Embedded Systems: India's next big growth avenue
ciol.com : Sep 23, 2010
India's role in this industry has been providing design and software support for various embedded devices in the market
Below are a few trends which I foresee would make it big in the coming years and decades:
a.The Penguin’s march is un-stoppable.
Linux, from being an underdog of the Desktop world is now emerging as the next super power. The reasons for this are numerous. Things like open source code base, the reliability, the elegance of Linux code base, the modular design and more importantly the royalty free code base which keeps the costs low, contribute to the juggernaut which is Linux.
To give an example in AMI 30 percent of products and services were based on Linux in the Year 2005. At the present moment 70 percent of all our products and services are in one way or other related to Linux and is growing.
b.Where are my other cores?
For long time, software developers were having a free meal with the VLSI engineers increasing the clock speed of the CPU in every successive generation leading to a free boost in performance.
But with rapidly increasing power consumption at higher clocks, physical limitations of Silicon, the future seems to be Multi core.
Though Multi Core is nothing new to embedded systems which traditionally had a general Microcontroller and a DSP, native Dual cores like the soon to be released Cortex-A9 from ARM and other silicon vendors which would make the software parallel (SMP or Symmetric Multi Processing as it is known) do pose a new set of challenges to the developer.
c.Let the fight begin
One overlooked fact is that ARM ranks among the most CPUs sold in the market and not Intel, purely based on the virtue that 90 percent of all consumer electronic devices use one or other type of ARM core. In this mixture, the desktop champion Intel has come up with its Atom CPU lines. Though the power consumption and flexibility of Atom in its current incarnation is nowhere near the ARM flavors, Intel has too much resources and talent at its arsenal to put a good fight with ARM. I am not able to predict who would win, but one fact is certain, the consumer definitely wins.
d.It is all a virtual world Virtualization has already become a major player in desktop space by making effective use of all the performance offered by powerful hardware but is making its presence felt in the embedded world also.
e.Gone with the wind (Clouds rather)
Cloud computing is unlikely to play a major role in next year or even till the first half of this decade. But nowadays, with all the devices getting increasingly connected with each other using high speed networks, the promise of performing only basic processing in the actual target hardware and doing all the heavy computations in a server farms or clouds thus reducing both the cost of the end hardware and power consumption, is a technology which cannot be over looked.
Whether my predictions turn out to be true or not, one thing is for certain. We live in an interesting time indeed.
(The author is Technologist, Embedded Systems Group, American Megatrends India Pvt Ltd)
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