Verticality - Embedded.com

Verticality

The broad and diverse scope of embedded systems develoment includes at least seven key vertical market sectors. This month's issue of Embedded Systems Programming focuses on the automotive industry, one of the most dynamic of these sectors.

More than 6 billion processors of all types (4-bit to 64-bit, including DSPs) were sold in 2002. That astonishing number was actually off about 25% from the record volume of over 8 billion established two years earlier. Only about 100 million of those chips (just 1.5%) became the brains of PCs, Macs, and UNIX workstations; the rest went into embedded systems.

Six billion processors translates to one processor for every man, woman, and child on Earth manufactured every year. And that's just the bad years. It would be fair to say embedded systems are everywhere—or soon will be. The technology is only three decades old at this point—imagine its ultimate potential! Applications span the realm of imagination. Think of the number and diversity of insects in the world and you're on the right track.

So many different applications and, thus, so many different types of embedded processors. It's becoming increasingly valuable in some circles to break up that huge market into more easily digested chunks. Applications are grouped roughly into seven key categories: communications, computer peripherals, industrial controls, military/aerospace, consumer, medical, and automotive, plus the obligatory catchall, other/miscellaneous. These are called vertical markets.

This month, we've decided to focus Embedded Systems Programming vertically for a change. In this special issue, we've devoted much of our content to the impact of embedded technologies in the automotive market. Two of your favorite columnists have even gotten into the spirit, offering their unique perspectives on this important technology area.

Our cover story, on hybrid and fuel cell vehicles explains that the real challenge in building such vehicles is integrating a number of individually proven technologies into a viable and durable product. A large number of embedded controllers are required to do the job right.

Niall Murphy's column focuses on the physical-layer features of Controller Area Network (CAN), a bus-based communications architecture. For a look at one of the higher-layer protocol options available with CAN, turn next to “Approximating CANopen“.

Finally, Jim Turley takes us on an entertaining and insightful journey as he looks at the many embedded systems in high-end vehicles. His eye, of course, is really on the future of mainstream autos. Jim says that everything from safety improvements to telematics and infotainment options will soon be bringing more CPUs to a car or truck near you.

While you're reading this month's issue, I hope you'll give some thought to what it is that ties the many vertical markets together. There is significant overlap between the work of designers of embedded systems for applications as seemingly diverse as consumer gadgets and military/aerospace systems. I suspect it's in this overlap that you find your identity as an embedded system designer.

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