The Growing Importance of Hardware-in-the-loop Testing in Developing Embedded Systems







The Growing Importance of Hardware-in-the-loop Testing in Developing Embedded Systems

Published: 2023/08/24

4 min read

Over the next five years, the embedded software market is expected to grow by $6739.66 million USD at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.91%, according to Research and Markets. The increasing deployment of embedded software across industries shows no sign of slowing down, as businesses rely on embedded systems to create products that meet the expectations of users in a dynamically changing digital economy. This is especially true for companies that operate in the semiconductor industry, work with the Internet of Things (IoT) and machine to machine (M2M) technologies and develop smart grid and smart home solutions. Central to embedded systems development is hardware-in-the-loop (HIL) testing – read on to find out why. 

A changing landscape will impact how embedded systems are designed and deployed 

GSMA, the global organization that represents mobile network operators, reports that the number of licensed cellular IoT connections will increase from 2.5 billion in 2022 to 5.3 billion in 2030. While this rapid adoption reflects the growing popularity of this emerging technology, it also creates new cybersecurity concerns.  

In response to this, lawmakers are developing regulations that address rising threats. One piece of legislation currently being developed is the European Union’s Cyber Resilience Act (CRA), which will aim to strengthen rules connected to the development of hardware and software products. Beyond enforcing security protocols for the entire life cycle of digital and physical products, it will make security measures more transparent and reduce the number of vulnerabilities for solutions available in the EU market.  

The CRA endeavors to protect consumers and businesses, though much of the responsibility outlined in it needs to be assumed by companies who design, develop and deploy solutions. The CRA will require manufactures to: 

  • take security into account at all stages of product life cycle, from planning to maintenance, 
  • enable software updates for at least five years, 
  • ensure that vulnerabilities are effectively addressed throughout a sold product’s expected lifetime or for five years, 
  • document all cybersecurity risks. 

Along with the CRA, the EU is also drafting a Data Act, which will establish the mechanisms necessary to facilitate data sharing between businesses, consumers and public sector entities. This legislation will identify who can create value from data and under which circumstances. Along with making data more accessible, it will ensure the safeguarding of data and incentive investment in data generation initiatives. 

Both these acts, and many other new regulations and frameworks, highlight how the increasing focus on security is changing the way companies should approach the development of connected devices. 

How does hardware-in-the-loop testing verify code and firmware? 

Traditional testing methods using real systems can be costly, time-consuming and occasionally even unsafe, which is why test engineers sometimes switch to hardware-in-the-loop (HIL) to increase competitiveness and deliver top-notch controller software during testing. HIL testing combines real hardware components with computer-based simulations to create a virtual environment that replicates the real-world conditions and actions of the tested system. HIL testing also enables engineers to evaluate a system without the complete hardware available, especially during the early stages of device development, by using a real-time simulator that acts as a digital twin of the existing hardware system or parts of it. 

During HIL testing, the simulation system connects hardware components and mimics the behavior of the missing components, like the physical environment or interconnected systems. The level of detail in the simulated environment varies from simple models to highly detailed representations, depending on the complexity of the tested system. Interacting with the hardware components in real time, the simulation system makes it possible to send signals and test received responses. The expected behavior is tested as if it were the actual system to check negative scenarios, confirm functionalities operate as intended and to identify a solution’s security vulnerabilities.

Download White paper: Hardware-in-the-loop Testing Is Key to High-quality Embedded Systems

The benefits of hardware-in-the-loop testing 

Since hardware-in-the-loop testing can go through thousands of scenarios in a short amount of time, the savings in time that would normally be used to conduct manual, physical tests is an obvious benefit. Moreover, as the HIL testing process is automated (and repeatable), multiple tests can occur simultaneously. Other advantages of HIL testing include the following: 

Smarter testing – Introducing tests at early stages of development and maintaining complete control over conducted test conditions leads to better results

Reduced costs – Identifying potential problems quicker in embedded systems is essential to mitigating the risks of high costs related to producing additional, expensive prototypes or advanced field testing

Improved security – Using HIL testing at early stages of development lifecycles, and designing devices according to cybersecurity standards (CRA, PSA-certified), ensure solutions can withstand cyber threats. 

Increased competitiveness – Exemplary HIL implementation leads to more efficient testing, thus delivering a superior product faster to the market than other competitive businesses. 

An experienced digital transformation partner is key to HIL testing 

It’s clear that the security of connected devices should remain a priority for businesses, especially given the regulatory obligations outlined in the CRA and Data Act. Anticipating, identifying and neutralizing cybersecurity threats should continue to be the goal of all development teams. Additionally, while traditional testing is essential to maximizing development processes, hardware-in-the-loop testing results in more efficient tests, reduced costs, improved security and a faster time to market 

Designing, developing, testing and verifying embedded systems is an essential component of digital accelerations for companies across industries. However, HIL testing requires cross-functional knowledge, efficient engineering processes and a value-driven approach to solution delivery. That’s why companies across markets turn to Software Mind, whose embedded systems specialists have extensive experience with IoT technologies, wired and wireless protocols, connectivity standards, diverse technology stacks and various work methodologies. Get more information about hardware-in-the-loop testing and learn how our embedded systems experts have designed solutions that address users’ needs, create new revenue streams and accelerate digital transformations by downloading our guide to hardware-in-the-loop testing

About the authorJakub Górski

Business Development & Consulting Manager

Jakub has specialized in audio and embedded software for over 5 years. He has extensive knowledge of connectivity standards, standards organizations and various certification programs due to years of close collaboration with global organizations responsible for the development and scaling of emerging technologies such as FiRa Consortium, AVNU Alliance, LoRa Alliance, Car Connectivity Consortium and Bluetooth SIG.

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