responds to the device’s needs).

The embedded software is responsible for controlling the hardware. So it has to be reliable otherwise the equipment could malfunction. If it is an important piece of hardware like a pacemaker, it could jeopardize the patient’s life. So embedded systems are usually certified against domain specificity. The development process (embedded development) is also more complicated compared to application development. It involves emulators, specialized hardware and tools as well as cross compilation.

Many critical embedded systems contain thousands of lines of codes, developed by teams which are geographically distributed. They also have to evolve with changing requirements. To cope with this, embedded systems must be modular, adaptable and extensible. So embedded developers have to follow well-defined processes for version control, quality assurance and configuration management. All of these together make embedded software programming a niche field.