EEE3074W: Embedded Systems




Introduction Outcomes and Syllabus Recommended Books Details


Scope: Description of technical terms relating to embedded system and used on these pages.

Term Definition
Embedded System A single-purpose computer built into a larger system for the purposes of controlling and monitoring the system.
Embedded Engineer An engineer who develops an embedded system. An embedded engineer can be a hardware engineer, or a software engineer, or both. But generally, an embedded engineer needs at least a general understanding of both the hardware and software design aspects of embedded systems. For instance, a hardware engineer may be an expert in designing schematics, but only reasonably competent in C coding.
Commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) The use of commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) software and hardware components can be extremely useful in the development of prototype systems, or, in some cases, production systems. These are essentially ready-made components that you connect together, and allows you to focus on developing the application software. In the pracs and project for this course, we use COTS products because there's is no time for us, or your lecturers, to develop our own platforms and PCBs from scratch; not do I deem such an undertaking viable for our department to develop our own platforms because the landscape of embedded system technologies changes so rapidly. Instead, we buy ready-made COTS evaluation boards and pluggable peripherals in bulk from companies whose business is to make such devices in high-volume at cost below what we can do.
Embedded System Engineer See embedded engineer
AKA or aka I tend to use this term regularly to save space; it stands for "A Kind Of". If you've done much expert system design, you may also be afflicted by this inclination.
Naturalist Not a term you are likely to encounter much in this field; it means "a person who studies nature" [Webster's New World Dictionary, 2003], and, in a colloquially sense, refers to someone, like me, who loves nature, but doesn't necessarily know all that much about it.
General Systems Thinking General Systems Thinking (GST), also commonly called General Systems Theory, Systems Theory or just "systemics" is an interdisciplinary field that studies systems as a whole. Systems Theory was founded by Ludwig von Bertalanffy, William Ashby and others between 1940 and 1970, and is based on principles from physics, biology and engineering. This theory has moved into many other fields including philosophy, management, sociology, and organizational theory, among others. []
Mechanistic paradigm In philosophy, the "mechanism" theory states that all natural phenomena can be explained using physical causes alone. This is This theory is opposed by theories such as vitalism, which states that vital forces are active in living organisms, so that life cannot be explained solely by mechanism.
One of the first and most famous expositions of universal mechanism, a precursor to the mechanistic paradigm, was expressed by Thomas Hobbes in 1651.  Mechanistic theory gained a great following through the successes of Isaac Newton, whose work in mechanics seemed to successfully explain the motion of everything in heaven and in earth according to the operation of a single mechanical principle: gravity.
Paradigm A concept of how things work. Paradigms are used to set the basic rules of how things operate within a specific environment. This allows problems and solutions within a certain environment to have boundaries.
GST See General Systems Thinking
Embedded system component A hardware or software part of an embedded system. Examples of hardware components include the microcontroller and peripherals that it connects to. Examples of software components are drivers used to control peripherals, and signal processing routines.
Embedded System Artifact Organization and Adaptation framework The Embedded System Artifact Organization and Adaptation (ESAOA) framework combines an application framework with a knowledge management framework that assists in problem-solving tasks that occur during embedded system implementation, and facilitates collaborative activities concerning these tasks. The term "application framework" used here is not quite accurate, as ESAOA frameworks involve procedures and artifacts relating to multiple platforms, and different applications.
ESAOA See Embedded System Artifact Organization and Adaptation framework
ESAOA Tools Utility tools used with ESAOA application frameworks. The ESAOA Tools distribution needs to be installed before using ESAOA application frameworks.
Digital artifact A design or implementation artifact that is stored in digital form (e.g. on a hard drive or in flash memory).
Design artifact A file or document (usually a UML model or schematic) expressing the design of a hardware or software component of an embedded system. Note that a distinction is made between design and implementation artifacts since the two are not necessarily perfectly aligned.
Implementation artifact A hardware or software component of the embedded system being developed.
Knowledge Management Knowledge management is the capture, organization, classification and dissemination of knowledge. It can be viewed as a means to treat information, and the interaction between people interested in that information [McDermott, 1999].
Application framework In the discipline of computer science, the term "application framework" generally refers to a set of libraries or classes that are used to implement the standard structure of an application for a specific application domain. This application domain is defined in terms of an operating system, hardware platform, operating environment, and general requirements relating to what the software does (e.g. connecting microcontrollers in a sensor network).
By integrating a significant amount of reusable code into an application framework, development time can be saved by reducing the amount of standard code that needs to be written for new applications that are within the application domain for which the application framework is designed.
Hardware Platform
Refers to the physical hardware of a system, i.e. the PCBs, sensors, actuators and their enclosures. A hardware platform is defined in terms of microprocessor/microcontroller architecture, and the peripherals available on the platform.
Software Platform
Refers to the lower level of software on which application software is deployed. In ESAOA, Platform Deployment Modules (PDM) can reside within the software platform, or may exist between the application code and the software platform.
For this course, the term "platform" describes a combination of hardware and operating system on which embedded software executes. Generally, the hardware aspect of a platform (commonly referred to as the "hardware platform") is explained in terms of microprocessor/microcontroller architecture, and the peripherals available to it. The software aspect of a platform (commonly called the "software platform") is defined in terms of operating system and runtime libraries. I consider a platform on its own is simply a "blank slate" that needs application software installed on it in order to make it do something useful.
Intellectual Property (IP) You may think that I use IP to stand for Internet Protocol; but generally I never refer to that sort of IP without the TCP. Generally speaking, the acronym IP, when used in a context of embedded systems development, and especially in relation to knowledge management, standards for Intellectual Property. IP are licensed design elements (typically hardware design elements or firmware in the case of embedded systems); these are often protected by a patent, or (in order to save costs) kept as a closely guarded secret. Many people believe that patents are essential, and the more you have, the better. But before you take out a patent (e.g. a US patent), you need to consider the costs involved, both of proving to the patent office that the product is patentable, and the registration fees involved (often 1000s of $); not to mention that different countries, or unions, have their own patent offices (in which case you may want to repeat the process for each of these patent offices).
Think Tank Informally: Group of people testing ideas, or brainstorming a new concept.
Formally: A group organized, as by a government or business, to do intensive research and problem solving, especially with the aid of computers and other sophisticated equipment. [Webster's New World College Dictionary, 4th Ed, Wiley Publishing, Inc.]
Association Artifact These artifacts are a type of metadata; they provide associations between other artifacts.
Metadata Data relating to data. Examples: owner of a certain file, and the size of a file.
Index fields A type of metadata. Contains unique data that identifies a particular data entry amongst many data entries. Examples of index fields are: file owner, file name, file extension, file location. Index fields are of a specific data type, for example ASCII null-terminated strings, date in ISO 8601 format, unsigned 16-bit integer, etc.
Classification Artifact Use in classifying certain artifacts and to define a taxonomy.
Taxonomy Ordering of things, such as artifacts, into categories and subcategories. Used for such purposes as deciding where to store a digital artifact based  on how it is categorized according to a taxonomy. A problem with using taxonomies is that certain things fit into multiple categories, and others don't fit into any categories; this can lead to confusion due to arbitrary choices being made on the way such things are categorized.
Knowledgebase Artifact A file that forms part of a digital knowledgebase.
Knowledgebase There are various types of knowledgebase, this definition is for a digital knowledgebase. A digital knowledge base is essentially a digital database used to capture explicit knowledge, which is knowledge that has been documented (e.g. a "howto" guide explaining how a compiler needs to be configured to generate code for a certain microprocessor; a knowledgebase can be formed by using index fields to classify such guides and similar documents using a database).
Classified Folder A folder within an ESAOA framework that is classified using a classification artifact and is used in defining a taxonomy for the placement of digital artifacts.

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