What is Embedded Software?

There are two ways to write error-free programs; only the third works” — Alan J Perlis         

Introduction

Synergy comes from the Greek word for “working together.” Synergy happens when two or more independent things combine into a whole that’s greater than the sum of its parts. The combination creates power or effect that surpasses what the individual elements could achieve separately. In a simple win-win situation, each party gets their benefit. It can create a tangible effect/output and/or something new/different that didn’t exist when certain elements were kept separate.

Objective

The rise of connected vehicles requires automotive companies to strengthen their expertise in embedded automotive software development to bridge the gap between a car and mobility system as well as enhance automobile performance based on the generated data.

Due to the rising demand for vehicle electrification and elevating need for advanced security and convenience systems, the global automotive embedded system market is anticipated to reach USD 8 Billion by 2025, exhibiting a CAGR of over 7% during the forecast period.

In automotive systems, more and more equipment is being changed from mechanical systems to electronic systems. An Embedded system is the heart of a vehicle’s electronic system because of its versatility and flexibility. 

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Definitions:

Embedded Software (IATF, clause 3.1):  is a specialized program stored in an automotive component (typically computer chip or other non-volatile memory storage) specified by the customer, or as part of the system design, to control its function(s). To be relevant in the scope of IATF 16949 certification, the part that is controlled by embedded software must be developed for an automotive application (i.e., passenger cars, light commercial vehicles, heavy trucks, buses, and motorcycles; see Rules for achieving and maintaining IATF Recognition, 5th Edition, Section 1.0 Eligibility for Certification to IATF 16949, for what is eligible for “Automotive”).

NOTE: Software to control any aspect of the manufacturing process (e.g., machine to manufacture a component or material) is not included in the definition of embedded software.

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Detailed Information:

As per Marilyn Wolf, “Any sort of device which includes a programmable computer but itself is not intended to be a general-purpose computer”

Generally, a vehicle contains a dozen to nearly 100 electronic control units (ECUs). There are two main modules of electronic systems i.e., information entertainment and hard-real-time control of mechanical parts.

In 1968, the Volkswagen used first embedded system in the automobile industry. Every year automobile manufacturers pack embedded systems into their cars for different functionalities like ignition, security and audio systems. 

In-vehicle embedded software development is increasingly displacing mechanical engineering as the differentiator in the creation of brand experiences. Automotive embedded software is critical for creating the mobility experience of the future.

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What is Embedded Software?

Embedded software is a piece of software that is embedded in hardware or non-PC devices. It is written specifically for the particular hardware that it runs on and usually has processing and memory constraints because of the device’s limited computing capabilities. 

Embedded software can be very simple, such as that used for controlling lighting in homes, or it can be quite complex such as the software running all of the electronic components of a modern smart car, complete with climate controls, automatic cruising and collision sensing, as well as control navigations.

The most used embedded system in a vehicle includes adaptive cruise control, airbag, telematics, traction control, in-vehicle entertainment system, emission control system, parking system, navigation systems, collision sensors, climate control, radio, anti-lock braking system etc.

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Where Embedded Software can be used?

  • Car
  • Toys
  • Appliances like washing machine
  • Security systems like center locking
  • Pacemaker
  • TV like remote
  • Setup boxes for entertainment
  • Digital Watches (smartwatches like Fitbit)
  • Missiles

How Embedded Software is different from Application Software?

  • has fixed hardware requirements and capabilities
  • often less visible, but not less complicated
  • addition of third-party hardware or software is strictly controlled
  • often has real-time computing constraints
  • dedicated to specific tasks

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Difference between Embedded Software and Embedded System

  • Embedded System is a combination of hardware and software
  • Embedded software is a subset of embedded system

IATF 16949 Standard requirements for Embedded Software:

Requirement Clause Number Expectation
New Product Development: Development of products with embedded software 8.2.2.3

Software development capability self-assessment by the organization
New Product Development: Product Design Input 8.3.3.1 Input for software from customer
New Product Development: Design and development Validation 8.3.4.2 Evaluation of the embedded software during product validation
New Product Development: Design and Development Changes 8.3.6.1 Document the revision level of software and hardware as part of the change record during the change control process
Purchasing Process: Automotive product-related software or automotive products with embedded software 8.4.2.3.1 Software development capability self-assessment by the supplier
Improvement: Customer complaints and field failure test analysis 10.2.6 Any complaint or field failure related to embedded software from the customer

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Industry Challenges:

  1. How often industry personnel are clear about the meaning of embedded software?
  2. How often the software development capability self-assessment is conducted for the supplier or organization?
  3. How often the software development capability self-assessment is audited during the internal and external audit?

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References:

IATF 16949: 2016, Sanctioned Interpretation & FAQ

ISO 9001: 2015

ISO 9000: 2015

Industry Experts

This is the 152nd article of this Quality Management series. Every weekend, you will find useful information that will make your Management System journey Productive. Please share it with your colleagues too.

In the words of Albert Einstein, “The important thing is never to stop questioning.” I invite you to ask anything about the above subject. Questions and answers are the lifeblood of learning, and we are all learning. I will answer all questions to the best of my ability and promise to keep personal information confidential.

Your genuine feedback and response are extremely valuable. Please suggest topics for the coming weeks.

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