The challenges ahead in embedded systems design

May 19, 2014

Bernard Cole-May 19, 2014

As a technical editor, I am faced with the challenge of both tracking broad trends that allow me to spot the hot spots, but at the same time drill down in key areas to deal with issues specific to a particular industry or application area.

That is one reason I value professional meetings such as the 2014 Design Automation Conference being held this year in San Francisco. It has always had a lot of content related to embedded systems design that is useful in tracking the hot spots and problem areas facing embedded developers.

There is even more this year. Excluding teardowns and poster sessions, there are 36 events and venues included in the Embedded Systems track at DAC of interest to developers: FPGAs, security, multicore, mobile architectures, the Internet of Things, low power, sensors, automotive, and industrial.

Included in this week's Tech Focus newsletter are recent design articles and technical papers on some of the topics under discussion at DAC in two weeks, many authored by speakers who will be presenting papers at DAC or who will be moderating various technical sessions and panels. In addition, several other papers and articles I can recommend are:

Power efficient C Code for ARM Devices, by Chris Shore of ARM

Optimizing embedded software for power efficiency, a four part series by Rob Oshana, Freescale Semiconductor, and Mark Kraeling, General Electric

A 64-core platform for biomedical signal processing by Houman Homayoun, Jordan Bisasky, and Tinoosh Mohsenin, George Mason University, and Farhang Yazdan, BroadPak Corp.

Hardware-supported virtualization on ARM by Prashant Varanasi and Gernot Heiser, University of New South Wales, Australia

Of the many, many possible choices at the 2014 DAC, the following are on my Editor's Top Picks list because of their relevance to all embedded developers no matter what their application:

Low Power at System and Software Level, a tutorial by Chris Shore of ARM and Robert Oshana of Freescale, in which they examine the key factors in the power consumption of a typical software application and extrapolate design and coding techniques that minimize these. They also present the results of a case study involving a connected power measurement system.

Optimizing ARM-based SoCs for performance. Frank Schinmeister of Cadence will address methodologies for performance analysis of advanced ARM interconnect, as well as approaches of hybrid execution for software bring-up. "Design of multi-core systems requires a sophisticated approach to architecture of the SoC, and a thorough methodology for embedded software development," he said. "Ensuring that expected performance targets are achieved is becoming more and more difficult due to the number of processors and the expanding configuration choices of system interconnect."

Workshop on SEAT (Suite of Embedded Applications and Kernels). SEAT is a new initiative from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency that is so new there is virtually no information available on it yet.  According to its organizers, the SEAT workshop will inform embedded designers about what is needed to define a new, open suite of benchmarks, together with methodologies to evaluate in terms of end-to-end performance and power for DOD’s application areas. As with almost all DARPA initiatives since the mid- 1970s, this effort will have a profound impact on every market for embedded design.

Multi-Processor Platforms for Low Power Real-Time Embedded Applications. According to the organizers of this workshop, the lack of efficient concurrent software development tools and platform abstraction middleware hinders adoption of new architectures and increases software development costs. The main objective of this workshop is to bring together key players from both industry and academia to discuss the challenges and outline possible solutions, while verifying their applicability to real systems.

Other venues that I think are of relevance and interest to embedded developers include:

Validation of Industrial-Scale Real-Time Embedded Systems
Multiprocessor architectures You Can Rely On
Programming on Heterogeneous Compute Architectures
Better Software By Bigger Smarts

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 column like this one on Embedded.com. Sign up for subscriptions and newsletters. Copyright © 2014 UBM--All rights reserved.

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