Electronic Design

ESC San Jose: Day 2

Al Gore was a big hit as the keynote speaker today at the Embedded Systems Conference. I took six pages of notes, but I doubt I will be able to present it as eloquently or humorously as the former Vice President and “recovering politician” did. Hopefully CMP will post the presentation online. Photos and recording devices were not permitted.

Gore’s keynote was an enjoyable and inspiring presentation that touched on the climate crisis as well as something dear to most everyone there, the engineering crisis. Some interesting tidbits along the way included the four things found to reduce the birth/death rates. These included education of women, empowering women, family planning, and a drop in infant mortality.

Moving through numerous technology and climate specs, Al Gore hit on two themes: the problem of short-term goals and the need for taking a new look at entrenched problems, especially those related to energy and climate. The challenge he laid down included taking a longer-term view and developing new perspectives on old problems. Actually, he noted that the two Chinese and Japanese characters (they are similar) for crisis represent danger and opportunity. The latter was stressed—especially when it comes to embedded applications and to inspiring those in attendance, as well as our youth, to take on these scientific and engineering challenges.

Ideas such as micro-site energy generation were highlighted. This is where small generating stations, such as those based on solar or wind energy, should be plugged into our power grid. Right now there are limits to what can be contributed in this fashion and the suggestion was to remove such limits. Other examples highlighted include the current inefficiency of our automotive fleet and power consumed by our electrical appliances. Significant benefits can be attained for even a small reduction in inefficiency or by powering down embedded appliances.

Like I said, my overview is a poor representation of former Vice President Gore’s delivery. Suffice it to say, the standing ovation was worth it.

I also have a few meetings before and after the keynote. Some of these are noted in the product reviews.

Any Trends Yet?

A few trends are starting to emerge, although most were not surprising to me. Multicore remains a hot topic in terms of hardware deployment and the uptake on multicore debugging is significant. Only a few tools vendors lack a well-defined multicore vision; those that do not are primarily dedicated to single-chip microcontroller platforms.

While multicore is high on the list, virtual machine (VM) support does not for general usage. It is still limited to two areas: COTS/MILS security and RTOS/OS coexistence. This is not to say that vendors are unaware of what is happening on PCs and servers, but rather the limited demand from customers. Security and encryption-related software and hardware use is on the rise because of education. The same will be true in the embedded space where VMs are concerned. It is still going to be another year before understanding and demand catch up to the software.

Open source continues to drive a good many software tools and platforms. Commercial Linux is everywhere, with a number of solid embedded implementations with eager customers waiting for the latest and greatest. This includes Eclipse. The big change has been vendor adoption of a common core. In this case it is Callisto, the common release of a number of Eclipse core and support subsystems. Vendors still deliver their own custom and possibly proprietary plug-ins, but they are all designed to work with this common core. Named after the moons of Jupiter, the next iteration will be later out this year. Most vendors are expecting to synch their releases with this.

Zigbee and 802.15.4 were all over the place. More on some of the products in the reviews. The split between the two is still about 50-50, but those chasing interoperability are concentrating on Zigbee. Low-cost platforms are still the goal, but solutions still remain pricey so there is a class of applications that are not price critical where this wireless technology is very practical. Modules are also cleaning up, since they do not require FCC approval. Just plug and play.

More from ESC a little later. It is getting late and there are more vendor meetings on the agenda for tomorrow morning.

TAGS: Automotive
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