Blog Entry

Dec 20
2016 

Embedded Software vs. Embedded System: Let’s Be Specific

Although embedded systems and embedded software are not new kids on the block, rapid growth in the Internet of Things has recently brought them into the spotlight. If your business has set its products on the path to IoT monetization, these are two terms well worth knowing.

Embedded Systems – All About the Function

An embedded system is a combination of hardware and software designed with a dedicated function in mind; a minicomputer, if you will, that has been optimized for (and limited to) a specific purpose. These systems traditionally reside in larger mechanical or electrical products, or embedded devices, providing a specific set of capabilities. By optimizing for such capabilities, significant efficiencies can be realized – not only in terms of cost, but also power consumption and size. Indeed, you can even ruggedize a design for extreme operating environments more cost effectively.

Embedded systems can be found in many consumer applications, from digital watches and home heating controls to industrial applications such as traffic lights and factory controllers.

The advent of the IoT has meant that embedded systems now constitute most, if not all, of an end product. For example, a tiny sensor reporting as part of a wider distributed network of devices could form the overall solution.

Embedded Software – All About the Differentiation

If an embedded system is the combination of hardware and software, embedded software is a subset of that.

Weighing in at only a few kilobytes, embedded software is written to optimally run on the specific hardware and microprocessor contained within a particular system. And because it is designed with a single specification in mind, it is often exclusive to that system.

Embedded Software vs. Embedded System

Despite its diminutive size, this software is considered to be one of the most valuable aspects of the embedded system. Embedded systems, by their very nature, are often built from largely generic hardware and low-power microprocessors. It stands to reason, then, that the key points of differentiation between one vendor’s solution and another are in the software features.

Embedded Licensing Becomes Critical

With differentiation increasingly taking place at the feature level, we are seeing a transformation of hardware vendors into software vendors. This has led to a critical need to protect the software using an embedded licensing strategy.

This blog post is part of our Software Monetization 101 series, which examines commonly misunderstood terminology in the software protection, licensing, and entitlement management space.

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