The beginnings of innovation in the "new" embedded

June 15, 2016 OpenSystems Media

I’m often guilty of tunnel vision when it comes to embedded, as the majority of my career has been spent where embedded and industrial were synonymous, and often interchangeable. However, events like Computex 2016 always remind me just how wide the scope of embedded is today. In fact, I now genuinely believe that our industry can no longer be described as niche—we’ve finally become mainstream.

With that brings an abundancy of new opportunities for all involved, though new prey attracts new predators. The enterprise computing behemoths are seizing the opportunity to jump on the embedded bandwagon, where arguably traditional vendors have been slow to present real solutions for the opportunities created by the revolution of IoT and its umbrella terms. Traditional embedded vendors have been pushed to rapidly diversify their offerings and prove to customers they truly understand the connected future; the days of slapping IoT or Industry 4.0 across one’s booth without clear evidence of that fact are gone.

This diversification is inspiring, where exciting new use cases are emerging daily by opening embedded to a wider inexperienced audience. And there’s also a fair amount of dross to sift through. I saw one of these new IoT devices at Innovex—the Pet Cam. It simplistically allows one to remotely monitor their pet via an IP camera. Nothing new there, but goes much further by pushing notifications of their detected emotional state to your smartphone! One can even appease an (allegedly) negative state by dispensing treats remotely or activating a light-chase game.

Before arriving at Innovex, I read an amusing statement that I was keen to disprove. “IoT is like teenage sex: everyone talks about it, nobody really knows how to do it, everyone thinks everyone else is doing it, so everyone claims they are doing it.” My specific interest was to compare the primary Computex hall of long established vendors to the fresh blood at Innovex, and I was pleasantly surprised at both.

To me the start-ups peddling their wares at Innovex shared true vision, invariably created by young and enthusiastic engineers without preconceptions; a world where anything is possible with technology. Innovation desperately needs the fresh thinking of youth and they inherently understand the concept. But I fear that realisation of their end-to-end concepts isn’t achievable on their own. That said, as I walked around the Innovex exhibition, it felt more like a marketplace to advertise these start-ups to prospective buyers, who have the clout to truly realise these young dreams.

At Computex proper, I felt vendors have realised that cementing their place as the market leader in a specific embedded niche makes far better business sense than purporting to carry a perceivably weak, end-to-end solution, particularly around IoT. Such solutions are only realistically achievable by the industry behemoths. However, some of these concepts are new to them.

Finally, it seems that vendors have thought long and hard about where their position is in this new mainstream embedded market. So hopefully the postulating and jostling are over and innovation will start to snowball.

Rory Dear, European Editor/Technical Contributor
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