Embedded Software Development for Safety-Critical Systems

Chris Hobbs is a safety engineer who works on the QNX real-time operating system. I discovered him while reading QNX documentation and that led to reading his book Embedded Software Development for Safety-Critical Systems. This book is a practical introduction for software engineers who need to develop software that is compliant to functional safety standards such as IEC 61508 and ISO 26262.

I picked up the book precisely because these IEC/ISO standards are incredibly hard to digest. This book turned out to be truly a breath of fresh air. It cut through so much of the jargon used in the above standards giving simple and elegant meanings and illustrations for all of them. For example, normal English words like fault, error and failure have distinct and precise meanings in the safety world. And when reading and writing in this space one needs to be clearly aware of these meanings.

The author has loads of experience in the safety systems field and that helps when he gives his personal opinion of many of the recommendations and procedures set forth by these standards. There is a large section of the book given to fault analysis and formal verification which I am not sure how most software would undergo.

Minor quibbles aside, I found this book to be truly enlightening and only wished it was longer and covered more of the software development process for general and more complex software that cannot undergo formal verification. If you are looking to comply to standards such as IEC/ISO this book seems like a perfect no-nonsense introductory text.

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