Last week, the embedded engineering community migrated to Nuremberg, Germany for the 16th annual Embedded World conference. Embedded World is the epicenter of the IoT and embedded technology conference calendar with all of the global juggernauts coming together in one place to launch new products, unveil strategic collaborations, and set the future of embedded engineering. This year’s event did not disappoint and highlighted a number of critical hardware trends spotlighting new edge computing demands, processing architectures, hardware-based security, low-power connectivity, and more. As fragmented as it is, the embedded market is undergoing wholesale changes to system requirements and end user demands.
The IoT edge continues to be a focal point for decentralizing network assets and enabling new (real-time or offline) features and applications. As a result, hardware providers continue to focus on the development of IoT gateways and facilitating sensor-to-cloud or similar solutions. Embedding AI and machine learning within edge devices is generating more interest and traction in the market as, for example, providers look to deploy inference engines closer to the sensors and other data producers themselves. The use cases for embedded AI and machine learning are still being built and defined and many different types are in development.
“Machine learning will be everywhere… it will be like a programming language.” – Arm Executive
Connectivity will remain an important topic at Embedded World for the foreseeable future and this year’s event featured several new innovative advancements in wired and wireless networking. Time-Sensitive Networking (TSN) continues to make inroads in terms of product rollouts and engineer familiarity but we are still in the early days of IEEE 802.1Q TSN technology. National Instruments is leading a number of TSN test beds and at Embedded World announced new CompactRIO controllers that include NI-DAQmx and TSN-enabled Ethernet ports. For wireless, enabling secure and reliable low-power connectivity has been a challenge for years compounded by limited embedded engineering expertise available in RF. The result has been the proliferation of wireless connectivity modules intended to mitigate the design-in difficulty and integration of connectivity. Several leading hardware providers showcased new low-power wireless solutions such as Lattice Semiconductor’s Snap connector modules and the Silicon Labs WF200 Wi-Fi transceivers and modules for battery-operated systems.
The RISC-V instruction set architecture continues to mount interest and investments from a growing list of leading IoT and embedded technology providers that currently includes Google, Marvell, Micron Technology, Microsemi, NVIDIA, NXP, Qualcomm, Samsung, Western Digital, and several others. Several RISC-V partners were on display at Embedded World with their innovative semiconductor solutions. For example, fabless semiconductor startup GreenWaves Technologies announced its GAP8 IoT application processor, which is optimized to execute a large spectrum of image and audio algorithms including convolutional neural network inference for intelligent sensing devices using an integrated 8-core computational cluster combined with a convolution hardware accelerator. RISC-V is enabling new processor innovations in a variety of target system footprints and should be on everyone’s radar when thinking about next generation semiconductors.
Hardware security has quickly risen in prioritization with the growth in connected and distributed computing architectures but gained much more attention over the past couple of months because of the Meltdown and Spectre exploits. While those specific exploits largely impacted the industry as a whole, semiconductor technology providers are not backing down from alleviating broad security concerns. Arm released the first set of Threat Models for its Platform Security Architecture at the show, which are designed to help developers establish a set of security requirements based on the key threats for their devices and what assets need protecting. Cypress Semiconductor announced availability of its PSA Trusted Firmware-M reference example for its PSoC 6 MCUs to design secure hardware. Hardware security is an important near-term differentiator for embedded technology providers.
One last trend that few vendors have publicly disclosed their plans at this point for has been for production on-ramps for developers looking to commercialize their prototypes and reference designs. This has been a challenging bridge to build for maker hardware developers and other embedded engineering teams. Intel unveiled its “Intel AI: In Production” program during Embedded World, which aims to provide new paths for developers to bring AI products to market through Intel partners such as AAEON Technologies. Other leading providers of development hardware are expected to reveal similar offerings and strategies in the next couple of months.
Embedded World is the largest and most diverse conference and brings together developers and engineers from an array of technology fields, geographies, and industries. The event grants unique access to most of the leaders of the embedded world directing the development of IoT, 5G, autonomous driving, and other high-value technology areas. We look forward to monitoring these important trends through the rest of the year and returning to Nuremberg for Embedded World 2019!
See our Embedded World 2018 Hardware “Embeddy” Award Winner and Honorable Mentions Here.
View the 2018 IoT & Embedded Technology Research Outline to learn more about our coverage.