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Embedded systems - Engineering

An embedded system is a computer system designed to do one or a few dedicated and/or specific functions often with real-time computing constraints. It is embedded as part of a complete device often including hardware and mechanical parts. By contrast, a general-purpose computer, such as a personal computer (PC), is designed to be flexible and to meet a wide range of end-user needs. Embedded systems control many devices in common use today.

Embedded systems are controlled by one or more main processing cores that are typically either microcontrollers or digital signal processors (DSP). The key characteristic, however, is being dedicated to handle a particular task, which may require very powerful processors. For example, air traffic control systems may usefully be viewed as embedded, even though they involve mainframe computers and dedicated regional and national networks between airports and radar sites (each radar probably includes one or more embedded systems of its own).

Since the embedded system is dedicated to specific tasks, design engineers can optimize it to reduce the size and cost of the product and increase the reliability and performance. Some embedded systems are mass-produced, benefiting from economies of scale.