Saturday, 03 June 2023 12:54

What Is Embedded Computing?

By  Zaki Lazaroska

Computer systems come in many different forms, shapes, and sizes. As a result, it can get confusing when you hear or read about something specific like “embedded computing”. What makes this different from other systems that are available? 

That is where this guide can help. Below is an explanation of what embedded computing entails, how it works, the different system types available, and more. 

What is embedded computing? 

To answer the question posed at the top of this guide, embedded computing is a type of system that’s vital for operating electronic devices and computers across an assortment of industries. 

An embedded computer system takes computer hardware and incorporates this with software components. The two elements, when combined, are built to perform a specific task. This task is typically part of a larger electrical or mechanical system, which helps explain the “embedded” aspect of its name. 

How does an embedded computer work? 

Think about a standard computer. Unless all you do is browse the internet, this system is utilized for various tasks. That’s not the case with an embedded computer. These are designed to be task-specific. This means rather than completing multiple tasks, they are built to only complete a single task. 

As for the actual construction of an embedded computer, this is dependent on the task it is intended to complete. That said, the typical structure includes a power supply, memory, processor, and communication ports. These do the following jobs: 

  • Power supply: This supplies power for the entire assembly. 
  • Memory: When the embedded computer is running, the memory stores all data that are in use. 
  • Processor: With the use of integrated software, data is interpreted by the processor. 
  • Communication ports: These ports are utilized to transmit data between peripheral devices and the processor. 

Other hardware components can include sensors, digital-to-analog converters, analog-to-digital converters, and actuators. There are no surprises when it comes to hardware. Software components, on the other hand, can vary greatly in complexity. This is ultimately down to the embedded system and its functionality. For example, basic software with limited memory is capable of operating with an industrial-grade embedded computer. 

The different types of embedded computers available

Although you now understand the basic structure and function of an embedded computer, that’s only scratching the surface. The reason is due to the number of functions that can be produced with an embedded system. To put it into perspective, here are some basic types that are used: 

  • Standalone embedded system: A standalone system, as the name suggests, isn’t included within a host system. It is capable of performing a specific task on its own. An example of a standalone embedded system is a calculator. 
  • Networked embedded system: This system connects to a network, and it then supplies other systems with output data. An example of a network-embedded computer is a point-of-sale system
  • Mobile embedded system: A mobile embedded system is built for portability. An example of this system type is a digital camera. 
  • Real-time embedded system: Output is delivered with this type of system within a time interval that is defined. An example of a real-time embedded system is a traffic control system. 

Each embedded computer system also uses a certain level of performance requirements. If those performance requirements are relatively low, the embedded system can go with a small-scale approach and use an eight-bit microcontroller. A more sophisticated embedded computer, however, could opt for complex hardware and software components. 

The benefits of using an embedded computer 

Due to how many applications they are used for across a wide selection of industries, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that embedded computers possess a wealth of benefits. Here’s a look at some of the key positives: 

Highly customizable 

The highly customizable nature of embedded computers is one of the biggest advantages they possess. As spotlighted in the examples above, there are many different possibilities in terms of what you can create with an embedded system. 

Whether you are designing a standalone product or require a component that will slot into your production line, it’s achievable with an embedded computer. They can be tailored to match your exact performance requirements. 

The perfect fit 

If you have built a complex system that isn’t performing to an optimum standard, it’s possible to use an embedded computer to effectively complete the puzzle. This is certainly the case if you collaborate with an industry expert that focuses on embedded systems. 

For example, a company like Things Embedded would be able to find and supply the right innovative solutions for your needs. An added benefit of receiving assistance in this way is that you don’t have to make the decision on your own. The result: you can avoid making a mistake and selecting the wrong system for your process. 

Keep the costs down 

Embedded computers are versatile and powerful. Yet despite these points, these systems are also relatively low cost. As a result, it is affordable to purchase and incorporate embedded systems that match up to the functions and performance needs you require. 

That’s not the only way they help to keep those costs down. Embedded systems typically come with low power consumption. This means you spend less on energy costs. 

The industries that use embedded computers

If you have read through all of the previous sections of this guide, you’ll be aware that many industries make use of embedded computers. These computers, whether used as standalone electronic devices or within intricate systems, possess the versatility and effectiveness that many seek. 

That includes those in the healthcare industry. Everything from patient monitoring systems to imaging devices will incorporate embedded systems. In comparison, and to highlight their adaptability, the military and defense industry uses embedded computers in the likes of autonomous vehicles, simulation systems, and more. 


Although you may not have been familiar with the term “embedded computers” before reading this guide, you will have encountered many of these systems during your day-to-day life. Essential for everything from medical equipment to manufacturing products, embedded computers continue to grow in prevalence and importance. 


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