IoT & Embedded Technology Blog

Critical Hardware Trends from Embedded World 2017

by Daniel Mandell | 03/29/2017

Embedded World is without a doubt among the most important annual events for the engineering ecosystem. Each year, more than 30,000 visitors and 900 exhibitors descend upon the historic city of Nuremberg, Germany to discover new embedded technologies and solutions spanning the gamut of industry applications. The conference itself continues to grow year-over-year bolstered by burgeoning IoT solutions within automotive, building automation, communications, energy, white goods, and more.

While there are certainly a number of common themes looking back and comparing to prior years’ events, Embedded World 2017 spotlighted a number of new important hardware trends for the ecosystem to consider and account for including the groundswell around the RISC-V architecture, differentiation through versatility, and growing demand/requirements for embedded security rooted in hardware.

  • RISC-V is an open instruction set architecture that is designed to be scalable for a variety of applications ranging from cloud computing to smaller embedded systems. The RISC-V Foundation, a non-profit corporation controlled by its members and directs future development of the ISA, marked Embedded World as the RISC-V architecture’s entrance into mainstream embedded processor technology; a bold statement but not unfounded. I had a number of conversations with a variety of processor and board technology suppliers at Embedded World, Embedded Tech Trends, and conferences from Q4 2016 that are keeping close tabs on the architecture and closely monitoring its real-world implementations. To this point, various market players indicate most traction for RISC-V has been overseas in APAC within China, India, and South Korea fueled by (political) desires to avoid using other popular embedded processor architectures. A lot of the appeal for RISC-V stems from its availability under a BSD license legally permitting proprietary designs (and/or the creation and development of additive IP and products). Other important recent milestones for RISC-V:
    • Microsemi became the first FPGA provider to offer a software tool chain and IP core for RISV-V designs in November 2016
    • UltraSoC, a leading provider of on-chip semiconductor IP, announced native support for products based on RISC-V for its universal SoC debug solution in September 2016
    • Proven processor implementations for two base versions of the RISC-V architecture available from IoT and embedded processing tools and IP provider, Codasip.
  • Versatility built upon widely used embedded hardware form factors and other standards is a key differentiator in the age of connected embedded systems. Versatility through hardware is achieved using a number of different form factors and technologies including modules and increasingly integrated embedded processors. On the modules front, this year’s show saw a number of product launches from industry leaders such as congatec with new SMARC 2.0 modules supporting USB-C and Toradex and its first Colibri module with optional certified Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity for applications such as edge devices and IoT gateways. Taking a step down the system chain, embedded MCUs and SoCs continue to stack computing resources themselves. For example, this year Analog Devices launched its new ARM Cortex-M4-based MCU with SensorStrobe technology enabling a low power state while allowing multiple on-chip digital- and analog-sensor inputs to still collect data. Versatility can also be propped by raw computing power into emerging high-end industrial applications such as NXP’s newest QorIQ Layerscape SoC, the 64-bit ARM Cortex v8-based LS1028A, featuring integrated TSN capabilities based on the IEEE 802.1 standards.
  • NXP’s newest SoC also features the platform’s Trust Architecture, which leads to another important trend from Embedded World 2017: security rooted in embedded hardware. Security is not a new theme for the market, but its importance continues to grow in the wake of progressively more connected systems and endpoints. To preserve the integrity of emerging IoT solutions that rely on distributed intelligence, embedded hardware security is critical. During the conference, Imagination Technologies made several related announcements such as the creation of a joint proof of concept demonstration of the ‘Trust Contrinuum’ approach to security with Intercede and the help of the prpl Foundation’s working group. Imagination Technologies also announced a new collaboration with Barco Silex to integrate Barco Selix eSecure solution into a new licensable Trusted Element IP product. Another example of those differentiating further through hardware-based security, Cypress Semiconductor’s new PSoC6 MCU features a hardware-based Trusted Execution Environment (TEE) with secure boot and integrated secure data storage for protecting firmware, applications, and assets such as cryptographic keys.

Embedded World is a critical conference for the ecosystem and engineering community every year. The vast majority of leading embedded technology suppliers, distributors, and customers have a chance to come together and have critical conversations on developing new business models and strategies. VDC looks forward to breaking new total meeting records at next year’s event in early 2018.

For more information on VDC Research’s IoT & Embedded Hardware research, view our 2017 IoT & Embedded Technology research outline.