ESC 2007 San Jose: Day 2

April 5, 2007
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’ll be able to present it as eloquently or humorously as former Vice President and “recovering politician” Gore did. Hopefully,

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’ll be able to present it as eloquently or humorously as former Vice President and “recovering politician” Gore did. Hopefully, CMP will post the presentation online. Photos and recording devices weren’t permitted. It was an enjoyable and inspiring presentation that touched on the climate crisis and something dear to most everyone there, the engineering crisis. Some interesting tidbits along the way included the four factors that reduce birth/death rates: the 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 to take a new look at entrenched problems, especially those related to energy and climate. He challenged attendees to take a longer-term view and find new perspectives on old problems. He also noted that the Chinese and Japanese characters (they are similar) for crisis represent danger as well as opportunity. Gore stressed the opportunities these challenges present, especially in embedded applications and in inspiring ESC attendees as well as our youth. Gore highlighted ideas such as microsite energy generation, where small generating stations based on solar or wind energy could be plugged into our power grid. Right now, there are limits to what these microsites can contribute. Gore suggested removing such limits. He also discussed the current energy inefficiencies of our automotive fleet and electrical appliances. Even small efficiency improvements and powering down embedded appliances can yield significant benefits. Like I said, my overview is a poor representation of Vice President Gore’s delivery. Suffice it to say, the standing ovation was well deserved. 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, though most aren’t surprising. Multicore remains a hot topic in hardware deployment, and the uptake in multicore debugging is significant. Only a few tool vendors lack a well-defined multicore vision, and they’re primarily dedicated to single-chip microcontroller platforms. While multicore is high on the list of trends, virtual machine (VM) support is still limited to COTS/MILS security and RTOS/OS coexistence. This isn’t to say the vendors are unaware of what’s happening on PCs and servers. Rather, there’s a limited demand from customers. Security and encryption 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’s still going to be another year before understanding and demand catch up to the software. The open-source trend continues to drive many software tools and platforms. Commercial Linux is everywhere, with a number of solid embedded implementations and eager customers waiting for the latest and greatest, including Eclipse. The big change has been vendor adoption of a common core, namely 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’re all designed to work with this common core. Named after the moons of Jupiter, the next iteration will be later this year, and most vendors are expecting to sync their releases with it. ZigBee and 802.15.4 were all over the place. (I’ll have more on some of the products in the reviews.) The split between the two is still about 50-50, but designers who are chasing interoperability are concentrating on ZigBee. Low-cost platforms are still the goal, but solutions remain pricey. So, there’s a class of applications that aren’t price critical where this wireless technology is very practical. Modules are also cleaning up since they don’t require FCC approval—just plug and play. More from ESC a little later. It’s getting late and there are more vendor meetings on the agenda starting tomorrow morning. Embedded Systems Conference

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