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Characteristics of Software Ecosystems for Federated Embedded Systems: A Case Study



Jakob Axelsson, Efi Papatheocharous , Jesper Andersson

Publication Type:

Journal article


Information and Software Technology




Context:Traditionally, Embedded Systems (ES) are tightly linked to physical products, and closed both for communication to the surrounding world and to additions or modifications by third parties. New technical solutions are however emerging that allow addition of plug-in software, as well as external communication for both software installation and data exchange. These mechanisms in combination will allow for the construction of Federated Embedded Systems (FES). Expected benefits include the possibility of third-party actors developing add-on functionality; a shorter time to market for new functions; and the ability to upgrade existing products in the field. This will however require not only new technical solutions, but also a transformation of the software ecosystems for ES.Objective:This paper aims at providing an initial characterization of the mechanisms that need to be present to make a FES ecosystem successful. This includes identification of the actors, the possible business models, the effects on product development processes, methods and tools, as well as on the product architecture.Method:The research was carried out as an explorative case study based on interviews with 15 senior staff members at 9 companies related to ES that represent different roles in a future ecosystem for FES. The interview data was analyzed and the findings were mapped according to the Business Model Canvas (BMC).Results:The findings from the study describe the main characteristics of a FES ecosystem, and identify the challenges for future research and practice.Conclusions:The case study indicates that new actors exist in the FES ecosystem compared to a traditional supply chain, and that their roles and relations are redefined. The business models include new revenue streams and services, but also create the need for trade-offs between, e.g., openness and dependability in the architecture, as well as new ways of working.


author = {Jakob Axelsson and Efi Papatheocharous and Jesper Andersson},
title = {Characteristics of Software Ecosystems for Federated Embedded Systems: A Case Study},
volume = {51},
number = {6},
pages = {1457--1475},
month = {April},
year = {2014},
journal = {Information and Software Technology},
url = {}