COMPUTEX may be the biggest tech show in Asia, and if you don’t believe it simply take a look at the number of industrial PC (IPC) vendors on the exhibitor list. From boards to complete systems, the Taiwanese market is flooded with everyone from the big time “A” vendors (such as Advantech, AAEON, and ADLINK) through to a spread of smaller tech shops that all offer OEM services to the embedded market – being that their expertise lies principally in board design and manufacturing, the principal differentiators between them all are the availability or lack of ARM-based solutions, services and support, and cost.
As you might expect, the glut of companies occupying the embedded board space in the APAC region (I count 15 just based on my briefings at the show), there has been a race to the bottom in terms of cost per unit. To offset the law of diminishing returns, almost every company promotes their ability as a custom design house for both non-standards-based applications, as well as deployments into niche markets. Here are some of the highlights from some of the embedded board (and other) vendors I met at the show.
1. Pre-show: COMPUTEX d&i awards
The day before COMPUTEX officially opened we trekked to the Taiwan International Convention Center in the shadow of Taipei 101 for a pre-show briefing that also highlighted the annual d&i (design and innovation) awards.
2. AAEON brass talks IoT and shrinking margins in APAC IPC market at COMPUTEX Taipei
“What makes you different?” In this Q&A with Howard Lin, CEO, AAEON, and Fabrizio Del Maffeo, Managing Director of AAEON Europe, the two explain how technology trends and shrinking margins in the APAC region are driving embedded board and system manufacturers to redefine approaches to industrial computing.
3. VIA Technologies fuses silicon, software, and systems expertise for evolving embedded
On the surface it is easy to perceive VIA as simply an industrial/embedded board and system manufacturer, but remember that the company also develops its own ARM- and x86-based processors and chipsets.
4. Lanner unveils strategy for all angles of the Industrial Internet
Walter Yeh’s promise of a show focusing on the Internet of Things (IoT) was upheld in my very first meeting, as Brian Chen of Lanner Electronics walked me through the company’s four-pronged approach to intelligent systems.
5. Quanmax tightropes between ODM and open standards
It’s widely known that the APAC market is packed with board-level competition, and here’s another new-to-me competitor.
6. Bestek balances x86 and ARM for diverse markets
Bestek is one of the IPC vendors that helped make up the theme of COMPUTEX, focusing on the information security, interactive display/digital signage, and machinery automation markets, in addition to providing ODM services.
7. PERFECTRON goes rugged in rail/rolling stock
Putting rugged expertise to use in transportation, defense, and other verticals, PERFECTRON overviewed some of the Intel Atom- and Intel Core-based solutions they are developing for use train control environments.
8. Giada brings looks to correlate consumer success into digital signage systems
Another Intel partner looking to transform success as a board- and system-level OEM, Giada has focused primarily on the Chinese consumer tech market for most of its existence.
9. ARM mbed helps bring “digital voice to physical things” in Zebra Zatar LBS platform
One of the more interesting meetings of the show for me, Thomas “TK” Kurian, Senior Director, New Growth Platforms at Zebra Technologies explained to me how the 45 year old barcode printing organization is looking to leverage the Internet of Things (IoT) revolution to expand its asset tracking and management business beyond humble origins.
10. DFI’s gambling addiction pays of big time in embedded gaming
Wins come in gaming and healthcare, says Jarry Chang, Director of DFI’s product marketing department, with much of that resulting from collaborations with International Game Technology (IGT) on secure-by-design building blocks for slot machines.
11. iBASE boasts big win in digital signage
In addition to having a couple of products in the running for the annual d&i awards and winning a Best in Show award for their SI-60E super-high 8K video wall player.
12. COMMELL stays true to standards-based heritage
Bucking the trend of Taiwanese ODM shops, Taiwan Commate Computer, or COMMELL has elected to stay the course with a wide variety of standards-based board products that offer customers design flexibility.
13. WynMax rides x86 wave into ODM space
IPC company WynMax is another IPC vendor looking to translate a legacy of standardized Intel and AMD industrial computing boards into success in the ODM space.
14. Neousys machine vision combines Core i series and MCU for real-time video processing
James Gau, the president of Neousys, explained that in the company’s short 5-year history they have fostered close relationships with the MV world, leading to the development of Neousys Power over Ethernet-enabled (PoE-enabled) camera systems, which at the time of their introduction were an industry first.
15. congatec works to bring high-end OEM to APAC market
Bryan Lin and his team are working to establish the German company’s quality reputation in the Far East through the company’s selection of computers-on-module (COMs).
16. TechNexion takes ARM-first approach to IPC
Right now the company primarily uses Freescale SoCs (which seem to be Taiwan’s processors of choice after Intel) in an effort to capitalize on the size, weight, and power-constrained (SWaP-constrained) applications in everything from agriculture to solar powered webservers.
17. Cervoz industrial storage brings TÜV-certified MLC, SLC to embedded
A clever trick of firmware in their Reliance series MLC SSDs called RO-MLC technology allows the hardware to be managed with the same control available on SLC chips.
18. Innodisk introduces storage solutions for the “Internet of Vehicles”
To me, the most interesting Innodisk solutions fell under the “Internet of Vehicles” umbrella.
19. Startup Tuxera brings interoperable filesystem technology to embedded
What I found while digging a little deeper at their suite near COMPUTEX was the company’s track record of file system development.
20. Cavium displays OCTEON Fusion technology in advance of OCTEON III release
Sunil Kaul walked me through most of their offerings, including the OCTEON Fusion processor family, essentially a selection of base stations-on-a-chip.
21. Concluding thoughts on APAC IPC
With all of the IPC companies buttering their bread in the same kitchen, one would have to assume consolidation can’t be in the too distant future. Whether the strength of the low-end Chinese electronics market can sustain a number of these entities remains to be seen, and the horizontal market share could well prompt preeminent industry leaders – such as some of the A vendors mentioned previously – to make M&A moves to solidify their position over top competitors. But for now, off to Sensors Expo!