Challenges in Embedded System Design

Author: Shrey Desai | June 28, 2022

Circuit Board showing embedded system software

An embedded system is the combined hardware and software that work together to perform a specific function for a device controlled electronically. Embedded systems are found in a variety of products, in everything from large industrial machines to the mobile phone you hold in your hand; from the car you drive to the equipment in your local hospital. As technologies advance, systems become more complex, with the potential to use millions of lines of code and thousands of parts in their design. More intricate complexities create more potential challenges in embedded system design.

No industry is exempt from challenges faced in designing an embedded system, and they are even more prevalent in regulated industries like the aerospace, automotive, and medical device industries where malfunctioning products can have serious consequences.

Here are some of the common challenges in embedded system design:

Collaboration: The more complex a system is, the higher the number of development teams and departments involved, and the greater their need for easy and effective collaboration. You know what they say about having too many cooks in the kitchen? Unlike the soup, the product will benefit from a multitude of collaborative minds, but it can also present several challenges in embedded system design. You must be able to identify where your colleagues are in their work to know how it impacts yours.

Communication: Good communication is key to collaboration. A missed or mixed message can create major setbacks and challenges in embedded system design.

Document and artifact tracking: Not being able to find required project artifacts in an easy and timely manner can cause costly delays to your company and customers and may even derail your ability to meet your deadlines. The capability to search and easily find a project artifact enhances your ability to collaborate effectively. If multiple teams are working with different versions of artifacts or documents, it is difficult to know if you can trust your data. Having a centralized location and management process for documentation is critical.

Traceability: Traceability is not a nice-to-have; it is a must have! It is essential for manufacturers to trace artifacts across an entire project, especially for regulated industries involving high risk and severe repercussions for defective products. If problems are identified during embedded software testing, traceability empowers the design and development teams to find out what and where things went wrong. Maintaining traceability and managing evolving requirements and interdependencies is a formidable task and can create challenges in embedded system design and development if not done properly.

Compatibility: With the complex nature of embedded systems, it is likely multiple teams with varied expertise and responsibilities across departments in a company, or perhaps even from different companies entirely, will work together to create the product. Each team may use different tools to perform and document their work, causing potential embedded software design issues or conflicts if the tools do not interface seamlessly with each other or if they utilize different languages and/or adhere to differing company standards. As you design, develop code, and test your hardware and software systems, it is necessary to consider how each subsystem integrates with the rest of the system in new and differentiated products. Losing focus on those considerations can result in challenges in embedded system design. Having the right tools, like a robust application lifecycle management (ALM) tool, can help to overcome many of these potential complications such as gaps in traceability, inconsistent version control, artifact duplication, and miscommunication between team members. Sterling PLM can help you identify what you need to avoid headaches in your embedded system design. Please reach out today to learn more about our embedded systems consulting and how it can help you.

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