The Internet of Things (IoT) offers huge potential and a wide range of possibilities. Embedded systems are like a heart of the whole infrastructure, an integral part of each supported hardware. They are based on small microprocessors and programmed to do specific actions like sending pictures from a camera to a Wi-Fi network or scanning roads to adjust traffic lights to the traffic flow.
The term 'Internet of Things' has dominated the way of thinking about technology. Nowadays, even the smallest items can get connected to a global network and collect valuable data to then send it over to a central database for proceeding and analysing. The power of the IoT lies in the widespread use of these smart objects and their rising popularity in the modern society.
One of the most important aspects encouraging you to get into the embedded world is the unlimited space to improve your skills and its wide potential for use.
In fact, embedded systems have been used for many years, at the beginning, they were built into simple digital items but lately, it has become more and more popular. Nowadays, I can certainly say it's one of the most forward-looking technologies; IoT solutions are nearly everywhere and we’re just starting to speak of the Internet of Everything (IoE). According to estimates, IoT applications could have a total economic impact of nearly $4 trillion to over $11 trillion per year by 2025.
Currently, it is possible to automatize most processes and integrate business aims with smart objects connected to the Internet. Moreover, you can have at your fingertips a wide range of stuff including hardware, microcontrollers and sensors at affordable prices and relatively accessible. The virtual barrier between technology and 'real life' is disappearing, with a variety of smart objects supporting daily duties and processes. Possible scenarios and ways of utilisation depend only on our imagination, and the number of items connected to the Internet is growing.
IoT solutions are being increasingly used across all industries – from automotive and retail to the agriculture sector and so on. The manner of use depends only on business needs and our imagination, while the added values are unbelievable.
One of the most interesting and surprising areas where embedded technology may be used is in the agriculture industry. It can control processes involved with growing crops – sowing, fertilizing, harvesting, and all statistics connected with those activities, are shown and analysed by a special app displayed on a farmer's mobile device.
In that way, the farmer has control over crops and can estimate and analyse the most efficient way to cultivate the field and get the best farming results. Interestingly, a lot of sensors can be connected to agricultural machines to deliver the most valuable data – soil conditions, humidity, chemical composition, the quality and health condition of crops, parasites and so on. This information helps to adjust the quantity of fertilizers and use them only in those places where it is necessary. Based on complex data, analyses and predictions, one can prevent pests and diseases.
Another example of a smart IoT application is the energy sector. There are many examples of how utilities leverage data from connected devices. This includes smart meters and thermostats to help reduce consumption and operate the grid more efficiently.
Moreover, the IoT has a great impact on renewable energy development. Nowadays, there is a one-way transfer of energy from power stations to our homes and cities. Embedded systems and smart grids enable multidirectional transfer of energy allowing people to control their own energy, including selling the energy they produce and providing a backup scenario in case of blackouts.
The next great example of how IoT solutions can support renewable energy sector is the concept of a matrix power grid. Instead of using energy from one power station, matrix power grid involves using several power connections shared with your nearest neighbours. In this case, embedded devices can control, optimize and manage the entire energy circuit.
By having advanced sensors and specially prepared software, we can extract data from everything and use it to predict most disasters like forest fires, air pollution, chemical leakage in rivers, earthquakes and avalanches. The IoT technology could significantly alleviate problems of natural disasters and starvation, as well as many other troubles in the world.
When people ask me what to do to start an adventure with IoT and embedded systems, I always have the same answer: you must be curious about the world.
Seriously, a natural willingness to discover and improve everything around you is the most important motivation to start the adventure with embedded systems, you need to be authentically passionate. It’s not the easiest career path; it requires a lot of patience, experimenting with analytical skills, focusing on continuous learning and a thorough understanding of business needs. In a fact, the daily work of the embedded software engineer is based on a mixture of knowledge about software, hardware and electronics.
If you want to write embedded software, it’s a really useful skill to know any low-level programming languages; among the most popular are C and C++. Obviously, sometimes you need to go lower to Assembler, on the other hand, to conduct some tests automation you need to climb for a higher level programming, like for example Python. Anyway, it is good to know some fundamentals of electronics and physics, but don't be afraid - you don't have to be an expert.
To enter the field of embedded technologies, it is really appreciated to have some previous experience with microcontrollers programming, for example, the Arduino or popular Raspberry PI which are fairly easy to get started with. That’s one point for you, even if you’ve done only garage projects before - the first step you have behind you; now you can go ahead and develop more and more sophisticated and advanced solutions. Good luck!
Embedded systems and the entire IoT concept definitely are changing our future. Contributing your skills into this technology gives you a chance to influence it. IoT has been evolving year by year and it does open quite a broad perspective for software development. Doubtlessly, the role of the embedded software developer is one of the most exciting career path to pursue for a software and electronic engineer. In my opinion, it’s worth to get into the embedded world because it gives you a guarantee that every single effort you put in, will bring huge satisfaction and significant contribution to the shape of our digital future.