Check it Out: Embedded Systems Outlook 2012

By Anthony J. Lockwood

Dear Desktop Engineering Reader:

National InstrumentsIf you raise the subject of embedded systems with non-engineers, you can fascinate them with the big picture then quickly lose them with the specifics of, say, control and monitoring. Engineers, of course, have a different reaction. You know that we live with and through embedded technologies. And while the specifics of the many forms of embedded technologies may elude you, the potential and range of this technological endeavor fascinates you. Today’s Check It Out white paper is less about specifics and more about the big picture of embedded technologies from the engineer’s point of view. And it’s fascinating.

“Embedded Systems Outlook 2012,” written by that Greek guy Anonymous for National Instruments, sprints through the major trends and challenges facing design teams building embedded control and monitoring systems. “Sprint,” however, does not mean it rushes by like the White Rabbit. Rather, by eschewing granular techno-talk to prove a point the writer(s) spread out National Instruments’ take on what’s important for the engineer to know. Speaking of eschewing things, specific products from NI and its partners are mentioned only in passing and infrequently at that. Marketing of any one product is not the goal here. Knowledge is.

The paper has two parts – technologies and architectures then business strategies and processes. Each is further subdivided into individual chapters, such as embedded platforms and reconfigurable computing. I found the segment on mobile devices and the cloud particularly interesting because of its fine discussion of security in this milieu and its frank admission that mobile and cloud technologies are evolving so fast that even short-term predictions of where they may go is dicey. As well, the chapter on innovating with smaller teams is a must-read for anyone using traditional R&D and engineering practices to cope with today’s pressures.

Since its an overview, the paper is inherently commentary. Thus, I found myself quibbling with an occasional opinion, especially in the section on future proofing through software. In part, my quibbles expose techno bias. For example,  this section’s writer posits that you can meet customer expectations for decade with a future proofing capability in your embedded product. I think that hardware and software technologies are moving too fast for that timeframe. I give it five maybe seven tops. My quibbles also reflect my word-weenie nature and paranoia from decades of business experience. To whit: the term “future proofing” can trick one into a false sense of security. IMHO, there is no proofing yourself in competitive markets now, never mind the future.

But such self-indulgent pedantry is indicative of just how thought provoking and engaging this 20-page PDF is. My guess is that you, like me, will find a quibble or two, and that is just one part of the enjoyment you should get from reading this paper. You’ll also learn a thing or two.

In sum, you know that we ain’t seen nothing yet when it comes to our embedded system-based life. “Embedded Systems Outlook 2012” does a great job pulling together the trends and challenges in this rapidly developing pursuit. Hit the link over there and see for yourself.

Thanks,  Pal.—Lockwood

Anthony J. Lockwood
Editor at Large, Desktop Engineering

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About the Author

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Anthony J. Lockwood

Anthony J. Lockwood is Digital Engineering’s founding editor. He is now retired. Contact him via [email protected].

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