What is embedded software development?

Embedded software development is a particular subset of software development that involves software developed for and implemented in devices and hardware different from typical computers. Examples can include simple systems such as traditional calculators and more complex systems, such as smart cars.

Embedded software is designed, developed and deployed by software development companies specifically for the intended devices or pieces of hardware. The software differs from typical software we would see for computers, tablets, and phones in that it is built into a specific piece of hardware and so external factors must be considered in developing the application, such as movement and weather. The software also differs in that it is tied entirely to the device itself so it cannot be easily modified or updated. 

On this page, we are going to talk a little more about what embedded software is and how it is developed. 

Examples of embedded software 

Embedded software development is best described via examples. Further examples of hardware that require embedded software to be developed include: 

  • Smart cameras
  • Smart doorbells and home devices
  • Fitness trackers
  • Home heating systems
  • Video game consoles 
  • Smartwatches
  • ATMs
  • Home security systems

All of these examples are pieces of independent hardware that have their own internal software system. They act as their own operating systems and the software they use is relevant to and limited by the device in which they exist. 

Examples of embedded software development are around us every day. Devices with embedded software are often essential to how we live our day-to-day lives and yet we might never think about how they are developed or how they work. When we think of software we immediately think of computers, but there is a whole world of software outside of the computer.

How does it work? 

Embedded systems engineering is carried out by software engineers, usually, those who are skilled and experienced in this specific area, as it is not the easiest of development tasks. There are a lot of extra factors to consider when working with embedded software devices, including security and safety. As embedded software often features in pieces of hardware that include ATMs and medical devices, there cannot be any mistakes. The software needs to be reliable, consistent, secure, and safe for the intended use. 

The creation of embedded software by a software development company follows a developmental life cycle like this:

  • Code in C or C++ is created using an editor. Embedded systems normally use basic embedded system software such as C, C++, ADA, etc, however, some more specialised embedded systems may use operating systems including Windows CE, LINUX, TreadX, Nucleus RTOS and OSE.


  • Compilers convert high-level programming language code into low-level machine code to make it applicable to the intended hardware.


  • A debugger is used to get rid of bugs and errors. As stated above, this is a critical step as the embedded software needs to be as free from errors as possible. 


  • In order to get an executable program, code pieces and modules are combined using a linker. This allows the hardware and the software to begin to work together. 


  • Finally, an emulator is used to allow the embedded systems software engineer to check the program’s performance in a simulated real-life environment. This helps to further scan for errors and to overall improve the user experience of the software. 

Ready to accelerate your technology project?

Chat to our team of experts and let's see how we can help you.