An embedded system is a computer system with a specific purpose within a larger mechanical or electronic system. You learn something new every time you search for how to learn embedded systems or when you work on a new controller, board, piece of hardware, application, or domain, for example.
For embedded systems, lifelong learning is a real possibility. To become proficient in the development of embedded systems, you must have a lot of practical experience.
In the following article, you will learn what an embedded system in its totality is and how to effectively learn it.
- What Are Embedded Systems?
- Examples Of Embedded Systems
- Do Embedded Systems Need Coding?
- How To Start Learning Embedded Systems?
- Learning Embedded Systems From Scratch
What Are Embedded Systems?
In layman’s terms, an embedded system is a microprocessor or microcontroller-based combination of computer hardware and software designed for performing specific tasks and is usually a part of a much larger mechanical, electrical or electronic system.
Embedded systems can function independently as well. They are designed to work with limited human intervention.
Based on performance efficiency and functional requirements, embedded systems can be broadly categorized into four different types. Namely,
- Real-Time Embedded Systems
- Stand Alone Embedded Systems
- Networked Embedded Systems
- Mobile Embedded Systems
Because of their low power consumption, highly stable and reliable nature, and inexpensive characteristics, embedded systems have gained massive popularity and are used widely in various industries.
By now, you are probably wondering, ‘how can I learn embedded systems effectively?” Keep your eyes glued to this article and continue reading to find out! Let’s start with a few examples of Embedded Systems.
Examples of embedded systems
Some common examples of Embedded Systems are:
- Traffic Control System
- Microwave Ovens
- MP3 music players
- Card Swipe Machine
- Digital Cameras
- Mobile Phones
- Washing Machine
- Medical equipment and so on.
If you are a student who is wondering how to start learning embedded systems, then you have come across the appropriate article.
In this article, we will provide you with a roadmap to learning embedded systems from scratch to a professional level and also tell you about the important prerequisites before learning embedded systems.
Do Embedded Systems Need Coding?
Yes, all embedded systems need to be coded for them to perform the desired functions. Various programming languages like Embedded C, Embedded C++, Embedded Python, and Embedded Java are used to program embedded systems among which the most commonly used programming languages are Embedded C and Embedded C++.
You can train yourself to learn C++ and Python with us here.
How To Start Learning Embedded Systems?
- Know the basics of electronics – Knowing the basics of electronics, especially subjects like basic electrical, electronic devices, control systems, and circuit theory is crucial before jumping into embedded systems.
Learners who are directly opting to learn embedded systems before having the foundational knowledge of electronics will not be able to fully understand the ‘why(s)’ and the ‘what(s)’ of the subject.
They will face difficulty in designing circuits, linking components, and figuring out which electronic device is to be used in a particular embedded system design. Knowledge of computer hardware is also good to have before learning Embedded Systems.
- Understand the basic structure of an embedded system – It is needless to say that if someone is learning Embedded Systems then one should definitely, first and foremost be aware of the basic structure of an embedded system. An embedded system consists of 3 parts –
1) The software,
2) The hardware and
3) The firmware.
Students need to know which component goes where and what is the functionality or requirement of each of the components.
- Know the programming languages – Another important prerequisite when learning embedded systems is knowing at least one coding language. Before knowing how to learn embedded systems programming, students must take up a normal coding language and master it.
Most of the students, who take up embedded systems as their field of study, come from an engineering or science background. Therefore, most of them can code in languages like C, C++, Java, and Python. Embedded C, Embedded C++, Embedded Java, and Embedded Python are just extensions of these common coding languages.
Hence, coders and engineers can easily learn embedded system programming to develop their own embedded systems.
- Choose a board/embedded computer – Selecting an appropriate board or embedded computer to work on is a tough nut to crack, especially for beginners. Development boards combine a processors and chips with specific memory.
There are a few considerations for development board like the use of bus type, memory, processor type, and operating system etc. There are several factors involved in choosing an embedded computer or board. Like your memory requirements, the speed of the system, power consumption of the system, and on-chip peripherals.
It is important to choose a computer or board to figure out how to learn embedded software development by yourself. There are several boards and computers available in the market today.
One should conduct thorough online research before settling upon a particular embedded board or computer because it is a costly and one-time investment.
- Microcontroller know-how – An important prerequisite to learning embedded systems is knowing how microcontrollers work and where they are used. A microcontroller is installed in systems to control a single type of function.
One needs to understand how a microcontroller utilizes RAM and ROM and how to program a microcontroller if one wants to successfully learn embedded systems. Microcontroller know-how goes a long way in making one understand embedded systems better.
- Select tools and gather the supplies – You will want to have your equipment like tools and other supplies if you are aiming to become a full-fledged embedded systems engineer so that you can practice and experiment with developing embedded systems.
You can select these tools and supplies after conducting research online or by taking advice from a mentor.
Some tools necessary to develop an embedded system are Editor, Assembler, Compiler, Debugger, Linker, Emulator, and IDE. Some of the most common software development kits are PyCharm, Webstorm, QT Creator, MPLAB X, NetBeans, Eclipse, and Visual Studio.
You need to install one of these software on your embedded personal computer to compile your codes.
- Develop a mini project for practice – Once you have figured out how to learn embedded software development and are done setting up the necessary tools and software required to build a project, you can go on to develop your embedded system. Start small.
Choose a common project which has a lot of resources available online like a fire alarm or a calculator. Apply your theoretical knowledge and try to implement all that you have learned about embedded systems before trying to take help from the online resources.
This way, you get to learn by yourself and test your knowledge of embedded systems to see where you stand. It is typical to first be unable to fully construct an embedded system by yourself.
Don’t panic and try different avenues through which you can learn more and clear your doubts about the project that you are building. Learn from your past mistakes and soon you’ll be able to build your embedded system.
- Troubleshoot and improve – The most effective way to learn embedded systems is through the trial and error method. Oftentimes, learners cannot accurately gauge the system requirements and utility of certain components. There might also be a small defect in the electronic circuit like an unintended short circuit or open circuit.
The program code might have a logical error and so on. The only way to correct these mistakes is to troubleshoot, that is, to debug and make sure you are constantly improving and optimizing your code as well as the hardware.
It is quite difficult even for experienced professionals to accurately build an embedded system in the first few attempts. It is only through trial and testing that one can guarantee that a particular embedded system works properly.
How To Learn Embedded Systems From Basics?
One of the most commonly asked questions by students is ‘How can I learn embedded systems online or by myself?” Well, the answer to this pertaining question has been provided in the steps below. We hope it helps you to begin learning embedded systems on your own.
- Books and Blogs: For you to understand how embedded designs are implemented in the real world, you should have a good understanding of its theoretical concepts (the concepts of electronics engineering, coding languages, and others).
Only books can provide you with this level of information. There is an ample number of books available on embedded systems and their surrounding subjects (which are the prerequisites to learning embedded systems).
You must purchase a good book, ideally with spectacular reviews to form a solid foundation of the subject. It is always advisable to invest in books because you can refer to them anytime even in the future.
Studying blogs written by experts is another way to increase your theoretical knowledge. However, books and blogs alone are not enough because they only give you a preliminary theoretical understanding. You need to have practical experience to master embedded systems.
- YouTube and other free tutorial sites: Watching free online tutorials is one of the easiest and most convenient ways to learn about embedded systems. You can hop onto any website that provides free mini-tutorials on the topic.
YouTube can also prove to be very useful in helping you figure out how to learn Embedded Systems online without putting in too much effort or time. Several professionals make educational videos on YouTube and you can avail of them for free. These videos are not time-consuming and explain important terminologies quite simply.
- Webinars and Forums: Several webinars are being conducted online on Embedded Systems by various educational platforms and websites. Webinars are a great way to be introduced to the world of embedded systems development or design.
These Webinars are organized by industrial experts and discuss the advantages, common problems faced, and prospects of working with Embedded Systems. There also exist several forums of Embedded Systems online where people ask about their doubts and someone from the community answers those questions.
- Online Embedded System Courses: The next step in the process of learning Embedded Systems would be to take up an online embedded systems course and finally apply what you have learned so far in real life through tasks given in the courses.
These courses take time to complete and comprise quizzes and mini-projects that tend to test your knowledge along the way. If you are someone who wants to know how to learn embedded systems online then ‘online courses’ is the answer you are looking for.
The majority of these courses provide valuable certificates that boost your resume. You can opt for these courses to learn Embedded Systems development like a professional and get certified in Embedded Systems simultaneously!
- Attempting to build an Embedded System by yourself: To be able to use Embedded systems like a professional, one needs to practice regularly. You can easily install one of the Embedded Systems software for your specific operating system and gather the essential hardware to start working on a project, provided you have understood how to learn embedded systems programming.
The best way to learn Embedded Systems when starting with them is by trying to replicate common projects like an alarm because these resources are easily available online. You can refer to those resources if you are stuck in your project.
There are several subjects like electronics, electrical, and microcontrollers that you will have to be thorough with before you can master Embedded Systems. The only way to ensure that is to dedicate enough time to studying and practically implementing all you have learned little by little.
Make sure that whatever you build is stored in a secure repository so that you can not only include it in your resume but also benefit from referring to it in case you ever get stuck at the basics while practicing the advanced features.
Q. Which software is used for developing embedded systems?
A. Quite a few software are used for embedded systems designing. Some of the most common and user-friendly ones are:
You must first get used to the user interface of these software and then prep yourself for the learning road ahead.
Q. How can I improve my embedded skills?
A. To improve your embedded system skills, you must be proficient in at least one programming language, have practical knowledge of digital and analog electronics, and know about product development.
Once your concept in all of these subjects is clear, you can try out different ideas through simulation on software like PSPICE. You can improve your embedded skills through trial and error and testing various designs constantly.
Q. What is the future of an embedded systems engineer?
A. The future of an embedded systems engineer is indeed very bright. All industries, especially the electronics and IT industries require embedded systems engineers, and all embedded systems engineers are compensated pretty well.
We hope this article gave you an idea of how to learn embedded systems from basics to eventually gain the proficiency to become an embedded systems engineer.
Don’t jump in because it will get you overwhelmed. Keep doing the practical project work while learning through any preferred resource.