Log in ....Tribune

Monday, August 11, 2003

Gizmos run on this
Vibhor Sood

IMAGINE you are on the 25th floor of a 100-floor building. You press a button to go to the 100th floor. The lift system that is in place guarantees that within the next three seconds, you shall have an open lift waiting for you. This is actually happening as now the entire elevator system is being run by a combination of hardware and software. This combination is called embedded systems. Contrary to the popular perception, systems or devices that we use in our everyday life like cellphones, lifts or even toasters are not all hardware. They have software that controls their functionality.

Embedded systems

Embedded systems are computers (microprocessors) that are enclosed (embedded) in customised hardware. Examples of embedded control systems would be cellular phones, robotic equipment and manufacturing monitoring of assembly lines etc.

Most of the development work is still being done in C and the assembly language. This trend is likely to change as Java and C + + are expected to eat into C and assembly development pie. This will make the development easier and typically faster as well.

Most, though not all, embedded systems require an RTOS (Real Time Operating System). There are only a few major players that have a share in the market. Amongst the prominent ones are:

`B7 Win CE

`B7 VxWorks

`B7 Linux

Most vendors have come out with API (Application programming interfaces) that helps programmers by abstracting them with the low-level function of the embedded device. This helps increase the speed and quality of development of majority of application, as most of the applications do not need to work at the lowest level of embedded device.

The first company that started working on embedded domain in India was Texas Instruments in 1985. Later, other companies like Wipro, HCL, Neomagic and Patni joined in.

The embedded systems market holds out fair promise for new entrants. The biggest attraction is the projected revenue of over Rs 7,500 crore by 2005.