Embedded software engineering is a sub-specialty of software engineering that specifically focuses on developing software for non-computer hardware. You deal with unique hardware development environments, as the electronic systems you create software for lack the resources and capacity of your typical computing device. The software integrates directly into these devices, which requires a different software engineering style than those working on computers. Software and hardware share a strong link, so even when you don't have the same CPU power or memory as a computer, you can get a lot out of the electronics.
Another major departure from typical software engineering comes from the operating systems you use. Many non-computer systems can't run full-blown versions of Windows and other standard operating systems. The feature sets of these computer-orientated OS's are often overkill for your purposes in embedded software engineering, as well. You often work with some form of real-time operating system, which focuses on minimizing data processing delays. C and C++ is the primary programming language, and some OS examples you may work with include PikeOS, uc/OS and FreeBSD. Many embedded software operating systems provide specialized features designed for that device or device category, so you see far more options than computing environments.
What Industries Use Embedded Software Engineers?
You find embedded systems in countless industries, from manufacturing to retail. Some common examples of embedded software in the wild include the point of sale systems in stores, automobile computers, traffic lights and MRI machines. Embedded software engineering skills are in high demand due to the versatility of these machines and their common adoption for many purposes. Whether you want to explore a career in the health industry or dip your toes into avionics, there's an embedded system waiting.
Embedded Software Engineering Work Environments
Your standard work environment keeps you at a desk in an indoor environment. Most of your time is spent working on the embedded software code. Your testing process may require going to specific on-site facilities to work with the embedded system directly. If you assist with the maintenance and troubleshooting process of installed embedded systems, you may also spend some time going to client sites.
The project size and scope may require that you work on a single aspect of an embedded system as part of a team. Smaller projects may be entirely your responsibility. Strong communication skills, especially during the testing and debugging process, helps you successfully accomplish your work.