The embedded world 2014 show felt grander than ever before and I felt a true sense of enthusiasm in the air – full of passionate presentations by manufacturers desperate to associate their wares with the latest phenomenon, the Internet of Things (IoT), which bestrewed the majority of booths.
The connected future of IoT is yet another new guise for what has been most recently termed M2M. The technology is there, but what’s holding back the rollout is a lack of standardization and complexity, thus poor time to market. The underlying promotional theme of the show for me, confirmed by time spent with major OEMs, addressed both. Those key messages are of standardization, education, and simplification.
On that latter point to start, IAR Systems were unveiling their new runtime analysis tool, C-RUN, which simplifies embedded software testing at the earliest stage to facilitate verification of code quality, identifying any errors that will come back to haunt your embedded product – and your reputation – if missed and deployed into the field. The C-RUN product piggybacks onto the existing renowned IAR Embedded Workbench for ARM-based microprocessors, drastically reducing test time and thus time to market.
In a similar vein, Analog Devices’ key strapline for the show exclaimed “Great Ideas, Simplified Design,” achieving this by pre-configuring “smart integration” technology combinations, negating the need for the developer to re-invent the wheel. Coupled with their dedicated support team, this provides the developer a head start, thus faster time to market – simplification and education again!
Likewise, Silicon Labs are focussing heavily on the simplification by training angle, recognising that fast time to market is more critical than ever. I observed a substantial investment in developer support, most notably in the impressive Simplicity Studio software suite. This splendid tool amalgamates development tools, source code libraries, and literally all relevant documentation, all but a click away.
Their enthusiasm to put hardware in developers’ hands materialised as a giveaway of hundreds of EFM32 Zero Gecko development kits, aptly bundled with IAR’s Embedded Workbench, as detailed above. The Advanced Energy Monitoring facility of this platform, combined with the Simplicity Studio suite, enabled live observation of power consumption ramifications of individual software threads and lines of code – enabling the developer to see instantly any spikes or power inefficiencies caused by inefficacious coding.
Now focussing further on the education perspective, I found myself in exceptionally captivating dialogue with Farnell on a topic of great interest to me: How to engage today’s ever industrious electronics engineer, one with little time for speculative interaction. Their answer lies in their online forum element14, which now boasts more than 230,000 active contributors.
This approach takes advantage of the interaction opportunity at the rare moment the developer has availability. Having such a substantial community facilitates expedited resolutions to most issues, either via peers or the heavy support involvement Farnell commits themselves – building that relationship when it matters most.
Finally, I must come back to my introduction and pay homage to the media storm that is the IoT; ExpressLogic impressed me with their demonstration of GUIX, their IoT-destined Graphical User Interface (GUI) runtime engine, fully integrated with the historically acclaimed and world-famous ThreadX RTOS. GUIX latches onto the premise that embedded system programmers are not GUI specialists and provides an object-based programming interface with a rich library of preconceived widgets to fast-track time to market.
Express Logic's royalty-free business model is an ideal match for the high-volume sales associated with IoT. This and an increased focus on the European market is expected to drive additional growth in 2014.
Engaging with as many attendees as time permitted, the attraction of embedded world year on year was observed by most as notably increasing, alongside the diversity of the exhibition, and the embedded market itself.
One can debate to what degree embedded world’s continued growth and success is self-perpetuated, or aided by the weakness of similar exhibitions in neighbouring European countries. Whilst I travel to Nuremberg almost fanatically these days, I can’t help but spare a thought for the inherent weakness, despite many attempts, to conjure something similar in my native abode, the United Kingdom.