Embedded systems are highly specialised, often intuitive sub-systems that facilitate in processing the requisite information for the end-user. But these are often unnoticed by the user. Today, the market for embedded systems is about 100 times that of the desktop market. This in turn has created huge opportunities for all kinds of enterprises and institutions. But, it also brings about a threat for market participants - of responding to the needs of the consumers well in advance, while simultaneously mastering technological and market challenges. These threats also include wide diversity and increasing complexity of applications & domain constraints, increasing degree of integration & networking, increasingly multi- disciplinary nature of products & services, growing importance of flexibility & software and shrinking time-to-market, among others.
Significance and impact
An increase in the number of opportunities in the market for embedded systems can be understood by tracking some of its application domains. In consumer products, traditional mechanical controls have long been replaced by electronic embedded systems. Further enhancements and new home control, like kitchen appliances and white-good products have been designed based on sensor/actuator signal processing by embedded systems. In audio and video consumer products, embedded systems are used for control processing in user interface, internal infrastructure control and for more and more advanced audio & video signal processing, storage and I/O. In communications, not only mobile phones but also the infrastructure depends heavily on the use of standards implemented in embedded systems. In desktop and mobile computers, embedded systems are indispensable for computing, storage, communication, I/O and display functions.
Multimedia applications and consumer electronics is a sought after segment among suppliers of embedded systems due to the availability of a constant stream of new high-volume devices in the market.
Main market driver
The major market driver of embedded systems is the end-user. It is characterised by an increasing need for product personalization and competitive pressures of commodity market. The challenge is to balance the user needs with the domain properties and constraints of the technology and the application area.
Main competitive aspects
The components or modules that make up an embedded system include embedded software, embedded chip and system/board. Competition and trends in each of these segments affect the overall market for embedded systems. The major competitive factors in the market have been identified as:
It includes manufacturing costs related to design, fabrication and distribution of an embedded system. These cost-specific drivers affect the price of the manufacturers embedded system, potential revenues, shipments, and demand.
It includes an evaluation of factors like millions of instruction per second (MIPS), peripheral functions and power consumption. These performance specific drivers affect end-product designer choice of an embedded system for their specific application.
Time to market:
Manufacturers of embedded systems should be able to get their end products to the market quickly. The clearest advantage of a quick time- to-market approach is that the success of the end product in the marketplace can be most accurately predicted in the short term. This strategy can be supported by providing a complete design solution and by developing alliances with third-party tool vendors.
Customer support is instrumental in getting repeat business, because all competitors in the market can approach similar price points for components. The ability of the manufacturer to support the client with development, technical assistance, and integration of a customers components such as an application- specific integrated circuit (ASIC), influence the clients choice of manufacturers.
The consumer is a driving factor in the embedded system market. Original equipment manufacturers [OEMs) must therefore be aware of product concerns that are important to the consumer like price, performance, safety and ease of use of the end product.
Embedded system manufacturers must confront this challenge with customised products and quickly exploit the advances in manufacturing technology to make it a cost-effective solution in high volumes.
Development into device software
The idea of providing a bundle of tools and technologies equipped to handle all aspects of application planning, development, and deployment has been slow to catch on in the world of embedded software development. Currently, the embedded systems market is witnessing a dramatic shift. In the 1990s, the embedded system industry primarily focused on providing real time operating system and some development tools. Today, the focus of the industry is on the software for embedded systems, which drives the embedded components. Hardware, too, has been commoditised.
Fuelled by the dual drivers of accelerating complexity and escalating connectivity, device software has grown from a few hundred lines of code to thousands, changing the underlying nature of the market segment. To provide the customers with the technology to cope with all that change, current market participants are striving to create a device software development suite designed to optimise the entire development and support lifecycle of the product.
This solution would serve as a general-purpose platform that pre- integrates standardised development platforms to optimise all phases of the device software development process, from concept to deployed products. Such a solution will be able to embrace multiple operating systems and allow on-chip debugging and modify the kernel for specific application features. Thus the embedded solution is evolving into device software, which is designed to be an end-to-end solution throughout the product lifecycle.
Varying business model
The OEMs, who manufacture embedded systems, no more hold the expertise in developing the software for the system and hence are sourcing this part of the work to third-party vendors who have their core competency in this area. Besides, the reusable content of the embedded software is expected to increase drastically in the next three to four years.
Today, participants in the embedded systems market are seeking complete solutions for their integrated development environment needs. Besides, shopping around at different chip manufacturers for the appropriate processor architecture and development tools would not only waste their time. But the market opportunities for their products will also be short-Lived.
The rising software content, rapidly evolving hardware, absence of protocols and the lack of software skills with original equipment manufacturers (OEM) would give opportunities for third-party vendors to flourish in the embedded software domain.
Single source value chain for rooted applications
A close strategic relationship exists between the OEMs and the third-party solution providers that focus on developing solutions for the fast growing end- user application segments. The OEM provides the standard processor architecture, and the third-party provides design and manufacturing for these markets. Hence the third-party is the single source value chain for design and manufacturing of products for embedded applications.
By providing simplified access to processor design IP to the third-party, the OEM can focus on developing high-performance products for the embedded market while utilising the third-partys services. These services include system-on-chip (SoC) and ASIC design and manufacturing, complete product development, industrialization, product manufacturing and logistics. The licensing can be either a design license where the third-party does the design or a sublicense where the OEM and third- party collaborate on the design and manufacturing service.
Product development includes electrical design, software development, system integration, industrial and mechanical design, tooling for manufacturing, test development, prototyping, and project management.
In the current dynamic business environment, customers face several important challenges, from securing product development expertise and adequate resources, to improving costs, time-to-market, and supply chain management. The third-party vendor addresses all these challenges with a proven track record of consistently growing business in both manufacturing and design.