Boston Embedded Systems Conference (Boston ESC)

Oct. 4, 2006
The Boston Embedded Systems Conference was bursting at the seams with a 20% rise in attendance and even more vendors. Embedded Technology Editor Bill Wong provides an overview of the show as well as new products coverage. See the latest about EPIC Express

The mood was upbeat at this year's Boston Embedded Systems Conference (ESC), and the floor was more crowded than it has been in the past. Even more importantly, designers were asking the right questions and not just kicking the tires. Vendors had a good bit to show as well, with significantly more production models than prototypes or previews. Technologies like ZigBee, Serial ATA and PCI Express were out in force.

The following is a quick snapshot of the show. I did not get to list all the companies and their products below, so check out the list of linked articles, too.

ESC Software News

One of the most notable items on the floor was Sun Microsystems' real-time Java (see video), highlighted by the Java slot car race that had been introduced at JavaOne. It was open to any programmer who wanted to take a crack at programming with real-time Java. The track had sensors placed around it and the only control was the duration of power to the car. It was lots of fun and some of the cars actually finished the race.

Telelogic was showing off the latest I-Logix Rhapsody. This release adds Mathworks Simulink integration. It also includes better support for the embedded programmer, allowing smoother movement between the conventional IDE and model-based development. I'll have more on this later in EIED Online.

Mentor Graphics' Eclipse-based IDE EDGE development tools are now $2995/seat. This package includes a number of enhancements, but the price point is significantly lower. With its Eclipse-based Optima IDE, Enea also announced their pricing of $3000/seat — looks like a trend. Enea's operating system and LINX interprocess communication services offer a way to take advantage of multicore and network processing environments.

Green Hill Software was showing off its Multi IDE version 5. It adds enhancements to its TimeMachine trace facility, along with a new static source code analyzer named DoubleCheck. It also has a new commuter licensing option.

LynuxWorks had its LynxOS-SE on hand. It is based on the LynxOS-178 product line, but without the limitations imposed by DO-178B. It provides a lower cost base for applications requiring significant safety and reliability guarantees. I also heard about a lower-range version of BlueCat Linux that will play in the uClinux space.

Hitachi America is a new entry into the market with its Entier embedded database. It targets spatial databases with extended SQL queries.

Aonix let people know that Ada continues to grow. Its ObjectAda Real-Time RAVEN V8.2 now supports the PowerPC running PikeOS. PikeOS is SYSGO's RTOS built on a real-time separation microkernel.

RTI was highlighting their latest RTI Data Distribution Services (DDS) with quality of service support. DDS is a major part of the U.S. military's networking plans, and is finding more and more applications in the commercial sector as well.

So much software and not enough space to cover it all.

ESC Chip News

There were lots of new chips at the show. Here is just a small smattering of some of the more interesting ones.

Texas Instruments' 100 MHz TMS320F28044 DSP (see review) uses a unique approach to generate 150 ps resolution for its 16-channel high resolution PWM (HRPWM). It doesn't generate a gigahertz clock. Instead, it does a rough base off the regular clock with a 16-bit counter and then selects a calibration delay using the least significant 8 bits of the PWM value.

ZigBee modules were all the rage, with companies like Ember showing off their latest. Rabbit Semiconductor's approach was a hit (see review) — it uses MaxStream modules that simplify development chores.

NXP Semiconductors was showing off its new colors (since it was spun off from Philips) as well as a new ARM7 microcontroller that has a pair of AHB high-speed buses (see review). Zilog also had a new chip, the Z16F, their entry into the 16-bit market (see review).

SecureRF was talking about their new RFID devices, but they are finally letting their big secret out of the bag. It's a new encryption algorithm that operates in linear time (see review). This could change when and where encryption is employed.

Quickfilter Technologies is about to turn the digital filter market on its head with its new QF1D512 Simple and versatile FIR (Finite Impulse Response) engine (SavFIRe). This precision digital filter chip can act as a coprocessor to process a data stream from a microcontroller or analog-to-digital converter (ADC). They have a neat little dev kit, too.

ESC Board News

The Boston ESC show is more of a midrange system developers show than the west coast ESC because there are fewer distractions. This lets companies like InHand Electronics, with their new XScale multimedia board, stand out from the crowd (see video). InHand has always generated small portable device platforms, and their latest really hums (see review). It is complemented by a development kit and carrier board.

Ampro got a jump on the competition with its ReadyBoard 820 (see review). This is the first EPIC Express motherboard. The PCI Express-based EPIC Express standard was just recently adopted by the PC/104 Consortium.

VersaLogic presented a board that will be driving around with Boston taxicabs soon (see video). They also have a number of new boards, including one with Linux bundled and ready to go (see review).

Mini-ITX continues to gain ground. ITOX showed off a board with an Intel Core Duo (see review). I will be featuring an ITOX board in an upcoming EIED Online Car PC project article. VIA was highlighting their line of Mini-ITX and even smaller Nano-ITX boards.

ESC Tools

There were a number of small tools floating around the show, including Macraigor Systems' usb2Sprite, which is now available for Freescale's ColdFire and 56300 DSP processors. It is a tiny JTAG emulator (see "USB JTAG: Debugging In A Small Package") that is easy to use.

As you might guess from the list of article links, there was a lot going on at ESC. I included most of the companies I met with, as well as some of the more interesting things I saw when I was walking the show floor. Definitely check out our video highlights from the Boston ESC show and drop me an e-mail note if you saw something I missed. I will see about adding it to our list when I get a chance to check it out.

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