Finding savings off the shelf

August 01, 2012

Finding savings off the shelf

Embedded systems designers continuously face the same age-old conflict, as management calls for reduced budgets and shorter schedules while customers insist on increased functionality. Designers traditionally deal with this dichotomy by incorporating COTS technology from the embedded computing marketplace. These products allow designers to trade a slightly higher recurring cost for huge savings in both development cost and schedule while incorporating the latest technology. A typical embedded project can reduce the design effort to little or no custom hardware and application-specific software.

COTS products also give design teams a leg up on software development with board support packages, compatible operating systems, vendor-supplied drivers, and sample firmware. This issue of Embedded Computing Design includes our annual Resource Guide, featuring off-the-shelf products divided into our typical Silicon, Software, and Strategies categories, as well as a special COTS Collection section, in a comprehensive product directory that can simplify your next design project.

In this issue we look at the current trends and future updates that designers can anticipate in the embedded computing industry. The Silicon section kicks off with a high-level Q&A interviewing Arun Iyengar, corporate VP and general manager of the AMD Embedded Solutions Group, who discusses how Accelerated Processing Units (APUs) advance visual computing by combining high-performance serial and parallel processing cores with other special-purpose hardware accelerators. Nicolas Daval of Soitec outlines the technology breakthroughs that have overcome the limitations of making transistors smaller to reduce costs and improve performance while lowering power consumption. In a technical interview, David Raun, senior executive VP and general manager at PLX Technology, presents the technical and cost advantages of employing PCI Express as a standard interconnection fabric in off-the-shelf products. Examining the connectivity issue, Mike Hopkins, mobile industry specialist at Imagination Technologies, answers questions about the new generation of embedded devices promising to deliver a more open, simple, and effective living environment.

As embedded systems increase in complexity, software development has become the long lead item in most design projects. This issue’s Software section probes some of the roadblocks and alternate paths facing developers. For example, Alan Grau, president and cofounder of Icon Labs, explores the missing layer of security in many connected embedded devices, along with the steps necessary to add protection. Continuing the discussion, Steve Jahnke and Richard Jahnke of Galixsys Networks present the challenges facing new Machine-to-Machine (M2M) software developers and the tools available to ease the transition. Answering a frequently asked question among developers, Ashish Kuthiala of Electric Cloud gives the pros and cons of employing open-source software in your next embedded project. In another article on high-performance computing applications, Uri Mishol of Xoreax illustrates the technical advantages of parallel processors, cluster computing, grid computing, and public cloud computing.

The Strategies section provides an overview of many technical and architectural decisions facing the embedded design team. Updating us on a widely deployed COTS module standard, MEN Mikro Elektronik’s Barbara Schmitz looks at the evolution of CompactPCI, along with the innovations and features of the recently adopted serial version. Exploring the effectiveness of end-to-end M2M management services, Jacques Suire of Sierra Wireless evaluates the life-cycle cost of secure, cellular deployments and cloud-based administration. Continuing with the connectivity theme, Satish Ram of Kontron shows how the astonishing number of M2M connected devices that will be used in the next decade will create new application opportunities to launch connected services and devices worldwide.

This issue also highlights the winners of our first Top Embedded Innovation contest. Culling through more than 60 product entries published in the June issue, our editorial staff selected one winner for each of the Silicon, Software, and Strategies categories, along with the Innovation of the Year, awarded to MIPS Technologies for the company’s Aptiv Generation of microprocessor cores.

In the midst of these exciting projects we’ve been working on, the staff here at OpenSystems Media want to pause and extend our condolences to the family and coworkers of Jeff Bock, director of marketing for Freescale Semiconductor’s Industrial and Multi-Market Microcontrollers segment, who passed away unexpectedly earlier this year.

The technical articles and Q&As in this issue concentrate on off-the-shelf hardware and software products or strategies that you can use to ease development challenges. Our goal here at Embedded Computing Design is to keep you up-to-date on trend changes within the industry so that you can stay ahead of the competition. Please give us your ideas for print articles and online updates that we can provide to support your design efforts. If you have a suggestion for a technical article or video that would be of interest to you or other designers, let me know.