MSc Embedded Wireless Systems


This degree has been accredited by the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) under licence from the UK regulator, the Engineering Council.




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Wireless communication and mobile computing are currently the largest growth sectors in electronics and are expected to grow in the future, with applications ranging from mobile phones and self-driving cars to the Internet of Things (IoT) becoming pervasive in consumer electronics, society and industry. Wireless communication is now present in the majority of everyday objects including vehicles, phones, personal health and fitness, entertainment systems and even food. The MSc Embedded Wireless Systems provides you with all the tools and skills necessary to become a leader in engineering research, design and development across a range of industries. It covers theoretical and practical electronic design, sensors, instrumentation systems, communications and embedded computing from core principles to cutting-edge research.

One of the major features of the MSc is the teaching of industry standard embedded systems using ARM processors, which are currently in over 90% of all mobile phones. The MSc culminates in a major group project involving the design and practical implementation of a wireless sensor network to solve a real-world problem such as distributed environmental monitoring. The project is closely linked with research in the department and often involves collaboration with other departments and industry. The modules are taught by leading academics specialising in wireless sensor networks, embedded systems, sensor and instrumentation, and the programme is fully accredited by the IET (Institution of Engineering and Technology).

The course provides a route into industries which utilise wireless sensor network applications, ranging from smart buildings, warehouses, traffic monitoring, patient monitoring, industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things.

Professional Development Framework

All our MScs programmes follow the principles of a carefully designed Professional Development Framework, developed in consultation with our Departmental Advisory Board, with key contributors from Industry, Research and Academia. This ensures that all students gain awareness of the essential skills that employers need and opportunities to develop their personal and team-based effectiveness. This begins with an Induction Week including an introduction to masters-level learning, and student team activities. Throughout the Autumn and Spring Terms students develop their personal effectiveness in a series of workshops (covering such issues as literature, research, referencing, teamwork, leadership, reflective learning, ethics, and business skills). These lead on to Interdisciplinary Masterclasses which cover key research and development cross-curricular topics in emerging technology.

All students are timetabled to be able to attend these sessions. Some programmes incorporate these Workshop and Masterclass elements as an assessed part of credit-weighted modules, but every one of our MSc students is encouraged to attend all sessions in order to develop their skills and to learn from people in different, but related, disciplines. In the Summer Term students are prepared for research methodology and digital literacy, and undertake regular developmental training in project management. This all leads to a major project (60 credit units) which is designed to give research and industry-relevant experience to individuals and teams as a key component of each programme.


Course Content

The MSc in Embedded Wireless Systems considers the subject at a systems level, bridging the interface between electronics, communications and computing. It is designed to provide students with a good theoretical background and practical design experience (including ARM programming).

The table below shows at what stage of the programme the various modules are taught.

Autumn termSpring termSummer termJuly - September
Sensors and Instrumentation Data Communication Techniques Research Methods Theory MSc Research Project
Management and Marketing of Technology
C Programming for MSc Neural Networks and Neural Computing Research Methods: Data Analysis
Introduction to Communications
Enterprise Systems Programming for Embedded Devices MSc Research Project
MSc Personal Effectiveness and Interdisciplinary Masterclasses

The MSc is of 12-months duration, starting at the beginning of the Autumn term (late September) until the following September. For term dates, please visit the University term dates page.

Click on the links below to find out more about each module.  Please note that the detailed module contents and timetabling are subject to change.

Autumn term

Sensors & Instrumentation

You will be able to understand the requirements for monitoring the environment; the nature and effects of the various forms of air and water pollution; the operation of sensors and instrumentation, particularly for environmental and industrial monitoring; and the limitations of sensors. You will learn to specify appropriate sensors for a range of engineering and environmental problems, and appreciate the effects these have on system performance.

Management and Marketing of Technology

You will learn about the place of technology management and marketing in the modern world, and about the change implications of technological innovation on an organisation. You will explore the foundations of change management including the nature of change in organizations, hard and soft changes, soft management change systems, sources of resistance and managing transitions. You will learn to produce a marketing plan for a new technology based product or service.

C Programming for MSc

This is an introduction to designing, writing and testing computer programs using the C Programming language. You will learn to analyse real-world problems and convert these to a series of steps that can run effectively on a computer. You will then be able to design, write, test and evaluate a computer program written in the C language to solve a given task.

Introduction to Communications

You will learn fundamental engineering concepts of the radio spectrum, signals & noise and how these are developed into practical transmission link design. The radio spectrum, propagation and modulation fundamentals are explored, and illustrated by design of satellite communication. Multiple access schemes and system design trade-offs are introduced. You will develop confidence in applying theoretical knowledge to practical engineering design problems.


You will explore a real new/novel technology or product and advance it to the point of a genuinely workable business plan.  You will be able to analyse the competitive environment including setting the pricing structure for a product; analyse and justify the required resources; and distinguish between different commercialisation options and make a specific recommendation. You will learn to develop and write an organisational form and business plan for a new venture based on a real new technology or novel product.

MSc Personal Effectiveness and Interdisciplinary Masterclasses (Autumn and Spring)

Personal effectiveness covers presentation skills, effective use of Word/Excel, research strategies, assessment, poster design and production, body language, negotiation, leadership, reflective practice, teamwork and ethics etc. You will become familiar with a wide range of generic management and technical skills that will be useful in everyday working situations. Masterclasses consist of staff, research students and guests sharing accessible but forward-looking cross-disciplinary themes in their areas; one of which you will follow up and develop your own detailed study.

Spring term

Data Communication Techniques

You will learn about state of the art data communication methods and systems such as I2C, SPI, & CAN. You will be able to apply practical knowledge to real-world applications in a range of industrial fields including embedded systems, wireless networks, and intra-vehicle communications.

Neural Networks and Neural Computing

You will understand the structure and function of a neural computing unit, multiple types of artificial neural networks (Perceptron, Multilayer perceptron and deep networks, Hopfield, Kohonen, Hebbian, Competitive and Boltzmann machines), and of the range of learning rules applied to them (Widrow-Hoff, Backpropagation, Hebbian, Oja and Sanger rules, Competitive, Kohonen rule and Boltzmann rule). You will be able to apply theoretical knowledge of neural networks to solve problems.

Systems Programming for Embedded Devices

You will learn key aspects of low-level systems programming, including writing interrupt and exception handlers, task scheduling, and deadlock. You will develop skills in effective design, learn about the importance of design in avoiding various classes of bugs, and learn to describe a design clearly and concisely to give confidence in a product.

Summer term

Research Methods Theory

You will learn about critical literature review, hypothesis formulation, methodology selection, research ethics, data gathering and analysis (including statistical aspects), evaluation and writing up.

Research Methods: Data Analysis

You will learn about gathering and analysing data in order to make engineering and business decisions. You will develop your capacity to collect and analyse data, and use evaluation methods for collected data. You will apply tools and techniques in qualitative and quantitative data analysis, and the synthesis of information.

MSc Research Project

You will be immersed in a life-like scenario of a team working on a real-world application developing wireless sensor systems. The project will involve the design, construction and implementation of a complete embedded wireless system-based sensor network solution for smart buildings, environment or internet-of-things (IoT). It will include software (human-computer interface, database, signal processing, analytics) and hardware (embedded processors, sensors, A/D converters and wireless communication interfaces) components. The project will culminate in the design and realisation of a distributed embedded wireless sensor network gathering data in a central database (cloud), performing signal processing and analytics and presenting information to a user. The project will develop your technical skills as well as practical experience of project management and team skills, preparing you for working in industry or further academic study.

Group Project

Group Project

The project will involve the design and practical implementation of internet and wireless devices using ARM processors. An example of a project from 2014 is given below.

Example of a Project – Networked Environmental and Acoustic Monitoring System

The project involved the design of sensor nodes that can monitor temperature, humidity and light level as well as a measure of the complexity of sound – the acoustic complexity index (ACI). Data from each node is sent via a Zigbee wireless modem to a base station which is connected to a PC. Figure 1 shows a schematic diagram of the system. The PC has a database and user interface which allows the user to select a station to display data (Figure 2). Each student selected a different part of the project, e.g. sensors, ACI, database and worked together to produce a working prototype. The sensors required knowledge of digital interfaces (I2C) and ADC whereas the ACI required use of the on-chip digital signal processor for real-time calculation involving Fourier transforms.

Figure 1 Schematic Diagram of Environmental Monitoring System:

Figure 2 Screenshot for Sensor Station 1 showing Environmental Data and Sound Index:

Entry Requirements

Entry Requirements

Applicants are normally expected to hold (or expected to gain) the equivalent of a 2:1 honours degree or above from a university recognised by the University of York. This degree should have a significant electronics and/or computing content. We are willing to consider applications from students with lower qualifications, particularly when the student has high marks in relevant modules and/or appropriate industrial experience.

For applicants whose native language is not English, the minimum University English language requirements of IELTS 6.0 (with at least 5.5 in each of the four language components) or the equivalent are required.

Pre-sessional language courses

The Centre for English language Teaching (CELT) runs a specific subject 8 week pre-sessional language course for Electronic Engineering:

Who the course is for: applicants who have accepted an offer to study a taught MSc programme in the Department of Electronic Engineering, subject to obtaining IELTS 6.0 (or equivalent).

For more information, including entry requirements, fees and how to apply: Electronic Engineering: 8-week pre-sessional, Centre for English Language Teaching

Materials & Reading

Teaching Materials

Example Lecture Notes

Almost all of the modules taught on this programme provide the student with a set of lecture notes. This allows the student to concentrate on understanding the material covered in lectures, and provides time for discussion and questions of the information.

Take a look at a sample set of introductory lecture notes on Data Communication Techniques PG Reading Data Communication Techniques pdf (PDF  , 2,192kb).

Preliminary Reading

The following documents are intended to give an introduction to some of the subjects that you'll be studying here. Some background reading before you arrive will enable you to make the best use of your time at York.

Introduction to Communications Systems

Students who are not familiar with signals and systems theory should study the following documents:

If you require help with the maths used in the above please see the Communications reading materials page. Additionally, notes on decibles (dB):

For an introduction to radio propagation please see the GSW Propagation for Mobile Communications notes below:

Introduction to Computer Programming using C

This preparatory reading is based on copies of the C Programming Module.


Here is a nice online C course

As this course is self-contained you do not need to buy any books. However, if you would like a good reference, the following book is recommended, 'The Indispensable Guide to C with Engineering Applications', Paul Davies, Addison-Wesley, 1995. ISBN 0-201-62438-9.

Laboratory Notes

PG Reading C Lab Script pdf (PDF  , 1,489kb)

Lectures‌PG Reading C L11 pdf (PDF  , 1,516kb)

The general format of the lectures is some revision and additional information relating to the C met in the previous week’s lab. This is followed by solutions to some of the exercises.


Introduction to Digital Design

Students who are not familiar with digital design might find the following recommmended text book useful:

Digital Design: Principles and Practices by John F. Wakerly

Digital Design book

Teaching Staff & Facilities

Teaching Staff

The department prides itself on the quality of its teaching. Lecturers on the Embedded Wireless Systems MSc include the following academic staff. Click on the links below to find out more about the staff, their backgrounds, and research and teaching interests.


Students taking the Embedded Wireless Systems MSc have the use of departmental laboratories equipped with dedicated computing equipment including STMicro ARM processor and expansion boards and licences for Keil uVision embedded C compiler, these will be used in a variety of modules including the group project.

You can find out more about the wide range of facilities in the department by looking through the Facilities pages.


Careers and Graduate Destinations

The MSc Embedded Wireless Systems at York doesn't just give an academic qualification. It is also designed to enhance your employability and to prepare you for entering the world of work or research after graduation.

Some of the ways we do this are:
"The group project experience improved not only my engineering ability, but also other transferable skills such as interpersonal skills, time management, delegation & risk management to a large extent."

Yiding Xu

  • Group projects which simulate project work within a company - working and problem solving in a team
  • Work with industry standard tools to make you attractive candidates for prospective employers
  • Visits and careers talks from our industrial contacts
  • Lifetime support from the University Careers Service
  • Training in research methods and project management.
  • Opportunities to develop presentation skills and report writing.
  • Research led teaching - providing exposure to cutting edge methods from acknowledged experts.
  • Fully accredited by the IET (Institution of Engineering and Technology). Some employers recruit preferentially from accredited degrees, and an accredited degree is likely to be recognised by other countries that are signatories to international accords.
  • York Alumni Association provides support and opportunities to network with other former York students after you graduate.

QR code to link to Chinese Alumni WeChat pages.

For example there are currently around 500 active alumni attending social events and career talks in Beijing and Shanghai. Our networks are facilitated through WeChat with daily conversations occurring between alumni in China. To see our latest events in China please follow Yorkers_China . During the events in China you will find out how to join our WeChat groups.

What do MSc students do after graduating?

The MSc Embedded Wireless Systems was previously known as the MSc Internet and Wireless Computing. Graduates from this MSc are not only ideally suited to working in the Information and Communications sector but have also found employment in a diverse range of sectors. Graduates from this MSc are also trained in conducting original research and are therefore well prepared to undertake further study.

Pie Chart showing destiantions of students from the MSc EWS (formerly MSC IWC and MSc MIMS) up until 2015

Where do MSc students work after graduating?

Former students have jobs in big name companies from the UK and across the world such as:

Broadcom, China Telecom, Fidelity Bank PLC, Huawei, Lenovo, Siemens, SAP, Three Media Tech Co., Zoo Digital Group

Graduate Profiles

Have a look at our Taught MSc Student profiles to find out more about the career paths of some of our graduates and how this programme prepared them for their future careers.

Any questions?

Admissions Enquiries
Helen Smith

Postgraduate Admissions Tutor
Prof. Stephen Smith

(+44) 01904 324485