Microcontroller evolution drives embedded development

May 1, 2013 OpenSystems Media

Microcontroller technology is the centerpiece of billions of intelligent devices that enhance many of our everyday activities. In a typical day, the average consumer interacts with hundreds of embedded microcontrollers in telephones, automobiles, appliances, security systems, toys, environmental controls, point-of-sale terminals, and entertainment electronics. With this enormous base of applications, any change in microcontroller specifications can have a significant impact on embedded development. As microcontroller technology evolves, embedded designers are able to create new innovations and upgrade existing applications with enhanced features such as faster performance, lower power requirements, improved interfaces, and remote management. Universal connectivity and cloud computing are the latest trends permeating the embedded landscape, and microcontroller manufacturers are updating their specifications to match this new level of performance.

In the Silicon section of this issue of Embedded Computing Design, several industry experts examine the impact these trends have had on the latest generation of microcontroller technology. For example, Kaivan Karimi, Executive Director for the Microcontroller group at Freescale Semiconductor, discusses new low-power, low-cost devices along with future development strategies related to the Internet of Things. In the same section, Diwakar Vishakhadatta, Vice President and GM of Embedded Systems at Silicon Labs, concentrates on ultra-low-power MCUs, wireless protocols such as ZigBee, and emerging sensor technology. Together with a discussion of Wi-Fi implementation techniques, Mitchell Little, Vice President of Worldwide Sales and Applications at Microchip, outlines the evolution in embedded user interface technology plus Microchip’s certified training personnel and facilities.

As consumers demand an interactive interface, ubiquitous connectivity, absolute security, and extreme reliability in new embedded devices, the software development and analysis task grows exponentially. To help with this burden, several embedded vendors have developed tools to analyze and eliminate errors from the complex software. In this month’s Software section, Paul Anderson, VP of Engineering at GrammaTech, presents new visualization tools that developers can use to analyze the overall structure and locate problems of complex embedded software programs. With another approach for embedded software testing and traceability, Peter Varhol, the solutions evangelist at Seapine Software, explains Application Life-cycle Management (ALM) tools.

This month’s Strategies section targets medical technology such as the latest ventilator innovations, in addition to home health-care devices and telehealth services, which are among the fastest growth areas for embedded systems manufacturers. These home health-care devices plus associated services are rapidly growing in popularity and allow doctors to monitor, diagnose, and often treat select health conditions remotely. To bring us up to date on the challenges in implementing remote health-care devices, three industry experts and members of the Continua Health Alliance answered a series of questions on the subject. Ian Hay, Head of Emerging Ecosystems at Orange, Barry Reinhold, President and Chief Technology Officer at Lamprey Networks, and Frank Wartena, Senior Scientist at Philips Research Europe, revealed the biggest challenges facing the medical/telehealth community and the expected changes to the technology in light of the newly enacted Affordable Care Act. And, alternatively, Barbara Schmitz from MEN Mikro Elektronik sheds light on new adaptive support ventilation technology designed to reduce the length of hospital stays and associated costs while improving the patient experience for the times when patients are on ventilators in ICUs, post-anesthesia care units, and emergency rooms.

I hope you find this edition’s interviews and articles on microcontrollers, software testing, and medical/telehealth helpful in your development efforts. Our team will continue to make every effort to bring you the latest design information that is on the cutting edge. If you have ideas for future articles and coverage that would help in your design efforts, please let us know. We are always interested in contributed technical articles or videos that would appeal to other embedded designers. We are also searching for guest bloggers who can deliver real-time educational and informative technical information to the embedded community. If you have a suggestion for a technical article, video, or guest blog topic that would be of interest to you or other designers, please send along an email with a short abstract.

Warren Webb (Editorial Director)
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