Electronic Design

ESC 2007 San Jose: Day 1

Al Gore won’t show up for another day yet but the San Jose convention center is still buzzing with activity and quite a number of people running between technical sessions. There is some activity in the press room where I setup shop. I get to the show a little early so I can meet with the flood of vendors.

I didn’t get to write up all of them right now but there are a few links to products I had a handle on before the show and finally got to talk with the vendors on Monday. The fun begins tomorrow starting with Al Gore’s keynote speech. I actually decided to go this time. I tend to skip most keynotes but this should prove interesting although I suspect I know what it will cover. In any case, I will write that up for the next article in this series.

Electronic Design will also have some videos posted here as well as on Engineering TV. These take a little longer to post because of the post production work so keep an eye out for them in a couple days.

Any Trends Yet?

It is a little early to pick out all the trends this year but there are a number that have been coming on for months. At the top of the list is power conservation. That is probably what Al Gore will be here chatting about tomorrow. Power is an issue everywhere from 3mm by 3mm 8-bit microcontrollers like Silicon Labs’ latest 8051 to AdvancedTCA boards packing multiple multi-core processor chips. Cutting power leads to lower power bills and lower cooling requirements at the high end plus longer battery life for mobile devices. The steady advance of Zigbee and 802.15.4 are really pushing low power techniques. The goal for a good number of these wireless products is a power source that lasts the life of the device.

The show will be the site of the first showing of some new product technologies like Micro/sys’ Stackable USB (see USB Stacks Up With A Modular Industrial Form Factor). Attendees will be able to see real boards at the booth. PC/104 Plus seems to be coming on strong and there are a plethora of new single board computer (SBC) and interface boards from the likes of VersaLogic, WinSystem, Diamond Systems, Kontron and so on.

PCI Express continues to make inroads in the embedded space. PCI is still on everyone’s list but x1 PCI Express seems to be preferable for low end applications with plenty of growth using multiple lanes.

Low cost flash storage is big this year. The falling price and rising capacity are forcing designers to take a second look at this once expensive alternative. Its rugged profile fits very well with embedded applications and sizes in excess of 8Gbytes open up flash to embedded video applications.

Multicore processors are starting to edge their way into embedded applications after dominating the PC and server side last year. Dual core is a must have while quad core is going into high end applications.

Multiple cores are making virtual machine managers (VMM) a hot topic again this year. Last year it was a discussion about providing isolation between VMs for security and reliability. That issue remains but getting better performance out of a multicore system is where the discussion has moved.

The show floor opens tomorrow so I’ll have more feedback once I chat with a few more vendors and take a look at the booths. Check out the product reviews for today and keep an eye out for the next installation of this series and our videos as well.

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