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Sponsored by 22 22 Characteristic #4 – RAM usage Rather than code memory, RAM is becoming the crucial factor in embedded software devel- opment. It isn't uncommon for microcontrollers to offer flash space exceeding 100kB but at the same time only offer 16 kB of RAM. This means RAM space is still at a premium. Throw an RTOS in the mix and the situation could quickly become even worse. In an RTOS based system, it is not uncommon for developers to allocate ungodly amounts of RAM to thread stack space because it is difficult to estimate just the right size. So, as developers create and implement their software, they need to be monitoring where their RAM space is going. Characteristic #5 – Energy Consumption Battery operated devices undoubtedly have energy consumption as a key requirement for the system design. But systems that have access to the grid often neglect energy since it isn't a key requirement. Given rising energy costs and limitations in natural resources, though, developers should still continue to monitor their design's power needs to under- stand what their energy footprint is and how they can minimize the energy they use. With such monitoring, battery operated devices will obviously gain increased operational life between swapping out batteries or recharging the device. Devices that are directly connected to the grid, though, can benefit consumers and end users by saving costs for electricity. Yes, the savings is minute, but consider a few million devices and suddenly we have a lot of energy no longer being wasted. Conclusion These five characteristics need to be monitored by embedded software developers as they create their systems. Modern day systems with substantial resources can sometimes make monitoring these characteristics seem trivial or unnecessary, but at the end of the day the biggest issues I encounter in the field are always related to these five key areas. Jacob Beningo is an embedded software consultant who currently works with clients in more than a dozen countries to dramatically transform their businesses by improving product quality, cost and time to market. He has published more than 200 articles on embedded software development techniques, is a sought-after speaker and technical trainer and holds three degrees which include a Masters of Engineering from the University of Michigan. Feel free to contact him at jacob@beningo.com, at his website www.beningo.com, and sign-up for his monthly Embedded Bytes Newsletter here.

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