Is Embedded Going Net-Crazy?A Response
You can hardly talk about anything in the electronics industry without the word "Internet" creeping in somewhere. Certainly the embedded market is embracing the concept of worldwide connectivity in a big way. But is adding Internet access always a good idea?
Check out Rich Quinnell's original commentary, Is Embedded Going Net-Crazy?.
I have read and reread your commentary on Embedded and Internet. I finally realize you have fallen into the same trap that most non-technical marketing managers fall into. They don't understand that it is Internet Technology that is being implemented and NOT the Internet.
I don't feel that most consumers want their range and refrigerator to make calls to the Internet. For one thing they won't pay for it. I do get a laugh over the proposed washing machine that will call the repairman for service. Lets seemy current washing machine is 12 years old and hasn't needed service. I have never had a refrigerator repaired. Way would I pay for the added technology to do something that I don't think is needed? I digress.
I do see Internet technology being added to many smart devices. These devices already have some sort of connection to another device or even a network. The use of Internet technology makes the connection a lot easier, less expensive, and may add functionality that is really useful. In fact, adding an embedded Web server and using an existing PC and browser, the device manufacturer may save up to half of his manufacturing costs by eliminating the front panel with all of its hand wired switches, displays, and knobs. (see: http://www.go-embedded.com/EDN%20Article.pdf).
In the hospital one finds a lack of networking to patient rooms. The ICU and similar rooms are completely wired but not the wards or other rooms where patients are recovering. To run CAT 5 cables is really expensive but to use some of the new wireless technology might make sense. Both 802.11b and Bluetooth can be a solution if Internet technology is used in the instruments, infusion pumps, and cardiac monitors. In fact, Bluetooth has all the protection, discovery, and identification required by medical industry. The combination of 802.11b and UPnP plus some security could be equally viable. But the device manufacturers must first implement Internet technology into their instruments. These devices may never see the Internet but they can communicate using well developed, easy to implement, low cost, and readily available Internet hardware and software.
Edward F. Steinfeld, Marketing Consultant
Automata International Marketing
Site Director's response:
I agree that adding networking technology to embedded devices can be useful. I was an early proponent of embedded Web servers as a user interface replacement in my article in EDN four years ago (4/10/97). What I was commenting about was the tendency I was seeing of connecting devices to the Internet, just because you can. I've seen a lot of promotional material on the washing machine type of application, and very little if any on the more practical uses such as your hospital example (although Bluetooth may not be a good choice because of the EMI effects on sensitive diagnostic equipment).
Yes, Internet technology has a place in embedded. What I was commenting on is the wild-eyed application frenzy that I am seeing that is promoting Internet connectivity. It seems having the word Internet in the press release is being used freely simply to ensure media interest. My intent with the commentary was to make people stop and think about whether or not Internet connectivity was really useful, or just being added for hype purposes.
Part of my concern is that the marketing efforts that are hyping the Internet for connecting everything will falsely raise consumer expectations, then disappointment will cause a backlash that will impede more valid applications. I understand the difference between applying Internet technology and connecting to the Internet as the network. Much of the marketing material I see doesn't seem to make a distinction. It looks to me like the industry is doing an awful lot like bandwagoning, and that's what I want people to stop and take a hard look at.