“Eeek Alors!” As we French say. There are now only two weeks to go until the next Embedded Systems Conference — ESC Silicon Valley. I cannot wait.
In addition to hosting and moderating the RTOS Smackdown, attending as many sessions as I can squeeze in, helping to present the ACE Awards, and generally running around in ever-decreasing circles shouting “Don't Panic! Don’t Panic!” — I'm also going to be presenting a couple of papers of my own.
One of these little scamps is titled Not Your Grandmother's Embedded Systems. This was sparked a year or so ago when I was visiting my mother in England. Sometime before, I'd given her an iPad along with an Amazon gift certificate.
We were sitting in the family room at the time. “What shall I buy?” asked my mom. “What do you want?” I replied. After a few moments' thought, my mom said that she'd been thinking about purchasing an electric kettle and a matching electric toaster, so she went up on Amazon, found a pair she liked, applied the gift certificate, and sat back with the air of a job well done.
My grandparents on my mother's side lived in a tiny little house that we used to visit every Sunday afternoon. When my mother was a little girl, they had one cold water tap in the kitchen, the house was heated using coal, and it was lit using gas lamps (the outdoor toilet they used was located at the end of the yard they shared with other houses in the square). They kept a tin bath in the cellar and brought it up once a week for the family bath night.
They didn’t get electricity until 1943 during World War II when my mom was 13. I don’t know why, but the thought of my grandmother — who passed away when I was around six years old — popped into my mind. “What do you think grandma would have thought about you using an iPad and the Internet to purchase an electric kettle and an electric toaster from the comfort of your front room?” I asked.
My mom thought about this for a moment, and then she replied: “Your grandmother wouldn’t have understood the iPad or the Internet — what would have really amazed her would have been the thought of an electric kettle and an electric toaster!”
The point of all this is to consider how rapidly things are changing, and also how quickly we get used to these changes. The first iPhone made its appearance in 2007, which is only eight years ago as I pen these words. The first iPad leapt onto the center stage in 2010. Even though this is only five years ago at the time of this writing, I already find it hard to envisage a world that didn’t have my iPad in it.
And we are really only at the beginning of the ride. Intelligent sensors, sensor fusion, the Internet of Things (IoT), wearable electronics, processing at the edge, security, security at the edge, wearables, the cloud, big data, embedded vision, embedded speech, robot avatars, virtual reality, augmented reality… all of these things are going to change the way in which we experience and interface with the world and with each other.
What can we predict about embedded systems in 10, 20, 50, and 100 years' time? Well, one thing we know for sure is that they won't be our grandmothers embedded systems. As to the rest… well, you'll just have to attend my presentation at ESC Silicon Valley.
Have you signed up for ESC Silicon Valley yet? If not, why not? I'll tell you what; why not get your pass right now while there are still a few good seats left?