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​Embedded software trends 2021

  • Publish Date: Posted about 3 years ago
  • Author: Jon Armstrong

2021 is already shaping up to be a year of tremendous change in embedded software. Read on to find out which markets are booming, what’s likely to push software developers to the edge, and which strategies can help you survive and win.

2021 will be a big year for RISC-V.

Large businesses are experimenting with RISC-V, and a few have already based platforms on it and started using it in at least some departments. Small businesses are starting to use it too.

Although part of RISC-V’s trace specification was officially ratified in February, we can expect to see further tweaks this year, leading to high-quality debug information like power usage, interrupt visibility, live instruction trace, and other metrics you can feed through the debug port.

This will enable developers to produce embedded software applications faster because it will be easier to spot bottlenecks and bugs. Trace looks set to take off in a big way and help RISC-V become a major player.

The medical and automotive markets will keep growing and drive unprecedented amounts of innovation in embedded software.

As we come closer than ever to truly autonomous cars, we can expect the auto market to keep growing. Car leases have risen dramatically as people want to enjoy the latest tech and therefore wait before investing in an EV. This is driving considerable industry growth, especially in electrification.

The vast number of software systems, and intercommunications between systems, needed to make electric cars a reality will make embedded developers more aware that they themselves are working in a complex system. This will increase the focus on code quality and testing even further.

The medical market will also grow significantly thanks to COVID-19. Many people have expressed dissatisfaction with the speed and efficiency of vaccines and tests, and anxiety about what will happen in the next wave. Embedded developers could help by making small portable devices that could diagnose infections onsite instead of having to send tests to a lab.

The boom in AI, 5G, the IoT and cloud/edge computing will drive continuous integration and continuous deployment.

AI, 5G, the IoT and cloud/edge computing will continue to grow in 2021, driving teams to bring out software updates at a faster pace than ever. This calls for rigorous code inspection tools and automated testing to make sure the software meets specifications. Continuous integration manages this, avoiding disastrous bugs in rushed releases.

The ongoing focus on delivering better quality faster will be the biggest impact this growth boom will have on embedded software in 2021. Development tools alone won’t help cut time-to-market if you don’t have human expertise around to answer questions when you’re coding during a time crunch, so it’s worth paying a bit more up front for quality development tools that offer you the option to consult the experts. Time is money.

Code quality and other fundamental development practices will continue to evolve.

Automation, especially the automated testing described above, is driving continuous improvement of development practices. Code inspections used to be rare; now you can’t get away with sloppy code. As this kind of checking becomes more rigorous, people are going to start checking their own code more frequently to avoid the continuous integration output revealing their spaghetti code to their colleagues.

Documenting code will be more important than ever.

Developers need to document their code thoroughly for themselves as well as others. When someone finds a bug six weeks down the line, you want to be able to remember what you were thinking when you wrote that code.

There is a line of thinking that keeping comments on your code minimal will increase your job security, because you’ll be the only one who can understand it. This is thinking too small. Job security is about doing your job so well that nobody will want to replace you. Mentoring colleagues on how your code works will increase your value, and therefore your job security.