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Letting unit tests drive your embedded development

Frank Vanbever is an embedded software engineer at Mind-Essensium, a consulting company specializing in free and open-source software for embedded systems based in Leuven, Belgium.

Reading time: 5 minutes

Unit testing is often considered too heavy or too inconvenient for embedded software; hence the practice of test-driven development is sometimes eschewed in this domain. But with the right approach, these embedded limitations can be mitigated and our software quality can be greatly improved, explains Frank Vanbever of Mind-Essensium.

The current hype around the Internet of Things has renewed interest in embedded systems from several industries. It’s important to realize that the IoT domain has its own set of unique requirements that sets it apart from many other kinds of software and even many other embedded devices. One of the most important is upgradability: in an IoT scenario devices are regularly upgraded to add functionality and protect against the latest threats. But we often have just one chance to get it right or we run the risk of bricking the device.

This puts an emphasis on software quality. One technique to improve our confidence in the software being deployed is test-driven development (TDD). While there’s still debate on the topic, many studies claim that TDD leads to fewer defects than other development methodologies.

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