Embedded Systems are digital, information-processing computer systems that are embedded in larger, surrounding products. As such, they are frequently not directly visible. Users of such larger products are often unaware that they interact with a computer system due to their embedded nature. Prime examples of embedded systems include electronics in cars, planes or other means of transportation, consumer products such as smartphones, TVs or MP3 players, or medical equipment like, e.g., hearing aids, heart pacemakers or smart implants, etc. Embedded systems often interact with their surrounding environment: They measure properties of the environment via sensors, convert the sensed data into digital values and process this input; the results of this information processing is afterwards converted into analog values that are used to control actors which in turn influence the surrounding environment again. Many embedded systems thus operate in a tightly-integrated loop with the surrounding physical environment and are thus often termed Cyber-Physical Systems.
Besides the purely functional computations performed during information processing, embedded systems also have to fulfill several non-functional requirements. This includes efficiency in terms of, e.g., performance, energy consumption or code size, but also covers real-time capabilities, dependability, safeness and security, etc. Furthermore, today's embedded systems are massively parallel systems where many processes run and interact in parallel and compete for the resources provided by high-performance multi-core hardware architectures. Thus, embedded systems engineers face the challenges to design special-purpose computer systems such that their computations are provably functionally correct, such that they fulfill all imposed non-functional requirements, and such that they optimally exploit parallelism.
In research, the institute deals with software tools that help designing embedded systems. Individual design steps, such as generating energy-efficient software or demonstrating proper operation, are automated, similar to word-processing programs that support spelling and grammar correction. However, the problems to be solved and the underlying algorithms are incomparably harder. Thus, fundamental knowledge on data structures and algorithms with well-founded theory is linked to practically highly relevant research contributions.
The Institute of Embedded Systems was founded in March 2015. It consists of the following working groups that address the abovementioned challenges: Embedded Systems Design for optimization of non-functional properties and design of parallel systems; Computer Engineering for design automation support in verification and testing; Algebraic Engineering for efficient and safe computation and information-processing.