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The Embedded Software Beat

A Q&A with Stefan Skarin, Chief Executive Officer, IAR Systems Group AB.

This interview is the fourth in a series that we look to conduct during the course of 2012 with embedded software solution providers to share their views on their company, products, and state of the market.

VDC was fortunate to catch up with Mr. Skarin in advance of the ARM TechCon where IAR Systems will be announcing and demonstrating new products.

VDC: IAR Systems is a long-time supplier of software development solutions to the embedded market.  Can you briefly introduce the company to our readers?

Skarin: IAR Systems was founded in 1983 and actually launched the world's first C compiler for the 8051 microprocessor. Since, we have grown from a local Swedish company to a global player with ten offices all over the world, and 14,000 customers in all industries. We have developed more C and C++ compilers than any other company in the embedded industry, and I would say we have accumulated a unique understanding of embedded developers’ needs. We are proud to support the market's widest range of architectures, and we are continuously enhancing our products and adding new functionality that we believe developers will benefit from. Our suite of development tools for embedded applications is called IAR Embedded Workbench and provides a complete set of C/C++ compiler and debugger tools.

VDC: What are the challenges engineers face today in designing and developing embedded devices and how are embedded software suppliers responding?

Skarin: Embedded systems are becoming more and more complex, and at the same time the time to market for new products is becoming more and more crucial. These factors create needs for simplified, flexible workflows. Companies are streamlining their development to avoid delays, and of course also to maximize the return on investment. So basically, developers need to get up and running quickly, and work faster, as the same time as their assignments are becoming more complicated. We are aiming to supply tools that are easy to use, while at the same time offer high performance and advanced functionality. To have the ability to reuse code can also help increase productivity. It is also important for software suppliers to simplify integration between tools and systems. Whether or not the supplier is able to offer you technical support when and where you need it, to help you keep production going according to schedule, is of course also a major differentiator.

VDC: Power consumption is a critical design objective for battery operated embedded devices. How do IAR software development solutions help developers improve and manage battery life?

Skarin: This is an area where I believe software suppliers have a major role to play, and we are putting a lot of effort into helping developers minimize power consumption. A couple of years ago, we introduced our innovative Power debugging technology. This technology provides software developers with information about the power consumption in their specific application. The information is coupled to the source code and enables the developers to find any power spikes, and to test and tune the application for power optimization. Earlier this year, we launched the debug probe I-jet, which enables even more refined power measurements.

To have highly optimized code is a great way to minimize power consumption. Our compiler creates extremely compact code that runs fast and saves on the power needed to complete the tasks. We have worked extensively with compiler optimization technology for several years, but we are still able to further tweak this, and are continuously trying to beat our own records.

VDC: Today’s embedded systems have grown increasingly complex and software is coming to define a greater portion of the end product value. What’s your view on the use of modeling tools within the product development lifecycle to help engineering organizations manage this complexity?

Skarin: I believe we will see more of modeling tools as systems keep gaining in complexity. As I mentioned before, it will be even more important for software suppliers to offer extensive possibilities for integration between tools, for example modeling tools. The entire development workflows need to be well-connected and interaction between different tools need to be seamless and easy to work with.

IAR Systems supplies the state machine toolset IAR visualSTATE. It is based on a subset of the Unified Modeling Language (UML) and is used to design, test and implement embedded applications based on state machines.

VDC: In safety critical applications, regulations and compliance requirements are driving the need for increased use of automated test tools to ensure code reliability and quality. How do IAR Systems software development solutions assist developers in meeting regulatory and compliance requirements?

Skarin: We have many customers working with safety-critical applications, mainly within the medical and automotive industries. Our tools comply with industry standards and we use several commercial, and in-house developed test suites to make sure we conform to the standards. IAR Embedded Workbench features automatic checking of MISRA-C rules to ensure compliance during development, and also performs type checking during the linking process and runs extensive diagnostics, which ensures the reliability of the generated code. Our tools are also well integrated with test platforms supplied by companies such as Parasoft, LDRA, PRQA, and VectorCAST.

VDC: If you were to take a look a look into your crystal ball, how do see the opportunities for the embedded software market shaping up for 2013?

Skarin: The number of embedded devices is growing rapidly, and that gives a good potential. For us, the focus is on supplying the tools that the market needs. I see those tools as being able to handle complex applications, while ensuring safety and reliability of the code. The need for low power consumption is of course highly relevant during 2013, and I expect that all software suppliers will need to do even more in this area.

VDC: Thank you Stefan.

Interested in participating in VDC’s “The Embedded Software Beat” series of interviews? Please reach out and let us know.

Stefan Skarin was appointed CEO of Nocom Drift, now IAR Systems Group AB, in 2000 after establishing an outstanding track record of sales and corporate development in the IT software industry. In 2003, Mr. Skarin turned Nocom around from bankruptcy to its best profit in 20 years. He went on to double the company’s profit year over year in both 2004 and 2005, and Nocom became the best share and best IT share at Stockholm Nasdaq. In 2005, he acquired IAR Systems and, in reshaping the focus of IAR Systems as a leading provider of software for programming embedded systems processors, Mr. Skarin made 24 acquisitions and investments in Europe.

Mr. Skarin consistently focuses on achievement. During his first year as CEO of IAR Systems, he grew the company by 22 percent, and the company experienced its best-ever sales year in 2010 across all four regions. In 2011, IAR Systems grew 26 percent and achieved record profits.  This year, IAR Systems boasts the greatest share growth in the IT sector so far in 2012.

Mr. Skarin started his career at Ericson Mobile in 1985 when the Ericson mobile phone was launched. He moved on to Oracle Nordic starting out as the finance director, and then moving on to accomplish an impressive number of sales achievements. He was Finance Director in 1987, and became CEO of Oracle Spain in 1991, where he led a major company restructuring. At 29 years old, Mr. Skarin became the youngest CEO in Oracle when he became CEO of Oracle Eastern Europe in 1992. During his tenure there, he reached the highest quota in the company –22 MUSD – and established Oracle in four countries in Eastern Europe.

After Oracle, Mr. Skarin served as CEO for Interleaf Nordic and then worked as Sales Director at Adobe, where he established Adobe Finland. His successful sales accomplishments resulted in two personal awards for the two biggest global deals in Adobe’s history.

Mr. Skarin has served on the board of the Society for Organizational Learning (SoL) in Sweden for three years, global SoL for two years, and he is a founding member of Academy for Change. Mr. Skarin has also had a number of speaking engagements with organizations including Save the Children International and World Wildlife Fund International in United States, Europe and Asia Pacific.
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