In the modern world, things such as cars, television sets, and even kitchen appliances utilize computer technology which enables them to operate with the advanced features that consumers demand. The computerized instructions which operate these devices are known as "embedded systems," and an embedded systems designer is a person who creates the hard-coded software and instructions within the computer chips that are integral to so many modern devices and types of equipment.
Embedded systems design differs from traditional software or hardware design in a few ways. First, embedded systems designers typically work with software language coding to devise the simplest useful set of programming instructions to create a specified action. They also work with hardware, which can include designing systems of chips or simple circuit boards that are sufficient to handle the necessary processing.
Embedded systems designers also differ from software creators in their intended goals of programmed instructions. In software, instructions tend to be open-ended and support a variety of user inputs. In embedded systems, however, the instructions are discrete and finite. They may be as simple as the controls of a home thermostat, headlights in a car, or setting a timer for popcorn on a microwave oven. Embedded systems are specific sets of code which cause a device or machine to do a specific thing when one of a limited number of inputs is entered by the user. Thus, embedded systems designers work to make these instructions as simple, but fool-proof, as possible. They must identify the necessary processes required by the user and the device or equipment and then design the specific instruction set and computer-chip hardware to facilitate those user commands.
Typically, embedded systems designers have educational backgrounds in computer science or computer/electrical engineering. Most designers work in engineering research and development in a product/equipment manufacturing sector in a company, generally in a computer lab during regular business hours of the week.