2013’s top ten design articles and what this says about 2014

December 23, 2013

Bernard Cole-December 23, 2013

In December of each year Jack Ganssle produces his list of top products and technologies for the year. In this year’s “8 most important milestones in 2013,” he includes MCU crypto engines, low power components, measuring low power, best path software analysis using unit testing, and Fairchild’s prediction of a billion sensors in embedded systems design’s future. As a long time user of scope/analyzer hardware debug tools, he also includes Gabortronic’s oscilloscope watch on his list.

Also in December, it’s my job to report the ten top design articles of the year, based on the total number of views and the number of online comments they received. Depending on how the traffic statistics for the articles are sorted, the results provide not only a good window on our readers’ primary interests for the year, but also reveal what your interests may be next year.

These Top Ten Design Articles - included in this week’s Tech Focus newsletter - were selected from only those published on line during 2013. The list still reflects the major concerns among developers in C- and C++-language programming and debugging issues, as well as in software tools for evaluating performance and using operating systems more effectively.

But as in previous years, going back to 2005 or so, the list also reflects a continuing interest in adding more connectivity to the untethered sensor designs that make up the “Internet of Things.”

However, in my evaluation of the traffic statistics, when I limited the selection to the articles published in the last six months of 2013, the mix skewed from predominately traditional embedded software development topics to include many more articles on so-called Internet of Things topics such as:

Building wireless M2M sensor networks: issues and challenges
The importance of low power sensing for the Internet of Things
Building an IoT web services framework
Legacy code and the Internet of Things

When I opened up the list to include this year’s views of design articles published as far back as the year 2000, the list changes even more. Viewed from this perspective, the popularity of IoT connectivity recedes, taking second place to more traditional embedded MCU design topics. In addition to PID without a PhD (published in 2000), articles in the top ten list would have included:

Device drivers in user space
Building bare-metal ARM systems with GNU
Bare metal software development with or without an RTOS
Debugging the Linux kernel with JTAG
Mastering stack and heap for system reliability
Interrupts short and simple: Good programming practices

When I evaluate your interests from all of these different perspectives, a common set of trends emerge that are likely to continue into 2014:

1) An interest - going back at least a decade - to the emergence of IPv6 and 6LoWPAN and the tools and techniques that allow you to add more sensor capability into your designs.

2) A continuing interest in programming languages, tools, and operating systems and how to use them in designs that are not only more connected, but are untethered and facing power consumption problems as never before.

3) Using the new capacitive touch user and visual user interface options not only in mobile devices but a wide range of embedded UIs.

4) Increasing interest in software and hardware design methodologies that allow development of energy efficient MCU designs able to operate effectively in an un-tethered wireless environment powered only by batteries or energy gathered from the ambient environment.

5) A continuing interest in C and C++ programming, but in combination with a range of Internet and Web languages and protocols such as Java, TCL, publish/subscribe, peer-to-peer, and Web services mechanisms for devices such as REST.

6) An increasing interest in adding Internet Protocol capabilities to connected IoT designs, but only where the real-time, deterministic requirements of the application allow it.

How do these stats and the conclusions I have drawn fit with you particular perspective about what is important for you to learn as an embedded system developer? What were your personal top favorite articles and interests during 2013?. Based on your professional perspective, will that change during 2014?

Embedded.com Site Editor Bernard Cole is also editor of the twice-a-week Embedded.com newsletters as well as a partner in the TechRite Associates editorial services consultancy. He welcomes your feedback. Send an email to bccole@acm.org, or call 928-525-9087.

See more articles and columns like this one on Embedded.com. Sign up for the Embedded.com newsletters. Copyright © 2013 UBM--All rights reserved.

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