The Future of Embedded Software

As the world continues its steady march towards ubiquitous computing, almost everything from airplanes to toasters is being powered by embedded software. In fact, technology is so pervasive, we take connected homes, advanced medical equipment, and self-driving cars almost for granted.

However, many of us who work in the industry have some misgivings about what this explosion in embedded software ultimately means. There are some very important issues that need to be openly discussed and solved before it’s too late.

For instance, why are there no standards to ensure embedded products are designed with quality in mind? A washing machine breaking down due to poorly designed code is one thing, but what about a car? In an industry with no professional certification, who’s responsible for software-related tragedies? It’s easy to think that companies are sparing no expense to build and maintain critical software to the utmost degree of excellence – when we all know that the opposite may be closer to the truth.

And if concern over poorly designed software running our banks, power plants, and other parts of our infrastructure doesn’t keep us up at night, what about the fact that when much of this software was built, nobody was thinking about security? Moreover, why is it most new developers are writing code with a focus on features rather than security? This is a problem that threatens to get bigger the more sophisticated our embedded systems become.

Another issue that needs addressing is the kind of data that consumers of embedded products are sharing, sometimes unknowingly. Unfortunately, much of the public thinks that this is only a concern for credit card companies and cheating spouses. As a result, a couple of huge players are well on their way to owning everyone’s data with no controls or oversight.

These and other big concerns are shared by many of us in the embedded software industry. Who’s going to solve them – industry bodies, concerned citizens, our governments?

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