Embedded Software (ESW) design is one, albeit critical, aspect of the more general problem of Embedded System Design (ESD). In recent years, the complexity increase coupled with the constantly evolving specifications has forced designers to look at implementations that are intrinsically flexible, i.e., that can be changed rapidly. Since hardware-manufacturing cycles do take time and are expensive, the interest in software-based implementation has risen to previously unseen levels. However, this move corresponds to increasing problems in verifying design correctness. In addition, little attention has been traditionally paid to hard constraints on reaction speed (Real Time), memory footprint and power consumption of software. This is of course crucial for embedded systems. To overcome these problems, most system companies have decided to enhance their software design methodology to increase productivity and product quality.

We have seen a flurry of activities towards the adoption of object-oriented approaches and other syntactically driven methods that have certainly value in cleaning the structure and the documentation of embedded software but have barely scratched the surface in terms of quality assurance and time-to-market. Along this line, we also saw a growing interest towards standardization of Real-Time Operating Systems either de facto, or through standard bodies such as the OSEK committee established by the German automotive industry. This crisis is not likely to be resolved going about business as usual but we need to focus at the root of the problems.

Our vision for ESW is to change radically the way in which ESW is developed today by: 1) linking ESW upwards in the abstraction layers to system functionality; 2) linking ESW to the programmable platforms that support it thus providing the means to verify whether the constraints posed are met.

To realize our vision, we have on one hand to develop formal techniques at the abstract level so that verification is started early and with the correct set of tools and methods. On the other hand, we have to think of ESW and hardware architecture in a unified and harmonious way.


Alberto Sangiovanni Vincentelli holds the Edgar L. and Harold H. Buttner Chair of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences at the University of California at Berkeley and the Vice-Chair position for Industrial Relations. He has been on the Faculty since 1976. In 1980-1981, he spent a year as a Visiting Scientist at the Mathematical Sciences Department of the IBM T.J. Watson Research Center. In 1987, he was Visiting Professor at MIT. He was a co-founder of Cadence and Synopsys, the two leading companies in the area of Electronic Design Automation. He was a Director of ViewLogic and Pie Design System and Chair of the Technical Advisory Board of Synopsys. He is the Chief Technology Adviser of Cadence Design System and the General Manager of the Cadence European Labs. He also founded the Cadence Berkeley Labs. He is co-founder and Chairman of the Board of ComSilica, a start-up in the Wireless communication domain. He was the founder of the Kawasaki Berkeley Concept Research Center, where he holds the title of Chairman of the Board. He authored and co-authored over 550 papers and fifteen books in the area of design tools and methodologies, large-scale systems, embedded controllers, and hybrid systems. Dr. Sangiovanni-Vincentelli is Fellow of the IEEE since 1982 and a Member of the National Academy of Engineering since 1998.