Any discussion on Information technology invariably leads to the thought process of the Desktop PC and the plethora of software running on the same. The fact remains that less than 1% of the total computing devices could be classified under the Desktop/Laptop space. These are the unseen warriors, the humble electronic washing machine, the omnipotent cell phone, the electronic controls in your car which revolutionized the way we live make up a segment of Industry what is called as Embedded Systems. We shall take a brief look into the Indian Embedded Industry and the Future trends in this highly competitive and challenging market. The Indian Embedded Industry, India’s role and challenges in the Embedded Industry: In a Macroscopic Level it could be argued that all Embedded Devices at the end of the Day are basically software running on a piece of Hardware. But both the requirement for development and the tasks involved are diametrically opposite to the challenges faced in an enterprise IT segment. In many cases the software running on a Modern day car or even a Smart phone could far outweigh the complexity of even the enterprise level systems running SAP or Oracle. India’s role in this industry has been one of providing design and software support of various embedded devices in the market. Increasingly from the one of pure embedded software solutions Indian design houses are moving more into offering Hardware design , ASIC design and Verifications , FPGA based designs…etc. and thus both the services and the design are moving up the value chain from providing a simple outsourcing solutions to complete designs are being done in India. It is also to be noted that all the major semiconductor and electronics organizations have their presence and operation in India doing many of their next generation designs is a testament to the fact of the resilience and growth of this Industry in India. Saying this, the challenges faced by embedded systems industry is also immense. As systems become more complicated the lack of skilled resources is a major problem for the sustained growth. Unlike traditional IT industry the skills needed by Embedded Systems needs to be fostered and built up in college itself since good understanding of Hardware , Computer architecture , Compilers and a host of other skill sets are needed to be a successful developer in this Domain. Developing reliable and secure software is also one of the major challenges being faced by this Industry. Increasing trends and the Future of the Embedded Industry: As Isaac Asimov beautifully put it “The only constant thing is change”, nowhere is it more relevant than in the Embedded Industry. From the humble, yet all conquering 8051 to the desktop performance equivalent OMAP 3530 with an ARM + DSP core in a single die, the hurricane of change is blowing fast. Below are a few trends which I personally foresee would make it big in the coming years and decades,
a) The Penguin’s march is un-stoppable. Linux from being an underdog of the Desktop world is emerging as the next super power. The reason for this are numerous, the open source code base, the reliability, the elegance of Linux code base, the modular design and more importantly the royalty free code base which keeps the costs low all contributes to the juggernaut which is Linux. To give an example in AMI 30% of products and services were based on Linux in the Year 2005. At the present moment 70% of all our products and services are in one way or other related to Linux and is growing. In Consumer electronics space the march of Linux is un-stoppable, all Android phones runs Linux underneath giving an run to iPhones of the world, Intel-Nokia’s Meego open source mobile OS is an another example. Saying this some commercial OS like QNX , Vx Works …etc would still have their markets but with the cost of hardware dropping daily , Tux is here to stay and would be the dominating force in the future. b) Where are my other cores? For long time software developers were having a free meal with the VLSI engineers increasing the clock speed of the CPU in every successive generation lead to a free boost in performance. But with rapidly increasing power consumption at higher clocks, physical limitations of Silicon, the future seems to be Multi core. Though Multi Core is nothing new to embedded systems which traditionally had a general Microcontroller and a DSP, native Dual core like the soon to be released Cortex-A9 from ARM and other silicon vendors which would make the software parallel ( SMP or Symmetric Multi-Processing as it is known) does post a new set of challenges to the developer. c) Let the Fight begin One overlooked fact is that ARM is ranks among the most CPU’s sold in the market and not Intel purely based on the virtue that 90% of all consumer electronic devices use one type of ARM core or another. In this mixture the Desktop champion Intel has come up with its Atom CPU lines. Though the power consumption and flexibility of Atom in its current incarnation is nowhere near the ARM flavors, Intel has too much resources and talent at its arsenal to put a good fight with ARM. I am not able to predict who would win, but one fact is certain, the consumer definitely wins. God bless completion. d) It is all a Virtual World. Virtualization is already a major player in desktop space by making effective use of all the performance offered by Powerful hardware but is making its presence felt in the embedded world also. For example Android runs on a VM (Dalvik VM) over the underlying Linux kernel. In future more such microscopic kernel providing memory management, IPC, scheduling …etc. would become big in the coming years.
e) Gone with the Wind ( Clouds rather) Cloud computing is unlikely to play a major role in next year or even till the first half of this decade but with the world all the devices getting increasing connected with each other using High Speed networks the promise of performing only basic processing in the actual target hardware and doing all the heavy computations in a server farms or clouds thus reducing both the cost of the End hardware and power consumption is a technology which cannot be over looked. Whether my predictions turn out to be true or not, one thing is for certain. We live in interesting times indeed. Thanks for reading the article. For More Information about Embedded Services , http://www.amiindia.co.in or email@example.com