Friday, January 10, 2014

Embedded trends 2014

It's the time of the year to predict what will happen in the embedded market within the year.


Big Things will be multicore architectures and 3D graphics. Of course, in consumer electronics those have existed for years, but I'm looking things from traditional embedded systems point of view. The driving force is the car industry. A modern premium car may have more than 100 CPUs and MCUs in total. What a nightmare from management of software development point of view!

The car industry will put significant effort in development of multicore software development methods and tools within next few years, in order to reduce the number of micros in a car. This will lead into significant challenges when several safety critical functions are combined; how to guarantee performance and isolation of software blocks. Virtualization is one key technology to enable concentration of functions.

In the mobile devices domain - smart phones and tables - major revolution will occur in gamin. New CPU releases like Nvidia Tegra K1 will change the market, by providing PC/console level graphics support in mobile devices (Nice article in AnandTech). That will influence industrial embedded as well, by setting new level of expectations to performance. The car industry is once again the key player in 3D graphics, as display based dashboards (Article in Wired) and infotainment are penetrating from  premium to standard models.

Industrial internet

There is quiet revolution ongoing in industrial business models. Companies no more sell devices to each others, but provide services and get paid according to usage or capacity. Classical example is Rolls Royce no more selling jet turbine engines, but "hot air behind the plane". RR charges customers based on flight hours. In order to maximize up-time and minimize down-time, preventive and remote condition monitoring is needed. RR is said to know better the state of an individual engine in flight than the crew in the cockpit.

Why does RR want to have it like that? That's because there is bigger money in services and spare parts business, than in initial sales of engines. When providing the engine as a service, RR does have full control over the whole supply chain thorough the life-cycle of the engine. The same analogy exists in many other fields of industries; cranes, elevators, generators, compressors, etc. For the paying customer, it is all about financial risk management; initial investments are minimized and you pay only for the usage proportional to your production.

Industrial internet, in terms of Connected Factory, Wireless Sensor Networks, Internet of Things, etc. will be a major enabler of the new industrial business models. Big data is not a driving force, it is a necessity due to the flood of information provided by the other means.

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