Embedded vs Cloud vs IoT

What is an embedded or embedded-system product, you ask? What is Cloud Computing, and what does it mean when an app is in the cloud? And how is the IoT (Internet of Things) involved? In this post I’ll review some of the basics involved.

Embedded Systems

An Embedded System is a computing device that the user doesn’t really know or care is a computing device, such as a smart phone or tablet device, an HVAC monitoring and control system or a GPS-based vehicle navigation system. Developing an embedded system often involves a highly technical cross-functional team, involving product conceptualization and user experience (UX), low-power analog, digital and RF electronics design and regulatory compliance testing, and complex embedded firmware with a unix-like operating system and variety of network protocols.

Cloud Computing

Cloud Computing just means “not on my computer”. If it happens in the cloud, it’s happening on a computer somewhere, just not on yours. A web site is “in the cloud”, but is still just software running on a computing system somewhere. The technologies involved vary wildly depending on the application and the implementation strategy, but often involves a mix of unix system administration, web application development and database design and administration.

Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a nice marketing story with devices everywhere communicating with cloud-based services that together make the world a better place. However the success of products will depend on solving real problems for real people. Sensors will need to function in real-world conditions involving extremes in temperature, moisture and mechanical stress. The real world also has varying degrees of fault-tolerance and criticality (how likely a failure is, and what is the effort of the failure).

I hope that clarifies a bit the new wild west of interconnected networked products. Please leave a comment or question if you like.

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