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From Embedded Systems, to Firmware Development – what should we call the technology that’s running the world right now?

As with many industries (particularly in the technology sector), names and terms often get misused and confused. Software development happens to be rife with niche terminology that seems to be ever-changing and adopted for different uses, and one of those phrases happens to be a term that our whole business is built around:
Embedded Software.
Or Embedded Systems… or embedded applications?
We wanted to answer the commonly asked question of ‘is there a difference between these words?’, and help clear up any confusion you may have surrounding our lingo!
Embedded Software
Meaning: Software that has been written for a single-purpose device or machine, such as a heating thermostat or electric bike.
Our core service is to create this custom software for companies who want to add functionality on their devices, so the term describes what we do to a ‘T’!
 Embedded Systems
Meaning: A combination of hardware (ie. an electronic circuit) and software that is specifically designed for a particular function, embedded into a device.
Technically, it would be correct to say that Embedded Systems is our core service; we do use a combination of physical chips and processors together with our bespoke software to create a whole ‘embedded system’ for our clients.
However, we don’t actually create the hardware ourselves; it is usually designed and provided by our customers, but we do offer feedback and technical advice. We do however create the software ourselves, from scratch – so we prefer to focus on that in our description!
 Embedded Applications & Technologies
Meaning: Using software and hardware embedded into a device to achieve specific functions.
As you can see, these terms mean essentially the same thing as ‘Embedded Systems’, but they’re subtly more vague and (we believe) a bit more confusing. The term ‘applications’ means different things to different people, whilst ‘technologies’ is very non-specific!
 Firmware Development
Meaning: In simple terms, firmware is a more permanent form of software that has been created for and installed into a device. Changing and updating firmware is different to software, as is rarely (sometimes never!) done during the device’s lifetime.
Some of what we do may involve developing firmware, that may have limited ability to be updated once the device reaches the end customer. However, it doesn’t fully describe everything we do, and it’s also a more unknown term that people may not always understand.

 As you can see, these are mostly interchangeable and simply a matter of preference. What we do could easily be described by any one of these phrases, but we chose ‘Embedded Software’. The reason for this decision?
We felt that ‘Embedded Software’ was the most literal, descriptive term for what we do; it’s specific enough to make sense to a technical client (rather than a broad term like ‘technologies’), but still simple enough that you don’t need to think too much about what it actually means (the term ‘applications’ may mean different things to different people).
It’s important to us that people who aren’t necessarily part of our industry understand what embedded software is and what it can do, as it’s such a powerful technology that is at the forefront of many popularised innovations in today’s world – such as the Internet of Things and Smart technology. Perhaps ‘embedded software’ still doesn’t sufficiently explain what we do, or doing justice to how we can enable devices to do amazing things!

What would you call ‘embedded software’ if you wanted to explain it to others?


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