The recent Embedded Systems Development Conference held in San Jose pointedly targeted embedded software developers. Its mix of exhibitors and technical sessions hit the mark, although exhibit traffic was not especially heavy. On the other hand, some exhibitors I spoke with indicated that the quality of attendees was high.
This is pretty good for a first-time conference, especially with so many other conferences taking place during the summer. I'm a little biased about the success of the show since I had a panel session there. Likewise, the show is sponsored by Embedded365.com, a website that is part of Penton Media, and Electronic Design is also part of Penton Media, so you can take my hype and rants with a grain of salt. Incidentally, the slideshows for the various sessions will be posted on the Embedded365.com website.
For me, the show turned out to be very fruitful. I had some time to take in some of these sessions and meet with a number of companies to discuss their latest product offerings. The software and development hardware vendor representation was good.
I can say that the technical sessions were top-notch. Although too numerous for me to attend all of them, I did get to sit-in on a number of them, including Steve Mellor's Systems Design: Architecture and Archetypes. It had a sprinkling of UML (Universal Modeling Language), but it had more to do with system design. It even included some system design patterns. Unfortunately, if you only have access to the slideshow, you will be missing the bulk of the presentation as Steve is an excellent speaker and audience interaction was key to the session's success.
Mike Hall's Windows Embedded Development Overview was very well-accepted, and I hope to have an interview with Mike about Windows CE development in a future column.
Stephen Balacco, Senior Analyst at Venture Data Corp., was the keynote speaker. Steve provided a good overview of software development tools and where development was headed. If you can find this presentation online, it is well worth a gander.
Security issues were a big hit as was Linux. Steve Kapp's two-part Securing Communications With An Embedded Device covered a range of topics and technologies. Steve (seems to be a lot of them at this show) covered the usual cast of characters like SSL and IPsec as well as SSH (secure shell). SSH turns out to be very handy for remote administration and diagnostics.
One thing Steve did very well was warning attendees to avoid building their own encryption or security protocol. First, these technologies are very hard to design and implement from scratch, and it is relatively easy to overlook attack methods. A number of examples like the DVD Content Scrambling System (CSS) were presented. Second, it is very difficult and time consuming to get a new system accepted as a standard. Finally, there are enough well-established technologies that can be employed to satisfy most embedded applications.
Some of the Java sessions were cancelled for various reasons, but I suspect the nearness in time to JavaOne had something to do about it. I had been looking forward to some of these sessions since I missed JavaOne this year. Java is becoming more important in the embedded world, and it's worth checking out the real time and safety features now available.
Walking The Floor
The exhibitor area filled one of the halls in the hotel but was small enough to checkout in an afternoon. I skipped a couple sessions to visit with vendors and found a couple that I had not heard from in awhile. For example, I spoke with Kenati Technologies about their Embedded Linux and NP Verticals. The latter includes packages like NP VPN and NP Gateway with wireless support. Again, security was a key feature.
Wind River and Monta Vista had their Eclipse-based development tools on display. Other operating system companies like Accelerated Technology, QNX, LynuxWorks, Green Hills and Microsoft were on hand as well. I found it interesting that a number of other companies were scoping out the competition on the floor and at the technical sessions.
Nohau and American Arium were showing off new diagnostic and development tools. Nohau's new MC9S12X Emulators supports the Motorola/Freescale microcontroller S12X line. American Arium recently announced SourcePoint 6.1 debug interface. SourcePoint now supports Linux and Arium was showing how to do kernel-level debugging and tracing on Intel XScale and Arm processors.
My panel discussion on Secure, Transparent Interprocessor Communications had a small, but lively, audience. The panel discussion was lively because the participants were interested in their competitors' solutions in addition to highlighting their own approach. I would like to thank Dave Campanella from Enea, Mike Hall with Microsoft, John Mehaffey of Monta Vista, and Dave Bott from QNX for taking part in the presentation. The discussion covered a wide range of security and communication methodologies with some more applicable to deeply embedded applications, while others were targeted at PC and server environments. Communication methods spanned message-based solutions from QNX and Enea to XML support from Microsoft and Monta Vista.
The panel agreed that security is an important issue and that larger companies tend to be well-versed in the need and solutions. Unfortunately, there are many developers that know they need some sort of security, however, they sorely lack an understanding of the implications of security methodology. Vendors have to do a good deal of instructing and training to make customers aware of the problems, solutions, and products. It was open season on where security should be implemented and managed, but that's what makes these discussions so worthwhile.
Overall, the Embedded Systems Development Conference had a lot to offer. For those in the San Jose area who didn't stop by, you missed a good one but, then again, there's always next year.
Embedded Systems Development Conference