Ahead of the game

By Paul Dempsey |  No Comments  |  Posted: April 14, 2010
Topics/Categories: Embedded - Platforms  |  Tags:

The embedded world Exhibition & Conference remains one of the industry’s most vibrant gatherings.

In 2009, the embedded world Exhibition & Conference bucked the world recession, and the signs are that the 2010 edition (March 2-4) will similarly overcome continuing economic uncertainty.

Last year, a little under 16,000 attendees made their way to Nuremberg, Germany and just over 700 companies exhibited. The organizers say that most major players in the industry had already committed to March’s show before the end of last year and that the number of first time exhibitors is up 10%. They also anticipate a 17% rise in international involvement—in 2009, a little less than a quarter of the delegates came from outside Germany.

It has to be said that while embedded world is generally seen as one of Europe’s (and, for the embedded space specifically, the globe’s) best run shows, it has also benefited from serendipity.

It is to its credit that the exhibition and conference alike have successfully brought together the two ‘visions’ of embedded as a concept: that led by board-level design and that led by software and intellectual property (IP). However, they have been helped in this regard by convergence in the two areas and innovations in both.

At the board level, there is the growing importance of 32bit microcontrollers (MCUs), for example. On the software side, much excitement surrounds the expansion of Google’s Android operating system into the embedded space.

The embedded world conference gives due attention to these and other hot topics across its three days. A full list of areas covered appears in the box on page 18, but here we pick out a few of the highlights.

Day One

Tuesday (March 2) will see both a morning (9.30am-12.30pm) and an afternoon (2pm-5.30pm) technical session dedicated to the subject ‘Multicore Processing and Processors’. The speaker line-up includes experts from Freescale Semiconductor, National Instruments and QNX Software Systems.

Three of the eight talks address the theme of programming multicore devices, a challenge that continues to dog the industry even as the number of cores being squeezed onto silicon mushrooms according to its own variant of Moore’s Law. What are the implications for software developers focused on real-time tasks? How can dataflow management help? Have we already identified techniques that will optimize the quality of the code?

Those are some of the questions the two sessions seek to answer, while Freescale will describe a multicore architecture that it has optimized for the embedded space, in contrast with the PC-targeted microprocessors that have dominated the discussion so far.

Two of Tuesday’s classes will offer hands-on perspectives on another pair of sensitive areas. In the afternoon (2pm-5.30pm), Dr. David Kalinsky, one of the embedded sector’s leading consultants, will run a class on ‘Safety-Critical Systems’.

Then there is also the option of an all-day (9.30am-5pm) class on ‘Cryptography and Embedded Security’. It features 10 sessions with presenters from sources such as Fraunhofer SIT, Volkswagen and NXP Semiconductors. It will look at this increasingly high-profile area through such solutions as smart cards, adaptations of RFID and, of course, software.

Day Two

Wednesday (March 3) morning will see a session (9.30am-1pm) look at the topic of ‘Visualization/Human Interfaces’ with contributions from companies such as Fujitsu Microelectronics, Microchip Technology and Atmel. The talks will range across topics from touch sensors through to GUIs and, indeed, bringing these aspects of a system together.

The success of Apple in the consumer space with devices such as the iPhone has once more emphasized the role man-machine communication plays in differentiating a finished product. At the same time, such shopping mall successes have raised expectations for usability in the industrial and other segments.

The afternoon contains a session (2pm-6pm) addressing another hot button topic, ‘Healthcare Technologies’. Contributors here will include Siemens Healthcare and the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, and the talks themselves will look both at how to adapt technologies (e.g., multicore) to healthcare’s needs and at some specific projects such as one that enables diagnosis by mobile phone and another that seeks to prevent noise-induced hearing impairment.

Wednesday’s classes include an afternoon (2pm-6pm) workshop that seeks to answer the perennial but nevertheless persistent and important question, ‘How Can Software and Hardware Teams Work Better Together?’

Day Three

Thursday (March 4) will see day-long packages of technical sessions dedicated to four areas (all running 9.30am-1pm & 2pm-4.30pm): ‘Development Tools and Debug Methods’; ‘Embedded Linux’; ‘Software Development Methods’; and ‘System-on-Chip’.

As if this were not enough to choose from, there is also a clash of afternoon sessions (again 2pm-4.30pm) in two interesting and fast growing markets.

Google’s Android OS has already been creating a stir in mobile communications for handsets and, more recently, tablet or netbook computers. There is now a major push to extend its reach still further into embedded applications, and embedded world will see representatives from Mentor Graphics, Wind River Software and Noser Engineering offer their views on the opportunities here.

The ‘M2M – Machine-to-Machine Communication’ session addresses a more mature segment of the embedded market, but that does also mean that we finally have a clear view of what can be done efficiently, securely and safely. Speakers from Sierra Wireless, Cinterion Wireless Modules and Telit Wireless Solutions will provide their overview.

Of course, most conference attendees come to embedded world with already very closely defined agendas, particularly given that today’s time and travel budgets are heavy constrained. Nevertheless, these highlights still point to the breadth of relevance that the event succeeds in addressing. And let’s conclude this brief scan of the conference program by looking at three elements that do more consciously reach out to the broadest possible audience.

European Union Research

Advanced Research & Technology for Embedded Intelligence and Systems—better known by the ARTEMIS acronym—has become a key program through which the European Commission and some of the continent’s leading technology companies direct much of their R&D work.

On Tuesday afternoon (2pm-5.30pm), the initiative is running a series of presentations that offer an overview of its activities and go on to describe some specific programs.

Focus areas that will be discussed during the ‘open house’ include ‘smart’ applications, the relationship between embedded systems and ‘green’ technologies, and ‘safety relevant’ strategies.

The ARTEMIS event is open to the public and does not require that attendees are registered conference participants. However, advance registration is recommended. Details are available at the event’s website given at the end of this article.

Student Day

The last day of the conference is being given over to a new ‘Campus’ initiative that aims to give engineering students a better understanding of the role embedded systems play in today’s technological landscape. It specifically aims to promote careers that have an embedded focus as well as strengthening the broader links between industry and academia.

A highlight of the program will be a 90-minute lecture by Professor Steve Furber of the University of Manchester, although he is still better known as one of the original innovators behind the ARM 32bit RISC microprocessor. Prof. Furber’s talk is entitled “Building Brains – Neural Modeling with Embedded Processors” and will detail some of the work happening in this area as part of the broader Grand Challenge of reverse engineering the processes of the human brain.

Electronic Displays

The fourth edition of the electronic displays conference will take place alongside embedded world on the Wednesday and Thursday (March 3-4). The event features 13 sessions covering most of the field’s headline areas, including such emerging areas as interactive touch screens and OLEDs (see box).

The conference opens with a keynote address on the ongoing importance of LCDs in defining the display market by Maximilian Huber, president of Sharp Microelectronics Europe. 

Further details on the embedded world exhibition and conference are available online at www.embedded-world.eu. You can preregister for free exhibition tickets at the site or admission is Eur18 for a one day ticket or Eur25 for a three-day ticket on site. The web address also contains details on registration. Details on the electronic displays conference are available separate at www.electronic-displays.de

embedded world 2010 at a Glance

Technical Sessions

Monday, March 2

  • Software Quality
  • Cortex-M
  • Multicore Processing and Processors
  • Test and Verification
  • Software Development in High-Level Languages
  • Real-time Operating Systems

Tuesday, March 3

  • Wireless Technology
  • Visualization/Human Interfaces
  • Healthcare Technologies
  • Embedded System Architecture
  • Model-based Design
  • Energy Management

Wednesday, March 4

  • Development Tools and Debug Methods
  • Android
  • Embedded Linux
  • Software Development Methods
  • System-on-Chip
  • M2M Machine-to-Machine Communication

Classes and Hands-on Tutorials

Monday, March 2

  • Cortex-M meets USB
  • Introduction to RT Linux – Preempt-RT
  • Design of High Availability Embedded Systems
  • Modeling Behavior with UML: Interactions and Statecharts
  • Cryptography and Embedded Security
  • EuP Directive: Challenges and Chances
  • Design of Safety-Critical Systems

Wednesday, March 3

  • Hard Real-Time and Safety-Critical Java
  • Linux for Safety-Related Systems
  • Architectural Design of Software for Multicore Systems
  • An Interactive Workshop: How can Software and Hardware Teams Work Better Together?

Thursday, March 4

  • IEC61508 – Developing Safety-Oriented Systems
  • Architectural Design of Device Drivers
  • Model-based Development with Eclipse

Full details on papers being presented in each session are available online at www.embedded-world.eu

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