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Board Support Package: What It Is And Why You Should Use It

While originally BSPs were just sets of low-level routines specific to a board’s hardware, their scope has broadened significantly. Today, a well-developed BSP offers a comprehensive suite of features beyond basic hardware interaction: it helps structure the entire application, deploy cybersecurity strategies, and even facilitates teamwork.

This is the first article of the BSP series.

Embedded systems are the brains behind countless everyday devices, from smartphones and wearables to industrial controllers and medical equipment. But what bridges the gap between the hardware, the operating system, and the business application that makes up most of your product’s value?

Enter the Board Support Package (BSP). This comprehensive software package acts as the foundation for embedded systems, providing the essential elements needed to bring the hardware to life.

BSP: More Than Low-Level Routines

In modern embedded systems, a Board Support Package (BSP) typically consists of the following main components:

  • Bootloader: This crucial program initiates the boot process, loading the operating system kernel.
  • Operating System (OS) Kernel: The core of the BSP, the kernel manages system resources and provides a platform for applications.
  • Device Drivers: These act as translators, enabling the OS to communicate with specific hardware components like sensors or displays in a consistent way.
  • Middleware: This software layer bridges the gap between the OS and applications, offering functionalities like network stacks, communication protocols, and security features.
  • File Systems: The BSP typically includes support for various file systems, allowing for data storage and retrieval.
  • Generic Services: Essential services like time management, logging facilities or network services are often part of the BSP.
  • Diagnostic and Management Utilities: These tools aid developers in debugging, testing, and monitoring the system’s health.

Drawing the Line: BSP vs. Business Application

A key question arises: how do you determine what belongs in the BSP versus your business application? The general rule is that generic functionalities are the realm of the BSP, while application-specific features belong to your business application.

For example, consider developing an automotive infotainment system. Feature X that implements a generic Bluetooth connection should be part of the BSP, as Bluetooth is a widely used technology. On the other hand, if feature X is a car-specific music system that uses Bluetooth as a distribution medium, it would be a core component of your business application.

By adhering to this distinction, you create a modular and reusable BSP that can support various applications on the same hardware platform. This approach promotes development efficiency, reduces redundancy in your codebase, and easily opens the way to variants and entire product lines.

The Advantages of Using a BSP Approach

We’ve established that a BSP offers a comprehensive suite of functionalities beyond basic hardware interaction. But why should you consider this approach for your embedded systems project? Let’s explore the key benefits.

1. Leveraging Expertise: A Head Start from CPU Manufacturers

Many CPU manufacturers offer generic BSPs built and distributed specifically for their products. These packages cover a significant portion of the hardware aspects for the chosen CPU and supporting boards. They often include valuable perks like bootloader adjustments, custom kernel configurations, and even a selection of reference applications that showcase the product’s capabilities. While customizing the vendor’s BSP is always recommended (we’ll delve into this in a future article), it provides an excellent foundation to jumpstart your development. And it’s usually delivered in source code, free of charge!

2. Structure and Clarity: The BSP as an Architectural Guide

A well-designed BSP enforces a clear and well-structured software architecture. It typically separates functionalities into distinct layers: low-level hardware interaction, middleware, and generic services. Moreover, it establishes a defined boundary between the BSP and the upper layers where your business application resides. This not only alleviates the burden of implementing generic functionalities within your application, but it also provides well-defined interfaces for your application to interact with the BSP’s services.

3. Teamwork Made Easier: Streamlined Development

The impact of a BSP extends beyond the technical aspects of your project. It can also positively influence your development team’s structure and workflow.

As we’ve established, the BSP handles low-level generic functionalities, while your business application focuses on the value-added features that make it unique. This creates a crucial opportunity to divide the workload effectively.

  • Specialized Roles, Streamlined Hiring: A dedicated team of one or two developers can specialize in maintaining and customizing the BSP for your entire product line. This core BSP team doesn’t necessarily require expertise in the intricacies of your business application domain. Their focus lies on the complexities of modern BSP frameworks and the diverse technologies involved. This specialization allows for easier hiring and potentially leveraging freelancers or service companies to fill these roles.
  • Focus on Value Creation: In contrast, the core developers working on the business application are the ones building the differentiating features that hold your company’s true value. They require a deeper understanding of your specific domain and may take longer to train. With a solid BSP foundation in place, these developers can concentrate solely on crafting the innovative features that set your product apart.
  • Parallel Development and Faster Time to Market: As mentioned earlier, BSPs are often available pre-built from CPU or board vendors. While these off-the-shelf solutions may require customization, they provide a functional starting point. This allows both the BSP and business application development teams to work simultaneously, parallelizing tasks that would otherwise be sequential. This significantly reduces development time and accelerates your time to market.

By adopting a BSP approach, you can empower your development team to work more efficiently and collaboratively.

Wrap-up

In conclusion, a Board Support Package (BSP) offers a powerful and versatile approach to embedded systems development. It goes beyond basic hardware interaction to provide a comprehensive suite of functionalities, including bootloaders, operating system kernels, device drivers, middleware, file systems, and essential services. By leveraging a BSP, you gain several significant advantages:

  • Reduced Development Time and Cost: Pre-built BSPs from CPU manufacturers provide a solid foundation, and the clear separation between BSP and business application allows for parallel development efforts.
  • Improved Code Quality and Maintainability: A well-structured BSP promotes modularity and reusability, leading to cleaner and more manageable code.
  • Enhanced Team Efficiency: The division of labor between BSP specialists and business application developers fosters efficient use of development resources.


Overall, adopting a BSP strategy can streamline your development process, reduce costs, and empower your team to deliver high-quality embedded systems products faster. This approach is valuable for a wide range of applications, from industrial automation and medical devices to consumer electronics and more. Consider incorporating a BSP into your next embedded systems project to unlock these benefits and accelerate your time to market.

Board Support PAckage part 1