2019 Embedded Markets Study reflects emerging technologies, continued C/C++ dominance

While the Internet of Things (IoT), embedded vision, machine learning, and other emerging technologies rise in importance among development organizations, C and C++ remain the dominant programming languages among embedded developers, according to the 2019 Embedded Market Study produced earlier this year by EE Times and Embedded.

Continuing a tradition extending over 20 years, the 2019 Embedded Market Study offers a detailed snapshot of the state of embedded development in the Americas, Asia Pacific (APAC) and Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA). Within this snapshot, the study provides insight into a number of key areas ranging from respondents’ current application focus and design environment to the role of key hardware components and design techniques. The following sections illustrate highlights from each of those areas.

Application focus

Already considered important among half of the respondents, IoT development is expected to gain considerable attention in future projects with over 65% indicating that they will have one or more projects devoted to IoT (Figure 1).

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Figure 1. (Source: 2019 Embedded Market Study)

Even so, in an industry where connectivity has emerged as essentially a baseline design requirement, use of security methods is mixed at best (Figure 2). Software-only security methods typically bring significantly more security vulnerabilities than hardware-based security methods. Nevertheless, about 26% of current designs are built with software-only security. Perhaps more worrisome, 20% of designs incorporate no security features at all. The survey didn’t explore the nature of these designs to let us learn the nature of the target applications for these designs, so the actual risk in those systems is unknown. Yet, any embedded system remains vulnerable to many sources of threats beyond those arising from connectivity-related security vulnerabilities.

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Figure 2. Security measured employed in current designs – a new question in 2019. (Source: 2019 Embedded Market Study)

Perhaps one of the more striking results from the study lies in expectations for use of machine learning capabilities. Already, 32% of 2019 study respondents indicate current use of machine-learning methods, but 55% of respondents are considering their use – a figure that jumps to 68% among EMEA developers (Figure 3).

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Figure 3. Advanced technologies in current use or under consideration. (Source: 2019 Embedded Market Study)

Current Embedded Design Environment

While more general surveys of programming language such as those from the IEEE or GitHub indicate domination of Python, Java, and Javascript, the 2019 Embedded Market Study shows that C and C++ remain firmly in the top spots for embedded development (Figure 4).

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Figure 4. Programming language usage. (Source: 2019 Embedded Market Study)

Many developers likely combine use of C/C++ code with assembly language for critical loops on one hand or with Python, MATLAB and LabView for modeling and algorithm exploration. Python’s rapid rise in popularity for artificial intelligence (AI) development may shift these numbers slightly in light of other study results that show growing importance of edge computing systems and AI-based methods. For now, however, C and C++ remain the programming languages of choice among embedded developers.

Embedded Design Process

The embedded design process continues to be dominated by the detailed design stage, accounting for 30% of design time – a number that has essentially remained constant for the past several years (Figure 5). In a new question for 2019, the amount of time spent on risk assessment for security or privacy raises questions about the role of higher level methods for building security and privacy into embedded designs.

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Figure 5. Time spent on various design stages. (Source: 2019 Embedded Market Study)

Operating Systems

Embedded Linux and FreeRTOS continue to outpace other operating systems used in embedded development. Nevertheless, sharp regional differences appear in the which operating systems are likely to be used in the next 12 months particularly in the case of the Android operating system (Figure 6).

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Figure 6. Regional breakout of leading operating systems under consideration. (Source: 2019 Embedded Market Study)

Along with the sections mentioned above, the 2019 Embedded Market Study offers detailed insight into current and expected role of microprocessors, FPGAs, and development areas including the hardware IP reuse, design techniques, system level tools, and project & version control.

The complete 99-page 2019 Embedded Market Study report is available for immediate download.

 

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