Embedded World 2012: Train Sets, Indy Cars, And A Load Of Balls

The halls at Embedded World were busy with engineers eager to see demonstrations of the latest embedded innovations. Many exhibitors said the show was as good as if not better than 2011 and that the quality of visitors and leads gained was still top-notch.

David Wright, European marketing manager at Microchip, said the show had been very busy, about as busy as 2011. Microchip’s classroom was full during the first day’s teaching sessions. Wright said Microchip sees Embedded World as an opportunity to connect with engineers from across Europe, bringing trainers from Italy and France as well as Germany and the U.K., for the classroom sessions.

Geir Førre, CEO of Energy Micro, echoed this view, confirming that the audience at Embedded World is largely engineers. His observation that Embedded World effectively is the opposite of Electronica certainly rang true: Embedded World is about developing new business with engineers, he said, whereas Electronica is for maintaining existing relationships with suppliers and buyers.

Caroline Gearing, corporate marketing manager of EMEA and Russia for Microsemi, said that the quality of visitors at Embedded World has always been second to none—engineers come to the Microsemi booth with specific problems for the company to solve, she said, and enquiries result in “real business.”

As usual, exhibitors used a variety of different ways to entice visitors to their booths, including a working train set at Avnet Memec (Fig. 1) and Mouser’s sponsored Indy car guarded by models in hot pants. Remote control cars also were popular demos at many different stands, including one remote control lorry that seemed to be designed solely for carrying bottles of beer.

Possibly my favourite demo of the week was a washing machine at the NXP booth that could read RFID tags on clothing labels (via an antenna around the opening of the drum) to warn you if you’d inadvertently mixed white and red clothes and to select the most appropriate program for the fabrics in the drum (Fig. 2). According to the demonstrator, several visitors to the booth welcomed the idea of a smart washing machine, having had washing accidents in the past. Check out the video at www.youtube.com/watch?v=gOa5piXcxis.

Toshiba demonstrated a new motor control MCU and MotorMind software. A motor controlled a model lift (elevator) populated by Playmobil characters (Fig. 3). The MotorMind software is designed to make it easy to get a motor up and running.

According to company representative Thomas Haase, a colleague with no motor control experience managed to get a motor running in half an hour, and Haase himself built the demo in the space of a day. MotorMind has a digital storage oscilloscope in its GUI showing real-time data from the motor to help users visualise what’s happening in the registers, which is neat, since motor control MCUs are notoriously complex and time-consuming to get up and running (Fig. 4).

Another crowd-pleasing favourite was the machine built by Intel, which created music by firing ping pong balls at a variety of xylophone and percussion instruments. (See the video at www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/industrial-automation/90-days-industrial-control-in-concert.html.html). It was a sight to behold and drew a big crowd between halls 4 and 5, though I’ve no idea what it was actually supposed to be demonstrating. Perhaps, as one wag observed, it showed how “Intel’s Embedded World demo was a load of balls.”

Not all of the demos I watched went entirely to plan, though. Heart-rate monitor prototypes demonstrating separate technologies on two different vendor’s stands both failed to find my pulse. I guess all that walking around really did leave me zombiefied!

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