The first day of COMPUTEX Taipei also netted a meeting with Richard Brown of VIA Technologies, who reintroduced me to the company that first developed the Mini-ITX form factor back in the early 2000s.
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. On the one hand, Brown points out that this keeps VIA from being forced to rely on the roadmaps of other processor vendors who may change strategies, which is especially relevant given recent consolidation in the semiconductor market. This also enables the company to optimize their product offerings at the chip level before fine tuning software and system-level features as needed for the final solution. Furthermore, the insights gained from this end-to-end capability also allows them to provide a level of development and lifecycle services that are hard to come by in a single vendor.
As it is for many embedded tech companies these days, the smartphone revolution and the Internet of Things (IoT) have presented opportunities for VIA, for example in mobile applications that are looking to integrate Embedded Android or by incorporating disparate systems through a transparent connectivity architecture. For the former, VIA provides a SMART Embedded Tool Kit (SMART ETK) that helps developers integrate the advantages of a mobile OS into their embedded design (Video 1). For the latter, among other things the company has established a smart cities group dedicated to adding intelligence to urban areas through technologies such as interactive digital video walls (Figure 1).
With fewer and fewer embedded engineers as talent is drawn away to adjacent tech sectors, the responsibility now rests on embedded vendors to do as much of the heavy lifting as possible. Taking end-to-end ownership of the products one offers is a good step in achieving that goal.