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A Glossary of Terms

Embedded System

One that embeds micro-processors/micro-controllers (MCUs) on the PCB of the control system of a specific device, such as a refrigerator, microwave oven or toaster. The MCU is specifically designed to control the functions of just that device, including any human interface (eg buttons or a touch-screen interface).


Real Time Operating System (RTOS)

Embedded software loaded onto an MCU or processor that controls the specific functions of a specific device is also referred to as the RTOS. Notable embedded OSs include:

  • Embedded Linux - Used in devices such as printers
  • iOS - Used in Apple mobile devices; a subset of Mac OS X
  • Symbian - Used in cell phones, predominantly from Nokia
  • Android - a subset of Linux
  • BlackBerry OS - For BlackBerry phones
  • Windows Mobile

  • Embedded Software

    Often also referred to as firmware, it is software loaded on an MCU that serves as the Operating System (OS) for the device that the MCU (or collection of MCUs) controls. It can only be updated by reprogramming or replacing the MCU. Examples of embedded software or firmware include computer BIOS.


    Application Software

    Computer application software runs on top of a computer's OS (eg Windows, Linux, iOS or Android) and supports a specific application, eg word processing, serving music from a library on a computer to a wireless audio system, or flying a remote-controlled drone using a mobile device, via WiFi.


    I²C / I2C

    I²C (Inter-Integrated Circuit), pronounced I-squared-C, is a multi-master, multi-slave, single-ended, serial computer bus invented by Philips Semiconductor (now NXP Semiconductors). It is typically used for attaching lower-speed peripheral ICs to processors and microcontrollers in short-distance, intra-board communication. Alternatively I²C is spelled I2C (pronounced I-two-C) or IIC (pronounced I-I-C).


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