Electronic Design

ESC 2008 Preview

The Embedded Systems Conference is coming up soon and it looks to be even better than last year—despite the downturn in the economy. Not even flagging home sales could deter the number of announcements and new products.

I’ll be covering a lot more from the show, but here are a number of items that have been made available ahead of time. Also, check out Developers Refine Their Embedded Wares For ESC for more pre-ESC content.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR Power and heat will be on the tip of everyone’s tongue. It’s the mantra for multicore and embedded. Leading the pack will be the ZigBee modules with the latest from Intel, VIA and AMD when it comes to the x86 processors.

FPGAs continue their movement into the more general embedded space as development platforms and tools improve. Companies like Xilinx, Altium, Actel and Altera have some interesting platforms for fast prototyping and delivery like Altium’s new NanoBoards.

There looks to be an increase and improvement in static analysis and testing tools specifically targeted at the embedded market. Be sure to check out Klocwork’s offerings if you can. You can read my writeup in the “Recommened Reading.” And Parasoft’s booth will be a surefire dazzler as well. They will be announcing the new release of their Parasoft Embedded Solution which automatically generates complete structured tests in C or C++ source that can be used in both host-based and target-based code support for data sources analysis and test flows.

For much of the rest, it is improvements on existing standards like last year. Quadcore will be everywhere. Gigabit Ethernet will be the networking standard along with USB and SATA on the peripheral side. There will be a smattering of VPX, MicroTCA, AdvancedTCA and other fabric-based solutions. PCI Express-based motherboards will be out in force but you will still be able to find PCI- and ISA-based SBC solutions with upgrade processors and peripherals.

XMOS will finally be showing off real XCore hardware (click here to read up on it). This multicore design is definitely worth taking a look at.

Recognetics will be showing off its CogniMem 1K chip. It is a high-performance pattern-recognition chip featuring a network of 1024 neurons arranged in parallel and capable of classifying an input vector of 256 bytes in up to 10 microseconds. It is both a powerful model generator and non-linear classifier and the unique parallel architecture of its neurons offers two technological breakthroughs: recognition time independent of the number of neurons in use and the ability to cascade multiple CogniMem chips to size the network at will.

Also keep an eye out for new companies. They keep cropping up. One is Congatec AG, a startup tackling the computer-on-module (COM) arena with boards based on standards such as XTX, COM Express and ETX. They have a new COM Express battery manager designed for mobile applications.

Congatec AG and SECO are also pushing a new board form factor (Fig. 1) called Qseven that uses Mobile PCI Express Module (MXM) connector format. Looks like the Small Form Factor SIG will have some company at ESC with new standard announcements.

Keep a lookout on our soon-to-come ESC-event page. It’ll be chock full of information and videos from the vendors—a handy resource if you can’t make it to the exhibition.

Congatec AG
www.congatec.com

ESC
www.esconline.com

Recognetics
www.recognetics.com

Small Form Factor SIG
www.sff-sig.org

XMOS
www.xmos.com

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