Process Management
Embedded System Design

Radar and Remote Sensing Group
Department of Electrical Engineering
University of Cape Town

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A growing trend in advanced embedded system development is towards customizable and software-intensive products built using open source development tools. This trend is caused partly by the dynamic nature of application environments, the need to reduce development costs, and most importantly, to accommodate the growing demands for functionality and performance made by technically more sophisticated clients and end users (8, 6).

In the military sector, the complexity of systems is growing rapidly to overcome new challenges associated with military operations on urban terrain (MOUT) and asymmetric warfare (1, 2, 4). The requirements of embedded systems, and radar applications in particular, are changing in relation to these new challenges. But added to these difficulties are issues of decentralized development and the mobility of engineering staff. Embedded software development processes used in this field are lagging behind (3, 5, 7), making it difficult for development businesses to deliver advanced systems on time and to maintain these projects efficiently over their often long lifetimes.


This research project is focused on research and development (R&D) projects in which  embedded systems are prototyped. This process is not limited to radar applications, although it is being optimized for use in these projects. The objective of this process is to develop procedures by which the design process of our embedded systems can be performed more efficiently, following a consistent and more formalized approach. This will allow researchers working on current projects to share development knowledge and artifacts more effectively, and for future researchers to better understand and make use of previous projects.


A key aspect in the development of this process is determining a suitable balance between automation, documentation, hardware/software design, and coding -- a balance that is realistic for use by R&D researchers in that the amount of time spend on innovative work is not degraded, but rather performed more efficiently with better results in terms of concepts tested.
A creative research methodology is being used to develop, and iteratively refine the process through application in closely monitored case studies. The research findings will be disseminated in-house using seminars, workshops, and the intranet, and externally through publications and the web.


This research project is being carried out by Simon Winberg in collaboration with the parties shown in Table 1.

Simon Winberg
Department of Electrical Engineering,
University of Cape Town
Embedded systems and artificial intelligence
Prof. Mike Inggs
Department of Electrical Engineering,
University of Cape Town
Radar systems
Prof. Steve Schach
Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering,
Vanderbilt University
Development methodologies
Dr. Mike Linck Department of Computer Science,
University of Cape Town
Computer-assisted learning
Dr. Alan Langman
CEO of OpenFuel Company
Embedded systems and open-source software

Project Status

During the six-month period, July-December 2004, the researcher used the first round of case studies to acquire data relating to ad-hoc techniques employed by a set of developers, each working on separate embedded system projects. The data were analyzed earlier this year and the results of this evaluation are being used to develop a framework that comprises a process document, a directory structure, database, and scripts. Development of the framework is being performed concurrent with testing the revisions in the context of embedded system development projects. This approach allows revisions of the framework to be fed back promptly to individuals using the framework.

Based on the findings thus far, and further insights gathered from the literature, decisions are being made on how to narrow this topic further, and to decide effecitve tradeoffs between conventional software development protocols documented in the literature, and procedures typically employed by our developers. The framework designed has been refined and the first version is under construction. The directory structure and support tools have been collectively termed the “Embedded System Artifact Organization” (or ESAOA) framework, and it is based partly on software organization methods as described and used by SourceForge, and partly on an ontology of embedded system development terminology, in order to make the structure and tools more intuitive. ESAOA is being used by engineering students in the Embedded Systems (EEE374W) course, and the students have provided the researcher with useful feedback in regards to the utility of ESAOA to novice engineers. The second round of case studies are planned to start in August this year.

Contact Information

If you would like more information on this project, or are interested in participating in this project, please email Simon Winberg using the following address: mailaddress.


  1. Crino S. Representation of Urban Operations in Military Models and Simulations. In 2001 Winter Simulation Con- ference. Association of Computing Machinery, 2001.
  2. Farkas C, Huhns M. Making Agents Secure on the Semantic Web. IEEE Internet Computing, 6(6):76R79, Nov 2002.
  3. Graaf B, Lormans M, Toetenel H. Embedded Software Engineering: The State of the Practice. IEEE Software, 20(6):61R69, Nov 2003.
  4. Papadopoulos C, Lindell R, Mehringer J, Hussain A, Govindan R. COSSACK: Coordinated Suppression of Simul- taneous Attacks. In DARPA Information Survivability Conference and Exposition, volume 2, page 94. Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, Apr 2003.
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