Bendyroad IDE reference manual. © Copyright Bendyroad 2024.

The use of Floating-Point Values in Embedded Applications

Recommendation

Be sure to also read the next paragraph when deciding to use floating-point variables and values.

If you decide to use floating-point values in your embedded application, ensure that you understand the implications and potential pitfalls. Consider using fixed-point arithmetic or integer operations wherever possible to maintain accuracy, performance, and reliability. Always test thoroughly in real-world scenarios to ensure system stability and correctness.

WARNING! Dangers ahead!

Precision Limitations

Floating-point numbers have inherent precision limitations. Small rounding errors can accumulate over time, leading to significant inaccuracies in calculations.

Performance Overhead

Floating-point operations, especially on microcontrollers without a dedicated floating-point unit (FPU), can be significantly slower than integer operations. This can lead to performance bottlenecks in time-critical applications.

Memory Consumption

Floating-point variables typically consume more memory than their integer counterparts. This can be a concern in embedded systems with limited memory resources.

Non-deterministic Behavior

Due to the imprecise nature of floating-point arithmetic, results can sometimes be non-deterministic, especially when comparing values for equality.

Complexity in Error Handling

Handling errors or exceptions related to floating-point operations (like underflow, overflow, or division by zero) can add complexity to your code.

Portability Issues

Different microcontrollers or compilers might implement floating-point arithmetic differently, leading to inconsistencies when porting code between platforms.

Power Consumption

Floating-point operations can consume more power, which might be a concern for battery-operated devices.

Limited Support

Some low-end microcontrollers might not support floating-point operations at all, or they might require additional libraries to emulate such operations.

Debugging Challenges

Debugging floating-point issues, especially rounding errors, can be challenging and time-consuming.

Safety and Reliability

For safety-critical applications, the use of floating-point can introduce uncertainties that might be unacceptable. It's essential to thoroughly test and validate any system that relies on floating-point calculations.