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Posts Tagged ‘Indian embedded industry’

Growing might of Indian embedded companies!


I am always delighted when people leave comments, especially suggesting some names or things that I may have overlooked. One such name I may have missed, especially from the line-up of the formidable embedded systems and software industry of India is Procys, a company, where, a reader has suggested that: “most of the employees of Intel or TI for that matter would have served at Procsys once at least!”

First of all, many thanks for that reminder, friend. However, please don’t forget that I am merely a blogger putting down my thoughts. My list of India’s top 10 embedded companies is probably not the final list! Nor am I connected with any media house to qualify as someone who’s list should be considered as an authority!

I just want to remind readers that this blog is merely an honest attempt to be part of the Indian technology ecosystem. As I said, I don’t represent any media house. My thoughts are personal and do not represent the industry status or opinion.

I’ve mentioned earlier the difficulties I’ve had to face, and continue to face, while blogging! Why, some people have outrightly looked down on my blogging! 😉 Some others have said — What are you writing? If it is not about IT, who will read that stuff? Don’t try to do such things in India! 🙂

However, it pleases and humbles me to find that some readers of this blog think so! 😉 All I can say is a warm thanks to all of those who care to stop by this blog!

What pleases me even more is the continuing interest in the now known might of the Indian embedded systems and software (and services) industry.

According to the ISA-IDC report of 2007 on the Indian semiconductor and design industry: the embedded software industry in India accounts for a $5.98 billion or 81 percent of the projected share of overall revenues in 2008. This has been further projected to grow to $7.29 billion or 81 percent of the projected share of overall revenues in 2009! That is quite a substantial growth!

This may be a tough year in comparison. However, have full faith in India’s embedded systems and software industry. It will continue to rule for a while, am sure!

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Microcontrollers unplugged! How to choose an MCU…

April 24, 2009 Comments off

Last month, I’d written a post on how MCUs or microcontrollers are shaping the embedded world. Taking this discussion a little further, I got into a conversation with Upendra Patel, CTO, eInfochips, based in Ahmedabad, with the help of my good friend Princy!

MCUs shaping embedded
On being quizzed on how microcontrollers are shaping the embedded world, Patel said that devices are designed by keeping specialized application in mind and not for general purpose usage in the embedded world. As a result, embedded devices need specialized controllers/co-processors, which are designed to execute the typical functionality in real time by offloading work of main processor.

“Microcontroller fits perfectly in this role, which is self-contained and independent in execution and still supplements to the main processor for processing power. MCUs are the integral part of embedded world and depending on the application, they assume the role of a main processor or a co-processor.

Today’s MCU possesses rich features like, ADCs, PWM generator, communication ports like I2C, SPI, UART, USB, CAN etc. reducing the gap between Microprocessors but still maintaining their unique identity by only focusing on controlling and not on number crunching (for which micro-processors are more suitable). The MCUs allow the designers to create head room for future expansion, as they take up some load of main processor.

Embedded devices have been penetrated in all markets where real time performance is vital. Micro-controllers have given significant contribution for this penetration. For example: communication market, surveillance market, biometric devices, micro-finance devices, medical instruments, automotive market and robotics.

Rich feature sets
Rich feature set is an imperative in the MCU market. What should one watch out for?

Even though rich feature set is imperative in MCU market, one should watch out on technical front for following features of MCU:
* Functionality coverage.
* Functionality coverage vs. Bill of Material
* Performance in terms of MIPS
* MIPS Vs. power consumption
* Simplicity in design and board layouts
* Standard compliance for low noise emission and temperature control
* robustness and consistency
* pin multiplexing of interfaces

Other non technical point to watch for is price announcements v/s feature set. The announced low price may be for least feature product and once you choose the MCU with all the features, it may be out of budget for the product

While choosing an MCU
Let us study the key factors that influence choice of MCUs today.

According to Patel, customers looks for following factors of MCUs which influence the choice of MCU.

Price: In small applications, MCU price is a main contributor of BOM and reduced price of the same reduces BOM to a large extent in mass production. For example Built-in peripherals – significantly reduce cost and space. Also, prices of IDE licenses may also affect the decision making of customer.

Performance: Cache memory or internal memory size – significantly impacts performance, similarly Memory width and speed

Availability: Availability is one of the main factor which board designers take care of because slight delay in product launch can result in significant market share erosion for customer. Also Availability in industrial and commercial temperature grades and through distribution channels.

Life span: The life span of the MCU depends on number of years a MCU manufacturer determines to continue support for it as a main stream product. More the number of years, higher the chances of selection. It also includes roadmap for future upgrades

Power consumption: This applies to battery operated devices. Lower the power consumption, longer the recharging/replacement time. There is a trade off between speed vs. power consumption

IDE support: These days products have become more sophisticated, while at the same time the life cycle has become shorter. It is very important to have a equally sophisticated IDE to speed up the development cycle and reduce time-to-market.

Technical support: History has shown that excellent products with not up to the mark technical support has never been successful. It is very essential for MCU provider to provide support at design and development stage of product development.

The other important aspect is about the track record of a semiconductor vendor in deliveries and post silicon bugs/issues reported.

Why are low-power MCUs in demand?
Now, it is time to determine the chief reasons for the demand in low-power MCUs.

According to Patel, in today’s consumer market of electronics and communications, handheld devices like the mobile phones and PDAs are mostly operated with batteries. The battery life is becoming a major concern for most of the portable devices because they run several different types of applications hence a demand for low power MCUs.

Also, designs are becoming smaller, and the weight and size of power supply/batteries is impacting the MCU choice and power consumption. Another trend is toward fanless designs to reduce noise and cost, and at the same manage thermals in smaller form factors.

For example, the MSP430 from Texas Instruments is an ultra-low-power MCU, which is suitable for devices where power saving is crucial. Those MCUs which has capability to handle data with CPU intervention participate in family of low-power MCUs.

In order to support low power functionality, MCUs support several power down modes for battery consumption. For example,
* Turning off CPU leaving every thing else functional.
* Running only low frequency clock oscillator and the peripherals running on it.
* To individually and automatically turning on and off peripherals when needed thus saving power being consumed by peripheral.

Applications
MSP430 ultra-low power MCU from Texas Instruments: used in wireless, medical and low power industrial applications.
Atmel’s ultra-low per MCU: used in Zigbee, security and keyless entry applications which spend significant amount of their time in sleep mode.

8- vs. 16-bit MCUs
Affordable prices are among the reasons that the Asian region is witnessing a migration to 16-bit architectures. Then, why still have 8-bit MCUs?

Patel advised that although 16 bit MCUs are available at low prices in Asian market, the primary reason for selecting 8-bit MCUs are as follows:
* Design simplicity
* Easy up-gradation to 16 or 32 bit architecture
* Cost effectiveness
* Development tools
* Easy to adopt

Finally, let us have a look at eInfochips’ roadmap in the embedded domain. Patel said that eInfochips is more focused on RISC based higher end MCU based products in streaming media, industrial, avionics, security and surveillance domains.

“The primary focus is on 32-bit MCUs, but 8- and 16-bit MCUs are used for specific applications like medical, automotive, micro finance handheld devices, health monitors, and home automation functions in the overall product. With more than 250 engineers in eInfochips embedded divisions, we work on most semiconductor vendor’s MCUs.”

ISA Vision Summit 2009: Growing influence of embedded software on hardware world

March 7, 2009 Comments off

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.

The pic here shows Wipro’s Venkatesh making a point, watched by Raju Pudota, Amil Gupta and Kishor Patil.

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.

Seeking jobs in embedded! Can anyone help?


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?

Top 10 embedded companies in India


Right then! This topic should be of interest to several folks in India as well as overseas! Especially, those who are looking to tap the renowned Indian talent in embedded systems and software.

It is very well known that all the leading MNCs are present in India, and well, do great work in embedded systems and software. Definitely, any top 10 list of such companies would include the likes of:

* Intel
* Texas Instruments
* Freescale
* Philips
* Samsung
* LG Electronics
* And some of the other leading multinational companies.

However, my exercise is NOT to look for the leading MNCs in this domain, but to find out who are the leading Indian companies ‘working’ in the embedded systems and software space.

Some immediate ones that would spring to mind could be the likes of Ittiam, Sasken, Mistral, KPIT, Symphony, Mphasis, eInfochips, Infosys, TCS, HCL Technologies, Wipro, etc., perhaps.

There are so many others, including Yindusoft, Dexcel Designs, Ample Communications. Ibex, EmLabs, eSpark Infotech, i Micro System, Adamya Computing, etc.

However, I am not very sure how all of these companies are currently performing, nor is it possible for me to find out in a short time. Nevertheless, having been in close touch with some of these companies, it is quite possible that the downturn could be hitting some of the smaller companies, and maybe, even the bigger ones. Well, it is a downturn after all, and spends are not that high!

It is widely hoped that the very strong Indian embedded industry will overcome these problems and shine brightly in the new year.

In my list of the leading Indian companies in the embedded space, I am clubbing some of the larger companies, which are also into other activities, such as IT and outsourcing services.

In no particular order, my top 10 companies in the embedded systems and software space in India would be:

1. Tata Elxsi/Sasken
2. Ittiam Systems
3. Infosys/TCS
4. HCL Technologies/Wipro
5. KPIT Cummins Infosystems
5. Mphasis/BFL
6. Symphony
7. Sonata Software
8. Mistral/eInfochips
9. Dexcel Designs
10. Robosoft/Yindusoft

Yes, do feel free to disagree, friends! 🙂 Again, I know this may not be a perfect list!

There are several companies in the embedded space within India who have been really doing outstanding work. I will try my best to contact as many of these companies and find out what these folks are presently working on!

I will also TRY and revise this list, IF I am able to round up as many companies, and am able to rank them, based on the solidity of their current projects, and NOT on the revenue gained in 2008. Again, I agree, this criteria may not appeal to all, but then it is my list 🙂

Therefore, feel free to disagree, folks… and please add several names of these great Indian companies in the embedded systems and software space, along with their email IDs, so I can easily touch base with them!

PS: One reader has mentioned about whether these companies have great products! Well, would be great if the companies could come up and say how great their products are!!

Thanks for the feedback, Mr. Nair, and good to have new names… 🙂

Another reader had mentioned ProcSys! Many thanks for those names, friends!

Embedded computing — 15mn devices not so far away!

November 11, 2008 Comments off

It has been close to three weeks since the Intel IDF @ Taipei, Taiwan. However, way too many things happened there, which still deserve a mention. One such event would be the keynote on embedded Internet by Doug Davis, Intel’s Vice President, Digital Enterprise Group and General Manager, Embedded and Communications Group.

Today, there are 5 billion connected devices, and this number should likely go up to 15 billion by 2015, as per IDC. However, technology barriers need to be overcome. Davis cited these challenges as reliability and long life, software scalability, low power and low cost, privacy and data security, IPv4 addressing and open standards. As of now, the Intel architecture (IA) is said to be (due to lack of any good competition) the preferred architecture for the embedded Internet.

While on embedded products, post the Intel Atom processor, Davis said that the Menlow XL is likely for a Q1-09 introduction. The associated market segments include retail, PoS, digital signage, kiosks, vending, ATM, etc.

On digital PoS for retail markets, Davis highlighted India, and rightly so, adding that digital retail PoS would find applications, given the growing and quite affluent Indian middle class. Such a digital PoS device could improve inventory management and transaction security, allow more efficient space utilization, etc. Yet another application is digital signage for business intelligence [as informative displays].

Davis showed all of us MediaCart’s example. MediaCart is providing a unique shopping experience. It is trying to revolutionize the shopping experience with a computerized shopping cart that assists shoppers, delivers targeted communications at the point of purchase, and streamlines store operations. Incidentally, Singapore’s Venture GES was contracted by MediaCart to develop the new shopping experience cart.

Pervasive embedded computing
Davis believes that embedded computing would become more pervasive in the days ahead. “The Intel architecture has all of the unparalleled scalability to meet these needs,” he added.

Davis estimated that China could go on to become the world’s largest semiconductor market over the next five years or so. Semiconductor TAM for industrial automation is likely to grow from $13.5 billion in 2008 to $17.5 billion in 2012. India is said to be the second largest destination for industrial automation, which is interesting, and something to look forward to.

Digital factory
We have all had some visions, sometimes of how a digital factory would look like? And, who would be working at such a factory. Possibly, robots, or industrial robots would make up the attendance!

Well, if KUKA, a company that builds the world’s leading robotic and automation devices is to be believed, we are a little closer than before to this vision or dream. Bruno Geiger, managing director, Asia Pacific, KUKA, pointed out in his chat with Davis that the company makes robotic and automation devices based on Intel’s platorms. That, ‘takes us closer to the vision of a digital factory!’ This is a great example of multi-core in industrial automation.

Portal for embedded designers
Getting back to the embedded Internet, Davis said that the greatest challenge for customers is to integrate new technologies. To address this need, Intel is investing in a new Web portal for embedded designers. He announced that the Intel Architecture Embedded Design Center, a Web portal for embedded designers, will likely get launched in the spring of 2009. This is indeed something to look forward to!

Asia has all the trappings to become the largest market for embedded computing, and Taiwan, the largest market for automation. Well, don’t count India out! Embedded systems and software is India’s strength, and don’t be surprised to see and hear about lots of such activities from the country.

No fabs? So?? Fabless India shines brightly!!

October 23, 2008 Comments off

This is no secret: fabs or no fabs, fabless India has been shining brightly all this while and will continue to do so for some time!

I’ve blogged on numerous occasions about India’s strength in design services, India as the embedded superstar, and well, about India’s growing might in global semicon. A fab will surely boost India’s image on the global map, but it is definitely not that essential!

It was very pleasing to hear S. Janakiraman, former chairman, India Semiconductor Association, and President and CEO-R&D Services, MindTree, also highlight this fact at Altera’s SOPC conference recently. Perhaps, India has been emphasizing on having a fab. However, if the fabless segment keeps growing as it has been up until now, that would boost industry growth as well!

Top 10 global fabless companies
For the record, here are the top 10 global fabless companies of the world, as reported by the Global Semiconductor Alliance (GSA), formerly, Fabless Semiconductor Association, USA.

According to GSA, the total fabless revenue was $27.3 billion, a 12 percent growth year-on-year during 1H 2008. I believe, quite a few, or nearly all of the companies within the GSA top 10 list, have some sort of a presence in India!

Let’s also re-visit the numbers provided by ISA-Frost & Sullivan in its study on the Indian semiconductor industry. The India semiconductor TAM (total available market) revenues will likely grow by 2.5 times, and the TM (total market) will likely double revenues in 2009. Is this not good enough?

Bear in mind that India also plays an active role in the verification and software domains, and it is increasingly covering the entire design chain. The fabs. vs. fabless debate has been going on since 2004-05. Back then, too, many industry observers were backing the fabless route. Now, this discussion is perhaps, a non-issue, with the fabless segment easily the star performer.

India has long had the expertise in chip/board design, embedded software and system engineering. Also, the product and service differentiation is being increasingly driven through software, where India already enjoys a lead over other the APAC countries.

India distinctly has a tremendous opportunity to lead the global market in both semiconductors and electronic products, with or without fabs, or even being fabless!

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