Broader, wider, deeper - Embedded.com

Broader, wider, deeper

Software content in embedded systems continues to increase, as does the diversity of intelligent systems. Here's how Embedded Systems Programming plans to accommodate this evolution during the coming year.

Broader, wider, deeper: that pretty much describes the evolving embedded systems landscape. Somewhere along the line embedded systems became ubiquitous. I've been thinking about that as we're entering a new year and planning how we'll take the Embedded Systems franchise forward over the next 12 months.

While you can still find a plethora of 8-bit microcontroller development going on—and 4-bit as well, for that matter—most design starts are for 32-bit systems, with 64-bitters popping up over the horizon. Moreover, diversity continues to be the keyword for embedded development. There's no shortage of processors (Contributing Editor Jim Turley says over a hundred) or of products in which to embed processors. No shortage of transistors, either—Jim says there are something like 60 million for every last man, woman, and child on earth.

And as those transistors get packed in tighter, you find upwards of a hundred million transistors on a single die, and that's even before the industry hits 90 nanometers. Nonrecurring engineering costs for ASICs are driving the emergence of platform-based design. A platform device is a standard product that includes a processor plus peripherals plus software targeted to a particular category of product; system-level FPGAs sporting processor cores also constitute platforms to many.

Additional transistors have huge implications for embedded systems development. They translate into lots of cheap memory, which means features continue to migrate from hardware to software. Large code bases mean more software design and verification issues complicated by more highly integrated platforms with reduced internal visibility.

As embedded development grows even more diverse—if that's possible—managing to cover it in an intelligible way gets harder. This year, we plan to focus more on industry sectors, though as you know, design methodologies will cross product and sector boundaries. The sectors we're looking at include military/aerospace, industrial, consumer electronics, medical, communications, computer peripherals, and automotive/transportation — pretty much what you'd expect. While much of the development requirements cross sector boundaries, we want to do a better job of addressing unique problems in each sector.

We're already anticipating this kind of segmentation in the upcoming Embedded Systems Conference (taking place March 29 to April 1 at Moscone Center in San Francisco). If you've seen the catalog for that conference, you'll note that we've listed suggested curricula in several industry sectors.

The on-line embedded presence will be a major beneficiary of this increased focus on development in each industry sector. Embedded.com is adding an industry focus section, where you'll find design articles that address development problems unique to individual market sectors.

Some things don't change, however. Embedded Systems Programming will continue to focus on firmware development problems. Solving them requires a unique blend of hardware and software skills. And these problems continue to increase thanks to a greater dependence on software in system development.

Editor-in-chief Michael Barr is away on family leave caring for his new son.

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