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Software Design: Embedded Systems - 5 - Embedded Systems (Web) - Computer Science Engineering (CSE)

Object Modelling using UML 

Model and its uses

A model captures aspects important for some application while omitting (or abstracting) the rest. A model in the context of software development can be graphical, textual, mathematical, or program code-based. Models are very useful in documenting design and analysis results. Models also facilitate the analysis and design procedures themselves. Graphical models are very popular because they are easy to understand and construct. UML is primarily a graphical modelling tool. However, it often requires text explanations to accompany the graphical models. 

An important reason behind constructing a model is that it helps manage complexity. Once models of a system have been constructed, they can be used for a variety of purposes during software development, including the following: 

• Code reuse by the use of predefined class libraries

  • Analysis    
  • Specification
  • Code generation
  • Design
  • Visualize and understand the problem and the working of a system
  • Testing, etc.

In all these applications, the UML models can not only be used to document the results but also to arrive at the results themselves. Since a model can be used for a variety of purposes, it is reasonable to expect that the model would vary depending on the purpose for which it is being constructed. For example, a model developed for initial analysis and specification should be very different from the one used for design. A model that is being used for analysis and specification would not show any of the design decisions that would be made later on during the design stage. On the other hand, a model used for design purposes should capture all the design decisions. Therefore, it is a good idea to explicitly mention the purpose for which a model has been developed, along with the model. 

UML diagrams  

UML can be used to construct nine different types of diagrams to capture five different views of a system. Just as a building can be modelled from several views (or perspectives) such as ventilation perspective, electrical perspective, lighting perspective, heating perspective, etc.; the different UML diagrams provide different perspectives of the software system to be developed and facilitate a comprehensive understanding of the system. Such models can be refined to get the actual implementation of the system. 

The UML diagrams can capture the following five views of a system: 

  • User’s view
  • Structural view
  • Behavioral view
  • Implementation view
  • Environmental view 

Fig. 37.9 shows the UML diagrams responsible for providing the different views. User’s view: This view defines the functionalities (facilities) made available by the system to its users. The users’ view captures the external users’ view of the system in terms of the functionalities offered by the system. The users’ view is a black-box view of the system where the internal structure, the dynamic behavior of different system components, the implementation etc. are not visible. The users’ view is very different from all other views in the sense that it is a functional model compared to the object model of all other views. The users’ view can be considered as the central view and all other views are expected to conform to this view. This thinking is in fact the crux of any user centric development style. 

Software Design: Embedded Systems - 5 | Embedded Systems (Web) - Computer Science Engineering (CSE)

Fig. 37.9 Different types of diagrams and views supported in UML  

Structural view: The structural view defines the kinds of objects (classes) important to the understanding of the working of a system and to its implementation. It also captures the relationships among the classes (objects). The structural model is also called the static model, since the structure of a system does not change with time. 

Behavioral view: The behavioural view captures how objects interact with each other to realize the system behaviour. The system behaviour captures the time-dependent (dynamic) behaviour of the system. 

Implementation view: This view captures the important components of the system and their dependencies. 

Environmental view: This view models how the different components are implemented on different pieces of hardware. 

Use Case Model 

The use case model for any system consists of a set of “use cases”. Intuitively, use cases represent the different ways in which a system can be used by the users. A simple way to find all the use cases of a system is to ask the question: “What can the users do by using the system?” Thus for the Library Information System (LIS), the use cases could be: 

  • issue-book
  • query-book
  • return-book
  • create-member
  • add-book, etc 

Use cases correspond to the high-level functional requirements.  The use cases partition the system behaviour into transactions, so that each transaction performs some useful action from the user’s point of view. Each transaction may involve either a single message or multiple message exchanges between the user and the system to complete. 

Purpose of Use Cases  

The purpose of a use case is to define a piece of coherent behaviour without revealing the internal structure of the system. The use cases do not mention any specific algorithm to be used or the internal data representation, internal structure of the software, etc. A use case typically represents a sequence of interactions between the user and the system. These interactions consist of one mainline sequence. The mainline sequence represents the normal interaction between a user and the system. The mainline sequence is the most occurring sequence of interaction. For example, the mainline sequence of the withdraw cash use case supported by a bank ATM drawn, complete the transaction, and get the amount. Several variations to the main line sequence may also exist.

Typically, a variation from the mainline sequence occurs when some specific conditions hold. For the bank ATM example, variations or alternate scenarios may occur, if the password is invalid or the amount to be withdrawn exceeds the amount balance. The variations are also called alternative paths. A use case can be viewed as a set of related scenarios tied together by a common goal. The mainline sequence and each of the variations are called scenarios or instances of the use case. Each scenario is a single path of user events and system activity through the use case.

Representation of Use Cases 

Use cases can be represented by drawing a use case diagram and writing an accompanying text elaborating the drawing. In the use case diagram, each use case is represented by an ellipse with the name of the use case written inside the ellipse. All the ellipses (i.e. use cases) of a system are enclosed within a rectangle which represents the system boundary. The name of the system being modelled (such as Library Information System) appears inside the rectangle. The different users of the system are represented by using the stick person icon. Each stick person icon is normally referred to as an actor. An actor is a role played by a user with respect to the system use. It is possible that the same user may play the role of multiple actors. Each actor can participate in one or more use cases. The line connecting the actor and the use case is called the communication relationship. It indicates that the actor makes use of the functionality provided by the use case. Both the human users and the external systems can be represented by stick person icons. When a stick person icon represents an external system, it is annotated by the stereotype <<external system>>. 


The use case model for the Tic-Tac-Toe problem is shown in fig. 37.10. This software has only one use case “play move”. Note that the use case “get-user-move” is not used here. The name “get-user-move” would be inappropriate because the use cases should be named from the users’ perspective. 

Software Design: Embedded Systems - 5 | Embedded Systems (Web) - Computer Science Engineering (CSE)

Fig. 37.10 Use case model for tic-tac-toe game 

Text Descriptio

Each ellipse on the use case diagram should be accompanied by a text description. The text description should define the details of the interaction between the user and the computer and other aspects of the use case. It should include all the behaviour associated with the use case in terms of the mainline sequence, different variations to the normal behaviour, the system responses associated with the use case, the exceptional conditions that may occur in the behaviour, etc. The behaviour description is often written in a conversational style describing the interactions between the actor and the system. The text description may be informal, but some structuring is recommended. The following are some of the information which may be included in a use case text description in addition to the mainline sequence, and the alternative scenarios. 

Contact persons: This section lists personnel of the client organization with whom the use case was discussed, date and time of the meeting, etc. 

Actors: In addition to identifying the actors, some information about actors using this use case which may help the implementation of the use case may be recorded. 

Pre-condition: The preconditions would describe the state of the system before the use case execution starts. 

Post-condition: This captures the state of the system after the use case has successfully completed. 

Non-functional requirements: This could contain the important constraints for the design and implementation, such as platform and environment conditions, qualitative statements, response time requirements, etc.

Exceptions, error situations: This contains only the domain-related errors such as lack of user’s access rights, invalid entry in the input fields, etc. Obviously, errors that are not domain related, such as software errors, need not be discussed here. 

Sample dialogs: These serve as examples illustrating the use case. 

Specific user interface requirements: These contain specific requirements for the user interface of the use case. For example, it may contain forms to be used, screen shots, interaction style, etc. 

Document references: This part contains references to specific domain-related documents which may be useful to understand the system operation. 

Utility of Use Cases 

Use cases (represented by ellipses) along with the accompanying text description serve as a type of requirements specification of the system and form the core model to which all other models must conform. But, what about the actors (stick person icons)? One possible use of identifying the different types of users (actors) is in identifying and implementing a security mechanism through a login system, so that each actor can involve only those functionalities to which he is entitled to. Another possible use is in preparing the documentation (e.g. users’ manual) targeted at each category of user. Further, actors help in identifying the use cases and understanding the exact functioning of the system. 

Factoring of Commonality Among Use Cases 

It is often desirable to factor use cases into component use cases. Actually, factoring of use cases is required under two situations. First, complex use cases need to be factored into simpler use cases. This would not only make the behaviour associated with the use case much more comprehensible, but also make the corresponding interaction diagrams more tractable. Without decomposition, the interaction diagrams for complex use cases may become too large to be accommodated on a single sized (A4) paper. Secondly, use cases need to be factored whenever there is common behaviour across different use cases. Factoring would make it possible to define such behaviour only once and reuse it whenever required. It is desirable to factor out common usage such as error handling from a set of use cases. This makes analysis of the class design much simpler and elegant. However, a word of caution here. Factoring of use cases should not be done except for achieving the above two objectives. From the design point of view, it is not advantageous to break up a use case into many smaller parts just for the sake of it. UML offers three mechanisms for factoring of use cases, as follows: 


Use case generalization can be used when one use case is similar to another, but does something slightly differently or something more. Generalization works the same way with use cases as it does with classes. The child use case inherits the behaviour and meaning of the parent use case. The notation is the same too (as shown in fig. 37.11). It is important to remember that the base and the derived use cases are separate use cases and should have separate text descriptions. 

Software Design: Embedded Systems - 5 | Embedded Systems (Web) - Computer Science Engineering (CSE)

Fig. 37.11 Representation of use case generalization 

Software Design: Embedded Systems - 5 | Embedded Systems (Web) - Computer Science Engineering (CSE)

Fig. 37.12 Representation of use case inclusion  


The includes relationship in the older versions of UML (prior to UML 1.1) was known as the uses relationship. The includes relationship involves one use case including the behaviour of another use case in its sequence of events and actions. The includes relationship occurs when a chunk of behaviour is similar across a number of use cases. The factoring of such behaviour will help in not repeating the specification and implementation across different use cases. Thus, the includes relationship explores the issue of reuse by factoring out the commonality across use cases. It can also be gainfully employed to decompose a large and complex use cases into more manageable parts. As shown in fig. 37.12, the includes relationship is represented using a predefined stereotype <<include>>.

In the includes relationship, a base use case compulsorily and automatically includes the behaviour of the common use cases. As shown in example fig. 37.13, issue-book and renew-book both include check-reservation use case. The base use case may include several use cases. In such cases, it may interleave their associated common use cases together. The common use case becomes a separate use case and the independent text description should be provided for it. 

Software Design: Embedded Systems - 5 | Embedded Systems (Web) - Computer Science Engineering (CSE)

Fig. 37.13 Example use case inclusion  


The main idea behind the extends relationship among the use cases is that it allows you to show optional system behaviour. An optional system behaviour is extended only under certain conditions. This relationship among use cases is also predefined as a stereotype as shown in fig.37.14. The extends relationship is similar to generalization. But unlike generalization, the extending use case can add additional behaviour only at an extension point only when certain conditions are satisfied. The extension points are points within the use case where variation to the mainline (normal) action sequence may occur. The extends relationship is normally used to capture alternate paths or scenarios. 

Software Design: Embedded Systems - 5 | Embedded Systems (Web) - Computer Science Engineering (CSE)

Fig. 37.14 Representation of use case extension    

Organization of Use Cases 

When the use cases are factored, they are organized hierarchically. The high-level use cases are refined into a set of smaller and more refined use cases as shown in fig. 37.15. Top-level use cases are super-ordinate to the refined use cases. The refined use cases are sub-ordinate to the top-level use cases. Note that only the complex use cases should be decomposed and organized in a hierarchy. It is not necessary to decompose simple use cases. The functionality of the super-ordinate use cases is traceable to their sub-ordinate use cases. Thus, the functionality provided by the super-ordinate use cases is composite of the functionality of the sub-ordinate use cases. In the highest level of the use case model, only the fundamental use cases are shown. The focus is on the application context.

Therefore, this level is also referred to as the context diagram. In the context diagram, the system limits are emphasized. The toplevel diagram contains only those use cases with which the external users of the system interact. The subsystem-level use cases specify the services offered by the subsystems to the other subsystems. Any number of levels involving the subsystems may be utilized. In thelowest level of the use case hierarchy, the class-level use cases specify the functional fragments or operations offered by the classes.

Software Design: Embedded Systems - 5 | Embedded Systems (Web) - Computer Science Engineering (CSE)

Fig. 37.15 Hierarchical organization of use cases  

Class Diagrams 

A class diagram describes the static structure of a system. It shows how a system is structured rather than how it behaves. The static structure of a system comprises of a number of class diagrams and their dependencies. The main constituents of a class diagram are classes and their relationships: generalization, aggregation, association, and various kinds of dependencies. The classes represent entities with common features, i.e. attributes and operations. Classes are represented as solid outline rectangles with compartments. Classes have a mandatory name compartment where the name is written centered in boldface. The class name is usually written using mixed case convention and begins with an uppercase. The class names are usually chosen to be singular nouns. An example of a class is shown in fig. 37.1.2. Classes have optional attributes and operations compartments. A class may appear on several diagrams. Its attributes and operations are suppressed on all but one diagram. 


Associations are needed to enable objects to communicate with each other. An association describes a connection between classes. The association relation between two objects is called object connection or link. Links are instances of associations. A link is a physical or conceptual connection between object instances. For example, suppose Amit has borrowed the book Graph Theory. Here, borrowed is the connection between the objects Amit and Graph Theory book. Mathematically, a link can be considered to be a tuple, i.e. an ordered list of object instances. An association describes a group of links with a common structure and common semantics. For example, consider the statement that Library Member borrows Books. Here, borrows is the association between the class LibraryMember and the class Book. Usually, an association is a binary relation (between two classes). However, three or more different classes can be involved in an association. A class can have an association relationship with itself (called recursive association). In this case, it is usually assumed that two different objects of the class are linked by the association relationship. 

Association between two classes is represented by drawing a straight line between the concerned classes.   Fig. 37.16 illustrates the graphical representation of the association relation. The name of the association is written along side the association line. An arrowhead may be placed on the association line to indicate the reading direction of the association. The arrowhead should not be misunderstood to be indicating the direction of a pointer implementing an association. On each side of the association relation, the multiplicity is noted as an individual number or as a value range. The multiplicity indicates how many instances of one class are associated with each other. Value ranges of multiplicity are noted by specifying the minimum and maximum value, separated by two dots, e.g. 1..5. An asterisk is a wild card and means many (zero or more). The association of fig. 37.16 should be read as “Many books may be borrowed by a Library Member”. Observe that associations (and links) appear as verbs in the problem statement. 

Software Design: Embedded Systems - 5 | Embedded Systems (Web) - Computer Science Engineering (CSE)

Fig. 37.16 Association between two classes  

Associations are usually realized by assigning appropriate reference attributes to the classes involved. Thus, associations can be implemented using pointers from one object class to another. Links and associations can also be implemented by using a separate class that stores which objects of a class are linked to which objects of another class. Some CASE tools use the role names of the association relation for the corresponding automatically generated attribute. 


Aggregation is a special type of association where the involved classes represent a whole-part relationship. The aggregate takes the responsibility of forwarding messages to the appropriate parts. Thus, the aggregate takes the responsibility of delegation and leadership. When an instance of one object contains instances of some other objects, then aggregation (or composition) relationship exists between the composite object and the component object. Aggregation is represented by the diamond symbol at the composite end of a relationship. The number of instances of the component class aggregated can also be shown as in fig. 37.17 (a). 

Software Design: Embedded Systems - 5 | Embedded Systems (Web) - Computer Science Engineering (CSE)

Fig. 37.17(a) Representation of aggregation  

The aggregation relationship cannot be reflexive (i.e. recursive). That is, an object cannot contain objects of the same class as itself. Also, the aggregation relation is not symmetric. That is, two classes A and B cannot contain instances of each other. However, the aggregation relationship can be transitive. In this case, aggregation may consist of an arbitrary number of levels. 


Composition is a stricter form of aggregation, in which the parts are existence-dependent on the whole. This means that the life of the parts are closely tied to the life of the whole. When the whole is created, the parts are created and when the whole is destroyed, the parts are destroyed. A typical example of composition is an invoice object with invoice items. As soon as the invoice object is created, all the invoice items in it are created and as soon as the invoice object is destroyed, all invoice items in it are also destroyed. The composition relationship is represented as a filled diamond drawn at the composite-end. An example of the composition relationship is shown in fig. 37.17 (b).

Software Design: Embedded Systems - 5 | Embedded Systems (Web) - Computer Science Engineering (CSE)

Fig. 37.17(b) Representation of composition   

Interaction diagrams are models that describe how a group of objects collaborate to realize some behaviour. Typically, each interaction diagram realizes the behaviour of a single use case. An interaction diagram shows a number of example objects and the messages that are passed between the objects within the use case. 

There are two kinds of interaction diagrams: sequence diagrams and collaboration diagrams. These two diagrams are equivalent in the sense that any one diagram can be derived automatically from the other. However, they are both useful. These two actually portray different perspectives of behaviour of the system and different types of inferences can be drawn from them. The interaction diagrams can be considered as a major tool in the design methodology. 

Sequence Diagrams 

A sequence diagram shows interaction among objects as a two dimensional chart. The chart is read from top to bottom. The objects participating in the interaction are shown at the top of the chart as boxes attached to a vertical dashed line. Inside the box, the name of the object is written with a colon separating it from the name of the class, and both the name of the object and class are underlined. The objects appearing at the top signify that the object already existed when the use case execution was initiated. However, if some object is created during the execution of the use case and participates in the interaction (e.g. a method call), then the object should be shown at the appropriate place on the diagram where it is created.

The vertical dashed line is called the object’s lifeline. The lifeline indicates the existence of the object at any particular point of time. The rectangle drawn on the lifetime is called the activation symbol and indicates that the object is active as long as the rectangle exists. Each message is indicated as an arrow between the lifelines of two objects. The messages are shown in chronological order from the top to the bottom. That is, reading the diagram from the top to the bottom would show the sequence in which the messages occur. Each message is labeled with the message name. Some control information can also be included. Two types of control information are particularly valuable. 

  • A condition (e.g. [invalid]) indicates that a message is sent, only if the condition is true.
  • An iteration marker shows the message is sent many times to multiple receiver objects as would happen when a collection or the elements of an array are being iterated. The basis of the iteration can also be indicated e.g. [for every book object]. 

Software Design: Embedded Systems - 5 | Embedded Systems (Web) - Computer Science Engineering (CSE)

Fig. 37.18 Sequence diagram for the renew book use case

The sequence diagram for the book renewal use case for the Library Automation Software is shown in fig. 37.18. The development of the sequence diagram in the development methodology would help us in determining the responsibilities of the different classes; i.e. what methods should be supported by each class. 

The document Software Design: Embedded Systems - 5 | Embedded Systems (Web) - Computer Science Engineering (CSE) is a part of the Computer Science Engineering (CSE) Course Embedded Systems (Web).
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