Computers are integrated into our lives. We’re familiar with many different types of devices; laptops, desktops, smartphones and tablets. What’s not so apparent are the computers that go unnoticed because we do not see them, don’t think about them or simply don’t recognize them as technology devices.
Embedded devices are all around us. Those that we interact with and those that run the world silently. We are all familiar with cable TV boxes, wireless routers, ATM machines, alarm systems, point-of-sales terminals at the grocery store and ticketing kiosks. But for every device that can be seen and touched, many more are hidden. Look closer and you will see cameras, sensors, traffic switches, cellular towers, weather gauges and transmission control systems. All of these gadgets are embedded devices, but what makes them unique?
Essentially, an embedded device is anything with a computer chip that is not a general-purpose computer (e.g. a laptop). Without the need to display an intricate user interface so we can get on the web or perform common tasks – embedded devices can take many shapes. They frequently do not have a screen or keyboard and tend to require less memory and hardware than personal computers. What’s more, they often run modified operating systems, perform limited functions (e.g. turn on the lights), often provide real-time information and can even exist within a larger machine (e.g. antilock brake system within a car).
As noted in a previous blog post, the number of embedded devices is expected to explode in the near future, promising greater efficiencies, unparalleled access to information and lots and lots of data. And while the benefits across industries and consumer applications will be undeniable, the unintended consequences – both known and unknown – will certainly come to define embedded devices in the future.