Moulding the Embedded Systems Engineers of Tomorrow: Adapting to a Constantly Transforming Technological Terrain

Lance Harvie June 26, 2023

Embedded systems engineers, previously focused on device architecture, are now steering the digital era, encompassing firmware, software, complex silicon, and cloud computing. To keep pace, mastery in new areas like cybersecurity, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and cloud technologies is critical. In today's highly connected world, security is foundational to design, necessitating knowledge in encryption, secure coding, and data protection laws. Additionally, expertise in AI and ML is essential for managing vast global data, requiring understanding of ethical implications and effective system design for data analysis. The advent of cloud technology mandates learning about cloud architectures and data security. In this fast-paced field, continuous learning and adapting these new skills is the key to staying relevant and spearheading future advancements.

Getting Started With Zephyr: Kconfig

Mohammed Billoo June 22, 2023

In this blog post, we briefly look at Kconfig, one of the core pieces of the Zephyr infrastructure. Kconfig allows embedded software developers to turn specific subsystems on or off within Zephyr efficiently and control their behavior. We also learn how we can practically use Kconfig to control the features of our application using the two most common mechanisms.

An Iterative Approach to USART HAL Design using ChatGPT

Jacob Beningo June 19, 202311 comments

Discover how to leverage ChatGPT and an iterative process to design and generate a USART Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL) for embedded systems, enhancing code reusability and scalability. Learn the step-by-step journey, improvements made, and the potential for generating HALs for other peripherals.

Modern C++ in Embedded Development: (Don't Fear) The ++

Amar Mahmutbegovic June 13, 20232 comments

While C is still the language of choice for embedded development, the adoption of C++ has grown steadily. Yet, reservations about dynamic memory allocation and fears of unnecessary code bloat have kept many in the C camp. This discourse aims to explore the intricacies of employing C++ in embedded systems, negotiating the issues of dynamic memory allocation, and exploiting the benefits of C++ offerings like std::array and constexpr. Moreover, it ventures into the details of the zero-overhead principle and the nuanced distinctions between C and C++. The takeaway? Armed with the right knowledge and a careful approach, C++ can indeed serve as a powerful, safer, and more efficient tool for embedded development.

Getting Started with (Apache) NuttX RTOS - Part 1

Alan C Assis June 2, 20234 comments

NuttX RTOS is used in many products from companies like Sony, Xiaomi, Samsung, Google/Fitbit, WildernessLabs and many other companis. So, probably you are already using NuttX even without knowing it, like the you was using Linux on your TV, WiFi router more than 10 years ago and didn't know too! Today you will have the chance to discover a little bit of this fantastic Linux-like RTOS! Are you ready? So, let's get started!

Working with Strings in Embedded C++

Niall Cooling June 1, 20233 comments

This article discusses the use of strings in embedded systems. It explains how the need for and use of strings in embedded systems has changed with the advent of cheaper, full graphic displays and the growth of the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT). The article also covers character literals, C-Strings and string literals, and the difference in memory models between them. It also highlights the safety and security issues that arise from using strings in embedded systems. Finally, it explains how C++11 introduced a Raw string literal type that is useful for storing file paths or regular expressions.

Return of the Delta-Sigma Modulators, Part 1: Modulation

Jason Sachs May 28, 2023

About a decade ago, I wrote two articles:

Each of these are about delta-sigma modulation, but they’re short and sweet, and not very in-depth. And the 2013 article was really more about analog-to-digital converters. So we’re going to revisit the subject, this time with a lot more technical depth — in fact, I’ve had to split this...

C to C++: Bridging the Gap from C Structures to Classes

Jacob Beningo May 23, 20238 comments

In our last post, C to C++: Proven Techniques for Embedded Systems Transformation, we started to discuss the different ways that C++ can be used to write embedded software. You saw that there is no reason to be overwhelmed by trying to adopt complex topics like metaprogramming out of the gate. An important concept to understand is that you can make the transition gradually into C++ while still receiving the many benefits that C++ has to offer.

One of the first concepts that a C...

The Missing Agile Conversation

Steve Branam May 15, 2023

In this article, we learn about Agile practices and how they use stories as units of development. Stories consist of a brief description, one to a few sentences. They don’t contain details sufficient to allow a developer to implement them. The Agile practice is to defer details as long as possible because conditions may change. When a developer takes on a story to implement, that’s the time for them to perform the work that has been deferred. They do this by having a conversation, a series of specific discussions working closely with the various SME’s (Subject Matter Experts) who have information relevant to the story.

Coding Step 1 - Hello World and Makefiles

Stephen Friederichs February 10, 20156 comments

Articles in this series:

Step 0 discussed how to install GCC and the make utility with the expectation of writing and compiling your first C program. In this article, I discuss how to use those tools we installed last time. Specifically, how to use GCC to compile a C program and...

Slew Rate Limiters: Nonlinear and Proud of It!

Jason Sachs October 6, 2014

I first learned about slew rate limits when I was in college. Usually the subject comes up when talking about the nonideal behavior of op-amps. In order for the op-amp output to swing up and down quickly, it has to charge up an internal capacitor with a transistor circuit that’s limited in its current capability. So the slew rate limit \( \frac{dV}{dt} = \frac{I_{\rm max}}{C} \). And as long as the amplitude and frequency aren’t too high, you won’t notice it. But try to...

How to use I2C devices in (Apache) NuttX: Scanning for Devices

Alan C Assis April 22, 2024

Previously in this EmbeddedRelated article, we saw how to use Buttons Subsystem on NuttX using a RaspberryPi Pico board. Now we will change from user input device (buttons) for something more generic: I2C protocol. NuttX supports a lot of I2C devices (sensors, displays, EEPROMs, I/O Expanders, I2C multiplexers, and many more). And most important: because NuttX is a Linux-like RTOS you will find the very familiar i2ctool to search for devices in your I2C bus. So, lets to get...

From bare-metal to RTOS: 5 Reasons to use an RTOS

Jacob Beningo October 18, 20167 comments

Developers can come up with amazing and convoluted reasons to not use an RTOS. I have heard excuses ranging from they are too expensive (despite open source solutions) all the way to they aren’t efficient and use too much memory. In some circumstances some excuses are justified but there are many reasons why a developer should look to an RTOS to help with their real-time scheduling needs.

From bare-metal to RTOS Quick Links
  • Part 1: 

Free Goodies from Embedded World - Full Inventory and Upcoming Draw Live-Streaming Date

Stephane Boucher March 22, 20191 comment

Chances are that you already know that I went to Embedded World a few weeks ago and came back with a bag full of "goodies".  Initially, my vision was to do a single draw for one person to win it all, but I didn't expect to come back with so much stuff and so many development kits.   Based on your feedback, it seems like you guys agree that It wouldn't make sense for one person to win everything as no-one could make good use of all the boards and there would be lots of...

C Programming Techniques: Function Call Inlining

Fabien Le Mentec April 29, 20137 comments

Abstraction is a key to manage software systems as they increase in size and complexity. As shown in a previous post, abstraction requires a developper to clearly define a software interface for both data and functions, and eventually hide the underlying implementation.When using the C language, the interface is often exposed in a header '.h' file, while the implementation is put in one or more  corresponding '.c' files.

First, separating an interface from its...

Use DPLL to Lock Digital Oscillator to 1PPS Signal

Michael Morris July 24, 20168 comments

There are occasions where it is desirable to lock a digital oscillator to an external time reference such as the 1PPS (One Pulse Per Second) signal output from a GPS receiver. One approach would be to synchronize a fixed frequency oscillator on the leading edge of the 1PPS signal. In many cases, this will result in adequate performance. However, in situations where simple synchronization does not provide adequate performance, digital phase-lock techniques can be applied to a...

Ten Little Algorithms, Part 5: Quadratic Extremum Interpolation and Chandrupatla's Method

Jason Sachs November 11, 20159 comments

Today we will be drifting back into the topic of numerical methods, and look at an algorithm that takes in a series of discretely-sampled data points, and estimates the maximum value of the waveform they were sampled from.

Another 10 Circuit Components You Should Know

Jason Sachs October 30, 20131 comment

It's that time again to review all the oddball goodies available in electronic components. These are things you should have in your bag of tricks when you need to design a circuit board. If you read my previous posts and were looking forward to more, this article's for you!

1. Bus switches

I can't believe I haven't mentioned bus switches before. What is a bus switch?

There are lots of different options for switches:

  • mechanical switch / relay: All purpose, two...

Oscilloscope Dreams

Jason Sachs January 14, 20125 comments

My coworkers and I recently needed a new oscilloscope. I thought I would share some of the features I look for when purchasing one.

When I was in college in the early 1990's, our oscilloscopes looked like this:

Now the cathode ray tubes have almost all been replaced by digital storage scopes with color LCD screens, and they look like these:

Oscilloscopes are basically just fancy expensive boxes for graphing voltage vs. time. They span a wide range of features and prices:...