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Chapter: Embedded Systems

Core of The Embedded System

Unit Structure: Objectives 1 Introduction 2 Core of embedded systems General purpose and domain specific processor. Microprocessors Microcontrollers. Digital signal processors Application Specific Integrated Circuits. (ASIC) Programmable logic devices(PLD’s) Commercial off-the-shelf components(COTs) 3Sensors & Actuators 4Communication Interface


Unit Structure



1 Introduction

2Core of embedded systems

  General purpose and domain specific processor.



 Digital signal processors

  Application Specific Integrated Circuits. (ASIC)

  Programmable logic devices(PLD’s)

  Commercial off-the-shelf components(COTs)

3Sensors & Actuators

4Communication Interface



After reading this chapter you will be able to:

Understand the different types of core i.e processor

Understand difference between microprocessor & microcontroller


Understand the classification of processors based on Bus Architecture, Instruction set


Architecture and Endianness.


Have an overview of processors from most simple and cheap to most expensive and complex, powerful


Understand what are sensors and actuators, communication interfaces




The first two chapters attempted on explain what an embedded system is about and what the working parts are. This chapter attempts to go deeper and explain the core of embedded system along with other related topics.




Embedded systems are domain and application specific and are built around a central core. The core of the embedded system falls into any of the following categories:


General purpose and Domain Specific Processors

·        Microprocessors

·        Microcontrollers

·        Digital Signal Processors


Application Specific Integrated Circuits. (ASIC)

Programmable logic devices(PLD’s)

Commercial off-the-shelf components (COTs)


2.1                        GENERAL   PURPOSE   AND   DOMAIN   SPECIFIC PROCESSOR.


            Almost 80% of the embedded systems are processor/ controller based.


The processor may be microprocessor or a microcontroller or digital signal processor, depending on the domain and application.




·         A microprocessor is a silicon chip representing a central processing unit.


·         A microprocessor is a dependent unit and it requires the combination of other hardware like memory, timer unit, and interrupt controller, etc. for proper functioning.


·         Developers of microprocessors.

o Intel – Intel 4004 – November 1971(4-bit). o Intel – Intel 4040.

o   Intel – Intel 8008 – April 1972.

o Intel – Intel 8080 – April 1974(8-bit). o Motorola – Motorola 6800.

o   Intel – Intel 8085 – 1976.


Zilog - Z80 – July 1976.


·         Architectures used for processor design are Harvard or Von-Neumann.


Harvard architecture

•It has separate buses for instruction as well as data fetching.

•Easier to pipeline, so high performance can be achieve.

•Comparatively high cost.

•Since data memory and program memory are stored physically in different locations, no chances exist for accidental corruption of program memory.


Von-Neumann architecture

•It shares single common bus for instruction and data fetching.

•Low performance as compared to Harvard architecture.

•It is cheaper.

•Accidental corruption of program memory may occur if data memory and program memory are stored physically in the same chip,



RISC and CISC are the two common Instruction Set Architectures (ISA) available for processor design.



• Reduced Instruction Set Computing

•It contains lesser number of instructions.

•Instruction pipelining and increased execution speed.

•Orthogonal instruction set(allows each instruction to operate on any register and use any addressing mode.

•Operations are performed on registers only, only memory operations are load and store.

•A larger number of registers are available.

•Programmer needs to write more code to execute a task since instructions are simpler ones.

•It is single, fixed length instruction.

•Less silicon usage and pin count.

•With Harvard Architecture.




•Complex Instruction Set Computing

•It contains greater number of instructions.

•Instruction pipelining feature does not exist.

•Non-orthogonal set(all instructions are not allowed to operate on any register and use any addressing mode.

• Operations are performed either on registers or memory depending on instruction.

•The number of general purpose registers are very limited.

• Instructions are like macros in C language. A programmer can achieve the desired functionality with a single instruction which in turn provides the effect of using more simpler single instruction in RISC.

• It is variable length instruction.

• More silicon usage since  more additional decoder logic  is required to implement the  complex instruction decoding.

• Can be Harvard or Von-  Neumann Architecture.




o Endianness specifies the order which the data is stored in the memory by processor operations in a multi byte system.


Based on Endiannes processors can be of two types:

Little Endian Processors

Big Endian Processors


Little-endian means lower order data byte is stored in memory at the lowest address and the higher order data byte at the highest address. For e.g, 4 byte long integer Byte3, Byte2, Byte1, Byte0 will be store in the memory as follows:


Big-endian means the higher order data byte is stored in memory at the lowest and the lower order data byte at the highest address. For e.g. a 4 byte integer Byte3, Byte2, Byte1, Byte0 will be stored in the memory as follows:



A microcontroller is a highly integrated chip that contains a CPU, scratch pad RAM, special and general purpose register arrays,on chip ROM/FLASH memory for program storage , timer and interrupt control units and dedicated I/O ports.


Texas Instrument’s TMS 1000 Is considered as the world’s first microcontroller.


Some embedded system application require only 8 bit controllers whereas some requiring superior performance and computational needs demand 16/32 bit controllers.


The instruction set of a microcontroller can be RISC or CISC.


  Microcontrollers are designed for either general purpose application requirement or domain specific application requirement.


2.1.3 Digital Signal Processors


                  DSP are powerful special purpose 8/16/32 bit microprocessor designed to meet the computational demands and power constraints of today’s embedded audio, video and communication applications.

                  DSP are 2 to 3 times faster than general purpose microprocessors in signal processing applications. This is because of the architectural difference between DSP and general purpose microprocessors.


    DSPs implement algorithms in hardware which          speeds


up  the  execution  whereas  general  purpose  processor

implement the algorithm in software and the speed of

execution  depends  primarily on   the   clock  for  the



                  DSP includes following key units:

            Program memory: It is a memory for storing the program required by DSP to process the data.


            Data memory: It is a working memory for storing temporary variables and data/signal to be processed.


            Computational engine: It performs the signal processing in accordance with the stored program memory computational engine incorporated many specialized arithmetic units and each of them operates simultaneously to increase the execution speed. It also includes multiple hardware shifters for shifting operands and saves execution time.


            I/O unit: It acts as an interface between the outside world and DSP. It is responsible for capturing signals to be processed and delivering the processed signals.


      Examples: Audio video signal processing, telecommunication and multimedia applications.


      SOP(Sum of Products) calculation, convolution, FFT(Fast Fourier Transform), DFT(Discrete Fourier Transform), etc are some of the operation performed by DSP.


2.2. Application Specific Integrated Circuits. (ASIC)


            ASICs is a microchip design to perform a specific and unique applications.


            Because of using single chip for integrates several functions there by reduces the system development cost.


            Most of the ASICs are proprietary (which having some trade name) products, it is referred as Application Specific Standard Products(ASSP).


            As a single chip ASIC consumes a very small area in the total system. Thereby helps in the design of smaller system with high capabilities or functionalities.

            The developers of such chips may not be interested in revealing the internal detail of it .


2.2. Programmable logic devices(PLD’s)


      A PLD is an electronic component. It used to build digital circuits which are reconfigurable.


      A logic gate has a fixed function but a PLD does not have a defined function at the time of manufacture.


      PLDs offer customers a wide range of logic capacity, features, speed, voltage characteristics.


      PLDs can be reconfigured to perform any number of functions at any time.


      A variety of tools are available for the designers of PLDs which are inexpensive and help to develop, simulate and test the designs.


      PLDs having following two major types.


1) CPLD(Complex Programmable Logic Device):

CPLDs offer much smaller amount of logic up to 1000 gates.


2) FPGAs(Field Programmable Gate Arrays):

It offers highest amount of performance as well as highest logic density, the most features.


      Advantages of PLDs :-

                        PLDs offer customer much more flexibility during the design cycle.


                        PLDs do not require long lead times for prototypes or production parts because PLDs are already on a distributors shelf and ready for shipment.


                        PLDs can be reprogrammed even after a piece of equipment is shipped to a customer


2.3  Commercial off-the-shelf components(COTs)

            A Commercial off the Shelf product is one which is used 'as-is'.

            The COTS components itself may be develop around a general purpose or domain specific processor or an ASICs or a PLDs.

            The major advantage of using COTS is that they are readily available in the market, are chip and a developer can cut down his/her development time to a great extent


            The major drawback of using COTS components in embedded design is that the manufacturer of the COTS component may withdraw the product or discontinue the production of the COTS at any time if rapid change in technology occurs.


            Advantages of COTS:

            Ready to use

            Easy to integrate

            Reduces development time


            Disadvantages of COTS:

            No operational or manufacturing standard (all proprietary)


            Vendor or manufacturer may discontinue production of a particular COTS product






            A Sensor is used for taking Input

            It is a transducer that converts energy from one form to


another for any    measurement or control purpose


            Ex. A Temperature sensor



            Actuator is used for output.

            It is a transducer that may be either mechanical or electrical which converts signals to corresponding physical actions.

            Ex. LED (Light Emitting Diode)


            LED is a p-n junction diode and contains a CATHODE and




            For functioning the anode is connected to +ve end of power supply and cathode is connected to –ve end of power supply.

            The maximum current flowing through the LED is limited by connecting a RESISTOR in series between the power supply and LED as shown in the figure below

                        There are two ways to interface an LED to a microprocessor/microcontroller:


                        The Anode of LED is connected to the port pin and cathode to Ground : In this approach the port pin sources the current to the LED when it is at logic high(ie. 1).


                        The Cathode of LED is connected to the port pin and Anode to Vcc : In this approach the port pin sources the current to the LED when it is at logic high (ie. 1). Here the port pin sinks the current and the LED is turned ON when the port pin is at Logic low (ie. 0)




For any embedded system, the communication interfaces can broadly classified into:

On board Communication Interfaces


These are used for internal communication of the embedded system i.e: communication between different components present on the system.


Common examples of onboard interfaces are:

Inter Integrated Circuit (I2C)

Serial Peripheral Interface (SPI)

Universal Asynchronous Receiver Transmitter (UART)

1-Wire Interface

Parallel Interface


Example :Inter Integrated Circuit (I2C)

•  It is synchronous

•  Bi-directional, half duplex , two wire serial interface bus

•  Developed by Phillips semiconductors in 1980

It comprises of two buses :

Serial clock –SCL

Serial Data – SDA

SCL generates synchronization clock pulses

SDA transmits data serially across devices

I2C is a shared bus system to which many devices can be connected

Devices connected by I2C can act as either master or slave

The master device is responsible for controlling communication by initiating/ terminating data transfer.

Devices acting as slave wait for commands from the master and respond to those commands.

External or Peripheral Communication Interfaces


These are used for external communication of the embedded system i.e: communication of different components present on the system with external or peripheral components/devices.


Common examples of external interfaces are:

RS-232 C & RS-485

Universal Serial Bus (USB)

IEEE 1394 (Firewire)

Infrared (IrDA)



Zig Bee

General Packet Radio Service (GPRS)

Example: RS-232 C & RS-485

It is wired, asynchronous, serial, full duplex communication

RS 232 interface was developed by EIA (Electronic Industries Associates) In early


RS 232 is the extension to UART for external communications

RS-232 logic levels use:

+3 to +25 volts to signify a "Space" (Logic 0) and

-3 to -25 volts to signify a "Mark" (logic 1).

RS 232 supports two different types of connectors :

DB 9 and DB 25 as shown in figure below

RS 232 interface is a point to point communication interface and the devices involved are called as Data Terminating Equipment (DTE) And Data

Communications Terminating Equipment (DCE)


Embedded devices contain UART for serial transmission and generate signal levels as per TTL/CMOS logic.

A level translator IC (like Max 232) is used for converting the signal lines from

UART to RS 232 signal lines for communication.


The vice versa is performed on the receiving side.

Converter chips contain converters for both transmitters and receivers

RS 232 is used only for point to point connections

It is susceptible to noise and hence is limited to short distances only

RS 422 is another serial interface from EIA.

It supports multipoint connections with 1 transmitter and 10 receivers.

It supports data rates up to 100Kbps and distance up to 400 ft

RS 485 is enhanced version of RS 422 and supports up to 32 transmitters and 32



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