Career in embedded systems demands a discussion in continuation with my article last month on the vocational challenges in the micro controller industry. Embedded systems are the platform for the application of micro controllers. So I put everything away, dug deep into these and came out with a laundry list that should never, and I mean never, be neglected if you want to be in this sector. Here’s your what-will-get-youhired guide.
What’s the market like?
Embedded systems are omnipresent. These are there in your home, college, office, shopping mall and so on and so forth. Even while you are on the move—either on a most basic two-wheeler or on an advanced aircraft— you are still amidst embedded systems. They are a unique combination of computer hardware, software and perhaps additional mechanical or other parts, designed to perform a specific function within a given time frame.
Our campus recruitment is based on a written test and an interview. The written test is separate for hardware and software engineers. The hardware paper has a section on aptitude, a section on digital design and a section on analogue design—we ask the students to select any one section between digital and analogue design. The software paper has an aptitude section and a section on software. Candidates who fare well in the written test are shortlisted for interview. From my experience, the interviews are mostly based on problemsolving exercises and test the conceptual understanding rather than rote learning.
—C.P. Ravikumar, technical director, university relations, Texas Instruments
The embedded software is required for all real-time applications and developed using a real-time operating system (RTOS), as it helps to schedule and execute tasks based on the priority in a predictable manner. To cite just a few examples, embedded software allow your washing machine to choose speed according to the type of cloth, confer thinking power to the microwave ovens and propel rocket launchers into space.
Industry analysts estimate that over 54 per cent of future software development will be in the embedded technology space. According to an IDC report, the international market as a whole expects product development worth $75 billion.
The indian scenario
In spite of job cuts due to recession, semiconductor companies in India are in hiring mode. India is considered one of the emerging markets in the semiconductor space. According to an ISA-IDC report on the Indian semiconductor and embedded design service industry (2007-10), the Indian semiconductor design market is expected to cross $7.37 billion (Rs 317 million) in 2008. The Indian design market is pegged to grow at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of around 21.7 per cent between 2007 and 2010.
This tremendous rate of growth will require a large number of skilled professionals. The semiconductor design services industry in India employed an estimated 150,000 people in 2007-08. Of this, the bulk of the jobs were in embedded software (82 per cent).
Expansion plans by MNCs and NASSCOM suggest embedded systems to be the next sunrise sector.
Where do I fit?
If you delve a little deeper, you will find that any embedded system is teamwork of three different sets of people: hardware engineers, software engineers and application domain experts. So you can locate your place under any one of these broad categories.
As a hardware engineer, you will be responsible for hardware platform and module prototyping, debugging and testing. Also, you have to ensure compliance with standards and product specifications and initiate design changes as necessary.
If you are comfortable in the software domain, you can start as an embedded systems programmer. This role will engage you in activities like analysis and optimisation of embedded software for the targeted RTOS. Your tasks may include developing installable and built-in device drivers, kernel modifications and embedded application.
Want to explore the application possibilities of the domain? Give a thought to beginning as a wireless protocol engineer. You will be assigned a task for the development, integration and testing of various protocols within an embedded firmware stack used in mobile devices.