(Learning engineering fundamentals is not only for the student engineer. Encouraging more people to take an interest an interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) benefits everyone. Sometimes, all it takes is a taste of the basics.
In this series, we introduce some fundamental microcontroller terms and concepts, add context around them, and offer opportunities to not only learn more but for the experienced engineers among you to offer your input.)
An embedded processor is a type of microprocessor designed into a system to control electrical and mechanical functions. Embedded processors are usually simple in design, limited in computational power and I/O capabilities, and have minimal power requirements. At a basic level, embedded processors are a CPU chip placed in a system that it helps control.
Embedded processors are often confused with microcontrollers. While they do perform similar functions, they integrate with their given system in different ways. The actual functions they perform can also be different as well.
Microcontrollers are the result of technological advances decreasing the size of controllers. Eventually, all of the components of a controller including I/O devices and memory evolved into a single chip, giving us the “micro” in microcontrollers. These chips are small, self-contained devices that have all of the features necessary to control the system they are embedded in.
This control autonomy is the primary difference between microcontrollers and embedded processors. Embedded processors require other external components such as integrated memory and peripheral interfaces to perform their designated functions. The two devices are frequently referred to as one device because embedded processors are often components within a microcontroller.
What is your best description of an embedded processor? Leave your comment in the space below.