Why Modern Embedded Software Systems nowadays embrace webserver-technology¶
Whether it’s your office printer, your internet router at home, or your future top-notch embedded system, they all
use technologies that, only a decade ago, nobody imagined using in an embedded system! How did this happen?
Let’s start with the printer. Its essential feature is still printing; it learned a few more features, like scanning & copying. And it can print better: in color and with a higher resolution. That needs more embedded software, but that is not changing the game.
Or, maybe, the question is : ” What changed?”
There are two big drivers, aside from the ever-present pressure to increase margin. The user and the available technology. That entangled combination made the change
In the old days, we had a tick, clumsy cable to connect a PC to a printer – there was no other way. Although that is (technical) still possible, it’s too expensive and removed as an option. Also, the user doesn’t like it. Nowadays, everybody like to print from a mobile phone.
That feature “wireless printing” asks for extra embedded technology, like Bluetooth & WiFI, but also needs a TCP/IP stack. Luckily, that became available and was almost for free: with embedded Linux, for example. It required a bit more hardware, but due to the law of Moore, that class of electronics has become inexpensive – as the Raspberry Pi’s in many households show. A printer has a comparable embedded computer, costing only a few euros.
In this line of thought, we got to a printer with the computer power to print wireless, but with a bit increased price. How can we cut down that price and make it more attractive? Rember, we –as a business– prefer more margin.
Let us compile that: due to user feature as “wireless printing” and a technology push can have a cost-effective raspberry-Pi class computer inside. This enables us to “configure” a web server to operate the system, and so we reduce costs by removing buttons and such. There are only one, or two, extra steps we have to take: convince the user. That part is easy: sell the cost-saving as a feature. Printers are sold and promoted with:
“Now with embedded web server”
I expect we see the next step soon. Nowadays the promise is “a web server”, and that is all you get. But, when all printers have it, it hardly distinguishes, nor does it persuades the user to buy. So, we can expect a new feature:
“Now with a modern, beautiful embedded web server”!
The printer shouldn’t print better, but sell better. By only upgrading the UI-software, and spend time on UI and UX (User Interface & User Experience). And use more standard, modern web-technology.
What does it mean for our embedded software community?¶
Embedded Systems will contain more and more modern software, software that used to be known only in the web world; like Progressive Web, Angular, React, NodeJS, and more.
But it also demands more: the expected quality of embedded software is high. As there is no helpdesk, no admin to fix a detail, and all embedded software is expected to be flawless. How we do that, is the topic of a next blog
This article on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-modern-embedded-software-systems-nowadays-embrace-albert-mietus