Developing embedded systems with further integration into the Internet of Things ecosystem requires knowledge, skills, and a fundamental understanding of the project needs. This is a multilayered process with many moving parts and technological solutions involved, and there could be many risks in such a complex process.
Working with embedded systems is a complex process that requires strong tech expertise, and further transition into IoT packs challenges of its own. Let’s take a look at some of the challenges that might influence both embedded and IoT development lifecycle. We will also see how to systematically address those challenges across different system layers.
How to address the challenges of embedded development in different types of systems?
There are two types of embedded systems, monolithic and distributed, both of which have their applications and benefits for your business. Understanding the needs of your project is the starting point of the embedded development lifecycle, and you need to know precisely what kind of system you require.
Monolithic system is a single device that serves just a handful of purposes. As the name suggests, that is a monolithic body, a single piece of equipment that collects input from the outside, conveys it through the interface, and produces a predefined output. As an instance, your washing machine is a monolithic system that collects input from the user pressing buttons and switching dials. It then transfers the data to the central processing unit (CPU) that produces certain output prompting the machine to start a washing cycle.
Solving the challenges of monolithic systems on the design stage
Solving the embedded development challenges in monolithic systems comes down to precise planning at the design stage. Whenever you approach a new embedded software development project, you need to choose the right process workflow, components, and connectivity protocols that are compatible and match your business requirements. Different components, interfaces, and protocols have their strengths and weaknesses, so you need to design a system according to your needs and goals.
Monolithic systems are suitable for building vast and versatile distributed networks. You can connect monolithic devices that serve different purposes and perform different tasks to create a unique ecosystem that suits the unique needs of your business. You can create a network of sensors across your smart factory for inventory tracking. On its own, each sensor is a monolith, but once several sensors are connected within a single network, they form a distributed system.
Distributed system is a collection of monolithic systems that has an interface to gather input from the user, send the data to the main CPU (Gateway), and the CPU makes decisions based on that data or user commands. A distributed system allows for control over diverse and complex systems, and the embedded development lifecycle here might be more complicated.
As an instance, a smart home is a distributed system. It is a single infrastructure but it contains numerous monolithic devices that are connected to the control unit or gateway via the network. Mapping out the whole infrastructure beforehand is essential for addressing the challenges of the distributed systems across the embedded development lifecycle.
How to solve the challenges across distributed system layers
Being a more complex type of infrastructure, a distributed system has more inherent embedded development challenges and potential vulnerabilities. There are three layers of a distributed system:
Challenges of the gateway layer
Gateway is a CPU, a control unit that connects all the monoliths within a distributed system and manages the functioning of the entire infrastructure. The gateway layer controls all the devices that are directly connected to it via the network.
Inability to scale the system can produce a detrimental effect on your business growth. Failure to design a scalable, high-load architecture from the get-go is one of critical embedded development challenges that can stall the development of your embedded system. That is why you need a reliable embedded software development partner who will help you build a robust and scalable system.
Without a proper network, it will not be possible to establish connectivity between the devices and the gateway. Communication breakdowns may cause inefficiencies in the system’s functioning. So, it is essential to think about the connectivity protocols and compatibility between the gateway and the devices as one of the primary embedded development challenges at the design stage.
Different components of embedded systems follow different connectivity protocols, and for that reason, an average user might fail to connect new devices to the system. Large smart environments, such as smart warehouses or factories, might contain thousands of connected devices. That is why connecting a vast number of devices across the ecosystem is one of the primary embedded and IoT development challenges.
Connecting devices to one another within a single ecosystem may become a real headache. To avoid these problems, you need to select devices that follow the same standards. If you decide to create your own devices, you need to make sure they are compatible with third-party systems.
Different manufacturers create different embedded devices with different communication protocols and different logic. Thus it might be challenging to introduce new devices into your existing embedded system.
There are several ways to address the interoperability challenge. For instance, you can design custom embedded devices that match the requirements of your ecosystem. Additionally, if you decide to connect your embedded system to the Internet, you will ensure that the devices are fully compatible with your environment. This has to be decided at the design stage of the IoT development lifecycle. Alternatively, you can select devices that are already available on the market and try to integrate them into your ecosystem.
Whether you want to develop your own embedded devices or buy an out-of-box solution, you need a dedicated team of experts who will integrate them into your ecosystem. Provisioning and installation are among the embedded development challenges that have to be taken into account during the discovery phase of the embedded development lifecycle.
With a well-planned roadmap for the continuous growth of your business, you can make your embedded system a part of an IoT infrastructure.
Moving into the IoT: what are the main challenges and how to address them?
Any embedded system that is connected to the internet becomes a part of the IoT. However, the transition into IoT has its own set of challenges that need to be addressed at the design phase of the IoT development lifecycle.
Security concerns and critical breaches
Security is of paramount importance to any business, and unfortunately, there are many threats to the security of IoT devices out there. Security threats might occur at any level of IoT architecture, from physical theft of the device to interference in the cloud data storage. Secure architecture is a must for any ecosystem, and the cloud layer is probably one of the most vulnerable parts of that architecture, which creates numerous IoT development challenges.
Information breaches, service and account hijacking, DoS attacks, malicious insiders, abuse of cloud services, and other types of attacks can occur at the cloud layer. A secure cloud infrastructure has to be considered at the design stage of the IoT development lifecycle. It can help in protecting your network from attacks and data theft, and you will need an expert team who can design a high-load architecture and use the DevSecOps approach to implement threat intelligence and security solutions across the system.
A secure cloud architecture will help with threat intelligence which helps with identification and prevention of security risks. Building a secure cloud architecture is crucial for the secure functioning of your ecosystem in the short run. A scalable architecture is critical for the long-term growth of that ecosystem, and you need to ensure its security and scalability. Luckily, a partner who can leverage the capabilities of the cloud and DevOps can help you with both embedded and IoT development challenges pertaining to security.
Monitoring and data processing
The weakest link of your smart ecosystem is always the one that you don’t monitor. Incidents and critical downtimes might occur at any moment, and you need predictive maintenance and control tools to prevent them from happening. Lack of monitoring and control over the system is one of IoT development challenges that can lead to serious overheads and even complete shutdowns.
Data processing plays its role in predictive maintenance allowing the operators of smart environments to prevent incidents and optimize the efficiency of the system. The development and use of data management tools require strong data expertise to design effective solutions. It might require knowledge of Big Data, Data Warehouse Data Lake, real-time data processing, business intelligence, data science, AI, and machine learning to solve an array of IoT development challenges.
Data management can be exercised for predictive maintenance, automation, smart inventory management, alerting, and monitoring. In conjunction with the proper connectivity, it allows you to collect the data from across your smart environment, learn critical information about your inventory, predict bottlenecks, and ensure effective maintenance of the facility.
Applying experience to solve challenges: our success stories
Over the years, N-iX has built a number of embedded and IoT solutions for a number of clients helping them address a multitude of business challenges from IoT-powered fleet tracking to medical equipment. All of our previous projects give us the experience and knowledge to embark on the new IoT and embedded development challenges.
Embedded software development partnership with a leading medical technology company
Weinmann Emergency is a German medical technology company that develops life-saving equipment used in emergency services, hospitals, and military medical corps. It produces such devices as defibrillators, ventilators, oxygen supply systems, emergency kits, and more.
The N-iX team helped Weinmann expand its development capabilities and improve the time to market for the new MEDUCORE Standard2 solution. We’ve released a new version of MEDUCORE Standard2 system firmware through a complete embedded development lifecycle that complies with the industry standards and security requirements. N-iX also introduced a predictive maintenance device for the system, which guarantees the reliability of the solution and its flawless performance.
Improving the efficiency and customer reach with IoT-powered fleet tracking
We’ve worked with an international company that offers smart telematics solutions for fleet operations management. Their solutions help the fleet operators to administer and manage devices and monitor their condition, status, location, and connectivity. Our client needed to improve its fleet management capabilities and develop an entirely new solution to streamline and optimize its processes and expand the customer outreach.
We’ve supported a full IoT development lifecycle and developed a full-stack solution for industrial fleet tracking and management, helping our client to certify the new product and engage new customers. Our team took part in the development of an OEM-based Linux connectivity solution that ensures fluent and efficient management and monitoring of vehicles.
Software and hardware development for Egston
Egston is an Australian electronic manufacturing company that develops inductive components such as transformers and inductor coils, cable systems, antennas, and more for a number of industries. The clients needed to upgrade their entire line of power supplies to meet the new standards for electromagnetic emission and efficiency.
Together with Egston, we’ve created a set of power supplies to cover a wide range of voltages. Additionally, we certified the power supplies according to the highest international standards for efficiency and radiated electromagnetic emission of power supplies.
A properly structured and systematic embedded IoT development lifecycle allows you to achieve the intended results of the project faster and avoid cost overheads. It requires fundamental domain expertise as well as vast experience in developing such systems and solving their inherent challenges. Your development partner can help you design robust and scalable embedded systems, and if needed, transition into the IoT infrastructure.
You will need to equip your development team with experts who can run your product through the development lifecycle and deliver the results you need. Here at N-iX, we offer our embedded and IoT expertise to help you achieve your project goals, avoid overheads, and address the embedded and IoT development challenges.