Embedded Design Expands into Traditional Applications and Sensory Swarms!

By John Blyler

 

You don’t have to be an expert in trends analysis to see that almost everything today has some embedded electronics. Embedded processors and related devices continue to gain the interest and support of the electronics manufacturers. As EIS editor Ed Sperling notes in his recent roadmap report: “Intel has been pushing heavily into the embedded market over the last few years as part of its long-term growth strategy.” This push is both broad and deep; broad application-wise (automotive, industrial, medical, wireless, and more) and deep processor-wise--including not just traditional Intel x86-based processors, but also Intel XScale® technology-based and I/O processors.

Like Intel’s roadmap, this issue of EIS also covers the breadth and depth of the embedded market. Our coverage starts with EIS regular editor Geoffrey James’ “Market Watch” insights on three critical embedded-application market drivers: wireless connectivity, multicore embedded, and remote support. I’ll focus on wireless trends toward the end of this piece. Markus Levy, president of the Multicore Association, reveals the truth in his article on multicore performance analysis. The last critical topic in our group of three--namely remote support--has been covered in past issues and will be the subject of future editions.

Are you curious about the direction of embedded markets like automotive and medical? Then be sure to check out the contributed piece from Henry Muyshondt’s of SMSC. He covers connectivity of vehicle infortainment systems. On the medical side, Geoffrey interviewed a number of key players for his report including Kontron, Microchip, IntervalZero, Portwell, and Saelig.

Several topic areas cut across all application markets, such as eco-friendly systems, board size, and power. Dr. Ray from Boeing takes a fascinating look at the implications of “free power” for embedded systems. Frank Shen from Portwell examines the continuing interest in small-form-factor board design while Guy Moxey from Fairchild considers the latest adoption of multichip modules for power designs.

Embedded engineers know that while processors form the heart of an embedded device, most of the challenges occur at the interface. That is why EIS regular editors Ed Sperling and Dave Bursky investigate many of the new developments and improvements in the latest USB and PCIe interfaces.

What about embedded trends in the wireless market? You’d know part of the answer if you were able to attend Dr. Jan Rabaey’s presentation at the recent CDNLive event: “Sensory Swarm!” Dr. Rabaey, distinguished professor at UC Berkeley, talked about immersive computing in which microprocessors combine with sensors--wireless sensors for mobile apps--to gather information, process data, and then control an amazing array of systems. His presentation perfectly highlighted the challenges facing system-level embedded designers.

Ed Sperling followed up with Dr. Rabaey in a short video, “Tires that Talk,” that explores a real-world example of immersive computing (i.e., embedded sensory “nodes” in automotive tires) – www.chipdesignmag.com/sld. Sensor nodes consist of layers of circuits, where the sensor would be one layer. Processing systems is another layer power is yet a third layer, and wireless capabilities are in the final layer. These nodes would be very small and--here’s the key- -self-powering! Meeting this last requirement means that mechanical engineers must work in harmony with their electronic brethren. Can you say multi-discipline, system-level design?

Ed Sperling followed up with Dr. Rabaey in a short video, “Tires that Talk,” that explores a real-world example of immersive computing (i.e., embedded sensory “nodes” in automotive tires) – www.chipdesignmag.com/sld. Sensor nodes consist of layers of circuits, where the sensor would be one layer. Processing systems is another layer power is yet a third layer, and wireless capabilities are in the final layer. These nodes would be very small and--here’s the key- -self-powering! Meeting this last requirement means that mechanical engineers must work in harmony with their electronic brethren. Can you say multi-discipline, system-level design?

John Blyler can be reached at: jblyler@extensionmedia.com