What is an Embedded System?

Most people don't realise that the most common form of computer in use today is by far the embedded computer. In fact, 98% of computing devices are embedded in all kinds of electronic equipment and machines. Computers are moving away from the desktop and are finding themselves in everyday devices like credit cards, mobile phones, cars and planes or places like homes, offices and factories. Embedded computing systems are made of hardware (nanoelectronic components) and software.


Facts and figures

Over 4 billion embedded processors were sold last year and the global market is worth €60 billion with annual growth rates of 14%. Forecasts predict more than 16 billion embedded devices by 2010 and over 40 billion by 2020.

Embedded computing and electronics add substantial value to products. Within the next five years, the share of embedded systems are expected to increase substantially in markets such as automotive (36%), industrial automation (22%), telecommunications (37%), consumer electronics (41%) and health/medical equipment (33%). The value added to the final product by embedded software is much higher than the cost of the embedded device itself. For example, in the case of a modern car, by 2010 over 35% of its value will be due to embedded electronics. This accounts for 90% of new innovations and features in:

 Similarly, a modern cellular phone has more features than those of a laptop from a few years ago with integrated digital camera, camcorder, video/music player and, of course, a phone!

Strategic Importance

Embedded computing systems are facing unprecedented challenges, with heavy competitive pressures from established and newly emerging global players. Embedded computer systems are becoming increasingly complex and difficult to design and build.  While the US has led the world in the personal computer and internet markets in the 1980s and '90s, Europe has led the revolution in embedded systems. Therefore, it is strategically important for embedded systems to remain one of the strongholds of European industry.