Embedded systems evolved with general-purpose computer systems. They were at the forefront of the use and justification of computer products, the closest to the field. This is where the theories are making or breaking. In the past, most of the embedded research and development was identified with real-time systems and industrial settings, but things have been changing since. With wider deployment of computers, the need for embedded systems has increased. We can recognize this in almost any facet of our lives: embedded systems are in most house appliances, cars, electrical devices, and industrial devices and tools. This seems to be a long-lasting trend in front of us, of the same or larger impact and disruption than the appearance of the Web. Being widespread poses some hard requirements on embedded systems. They must be as reliable and robust as other house appliances; as easy to use and as available; connected with other devices, requiring adherence to standards of some kind; and low cost—consequently their development will be defined on a strictly economical basis.
Some of the earlier requirements might not be as relevant in the embedded space. The requirements might have to adjust, making trade-offs, such as size versus flexibility, robustness versus richness of functionality, and power consumption versus performance. The producers of the particular systems will define the exact trade-offs, resulting in a fractured market. Every producer has system software of some kind, typically home-brewed or adapted from one of the many embedded operating systems. The impact of the many embedded systems produced reflects on the minimization of the software cost. If there are a million embedded systems produced, each one of them worth a few tens of dollars, it is unacceptable that the cost of software is of any significance. The cost in this space is largely dominated by hardware and the savings for hardware are also extremely strict. Because there are potentially numerous versions and variations of embedded systems, the compensability of hardware and software is of extreme importance. Connecting embedded devices will extend the scalability limits of today’s systems even beyond the Internet’s global scale. One user can have hundreds and thousands of embedded devices, disrupting traditional networking and, in particular, addressing techniques. Furthermore, it would not be possible or economically viable to connect all these devices by traditional wired technologies; therefore, wireless will become an attractive alternative, opening up new research and development areas.
What are the other long-term trends and impacts of this technology turn? What other implications does it pose to the current computer science and technology? This and other questions are addressed by six renowned researchers in this field. With this last department issue, we thank you for traveling with us through the trend wars in the past year.