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Microprocessors in Embedded Systems

Updated: Aug 11, 2023

The Role of Microprocessors in Embedded Systems

An #embeddedsystem is defined as the integration of computer memory, processor, and input/output peripheral devices designed to perform a particular task in a given time. The Embedded system is the basic unit of the #electronics industry. The usage of the embedded systems ranges from mobile phones, digital watches to traffic light controllers, and avionics. For designing an embedded system, the knowledge of both microprocessors and microcontrollers.

In embedded systems, microprocessors take the response from sensors in digital form and process it to produce the output in a real-time environment. This article explains the concepts, types, and working of the microprocessors in embedded systems.

Embedded Meaning :

The term "embedded" itself holds a profound meaning within the context of technology. Just as a gem is nestled within a precious metal, an embedded system finds its existence within the fabric of everyday life. It refers to the intricate fusion of computer components, working harmoniously behind the scenes to enable devices and applications to perform their intended functions flawlessly. This "embedding" of technology seamlessly into our surroundings is what powers the convenience, automation, and innovation we experience daily.

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It is also a single VLSI chip with an association of additional units such as pipelines, coaches, and floating-point arithmetic units for the fast processing of signals. It operates with a clock frequency of about 2 GHz. #Microprocessors are meant for multi-processing and RAM, ROM, I/O ports can be connected externally. Processors inside a system consist of two essential units namely, a control unit and an execution unit.


A microprocessor chip is constructed with the help of #semiconductors especially thousands of #transistors which are integrated into a single chip for better performance. Microprocessors consist of various units such as control unit, execution unit, memory unit, registers, and system buses for data transmission.

Diagram Of Microprocessor

Control unit:

This unit controls the program flow operation in embedded systems. It can also be employed as the fetching unit to fetch the set of instructions stored inside a memory.

Execution unit:

This unit is employed for executing various tasks inside the processors. It consists of Arithmetic Logical Unit (ALU) and also a circuit that helps the control unit to perform its functions.

Memory unit:

The memory unit of microprocessors can be RAM or ROM. Other than this, there is a memory space called cache memory. It is nothing but a small amount of memory located on the chip of a processor. The microprocessor stores a copy of data and instructions in its cache memory while executing the program.


The registers are small but fast memory space which is built inside the Central Processing Unit(CPU) to speed up its operations. Special purpose registers control the functions of the processor whereas the general-purpose registers store the arbitrary data.

System bus:

It is nothing but a wire used to attach different components to communicate with internal and also external parts of the processor. It receives the data and instructions from the main memory and allocates them to their respective cache memories. Processed data is again transferred to the main memory.

Types of Processors:

The processors employed in the manufacturing of the embedded system can be broadly classified into three types. They are,

Application-Specific System Processor(ASSP):

This is an application-dependent system processor used for processing the signals involved in the embedded system. Therefore, for performing unique tasks the corresponding processor is required.

Application-Specific Instruction Processor(ASIP):

This is also an application-dependent but instruction driven processor. This is used for processing various instructions set inside a combinational circuit of embedded systems.

General Purpose Processor(GPP):

GPP is used for processing the signal from input to output by controlling the operation of the data bus, address bus, and system bus inside an embedded system. This GPP includes microcontrollers, microprocessors, embedded processors, media, and digital signal processors.

GPP Functioning
GPP functioning

Advantages of microprocessors:

  • The speed of the microprocessor is very high when compared to other components. For example, the processor with a speed of about 3 gigahertz can perform 3 billion tasks per second.

  • The microprocessor can quickly move data between the various memory locations.

  • It can perform complex mathematical operations involving floating-point numbers.

  • Microprocessors are available at low cost because of integrated #circuit technology.

  • They are fabricated in a very less footprint. Hence, the size of the system is greatly reduced.

  • Microprocessors are usually manufactured using metal oxide semiconductor technology, in which MOSFETs are working in saturation and cutoff modes. So the power consumption is very low.

Disadvantages of microprocessors:

  • These processors often get heated too much which is one of the major drawbacks.

  • It has certain limitations on the size of the data.

  • The operation of the microprocessor can only be designed by using the machine language.

Applications of microprocessors:

  • Microprocessors are employed in accounting systems and data acquisition systems.

  • They are used in LASER printers to produce good quality automatic photocopies.

  • The programmable thermostats are used to control the temperature inside our home. A microprocessor along with a temperature sensor adjusts the heat production in this system.

  • Other household appliances such as high-end coffee makers, washing machines, alarm clocks, DVD players, ovens, and home lighting systems.

  • Some industrial items such as gasoline pumps, heavy machinery, computer servers, surveillance systems, credit card processing units, and high-tech medical devices.

  • In vehicles such as buses, cars, and trucks microprocessors are integrated to communicate important information throughout the vehicle and also to enable the Global Positioning System(GPS) #technology.

  • All types of computers ranging from microcomputers to supercomputers, microprocessor-drives technology is employed.

  • Mobile phones, televisions, and gaming platforms also contain microprocessors in them for executing complex instructions and tasks.

  • In the medical field, devices such as insulin pumps are controlled by processors to maintain their accuracy. They also perform functions such as processing data from bio-sensors, storing measurements, and analyzing the results.

  • In instruments such as function generators, frequency counters, spectrum analyzers the microprocessors are used as controllers.

The microprocessors are almost used each and every second by us in our lives. They simplify the task and also consumes less time to perform it. The researchers are still working on reducing the size of the processors at the micro-level and all the future trends and technologies in science are going to be based on the processors.

Difference between Microprocessor and Microcontroller

The terms microprocessor and microcontroller are often used interchangeably, yet they signify distinct entities in the realm of embedded systems.

What is Microprocessor :

Microprocessor refers to a single VLSI (Very Large-Scale Integration) chip, equipped with additional components like pipelines, caches, and floating-point arithmetic units. Operating at clock frequencies of around 2 GHz, microprocessors excel in multitasking. They can be externally connected to RAM, ROM, and I/O ports. The central units within microprocessors are the control unit, which oversees program flow, and the execution unit, responsible for task execution.

What is microcontroller :

Microcontroller is a compact integrated circuit containing a processor, memory, and input/output peripherals. It operates at lower clock frequencies than microprocessors and is tailored for specific tasks. Microcontrollers boast on-chip memory, including RAM and ROM, and often include features like timers, analog-to-digital converters, and communication interfaces. They are the preferred choice for applications demanding real-time control, such as in robotics and automotive systems.

What is Embedded system ?

An embedded system is defined as a computer system that integrates memory, a processor, and input/output peripherals, designed to perform a specific task within a predetermined timeframes. Embedded systems are the fundamental building blocks of the electronics industry, finding applications in a wide range of devices from mobile phones and digital watches to traffic light controllers and avionics. These systems are a fusion of both microprocessors and microcontrollers, each playing a distinct role.

Let us now see Embedded System meaning

Embedded systems encapsulate the essence of modern electronics. They embody the fusion of hardware and software, working seamlessly to accomplish tasks that enhance efficiency and functionality in various domains. An essential concept within embedded systems is the utilization of microprocessors and microcontrollers.

Characteristics of Embedded Systems

Embedded systems exhibit distinct characteristics that set them apart from general-purpose computing systems:

1.Real-time Operation: Embedded systems are designed to respond to events in real time, ensuring timely execution of tasks.

2. Dedicated Functionality: They are tailored for specific applications, often performing a single function efficiently.

3.Limited Resources: Embedded systems operate with constrained resources, including memory, processing power, and energy.

4.Integration:Hardware and software are intricately interwoven to optimize performance and functionality.

5. Reliability: Embedded systems are built for reliability, especially in critical applications where failure can have severe consequences.

Incorporating Microprocessors in Embedded Systems

Microprocessors serve as the brain of embedded systems. With thousands of transistors integrated onto a single chip, they facilitate high-speed data processing and execution. These semiconductor marvels consist of control units, execution units, memory units, registers, and system buses, working harmoniously to execute tasks.

Exploring the Future

The significance of microprocessors in embedded systems is undeniable. As technology advances, these tiny powerhouses continue to redefine the electronics landscape. From controlling household appliances to driving industrial automation and enhancing medical devices, microprocessors are the cornerstone of modern innovation.

As we journey through an era of digital transformation, the embedded systems fortified by microprocessors will remain instrumental in shaping the course of technology and improving the quality of our lives.


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