Course syllabus

LET627 Introduction to Real-Time Systems

Course responsible: Jan Jonsson

Official course information: [ LET627TimeEdit ]


The course encompasses lectures, exercise sessions, special sessions and a laboratory assignment.

The lectures aim at introducing fundamental theories and concepts as well as a programming paradigm, and demonstrating how theory and paradigm are applied.

The exercise sessions focus on the specific topics covered during the main lectures. At each session, selected parts of the course contents are highlighted, and solutions to relevant problems are demonstrated.

The special sessions are a complement to the lectures and exercises. Here, it is possible to get additional help with the laboratory assignment regarding, for example, software design methods, functionality of development tools or music theory. It also offers an opportunity to discuss solutions to exercise problems or old exam problems.

In the laboratory assignment the students (in small project groups) should implement the software for an embedded real-time application running on stand-alone hardware system, that should later be interconnected by a bus network and perform a collective task. The laboratory sessions start in study week 2, and then run weekly until study week 7. At the end of the course the students document their laboratory assignment in a written project report.

Within the framework of the laboratory assignment, in collaboration with English (LSP580), the course will include training in oral and written proficiency. To that end there will be three common activities: an ethics mini report, a project report and a project presentation. The grading of these activities will be done according to the guidelines in LSP580, while their contents will be given by LET627. The submission of the ethics mini report and project report will be administrated by LET627.

Aim and content

This course will give a general introduction to small embedded and distributed real-time systems. It will provide experience of some important applications for microcomputer systems, training in C-program development for small real-time systems consisting among other things of nodes connected to a CAN bus.

After the course the students shall be able to

  • Describe and understand the concepts of embedded system, task, concurrent tasks, shared resources and distributed systems.
  • Explain the concepts of critical regions, mutual exclusion, starvation, deadlock, and task synchronization.
  • Describe and understand the general structure of, and the function of, a real-time kernel for small embedded systems.
  • Develop programs composed of multiple tasks, for small systems with support of a real-time kernel.
  • Explain the meaning of, and the differences between, the concepts of table-based and priority-based scheduling.
  • Apply schedulability analysis on small systems composed of several well-specified tasks with timing constraints (period and deadline).
  • Describe the general structure and characteristics of the CAN protocol.
  • Develop programs for a distributed real-time system consisting of nodes connected to a CAN bus.

The following concepts will be described in different levels in the course: task, task communications, critical regions, semaphores, mutual exclusion and synchronization, deadlock, timing constraints ("soft/hard" systems), scheduling, time- and event-trigged systems, schedulability analysis for systems with static and dynamic task priorities, distributed real-time systems, and data communications for small embedded real-time systems.

The course describes the implementation of a small real-time kernel for a microcomputer system. The course also includes use of arrays and queues in C-programs in connection with the study of a real time kernel.

A laboratory assignment and a final project report gives experience of software development for embedded systems.

Important dates

Mon Mar 22 : First lecture, 13:15 - 15:00  (conducted on-line via Zoom)
Mon Mar 29 : Deadline - registration to project group
Study week 2 : Loan equipment pick-up (by appointment only)
Study week 3 : Trial on-line session (development software installation)
Study week 4 : First on-line laboratory session (compulsory attendance)
Fri Apr 23 : Deadline - submission of ethics mini report
Study week 8 : Final on-line laboratory session (preliminary lab grade given)
Thu May 20 : Deadline - submission of draft project report
Fri May 28 : Deadline - submission of group presentation recordings
Mon May 31 : Written exam, afternoon, remote examination
Exam week : Loan equipment return (by appointment only)
Mon Jun 14 : Deadline - submission of full project report


The student is evaluated through a final written exam (4.5 hec) and a compulsory laboratory assignment (3.0 hec).

The final grade, according to the scale Fail (U) or Pass (3, 4, 5), is given based on the individual grades for the written exam and the laboratory assignment.

Permitted aids at the written exam are the compendium J. Nordlander: Programming with the TinyTimber kernel and a Chalmers-approved calculator.

Additional information regarding the written exam can be found on the Examination page in Canvas.

Additional information regarding the laboratory assignment can be found on the Assignment page in Canvas.

Your progress regarding the different examination objectives can be viewed via the Modules menu in Canvas.

Course literature

(LEC) Lecture notes. Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Chalmers, 2021. Mandatory reading.
Can be downloaded from the Lectures and Exercises pages in Canvas.
(TXT) Selected texts from archival journals, conference proceedings and books. Not mandatory reading, but useful for gaining both deeper and broader topic knowledge.
Can be downloaded from the Lectures page in Canvas.
(EXC) Exercise compendium. Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Chalmers, 2012.
Can be downloaded from the Resources page in Canvas.
(LAB) Development tools and tutorials related to the laboratory assignment.
Can be downloaded from the Resources page in Canvas.

What's New?

Changes taking effect during spring 2021:

  • Due to the Covid-19 situation all teaching will be carried out remotely. Lectures will take place on-line (via Zoom) and laboratory assignment work will be done at home (using loan equipment).
  • The written exam will have a new grading procedure, encompassing a Basic part and an Advanced part. The Basic part contains problems that must be solved by all students to secure the minimum grade for passing the exam. The Advanced part contains problems that should be solved by students that aim for the higher grades.

Changes from previous years:

  • To be eligible for the laboratory assignment a pass grade is required in the laboratory part of DAT390 (or LEU500) machine-oriented programming (since 2019).
  • The final grade is based on the grades for the 'Examination' and 'Laboratory' course elements (since 2018).
  • The 'Laboratory' course element uses the grading scale U, 3, 4, 5 (since 2018). 
  • New course material and new laboratory assignment (since 2016).



Course summary:

Date Details Due