Trends in the embedded computing industry serve as important indicators of what innovation we can expect to see in the coming months and years. We asked several industry thought leaders to comment on key trends affecting their specific areas of the market now and in the immediate future. It should come as no surprise that multicore processors continue to set the pace in embedded developments. Open source methodologies and standards are also maintaining their influence on the direction of innovation.
"2009 should be an inflection point for embedded computing. We've seen three trends emerge: The first is increasing use of open source, nonproprietary tools and models; second is the emergence of next-generation software development tools; and finally, true multicore software with parallelism, not just multiple individual applications running on multiple individual processors. We expect to see the convergence of these trends, resulting in new opportunities for embedded systems that can utilize the available technology and for providers of development environments and tools to enable the next generation in embedded computing".
Simon Davidmann, Chief Executive Officer
"2009 will be the year the Transaction-Level Modeling (TLM) 2.0 standard from the Open SystemC Initiative is adopted by the embedded design community. TLM 2.0 is a neatly defined interoperability standard that gives engineers more freedom and creativity to design components and leverage the link between hardware and software. It offers a way for system and IP models and system-level design tools used in SystemC-based SoC design flows to work together. More importantly, TLM 2.0 will enable a new generation of virtual platform models and the delivery of a fully functioning virtual prototype of the system on every software engineer's desk in advance of silicon".
Bill Neifert, Chief Technology Officer
Carbon Design Systems
"Designing handheld or mobile devices requires combining rich functionality and high-performance computing while minimizing power consumption. Multicore processor-based systems will provide the embedded computing in such devices. The sheer size of these Systems-on-Chip (SoCs) creates serious implementation challenges, from design partitioning, time budgeting, and hierarchy management to block shaping, macro placement, and power planning. As we move into 2009, designers of embedded multicore processor-based systems are demanding hierarchical chip planning and finishing systems that automate these tasks, allowing them to reuse desired portions of the floorplan throughout the prototyping phase and in subsequent designs as well as to accelerate design closure".
Yukti Rao, Senior Product ManagerDesign Implementation Business Unit
Magma Design Automation
"In 2009, engineering teams will turn to emulations systems to serve as a key component of a hardware/software codesign flow. Consumer electronics, in particular, require smaller process technologies, multicore architectures, and embedded software content in chips. This focus brings more SoC designs and the need for emulation.
Emulation provides an all-in-one system for hardware debugging and embedded software validation. Hardware designers and software developers can share the same system and design representations and work together to debug hardware/software interactions".
Lauro Rizzatti, General Manager
"Three key trends are driving ZigBee technology. First, the growth of the market and the adoption of ZigBee in green networking and energy management networks are accelerating and expected to double to nearly 10 million nodes in 2009, according to West Technology Research Solutions. ZigBee should reach public consciousness in 2009 with a large number of utility companies adopting the technology.
From an engineer's perspective, greater integration and processing capability is going into the actual silicon that implements ZigBee. Complementing this is the continued development of tools that make use and adoption easier in embedded devices".
Bob Gohn, Vice President of Marketing
"Key emerging trends in embedded reflect what is happening in consumer displays ‚Äì the move from 4:3 aspect ratio displays to 16:9 aspect ratio displays. Influencing this trend is panel makers' preference for the 16:9 aspect ratio because it makes their manufacturing processes more efficient. Further influencing the trend is the creation of a large amount of high-definition content, which fits the 16:9 aspect ratio much better.
A second trend is the increasing use of outdoor kiosk systems that must operate in ambient daylight and in a wide range of outdoor environments. This is driving display technology to higher contrast ratios and wider operating temperature ranges".
Douglas K. Barnes, Vice President and General Manager, Industrial Business Unit
"We see the consistent trends of custom boards and in-house designs switching to outsourced design and increasing use of standards as well understood. In markets that are medium volume and long product life, which describes a lot of the embedded space, COM Express is an excellent choice. It gives you a chance to be able to upgrade your product with minimal R&D at a couple of different price points. Many customers differentiate their products by designing their own carrier cards.
There is an increasing leveraging of technologies in adjacent markets, a spillover of dominant technology. The Atom processor is a good example. It is creating a discontinuity by entering a space for which it was not targeted. A lot of customers are lining up to take advantage of the opportunity to use code on a wider range of platforms".
Wade Clowes, Vice President and General Manager of Commercial Markets
"Driven forward by Moore's Law is the wonderful array of a new semiconductor processor technology called multicore. It is smaller and higher performing and offers many new design choices for the embedded device OEM product designer. To fully optimize its use requires new OEM device design paradigms. Also causing the introduction of new design paradigms are the market-driving needs to competitively innovate with open source, address security needs and standards, and provide product differentiation through proprietary software and branding. Real-time virtualization is the new OEM device design paradigm".
Peter Richards, Chief Executive Officer
"There is an increasing emphasis on modeling the multidomain aspects of systems. How does one determine what part of the system should be done with digital electronics, mixed-signal electronics, and software? Designers are trying to better understand how a system will operate under various design architectures. Verification and validation of the entire system are becoming more urgent. Detecting errors as soon as possible is critically important. Aerospace and automotive are driving this need, but other markets are just as concerned. Putting together workflows and processes that enable designers to innovate while detecting bad design ideas as early as possible is an increasing trend that we see".
Jim Tang, The MathWorks Fellow
"There is speculation that we may be approaching an inflection point where the rate of technology advancements is accelerating at an exponential rate, and machines could even overtake humans in their ability to reason in the not-so-distant future. To make robotics personal, robots need to move and manipulate objects in cluttered and dynamic human environments. They need to be cognizant of their surroundings by sensing and recognizing movement in a dynamic physical world and learn to adapt to new scenarios. In addition to robots becoming more human-like, more innovation will emerge to make human and machine interaction more robust".
Excerpt from keynote speech at Intel Developer Forum San Francisco 2008
Justin Rattner, Chief Technology Officer
"Security of devices, data, and network access is one of the industry's biggest problems and biggest opportunities. Trusted Computing Group is working to expand industry knowledge regarding the usage of the Trusted Platform Module (TPM), which is not only in virtually all enterprise PCs, but also in many servers and most new embedded PC hardware. We are also looking beyond devices to the data on them by enabling self-encrypting hard drive technology for true data-at-rest solutions in many enterprise PCs and other non-PC devices. In addition, the network, which is frighteningly vulnerable to data loss and breach in many organizations and for end users, also benefits from the TPM".