Embedded systems are becoming increasingly communicative
More and more embedded systems include a communication modem or web server, enabling them to send and receive data. This boosts the possibilities for applications, which can currently often be found in the sphere of remote servicing and maintenance.
Already for years, the intelligent refrigerator, which orders new food as soon as it is empty, has served as an example of the networking of intelligent devices and therefore of embedded systems. Such fridges have not become a reality yet, but the networking of embedded systems has. Embedded systems are highly networked, be it in drive technology, industrial automation, for renewable energy systems or in the area of medicine.
At wind and solar power plants the usable amount of energy fluctuates considerably depending on the weather, furthermore within a very short period. The fluctuations have to be balanced out by storage and base-load plants. With the aid of embedded systems for modern wind turbines, which record the ambient conditions by means of sensors and, thanks to their ability to communicate, transmit them to other facilities and the control stations, wind power plants can adapt to the wind conditions in just seconds and reduce the unwanted fluctuations. Via the communication interfaces, technicians can also supply the systems with software updates and read out the performance data at any time.
In many remote monitoring and management applications, communicating embedded system make it possible for status information to be uploaded to a central server, so that remote administrators can send configuration data and other commands to the system. For this, the embedded system integrates either a GPRS / UMTS modem or an Ethernet port. Direct access to the parameters of the embedded system can be provided via a web server. The data is transmitted over conventional telephone lines, mobile wireless networks, WLANs or other networks.
For remote monitoring, it is recommended that the integrated communication unit be operated independently of the host system. For example, to service air conditioning equipment on the roofs of buildings, the communication link should also function when the air conditioning system fails. Only then does it remain possible to carry out effective maintenance measures remotely.
For the coming year, the market research company VDC Research sees a doubling in the growth of networked systems (31 percent per year) as compared to conventional, non-networked embedded systems (15 percent per year). As a consequence of this, VDC believes that the share of intelligent systems will rise from 39 percent in 2011 to 51 percent in 2013.
As a result of the possibility to control embedded web servers by means of a web browser, an embedded system can be accessed from anywhere via PCs, notebooks, tablet PCs and smart phones. Developers thus face the challenge of adapting user interfaces to very different types of device and format as well as to different operating systems. On the positive side, this results in many new application scenarios for embedded systems. It also paves the way for cloud services, which are now also being offered for embedded systems.
Even everyday items such as clothing or sports equipment may in future pass information onto people, IT systems or to other smart objects with embedded systems. The Internet of things will become ever more noticeable in everyday life. However, when considering this development, it is necessary to also take account of the explosion of data volumes and increasing security risks.