Today, the world is transitioning from independent devices to connected systems. Intel has been inside the embedded systems market for over 35 years, having developed 270+ CPUs and SoCs as well as 100+ chipsets.
Herb Hinstorff, director of Marketing, Developer Products Division, Intel Software, said that Intel has been engaged at all levels of the solution stack. He was speaking at the 13th Global Electronics Summit at Santa Cruz, USA.
There are tools to deliver on developer needs, such as debuggers, analyzers, compilers and libraries. There are tools to provide the deep system-level insights into power, reliability and performance.
On the debuggers side, they increase system and device stability and reliability. There is an efficient system, SoC-wide defect analysis and ultra-fast system-wide tracing for software debug. There is an integrated application level debugger. Overall, it speeds system bring-up and development. Analyzers focus on boosting reliability, power efficiency and performance, enabling differentiated designs, system-wide analysis and deep insights.
Compilers go on to optimize performance and efficiency. There is the industry-leading C/C++ compiler. It boosts system and application performance on Intel Atom, Core and Xeon processors. Compilers also take advantage of the multicore to boost performance.
There are libraries for performance and efficiency. Software building blocks increase the developer productivity and boost performance. There are specialized testing functions that handle signal processing, data processing, complex math operations and multimedia processing. Besides, there is future-proof software investments. The libraries provide an easy way to take advantage of the multicore capabilities to boost performance.
The Intel System Studio is an integrated software tool suite that provides deep, system-wide insights to help accelerate time-to-market, strengthen system reliability, and boost power effiency and performance. The JTAG interface has system and application code running Linux.
There is a continued broadening of the OS support, and a broader range of tools to match the expanding SoC capabilities. There is more extensive software based training and simulation, as well as market-specific libraries and APIs.
Given that the market is transitioning from independent devices to connected systems, more capable SoC platforms and complex software stacks require deeper and broader system-level insights and optimizations. Embedded developers can take advantage of the Intel System Studio to accelerate the time-to-market, strengthen system reliability, and boost power efficiency and performance of the Intel architecture-based embedded and mobile systems.
Analog Devices, as part of its University Program, has launched a personal, affordable and portable lab for electronic circuit design in India at the 26th international conference on VLSI, currently ongoing in Pune, India.
Somshubhro Pal Choudhury, MD, Analog Devices India Pvt Ltd said that miniaturization and portability are the key trends today. Desktops have given way to laptops, and then to smartphones and tablets. The expensive vital signs monitoring equipment in hospitals is giving way to more wearable miniaturized power sipping (and not guzzling) medical gadgets. It is natural that education and training for engineering students start taking a similar route.
What is this personal lab?
What it means that the lab will fit in the palm of your hand and would enable students to learn analog and mixed signal design, anywhere and everywhere not limited by their expensive university/college lab setup where access is fairly limited and the amount of time is limited as well to a few hours every week.
What does it mean for students?
With the lab, now, the students can carry on their experiments in their hostels/dorms and in their classrooms, using this portable lab, run experiments quickly during the class to see how real time real-life how a certain change in circuit impacts the results.
It has all the elements of a complete and expensive Lab setup on this portable kit connected with the student’s laptop. Students would not need equipment like oscilloscopes, waveform generators, logic analyzers and power supplies, expensive equipment that only top universities can afford.
Along with the portable kit, online and downloadable software and teaching materials, circuit simulation tools, online support and community, online textbook, reference designs and lab projects to design to enhance learning as a supplement to their core engineering curriculum are also provided free of charge.
This launch is likely to revolutionize electronic circuit design education and learning among the engineering academic community.
As promised, here’s a discussion I had with STMicroelectronics (ST) on its new 8-bit microcontroller, the STM8S — the STM8S105 and STM8S207 MCUs for industrial and consumer applications. The discussion focused on how MCUs are now beginning to shape the embedded world.
Addressing this specific query, Patrice Hamard,8-bit Product Line Marketing Manager, STMicroelectronics, said that ST is reshaping the microcontroller with a solid offer on 8bit that has a strong overlap with STM32 in terms of feature and price. “Therefore, we are going to cover the need for embedded functions with only two architectures. Compared to the previous segmentations (8-, 16- and 32-bit), we are changing it to become 8- and 32-bit only,” he clarified.
On the STM8S, Hamard said that the key application areas addressed by the MCU are industrial and appliances in consistent with the robustness and the reliability. He said: “The STM8S family is supporting 5V as well as 3V, thereby making it ideal for the platform evolution as well as a good offer for the consumer and mass market. The cost advantage given with the fine lithography also allows us to propose this family to key customers in PC peripherals and consumer applications.”
Rich feature set an imperative in MCUs
Rich feature set is an imperative in the MCU market. How is the STM8S meeting this requirement?
According to him, the feature set is driven by the need to reduce the bill of materials (BoM). The robustness allows simple design and board layout with less filtering. The clock controller gives low noise emission figure, thereby reducing the need for shielding. The precise clock allows the suppression of the external resonator. The embedded true E²Data suppresses the need for additional E²PROM. Safe reset (no grey area) makes the reset system safer suppressing the need for external reset circuit.
The clock system, as well as the two independent watchdogs will contribute to pass safety regulations together with ST’s class B libraries. All communications peripherals are available as well — (U(S)ART, I²C, SPI, CAN, LIN), advanced 16-bit timers and timebase, fast and precise 10-bit ADC.
Finally, the 8-bit core is one of the most efficient with 20MIPS at 24MHz. Built around the 8-bit data path, the micro has 16bit registers and 32bit memory memory width.
So, how does the STM8 deliver high performance with excellent code compactness?
Hamard said that thanks to the new CISC instruction set designed in collaboration with ST’s C compiler partners, the compactness has been significantly improved. The Harvard architecture with its three-stage pipeline allows to reach up to 20MIPs @ 24MHz.
ST is offering family demonstration boards and instrument cluster reference designs as well. In fact, there are currently solutions available in ST with the STM8S/128-EVAL, as well as with third parties like raisonance with the REVA KIT. Many reference designs are complete or in progress demonstrating motor control (sensorless brushless DC motors), power management, smart card protocol, capacitive sensing, etc.
Demand for low-power MCUs
According to Hamard, the trend of low power is coming from the increase of the application base on battery in consumer and personal care, combined with a strong demand for power meters (electricity, water and gas). Energy saving is important and electronics can contribute a great deal to reduce the overall energy consumption.
“The STM8S is not specifically aiming low power applications even though the features of the family are good for many low power devices. It is in our plan to introduce later this year a dedicated family to address low voltage/low power arena,” he added.
Considering that there are 8- vs. 16- vs. 32- bit MCUs, and also that affordable prices are perhaps the reason that the Asian region is witnessing a migration to 16-bit architectures. In this scenario, why 8-bit?
Hamard said: “Everything depends on what we consider to be “affordable” and who we are talking to. For large quantity and simple functions, affordability is between $0.20 cents to $0.50 cents. By construction, a 16-bit device cannot be as effective as an 8-bit product. We even believe that the microcontroller prices will decrease and address applications served with few discrete devices. The main reason is the consistency of architecture.
“The construction of the 32- and 16- are very similar, especially with the new generation of ARM-based products. The only reason to go from 8- to 16-bit is for performance improvement. We say that our 32-bit portfolio is already overlapping the 8-bit segment in performance and in price, leaving no room for the third core structure.
“Taking a closer look at our portfolio, you will realize that our 32-bit is also providing 16-bit instruction set, and our 8-bit is built with 16-bit register, 24-bit memory address bus, etc.”
This session on day 1 of the recently held ISA Vision Summit had a good mix of speakers. Moderated by Anil Gupta, managing director, ARM India, the speakers included V.R. Venkatesh, Senior Vice President, Product Engineering Services, Wipro Technologies, Kishor Patil, MD & CEO, KPIT Cummins, and Raju Pudota, MD, Denali Software. This is a slightly longer blog post, so bear with me, friends.
Kicking off the panel discussion, ARM’s Anil Gupta highlighted the strength of the Indian embedded software industry. As per IDC, embedded software accounts for 81 percent of the projected share of overall revenues in 2008, at $5.98 billion. This will go up to $7.29 billion, while still accounting for 81 percent of the projected share of overall revenues in 2009. The projected share of the overall workforce in this industry segment stands at 82 percent — at 125,663 — which will be maintained during 2009, even as this figure rises to 149,978! Quite impressive!!
Incidentally, a recruiter recently requested information on the workforce numbers in the Indian semiconductor industry. I hope this partly answers your question, friend.
Gupta further added that embedded design had now entered several sectors such as automotive, aerospace and defense, consumer and home products, household appliances, industrial controls, infrastructure and construction, medical electronics, transportation and traffic management, security and telecom. In short, a bright future for this segment ensured, especially in India.
Trends in embedded design include: more demand for features, embedded is driving complexity, and prices have been generally constant/going down. As a result, all of the innovation happening has been giving new experience to the consumers.
Wipro’s V.R. Venkatesh cited the example of medical devices, which are adding functions via embedded software. He presented the case of an efficient infusion pump, which ensures that the five rights of medication safety — right person, right dose, right medicine, right time, and right way — are never violated!
Another example cited was of adding functions in mobile devices. Such mobile devices are making use more dual core chip solutions to run multimedia and MIPS intensive apps on a separate applications processor. They use open operating systems (OS) such as Symbian, Linux, etc., and also have built in sensors, such as motion sensors.
Consequently, usability is now becoming the focus, rather than pure user interface of the mobile. On the impact of software complexity, he said that OSs and middleware are now becoming more complex to enable quicker and easy to develop mobile applications, and also develop complex mobile application with the right API support. He also cited new advances in automotive telematics and navigation. These are implemented through complex software and demanding more hardware features.
Challenges in developing embedded software
However, increasing embedded software has also brought its own challenges. Today, the share of software is ~50 percent of the total cost of development.
Some of the challenges while developing embedded software include multiple regulations; split personality: display (local and remote), compute and communicate; UI; low-power design, application specific accelerators; wireless as de facto connectivity; integrated sensors and geospatiality for enhanced applications; built for untrusted environments (security, virtualization); and integration with service providers and enterprise systems.
Hardware and software in an embedded system are complimentary to each other. Software (middleware and applications) should be used as a ‘Differentiator’ to add more winning features to any new product, he added. There is a need for a platform approach for embedded software development to enable scaling of features and usage across applications. Finally, developers need to keep the cost vs. functions vs. efficiency tradeoff in mind.
Embedded systems landscape trends
KPIT Cummins’ Kishor Patil touched upon the growing need of convergence for hardware and software. According to him, the key driving forces are:
* Low cost and high performance;
* Low power and green;
* Maximum storage and least area/cost;
* Development: Faster TAT (turnaround time);
* Mechanical centric => electronics centric; and
* High value and low cost.
Trends in hardware include silicon shrink at 0.7x, technology challenges at 45nm and below, and business challenges — high volumes for amortizing high mask costs.
Commenting on the embedded systems landscape: market trends and implications, he cited these to be: electronics and applications emerging as distinctive factors; increased electronics in automobiles (~100 MCUs/ECUs per car); silicon shrinkage reaching its limit w.r.t. geometry and costs; and enhancing system performance with the same hardware.
Content growth has been quite notable in automotive electronics. According to Patil, in 2000, an average automobile had 1 million lines of code, 20 ECUs, electronics worth $400, and software constituted 2 percent of the cost of the car. By 2010, an average car will have 100 million lines of code, 50 ECUs, electronics worth $1,100 and software cost at 13 percent of the cost of a car. Of this, 50 percent will be infotainment and 30 percent will be power train.
Impact on stakeholders
So what is the impact on the stakeholders? For OEMs, tier 1s, and semicon companies, it brings new business opportunities, and application specific solutions — common/configurable hardware differentiated by software.
It allows R&D to migrate from proprietary interfaces to open and standard-based interfaces. The impact on software developers includes use of heterogeneous processors, managing parallelism, as well as dealing with scalability, compatibility and re-usability.
Embedded software’s growing importance
Denali’s Raju Pudota focused on current trends, such as growth in UMPC (ultra mobile PCs) designs; multimedia and automotive. For hardware, it means higher integration, multiple embedded processors in one SoC, and multiple microcontrollers (MCUs) with independent functions. Most importantly, embedded software is needed to make all of this work!
He said that more software is required to run all of the IPs integrated on the chip. These can be procured from hardware IP vendors, or developed in-house or contracted to third party providers. Also, different processors require different skills and capabilities. Finally, integration and embedded OS level capabilities. Incidentally, embedded software has become a requirement on the semicon provider. However, third-party IP has been evolving slowly.
Semicon providers’ activities are manifold. These involve developing software for in-house hardware components, sourcing software from hardware IP providers, integrating various software components, and also test software offered to the system integrator.
These growing activities present its own challenges, typically: quality of software provided by hardware IP vendors, high integration time, software verification, and increased investment in software capabilities — and emergence of a new area of core competence.
What can the ecosystem do?
Given this scenario, the ecosystem has a major role to play. These include:
Ease of generation of hardware-aware software — define methods to abstract design to enable auto-generation of device drivers; define methods to auto-generate device drivers; few companies investing in this area.
Define framework/platform to integrate software — similar to on-chip interconnect; leverage mature general software development processes; and customize to specific requirements of embedded area. Finally, make software offerings open-source; leverage large independent developer community.
Ease testing of embedded software
There is also a need to ease the testing of embedded software. Some points to note: Leading semicon providers have home grown software integration and testing platforms; making use of traditional methods — hardware-software co-simulation, simulation acceleration, emulation, and FPGA testing. However, no standard methodology is said to be evolving.
Many industry solutions currently exist for hardware-software integrated testing, such as CoWare, SystemC, Mirabilis, etc. Then, there’s also simulation accelerators (parallel processing), and emulators (FPGA based).
Challenges include: huge investment in model development, high cost of ownership, the ability of third party IP provider to enable integration, and large turnaround time per test. A proper framework for the integration and testing of IPs and embedded software is the need of the hour.
Pudota added that while this is a tough challenge, it would improve time-to-market for complex SOCs, develop a third-party IP ecosystem, and enable the semicon provider to focus on core competencies.
It is my endeavor to write about semiconductors, solar/PV, EDA. FPGAs, embedded, etc., and related companies and solutions via this blog. One of the pleasures of writing a semicon blog is in being able to connect with and make a whole lot of friends from different countries, cultures, and companies, as well as bloggers.
One such gentleman is Ravinder Gujral or Ravi, as he’s popularly called, Director – Business Development, Dexcel Electronics Designs Pvt. Ltd. Dexcel, based very much in Bangalore, India, is among one of the emerging companies in the embedded space in the country. Ravi contacted me, like several others, via my blog! Likewise, I was elated to find myself a new friend and reader! Later, we met during Altera’s SOPC event, where Dexcel was exhibiting as well.
Dexcel is an electronics design house with capabilities in embedded systems development, firmware Designs and development, DSP processors based designs, imaging software, device drivers, Linux porting, system level designs and development, application and automation software, development of audio and video codec, telecom related stacks, board designs and FPGA based digital designs services, and providing end-to-end solutions to customers.
Dexcel has an alliance and partnership with Altera (ACAP and DSP partner), and with Analog Devices (DSP collaborator), Texas Instruments (DSP third party Network Member), Actel (solution partner), Atmel (AVR 8-Bit RISC Consultants), Montavista Linux developer, etc. Quite impressive!
Estimate of Indian embedded industry
Naturally, our discussion veered toward embedded. Providing his estimate of the embedded design industry in India, Gujral said as per the survey conducted by the India Semiconductor Association (ISA) and Frost & Sullivan, the projected Indian semiconductor and embedded design industry will grow from $3.25 billion in 2005 to $14.42 billion in 2010 and to $43.07 billion in 2015. The Indian design organizations are moving beyond simple labor-cost arbitrage to become true contributors to product innovation.
Going forward, it is important to keep an eye on the drivers for embedded design. The main growth drivers for embedded software in the coming period will be mobile communications, military applications, networking devices and providing more intelligence and connectivity to consumer devices.
Gujral said: “The explosion of embedded devices is made possible mainly due to the rapid growth of semiconductor chips each year, and semiconductor devices becoming faster, cheaper and less power hungry. As the Indian domestic market is growing rapidly, this growth trend will continue. Simultaneously, there are technical challenges to design such products and services, and the availability of technical qualified resources has become more important.”
Localizing product designs and manufacturing
Given that India’s strength has been in embedded, would the biggest growth factor for embedded come from the localization of product design and manufacturing from India?
Indeed, it is! Gujral noted: “The growth factor for embedded companies will come from localization of product design and manufacturing from India. However, we should be doing well in localization of product design, rather than in manufacturing. Indian design engineers are strong in product innovation and design processes, while on the other hand, our manufacturing ecosystem is not as competitive as China.”
Going forward, India should be focused on fine tuning its design processes and best practices to become more efficient and productive, compared to counterpart in the US and Europe. “We have to develop strong domain technical knowledge to bring more innovation in product development,” added Gujral.
Some time ago, National Instruments (NI) introduced LabView 8.6. LabVIEW is a very data flow programming tool! And inherently, it has always been parallel processing!
Take note folks, as parallel is now increasingly becoming regular! And your multi-core problems could well be solved by NI’s LabView.
Given the ongoing recession, interestingly, NI projects double digit growth in 2009 for the region comprising India, Arabia and Russia. Jayaram Pillai, MD, India, Russia & Arabia, NI, says that these places have been traditionally strong in localization. The key is: what can NI’s technology bring in for indigenization!
Pillai notes: “We have always talked about virtual instrumentation. How can you bring the local content into the system?” NI’s LabView’s ability has generally been to create a program out of a non-program. “Images are your natural language. We feel engineers can express themselves using graphical language,” he adds.
LabView inherently meant for parallel programming
Most embedded systems provide quick and easy solutions. NI is trying to put electronics into every problem that it confronts. About 98 percent of the processing environments are used elsewhere, other than the PCs. What embedded can do today is tremendous! NI’s LabView is inherently meant for parallel programming.
Pillai says: “When you are running two cores, it is important how you share the data between the cores. We have multi-core for Windows. We can do multi-core programming for embedded as well.” NI’s tools perform multi-core programming, which itself is a software program.
Besides targeting particular silicon and other resources, there are other problems or areas to deal with, such as test maths, state chart and data flow programming, etc. NI has built all of these components into LabView 8.6 — things such as programming MCUs, FPGAs, Power PCs, etc., can be handled.
Solve embedded problems by developing simpler systems!
Coming back to embedded systems, there are two requisite steps — programming the electronics and programming the system. “We see ourselves getting into the space of solving multi-core problems,” adds Pillai. “Everything today is software enabled. We intend doing for T&M what spreadsheet has done for financial analysis.”
Definitely, software is the instrument in virtual instrumentation. “It means, to solve 98 percent problems of the embedded applications, there is a need to make the development of embedded systems even simpler,” he contends, and rightly so!
“As we went higher in abstraction, we found that we were able to solve more problems. You’ve got to get into a high level of abstraction, which can be done by LabView, called system design platform. LabView today, is the platform for test and embedded,” notes Pillai.
In grahical system design, there is a need to leverage and collaborate in parallel. Graphical programming harnesses multi-core processors. LabView has also been the runaway software tool for DAQ and instrument control. As a result, more and more people can now do embedded programming.
Pillai advices: “If you want to build systems, you need to integrate NI design tools with third-party design tools to share the data. The integration of data has to be seamless.”
Benefits of graphical system design
Graphical system design should do for embedded what PCs did for desktops. “We are a graphical design company and are now building systems,” he adds. The concepts of graphical system design include design, prototype and deploy.
So, what are the product lifecycle benefits of graphical system design? There are multiple hardware systems priced at different cost points based on performance. A LabView user can install the software into an expensive system for testing purposes, and later, deploy on to a lower platform.
Legacy problem and major paradigm shift
Sharing of data between cores is key! Parallel programming in sequential does not make sense. Rather, data flow programming makes a lot of sense. However, there is a legacy problem as far as multi-core programming is concerned. That is: how do you shift so much of the sequential programming knowledge into data flow? This will require a major paradigm shift.
Besides, there are a lot of sequential tools as well. There is a need to integrate all of that into multi-core. So far, multi-core problems have been addressed in test and embedded systems. It is still on in gaming, though! Maybe, this too will be cracked in a matter of time!
To all of my Chinese friends, Kung Hei Fat Choy!
Ever since I have blogged about embedded companies in India, I’ve received a few messages, regarding jobs in the embedded segment in India. Some others have dropped hints about companies who haven’t made my list!
It seems the companies are not hiring, or they’ve put hiring on freeze. Does it mean that not many projects are going on currently? Or, is there a way for freshers to make a start somewhere? For starters, those who want their companies listed in any top 10 list, are they even trying to help freshers or those looking for better jobs in the embedded space? What is their policy for hiring?
Or, are they too dependent on design services, so much that they do not have enough products to work on or develop! Or, maybe, they don’t have many ongoing projects? I have had so many people tell me “India should do product development in semiconductors!” So, is that really happening? Or, is it merely a statement?
I did come across this web site called Dev Seeker, which is said to list jobs in embedded. DevSeeker also has a page that lists some of the embedded companies in India.
I also came across a blog on Monster, which lists several posts from some freshers, as well as some others who have actually asked folks to send in their resumes.
There is another web site from KBS Consultants, which has listed some jobs in the embedded segment. Another site, called GotAChance, also has links to jobs in the embedded space. Another search led me to a site called ITJobs.
By the way, I’ve no way of knowing whether any of the sites are updated, or, if they are, how frequently are those getting updated with the latest information. Sincerely hope that all of these sites are getting updated frequently!
Whenever I speak with semiconductor professionals, they don’t stop raving about India’s might in embedded. If that’s the case, why are so many talented people not being able to find jobs? Or even worse, how do freshers get to make a start? I am not sure if companies offer freelance work for embedded software engineers. However, it is an option that could be considered.
There are several companies in China and Japan who are seeking fresh and good talent in the embedded space. A Japanese delegation visited India last August for the India-Fukuoka (Japan) IT, Embedded Software and Semiconductor Business Workshop 2008. Some of companies are:
* Daichi Institution Industry Co. Ltd
* DISCO (Dai Ichi Seitosho Co. Ltd) Corp.
* Inoueki Co. Ltd
* JETRO (Japan External Trade Organization)
* Kyushu Economic Research Center
* CLAIR (The Japan Council of Local Authorities for International Relations), Singapore
Prior to that, last May, the India Semiconductor Association (ISA) and the UK Trade & Investment and Science & Innovation Network launched a study titled “Scope for collaboration between India and the UK in semiconductor driven industry 2008.
I am also aware that China and Taiwan require lot of talent in embedded software and systems. They can surely make use of the talent available in India.
I am sure that all of these folks would be able to help out at least some of those looking to make a career in embedded systems and software. Otherwise, what’s the end result of making such trips to India and talking about India’s talent in embedded! Freshers need to make a start somewhere, so please help as many as possible.
To all of those freshers starting out to make a career, try and get the relevant experience, and the money will follow. Do not pursue it the other way round.
This is a request to the global embedded systems and software fraternity — there are quite a lot of talented and fresh engineers in India in the embedded systems and software segment, who are also seeking jobs. Give them, or at least, some of them, a chance! Can you kindly help them?
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Pradeep Chakraborty's Blog was selected as the best in the world in the Electronic Hardware category for 2008-10, by Electronics Weekly, UK.
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