Windows Embedded – a Platform for Electronics and Intelligent Systems

Although not the loudest player in the Internet-of-Things market, Microsoft is increasingly pitching its Windows Embedded operating system product family as a central hub of operating system choices for the connected devices, services and data making up the Internet of Things.

Let’s take a brief look at the Windows Embedded product family and the role it can play in embedded computing and Internet-of-Things applications. Not to be outdone by Java, Linux, or other options in the market, Microsoft is staking its own claim in the Internet-of-Things and connected-device operating system space, pitching the Windows Embedded family of operating systems at applications such as vending machines, robotic controls and industrial automation, point-of-sale terminals and registers, and rugged industrial tablets.

As well as selling the Windows Embedded family of operating systems for embedded electronics, Microsoft’s Windows Embedded business group utilises its Intelligent Systems Initiative to help clients leverage the data output of the Internet of Things.

Microsoft is touting its applications such as SQL Server to manage data in the Internet-of-Things environment, Windows Azure cloud solutions to provide common computing and integration, its various business intelligence tools to analyse data from connected devices and networks, and its various system management tools to manage the whole fabric.

With a broad family of existing product offerings and industry experience mean that Microsoft is well positioned to support a whole fabric of embedded operating systems, database handling, cloud services and Internet-of-Things derived business intelligence products built around the Internet of Things, not just operating systems for isolated embedded devices.

Due to their breadth of experience, Microsoft is one of the few technology providers that can be reasonably be expected to provide a complete technology stack for the Internet of Things, as a one-stop-shop solution provider.

Microsoft’s Intelligent Systems Initiative complements the Windows Embedded product line, helping clients to leverage the data traffic that the Internet of Things generates by providing database, authentication, analytical and visualisation capabilities for IoT data, targeting markets such as the automotive, manufacturing and retail point-of-sale industries.

With their portfolio of Windows Embedded operating systems, you can scale to fit the hardware capabilities available in the embedded devices used, with hardware limitations such as small size, low energy consumption, and limited memory or processing power.

The familiar Microsoft .NET Micro Framework is aimed at very lightweight microcontrollers with significant memory constraints, such as the well-known mbed platform – whilst other offerings in the Windows Embedded family such as Windows Embedded Compact 2013, Windows Embedded Automotive 7, Windows Embedded 8 Handheld and Windows Embedded 8.1 Industry are aimed at different market segments including automotive devices such as in-car entertainment and navigation, industrial applications, or specialised handheld terminals or data entry devices.

Windows Embedded devices can be managed as Microsoft Active Directory objects, allowing good security and also making the administration of a network of portable, embedded devices a relatively familiar task for system and network administrators who already work with Active Directory in a Windows network environment.

Furthermore. Windows Embedded operating systems can also leverage Microsoft’s core development tools and platforms such as C#, Visual Basic, .NET and Visual Studio, meaning that Windows Embedded customers have access to an extremely large worldwide community of developers who already have extensive familiarity and certification in using these common development tools.

Developers can also extend the power beyond the operating system itself by leveraging Microsoft’s portfolio of server and cloud solutions to fuel Microsoft’s services approach for the Internet of Things and to provide analysis and visualisation of the data traffic from the IoT.

Microsoft’s complementary capabilities include SQL Server, System Centre, the Windows Azure platform, Forefront Client Security and Sharepoint Server, among others. The integration of these capabilities with Windows Embedded operating systems enable Microsoft to provide its own internally-developed and in-house supported structured stack of Internet of Things solutions in a way that few other companies can match.

With Windows Embedded, device manufacturers have access to familiar development tools such as Visual Studio 2012 and Expression Blend 5 that help reduce time to market, and support for a variety of security and anti-malware features ensures the solution is secure and stable.

Features like Bitlocker and compatibility with a variety of anti-malware solutions help protect the integrity of the device and the data. Other features such as Windows Secure Boot and Hibernate-Once-Resume-Many protect the device during bootup to prevent the loading of unauthorised apps and to ensure that all devices start up consistently every time, important in a remote embedded deployment where maintenance is impossible or undesirable.

The modular nature of Windows Embedded 8 Standard provides OEMs with the flexibility to tailor their solution precisely to the customer’s needs, with each component addressing a variety of aspects of the platform, including the bootable core, Windows functionality, industry-specific needs, the launching of custom shells and the use of write filters and lockdown features.

Other customisation tools include the Image Builder Wizard and Image Configuration Editor, both of which enable you to omit unwanted functionality and reduce memory requirements as well as potential security vulnerabilities that may exist in unneeded components.

As some of the tools from Microsoft are familiar with a huge proportion of software engineers, developing your IoT product or system’s embedded firmware and other code can be somewhat streamlined – leaving you with the hardware and networking design issues. This is where the LX Group can partner with you to develop any or all stages and bring your ideas to life.

To get started, join us for an obligation-free and confidential discussion about your ideas and how we can help bring them to life – click here to contact us, or telephone 1800 810 124.

LX is an award-winning electronics design company based in Sydney, Australia. LX services include full turnkey design, electronics, hardware, software and firmware design. LX specialises in embedded systems and wireless technologies design.

Published by LX Pty Ltd for itself and the LX Group of companies, including LX Design House, LX Solutions and LX Consulting, LX Innovations.

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